Category Archives: Wharton in the News

Wharton in the News: The Best Seller Who Hated Best Sellers by Sheila Liming

whartonmain1For all her successes, Edith Wharton made a habit of spurning the conditions of her own fortune. She became the first female novelist to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1921—for The Age of Innocence—only to wind up mocking the prize less than a decade later. In her novel Hudson River Bracketed (1928), she describes the thinly veiled “Pulsifer Prize” as a sham, the product of a “half-confessed background of wire-pulling and influencing.” By the time she was honored again by the Pulitzer committee—this time by proxy, for playwright Zoe Akins’ 1935 adaptation of one of her novellas, The Old Maid—Wharton had distanced herself from the prize and its milieu.

Her relationship with motion pictures was similarly detached, even as she received consistent financial benefit from the industry throughout the final decades of her life. In a 1926 letter to a friend, she comments, “I have always thought ‘The Age’ would make a splendid film”—which it did many years later, in 1993, in the hands of Martin Scorsese. But before that,it was made into a silent film by Warner Brothers in the 1920s, along with many of her other novels. Wharton’s sale of film rights to her 1928 novel The Children fetched her $25,000 (more than $350,000 in today’s dollars). She used the money to help maintain multiple French residences, even as she declined to enter a movie theater during her lifetime. Indeed, she remained totally uninterested in films, even those based on stories she had invented.

Read the rest at Lapham’s Quarterly, https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/best-seller-who-hated-best-sellers

Edith Wharton in the News: June 28, 2020

From Fine Books Magazine https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/blog/edith-whartons-age-innocence-turns-100

CREDIT: THE MOUNT ARCHIVES

The initial installment of The Age of Innocence debuted in the July 1920 issue of the Pictorial Review, opposite an ad for Ivory Soap!

The curators at The Mount have also created an online exhibition, Writing The Age of Innocence, which introduces readers to Wharton’s process from start to finish— apparently it took her less than seven months to write this masterpiece! You can page through her penciled notes and photographs of the people and places that inspired the novel.

Several online events to celebrate the centennial are on the schedule, too, including:

Researching The Age of Innocence Wednesday, July 1, 4:00 PM

Anne Schuyler, Director of Interpretation and Nicholas Hudson, Curatorial Assistant, share insights from their research in preparation for of the centennial celebration of Wharton’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel.

100 Years of Innocence: A Conversation with Arielle Zibrak and Sarah Blackwood Thursday, July 9 at 4:00 PM

Authors and Wharton scholars Arielle Zibrak and Sarah Blackwood will discuss changing reactions to The Age of Innocence over the last 100 years. This is an online event.

Telling Two Stories with Elif Batuman and Jennifer Haytock Thursday, August 6, 4:00 PM

Author Elif Batuman and Wharton scholar Jennifer Haytock will share how their own multiple readings of The Age of Innocence has informed their understanding of social norms, class and privilege, from Wharton’s old New York through today.

 

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From Jezebel: https://theattic.jezebel.com/the-invincible-innocence-of-whiteness-1844083820

From the perch of post-war modernity, one could receive Victorian manners and frames of reference as quaint, dare I say, innocent. However, Wharton harbors no interest in a glossy, rose-hued history of gentility. The world she renders is chilly, sleek, and stridently solipsistic: it is as devoted to its own aggrandizement as it is to its rigorous self-surveillance.

Edith Wharton in the News

OK, we’ve now moved to 79th Street, between Fifth and Madison

In “House of Mirth,” Edith Wharton’s heroine turns a corner and sees grand new houses, “fantastically varied, in obedience to the American craving for novelty.” Americans at the turn of the century felt they had inherited the whole of Western civilization, that it was theirs to do with as they wished.

I asked Mr. David, a social critic of Hollywood mores who has been called “a savage Edith Wharton” by his friend Larry Charles, why all these celebrities seemed so devoid of self-awareness.

“I don’t know, that’s the $64,000 question,” he said. “I guess their instinct is to help, their motives are good, and they don’t consider how it might come off.” But, he added, “I think it’s a complete lack of judgment to talk about your lifestyle at this time, it’s crazy. Of course other people are going to react like that.”

 

Eaton: We are beginning to generate ideas here — ideas that would work for Masterpiece. And then we talk to some of these independent companies and PBS Distribution about their interest in initiating our projects.

“The Buccaneers,” a 1995 miniseries adapted from Edith Wharton’s unfinished novel, followed the adventures of wealthy young Americans who marry into the British aristocracy. (Photo: Joss Barrett/Mobil)

This is the absolute reverse of how things used to work, though it did happen occasionally. We initiated Middlemarch, for instance, years ago. We had the idea, found a writer — Andrew Davies — and brought it to the BBC. And we did this with Edith Wharton’s The Buccaneers, which is one of my favorite pieces of literature. But we weren’t the primary funder of those co-productions.

https://current.org/2020/04/how-rebecca-eatons-tailor-made-role-at-masterpiece-fits-with-a-new-strategy-for-original-dramas/

 

Wharton in the News: EW’s copy of The Age of Innocence returns to The Mount

Edith Wharton kept restlessly editing her best sellers even through numerous print runs. In 1921, she finished fine tuning “The Age of Innocence” upon its sixth printing and tucked one edition onto the shelves at her chateau in Southeastern France.

That copy, with her signature and bookplate, has resurfaced in time for the centennial of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. It has been donated to the library at another of her palatial homes, the Mount, a museum in Lenox, Mass.

This is the only known English-language version of “The Age of Innocence” that belonged to Wharton, said Susan Wissler, executive director of the museum. (Examples of the writer’s copies of many of her works are already at the Mount; gaps include her collected teenage poems.) Ms. Wissler added that the museum’s book collection, as it grows, powerfully evokes Wharton’s interests and presence: “The library very much provides us with her soul.”

“She was bad . . . always.” Old New York (1924) now Public Domain!

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Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

“She was bad . . . always. They used to meet at the Fifth Avenue Hotel.”

–Edith Wharton, New Year’s Day, 1924

As of today, January 1, 2020, Wharton’s quartet of novellas Old New York is in the public domain. To celebrate this, here’s New Year’s Day (the Seventies), courtesy of Project Gutenberg Australia.

Here are PG Australia’s texts of the novellas:

The Spark, False Dawn, New Year’s Day, The Old Maid

Links to the other novels and novellas available online are being updated today and are available here: https://edithwhartonsociety.wordpress.com/works/novels-and-novellas/
NEW YEAR’S DAY
(The ‘Seventies)

I

“She was BAD…always. They used to meet at the Fifth Avenue
Hotel,” said my mother, as if the scene of the offence added to the
guilt of the couple whose past she was revealing. Her spectacles
slanted on her knitting, she dropped the words in a hiss that might
have singed the snowy baby-blanket which engaged her indefatigable
fingers. (It was typical of my mother to be always employed in
benevolent actions while she uttered uncharitable words.)

[read the rest at the link]

Edith Wharton in the News: Pen Craig Gatehouse Condo for sale

Dear EWS members,

Although we usually don’t post items for sale at the EWS site or on this listserv, it’s not every day that a piece of Edith Wharton’s original childhood home comes on the market.  The information is below, if you’re interested.

Name: Joanne Morlan

Email: joanne.morlan@yahoo.com

Website: https://www.rimonthly.com/house-lust-pen-craig-gatehouse/

Comment: Hi Donna, my husband and I live in Newport RI and are selling our condo. Our condo is located at Pen Craig — the childhood home of Edith Wharton. The Gatehouse (where the condo is located) is the last remaining element of the original Wharton estate. RI Monthly magazine just issued the attached article on our condo (see website reference above) which includes quite a bit Edith Wharton background information. I thought your members might be interested in this, and of course we would love to sell Pen Craig to an Edith Wharton admirer! I hope you will consider posting this link! Please let me know if I can provide more information to you on this! Thank you!

Wharton in the News: Custom of the Country

From The New Yorker

The first time I read Edith Wharton’s novel “The Custom of the Country,” which was published in 1913, I felt at once that I had always known its protagonist and also that I had never before met anyone like her. The values of Undine Spragg—who, in the course of the novel, makes a circuitous and sinister journey from Midwestern rube to ruby-drenched new-money empress—are repulsive, and her attempts to manipulate public attention are mesmerizing. For my money, no literary antiheroine can best Undine—a dazzling monster with rose-gold hair, creamy skin, and a gaping spiritual maw that could swallow New York City. People like her have been abundant in American culture for some time, but I never feel invested in their success; more often, I idly hope for their failure. With Undine, however—thanks to the alchemical mix of sympathy and disdain that animates Wharton’s language in the novel and allows her to match Undine’s savagery with plenty of her own—I find myself wanting her to get everything she desires.

Wharton in the News: A Motor-Flight through France

From First Things, https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2019/07/what-she-asks-she-obtains

Though Adams was anxious about the reckless acceleration of history, his friend Edith Wharton mashed her foot down on the accelerator in her Motor Flight Through France. Dogmatically confident in her own taste, she shunned the popular artworks starred in guide books. She stopped in Rouen and stumbled upon Gerhard David’s Virgin Among The Virgins. She named it “The Virgin of the Grapes” for the “heavenly translucence of that bunch of grapes plucked from the vine of Paradise” held by the Infant Jesus on the Virgin’s lap. “It is part of its very charm to leave unsettled, to keep among the mysteries whereby it draws one back,” she wrote. Wharton drove on to the next town, but the Virgin stayed with her. Father John LaFarge, S.J., remembers being quietly interrogated about his religious beliefs by Wharton “as if she were looking for something desperately needed, but only vaguely knowing her own needs.”

Wharton in the News: Who was Edith Wharton’s father? in the TLS

Via Anna Girling. Note: it’s behind a paywall, so I have no idea what’s beyond this excerpt.

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/private/mystery-writers-edith-wharton-father/

Mystery writers

Who was Edith Wharton’s father?

As research assistant to R. W. B. Lewis, the prize-winning biographer of Edith Wharton, Marion Mainwaring – assigned in 1969 to investigate Wharton’s “Parisian phase” – found herself knocking on forbidding doors in unpredictable arrondissements of Paris, in far-flung hôtels de ville and at a remote psychiatric hospital in the French countryside as she doggedly pursued every shred of information she could find about a wily, elusive American expatriate named William Morton Fullerton. Fullerton (1865–1952), a Harvard graduate and a correspondent for The Times in Paris, was a roué and conman, a cosmopolitan libertine with a proclivity for the upper crust and satyr-like propensities for bisexual romantic entanglements (a wistful Henry James opined that he was “dazzling” but “not kind”), and chronically in debt because he was being blackmailed by a former mistress. He was also briefly, but pivotally and inexplicably, Wharton’s lover.

Edith Wharton’s unpublished play “The Shadow of a Doubt” on BBC Radio 3, Sunday, 10/28

This programme will be available shortly after broadcast

The Shadow of a Doubt

Phoebe Fox, Francesca Annis and Paul Ready star in the world premiere of a newly discovered play by Edith Wharton from 1901. Former nurse Kate Derwent carries a terrible secret.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0000xfl
Introduced by Dr. Laura Rattray.

Listen to more Wharton information here:

Listen now

Edith Wharton

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Wharton’s novels, which explore the world of the privileged in America’s Gilded Age, in which she lived, written in hindsight and with little mercy.