2011-2012 Queries

2011-2012 Queries (Student Queries from this point on are combined with Queries)

2011 Queries

Characters in Age of Innocence 
Is there a listing of the real life people on whom Mrs. Wharton based her characters in The Age of Innocence?
Thank you,
Patty Mosher
Custom of the Country scene

I have an interpretation of a scene in Custom of the Country and would like to know if it is generally accepted by scholars and critics. I would like to know if it seems reasonable to others.

When Elmer Moffatt reveals to Ralph Marvell that Moffatt was Undine’s first husband, he specifically mentions the date and place of their marriage.”Undine Spragg and I were made one at Opake, Nebraska, just nine years ago last month.” I believe he does this because he suddenly sympathizes with Marvell’s position and is deliberately giving him ammunition to use against Undine. An annulment from Marvell would be no good to her if Chelles knew she had been married before (and needed an annulment from Moffatt). If he had kept his wits about him, Marvell could have sileneced Undine’s demands for money and custody of Paul by threatening to go public with her earlier marriage. The date and place would make it easy for his lawyers to gather solid proof, such as a marriage certificate. Thank you for your assistance.

EW and Biltmore

Are there letters or other autobiographical works which refer to her visits to Asheville’s Biltmore Estate?
You may identify me by name or email address.
Emily Anderson

Edith Wharton’s dogs

I am conducting research for an article to be published in 2011, commemorating the 125th anniversary of American Kennel Club recognition of the English Toy Spaniel (admitted 1886). I wish to include photographs of noted Americans with this breed in my article.

About 2 to 3 years ago, I saw a photo (possibly a post card or carte de visite) for auction on Ebay claiming to show Edith Wharton with her pet English Toy Spaniel [a.k.a. King Charles Spaniel; not to be confused with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel]. Unfortunately, I did not win this auction and I cannot find this particular photo in any on-line archives. I have found photos of Edith Wharton with her Chihuahua dogs and a Yorkshire Terrier.

Is there a copy of this photo in the collection of the Edith Wharton Library/Archives? Can anyone confirm that she did indeed at some time own this breed as a pet? The photo on Ebay definitely depicted a lady of the era, certainly resembling Edith Wharton, with an English Toy Spaniel. I believe the dog was seated on her lap. This photo may have been taken after the author relocated to France. The dog is a small, flat-faced spaniel which could be easily mistaken for a Pekingese.

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.


Richard LeBeau
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

“The Line of Least Resistance”

My name is quoted below and you can of course quote it, as well as my e-mail address. I am and have been all my life a passionate Whartonian, although I am better know throughout the world (this a true fact not a self-serving fancy!) as a biographer of Gustav Mahler (3 volumes of my biography have been published by Oxford University Press).

My mother was one of the two daughters of the hero (or rather anti-hero as we say in French) of the Wharton story The Line of Least Resistance but the story ended very differently in real life. My mother knew Wharton well and they must have met quite frequently in France, where Wharton spent most of her life, as far as I know. She was the main subject of my last conversation with my mother before my mother was killed in a car-accident in 1983.

I found a letter from James to Wharton which concerns “The Line”. If further information concerning this story has survived, I would of course be very interested. I already know much of the truth behind the story, particularly why Wharton never followed James’s advice of transforming “The Line…” into a novel, but I suppose all Whartonians know about this!

This is all for today but I would be very obliged to receive answers to this message

Henry-Louis de La Grange

Prof. H.L. de La Grange

Please reply to hlg@bluewin.ch

Frontispiece for House of Mirth

I would like to know which image was used for the frontispiece for ‘The House of Mirth,’ the first 1905 edition. There are two major photographs presented as taken during this time (one with Wharton sitting at her desk, the other she is standing with a book).
Thank you

“The Journey”I am leading a Book Club discussion on Edith Wharton’s “The Journey”. Could you tell me what year this short story was written? I understand it is part of The Greater Inclination, with a publication in 1916????

Thank you for your help – it is fine to publish this information.

Response to the query re: “The Journey”
Edith Wharton’s story “A Journey” was first published in 1899 in The Greater Inclination
It was never, to my knowledge, published as a single story in a magazine
S. Whitehead


You can find the dates of first publication for all of Edith Wharton’s stories here:



Age of Innocence Reviews in British Periodicals

Was Age of Innocence reviewed in Cornhill Magazine, or any other contemporary British literary journal of comparable status?

Bouguereau Venus

I am doing a research on art collectors Wharton knew and drew inspiration from for her characters.

In her autobiography she mentions an episode in which William Astor’s acquisition of a Bouguereau Venus was occasionally commented upon by friends and relatives; I have been looking in several publications and archives, but I have not been able to identify this painting; I’m also not sure if the Astor she might have been referring to was William Backhouse Astor or another member of the family.

I would really appreciate any information on the subject.


Elisabetta Mezzani

Judith Fetterley on Wharton 

I am looking for the article “The Temptation to be a Beautiful Object” by Judith Fetterley. I cannot find a book in print that includes this article, and I wondered if you could help. Thank you!

Katie Wickliff

Edith Wharton’s Will

What was the content of her will? Did her niece receive her possessions? Did she create the potion of literary executor?
Thank you
M Stalnaker

“My Little Dog”

I am trying to find the poem “my little old dog:/a heartbeat at my feet. I am unable to retrieve it from the electronic text center. I am probably doing something wrong. Could you please help me or forward me a copy?

Thank you.

Susan Cook


“The Pelican”

Most critics believe that the lecture is satirized, but why does Wharton also give an account of the smug narrator who prides on his knowledge and assumes himself to be a savior? The pelican implies self-sacrifice, and is this also meant for satire? Also, how do we think of the lecturer’s family traditon of learning? Does she try to find an excuse to maintain her literary identity? (Jane from Capital Normal University, Beijing)

Spohr Symphony in Age of Innocence

In “The Age of Innocence” Book 2, XIX , 4 pages into this section the following passage occurs: “A long time had apparently passed since his heart had stopped beating, for the white and rosy procession was in fact half way up the nave, the Bishop, the Rector and two white-winged assistants were hovering about the flower-banked altar, and the first chords of the Spohr symphony were strewing their flower-like notes before the bride.”

I am a member of the Spohr Society of Great Britain and as such am interested in all references to the composer in literature. My question is, which Spohr symphony is referred to? Spohr’s work is rarely played these days, especially not at weddings, but it must have been sufficiently standard a part of American wedding services at the period the novel was set in for readers to know, without having it specified, which work it was. Can any member throw light on this?

Many thanks

Mike Jarman

mike.jarman@btinternet .com

Edith Wharton Design Award

I am doing research on Edith Wharton and came across a reference to John Loring of Tiffany fame who was given the Design and Art Society’s Edith Wharton Award of Excellence in 1988. I would like to know there if there is any specific information about this particular award — how it came to be — and perhaps other recipients.

Thank you for your kind attention —

Miriam Berman
Author, Madison Square — The Park and Its Celebrated Landmarks


Detailed bibliography of publication dates for Wharton’s serial novels

For a researcher at our university, we’re seeking a detailed bibliography for Wharton’s serialized novels’ publication schedule. For example, for the “House of Mirth,” it would give each issue (date, page numbers) of Scribner’s Magazine in which that novel was serialized.

We’ve found many more general lists that tell the months and years a novel was serialized, but are hoping that someone might have compiled this more complete and specific data.

Thank you!

Mary Molineux, msmoli@wm.edu

Wharton poem on dogs

I am trying to find the poem “my little old dog:/a heartbeat at my feet. I am unable to retrieve it from the electronic text center. I am probably doing something wrong. Could you please help me or forward me a copy?

Thank you.

Susan Cook, walking.demi@yahoo.com

Double L Names in Custom of the Country

It struck me how many surnames in this novel have a double l:

Chelles, Marvell , Driscol,l Ellings, Shallum, Rolliver .

Several other surnames have sets of double consonnants: Spragg, Moffat,t Branne,y Berringer, Popple. I have been rereading a lot of Wharton and can’t recall any other work with this name pattern. Is it pure coincidence, or do you think Wharton had a reason, either conscious or unconscious, for it? Thank you.

2012 Queries

Four Sonnets

I am studying for an MA at Oxford Brookes University England. Is it possible to get a text of the four sonnets on Greek myths (Iphigeneia, Clytemnestra etc?
Also has the work by Sarah Whitehead: Demeter Forgiven: Wharton’s use of the Persephone myth in her short stories, been published please.

According to Candace Wade’s book Edith Wharton’s Letters from the Underworld, Wharton’s poem “Oresteia” contains the four sonnets in question. The poem is, as yet, unpublished to my knowledge. It can be found (by the slightly different spelling of “Orestia”) among her papers in the Beinecke Library in Box 21 Folder 671 of the Edith Wharton Collection. Here is a link to the searchable contents of the collection: http://drs.library.yale.edu:8083/fedora/get/beinecke:wharton/PDF

If you wish to order a photocopy of the manuscript for “Orestia” from the library, you can find more information here: http://www.library.yale.edu/beinecke/brblresearch/ordering.html

Here is a link to the full-text of Sarah Whitehead’s essay: http://public.wsu.edu/~campbelld/wharton/ewr26-1s10.pdf
Best wishes,
Dan Hefko

“The Last Token”

We are working on a paper on Wharton’s ekphrastic poetry for the Florence conference. According to Louis Auchincloss’s introduction to the Selected Poems, ‘The Last Token’ was ‘inspired by an academic painting of a Christian girl in the Roman arena about to be devoured by big cats and clutching a flower tossed to her by her lover safely esconced with the audience above’.

Can anyone identify this painting for us?

Many thanks
Dr David Kennedy / Senior Lecturer in English & Creative Writing, University of Hull, UK
Christine Kennedy / Independent scholar

“The Last Token,” if Auchincloss is correct, may be based on a painting that is now owned by the Metropolitan Museum by Gabriel Max. It seems to have been owned by Catharine Lorillard Wolfe at the time when Edith Jones would have written the poem. The Jones family knew Miss Wolfe, but it is more likely that they saw the painting when it was hung at the Centennial Loan Collection at the National Academy of Design in 1876.
Here’s a link to the Met catalog page.
Irene Goldman-Price


Not sure if this is the painting you are looking for…here is the link.



Mary Jo McClain

Wharton: First Woman to Drive Through France?

I’m currently conducting some research into Edith Wharton and was wondering if you could help me. I’m trying to find out whether she was the first woman to drive through France in the early twentieth century, and if she wasn’t, do you have any idea who was?

Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you!

C Roper

Mary Alsop King Waddington did some driving through France and also published a book about it in 1908, _Chateau and Country Life in France_ (Scribner’s). In her narrative, she describes various automobile excursions. Wharton was driving through France in 1906-1908, though, so may still pre-date Waddington (I don’t know when Waddington undertook her travels).


Gary Totten


At least two women would seem to have predated Wharton’s motorflights through France.

According to Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age, by Virginia Scharff, Blanche McManus (while not necessarily the first) began “motoring from one end of France to the other” in 1902. McManus included a chapter entitled “The Woman and the Car” in her 1911 travel book The American Woman Abroad .

Dorothy Levitt’s book The Woman and the Car: A Chatty Little Handbook for All Women Who Motor or Who Want to Motor, reports that “Mrs. George Thrupp. . . has been driving ever since 1896 [and]. . . has toured in Great Britain and on the Continent.”

Best wishes,
Dan Hefko

Janet Malcolm on Wharton

I’m currently working on a piece on The Custom of the Country and Wharton’s “misogyny.” I’ve been unable to locate any post-commentary on Janet Malcolm’s 1986 “The Woman Who Hated Women.” I was wondering if anyone might be aware of a print conversation generated by the piece, specifically something to which Malcolm herself responded? Thanks for your help.
> All best,
> Arielle Zibrak

Hi, I wonder if you might have the info on the relationship between Edith and Lillian Livingston Jones; I believe they were cousins. I cannot find a site better than this one I don’t believe. Many thanks for any assisitance, Katharyn Remsen Aroneau

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