Queries Update: Reply to “Did Edith Wharton Read James Joyce?”

An unpublished Edith Wharton story, “The Children’s Hour,” recently appeared in The Times Literary Supplement (#6129:18 Sep 2020). The writing employs her humane and bitingly humorous skills equally, and it’s a triumph of a story. A sense of the story’s being incomplete struck me at first, but a rereading reveals it to be all there, and veering toward the postmodern. Another aspect is a vivid Joycean tone in dealing with the Catholic subject matter, and one could argue that the story is derivative of (or inspired by) The Dubliners. 

This led me to wonder about whether Wharton, who did read Joyce, had written any diary entries or essays about him, and indeed if she knew Joyce or ever corresponded with him. 

This entry was posted in Queries on October 21, 2020 by Donna Campbell

Wharton read James Joyce’s work and called Ulysses ‘schoolboy pornography’, famously comparing the prose to the raw ingredients of a pudding. In her 1923 letter to Berenson she wrote ‘I shall never believe that the raw material of sensation and thought can make a work of art without the cook’s intervening’. 

However RWB Lewis notes that she responded more positively towards his earlier work, and acknowledged that it had considerable merit (Lewis,1975: 520). 

The final section of ‘The Children’s Hour’* is quite arresting in its shift in style and subject matter,  and this type of poetic incongruity, which offers more questions than answers, is also present, I believe, in the endings of some of her other short stories, which have an almost modernist quality in their conclusions, or rather, lack of a single clear conclusion. I would recommend (re)reading Wharton’s ‘A Journey’(1899) and ‘After Holbein’ (1928) and looking at the final sentences. I certainly found their open-endedness intriguing, and their effect felt rather like the protomodernist ‘note of interrogation’ Adrian Hunter argues Woolf found in Chekov’s short stories. 

*Interestingly, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a popular poem entitled ‘The Children’s Hour’ which was first published in 1860. It refers to the time at the end of the day when children spent some time with their parents before going to bed. I wonder if Wharton had the work in mind when she wrote this story. 

Sarah Whitehead 

New Books: Rosedale in Love by Lev Raphael

Rosedale in Love has been reissued with a new Foreword and Afterword by the author, and is available at Amazon and B&N for Kindle and Nook.  Watch the book trailer.

In the glittering world of money-mad 1905 New York City, Jewish financier Simon Rosedale plans to force his way into high society through marriage and has his eye on Lily Bart. One of the most beautiful women in the city, Lily is a down-at-heels aristocrat plagued by gossip and might be vulnerable to his proposal. With his money and her style and connections, he can rise to the top—but will she lower herself to marry a Jew? Could such a marriage heal Rosedale’s secret shame, and will Florence Goodhart, the cousin who adores Rosedale, help or hinder his plans? Written in a period voice, Rosedale in Love audaciously revisions Edith Wharton’s beloved classic The House of Mirth, offering readers a timeless American story of greed, envy, scandal, love and revenge.

Lev Raphael is a prize-winning author, reviewer, and blogger who has published 26 books in a wide range of genres and seen his work translated into over a dozen languages. A former student of Wharton biographer Cynthia Griffin Wolff, Raphael has been reading and teaching Wharton for decades. He’s written a highly regarded biography/critical study of Wharton as well as an acclaimed comic mystery, The Edith Wharton Murders, that delves into the politics around her reputation. Special Archives at Michigan State University’s Library has purchased his literary papers in recognition of his contributions to American Literature.

“Richly textured and darkly witty, Rosedale in Love explores the inner life of outsiders, to whom the hidden give-and-take of high society is a language to be struggled with, for whom external wealth and inner impoverishment go hand in hand. Lev Raphael catches the subtlety of Wharton’s original, and enriches her exploration of a story in which love pulls against ambition, and shame is a daily taste in the mouth.”—Laurie R. King, author of Pirate King

EWS Officers, 2021-2023

A complete list of officers from previous years is available under Membership – Officers and Executive Board


President: Jennifer Haytock,  jhaytock@brockport.eduSUNY Brockport

Immediate Past President: Melanie Dawsonmvdaws@wm.edu  William & Mary

Vice President: Myrto Drizoumyrto.drizou@boun.edu.trBoğaziçi University

Secretary: Jay Jessee, mjjessee@uab.edu  University of Alabama at Birmingham

Treasurer: Sharon Kim, skim@judsonu.edu Judson University

Editor of the Edith Wharton Review: Paul Ohler,paul.ohler@kpu.caKwantlen Polytechnic University

Webmaster: Donna Campbell, campbelld@wsu.edu Washington State University(Ex Officio)

Membership Committee: Chair Sheila Liming, sliming@champlain.edu Champlain College 

EWS Archivist: Carole Shaffer-Koros, https://edithwhartonsociety.wordpress.com/membership/about/ews-archives/

At-Large Executive Board Members

Laura Rattray, Laura.Rattray@glasgow.ac.uk University of Glasgow

Virginia Ricard, Virginia.Ricard@u-bordeaux-montaigne.fr  Bordeaux Montaigne University

Meg Toth, margaret.toth@manhattan.edu Manhattan College 

From EWS President Melanie Dawson: Looking Toward 2021

Looking Toward 2021 

As we prepare to say a hearty goodbye to 2020 and greet a new year, the Edith Wharton Society will welcome a new set of officers and take a moment to recognize those who have served through the end of the current year. As many of you know, our officers serve for two-year periods, during which they maintain the scholarly presence of the Edith Wharton’s work, oversee the Society’s finances and membership, and support conference planning, including plans for the 2020 conference and 2020 EWS awards. This year we are particularly grateful for our outgoing Members at Large, Rita Bode and Katie Ahern; we thank both for their service across the past two years.  We also wish to recognize the Herculean labors of Margaret J. Jessee and Meg Toth, known affectionately to many as “the Margarets,” the directors of our in-person conference originally slated for June of this past year in New York City.  Conference planning is not for the faint of heart even in ordinary times, but as our lives were rearranged in response to our ongoing public health crisis, Jay and Meg closed out all site-specific conference planning and transitioned to our first online Edith Wharton Society conference events. We owe them huge thanks for their resilient energies as they enabled our virtual conversations about Wharton’s work; our summer online events were without precedent and their success was most welcome. 

As we turn to 2021, Sheila Liming continues to helm our membership coordination, and Carole Shaffer Koros the Society’s archives; Donna Campbell remains Webmaster and Sharon Kim Treasurer; we are grateful to these members their vital work on behalf of the Society. At The Edith Wharton Review, Paul Ohler continues as Editor and Myrto Drizou and Sharon Kim as Associate Editors, with Shannon Brennan as Book Review Editor. All are deserving of our ongoing appreciation for the journal’s splendid presence. Those who step into new EWS positions at the beginning of 2021 include Meg Toth, Laura Rattray, and Virginia Ricard, who join the Executive Board as Members At Large.  Thanks to all three for enabling the society’s work.  Jay Jessee steps in as Secretary, Myrto Drizou as Vice President, and Jennifer Haytock as President.  I know that the Society will be in excellent hands with these talented stewards. Many of you will remember Jennifer as co-director of the 2016 conference in Washington, D. C. and as an active Vice-President these past two years.  Indeed, I have relied upon a close collaboration with Jennifer throughout my time in the Presidency, just as I have benefitted from the wisdom of Paul Ohler, who steps out of the role of Immediate Past President, and who deserves many thanks for his years as Secretary, Vice-President, and President. I should also note the dedication of a host of officers past and present (especially Emily Orlando, Meredith Goldsmith, and Gary Totten, additional presidents with whom I have worked across my time with the society) and to a society culture that fosters such collaborative goodwill among its members.  We hope you will continue to contribute to the Society’s ongoing discussions of Edith Wharton, her works, and her milieu.   


Melanie Dawson    

Edith Wharton in the News: The Age of Innocence in The New Yorker

“The Age of Innocence” at a Moment of Increased Appetite for Eating the Rich

By Hillary KellyDecember 26, 2020

Winona Rider and Daniel DayLewis riding in a carriage in The Age of Innocence.
The material excess is bait for readers who want to admire the trappings of wealth even as they root for the downfall of the wealthy.Photograph from Columbia Pictures / Photofest

When she began writing “The Age of Innocence,” in September, 1919, Edith Wharton needed a best-seller. The economic ravages of the First World War had cut her annual income by about sixty per cent. She’d recently bought and begun to renovate a country house, Pavillon Colombe, in Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, where she installed new black-and-white marble floors in the dining room, replaced a “humpy” lawn with seven acres of lavish gardens, built a water-lily pond, and expanded the potager, to name just a few additions. She was still paying rent at her apartment at 53 Rue de Varenne, in Paris—a grand flat festooned with carved-wood cherubs and ornate fireplaces. The costs added up.


Edith Wharton Online Event: Dr Paul Ohler on ‘Edith Wharton’s Early Short Stories’ Thursday 21 January 2021 (12 pm EST/ 5pm UK)

From Jennifer Haytock via wharton-l:

Edith Wharton’s Birthday Talk
Dr Paul Ohler on ‘Edith Wharton’s Early Short Stories’
Thursday 21 January 2021 (12 pm EST/ 5pm UK) 

A Joint Event with the Edith Wharton Society and the Transatlantic Literary Women 

To celebrate the week of Edith Wharton’s birthday, the Edith Wharton Society and the Transatlantic Literary Women are joining forces to hold a special talk with renowned Wharton scholar and editor, Dr Paul Ohler. Everyone’s invited!  

If you’re interested in Edith Wharton, short stories, late nineteenth/early twentieth century literature, publishing history, genre, then trust us: you will NOT want to miss Paul’s talk on Wharton’s often neglected early short stories! Please spread the word. 

In a well-known letter of 1902, Henry James admonished Edith Wharton to take up the “American subject [and] Do New York! The 1st-hand account is precious.” It was somewhat redundant advice, given that she had already published six short stories set in the city. In fact, Wharton had devoted immense energy to the genre for over a decade by the time of James’s letter, publishing her first story in 1891, when “Mrs. Manstey’s View” appeared in Scribner’s Magazine. By 1903 she had published thirty more, most of which remain little read. Focussing on “Mrs. Manstey’s View”, “The Duchess at Prayer”, and “A Cup of Cold Water”, this talk outlines Wharton’s work in the genre during the first phase of her career. Subjects will include the variety of characters and situations in Wharton’s stories, their range of geographical and historical settings, the array of modes—realist, naturalist, historical, dramatic, gothic—Wharton worked in, and the tonal variety of tales that rely on irony, parody, humor, pathos, and terror to achieve their effects. 

Paul Ohler teaches at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia. He is the author of Edith Wharton’s Evolutionary Conception: Darwinian Allegory in Her Major Novels (Routledge), and articles and book chapters on Wharton, including an essay in America’s Darwin: Darwinian Theory and U.S. Literary Culture (U of Georgia Press). His current projects include editing Volume 2, Short Stories I: 1891-1903 of The Complete Works of Edith Wharton, which is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant. His most recent essay, “Creative Process and Literary Form in Edith Wharton’s Archive” appears in The New Edith Wharton Studies edited by Jennifer Haytock and Laura Rattray (CUP 2020). He is editor of the Edith Wharton Review and past president of the Edith Wharton Society.  

If you’d like to join us, please email: transatlantic.women@gmail.com and we’ll send you a secure Zoom link in the week of the event. 

New Books: The Blossom Which We Are: The Novel and the Transience of Cultural Worlds by Nir Evron


 Nir Evron writes: “I was hoping to bring my book, The Blossom Which We Are: The Novel and the Transience of Cultural Worlds (just out with State University of New York Press), to the attention of the Wharton Society. In this comparative and multilingual study, I trace the vicissitudes of the trope of cultural extinction from its first appearance in the mid eighteenth century till the late twentieth century, with special emphasis on this theme’s significance for our understanding of the development of literary realism and regionalism. Edith Wharton, whose career makes up my first twentieth-century case study, plays a central role in the book’s argument. My hope is that book will demonstrate what can be gained by placing Wharton in a context that stretches beyond American literature, and which reaches back to literary developments that took place long before she embarked on her writing career.”


Wharton in the News: From Sarah Whitehead, a previously unpublished story by Edith Wharton

From Sarah Whitehead, whose publication of a previously unpublished Edith Wharton story in The Atlantic was noted earlier this week.

Sarah Whitehead in the Times Literary Supplement:  “A joy glimpsed” 

Introducing an unpublished story by Edith Wharton 

Raised as an Episcopalian and later influenced by Calvinist thinking, Edith Wharton was drawn towards Roman Catholicism in the final years of her life. While she never converted, biographers have noted her growing attraction to the Catholic faith at this time; in the 1930s she attended masses on her two visits to Rome, and, at home in France, supported the work of the local curé as well as setting up an appeal in aid of the Abbé Comptour’s work in the Parisian suburb of Lutèce. In her fiction, the Catholic church, and Catholic priests in particular, make regular appearances, but these are often uncomfortable ones.  


“The Children’s Hour”, which has remained unpublished until now, charts an afternoon in the life of a Catholic priest. It is a noteworthy exception to these generally negative, or at least suspicious renderings of the Catholic church and its clergy. Indeed, while there is a touch of the customary unrewarded sacrifice and a sense of missed opportunities found in Wharton’s fiction, this story celebrates the comfort found in the faith and a joyous glimpse of the afterlife on offer to the poverty-stricken Catholic immigrants of New York and their Irish priest.