New Edith Wharton play discovered by Laura Rattray and Mary Chinery


In February of 1901, Walter Berry, a lawyer and member of élite society in New York, expressed a regret in a letter written to his close friend Edith Wharton. “How I do wish I could run on to see the first rehearsal of the Shadow,” he wrote.

At the time, Wharton, who was thirty-nine years old, was not yet a novelist, having only published shorter fiction and poetry, as well as co-authoring, with Ogden Codman, “The Decoration of Houses,” an 1897 book about interior design. But she was a budding playwright, and, as two scholars have just deduced in an important bit of detective work, Berry’s glancing reference was to one of her works: “The Shadow of a Doubt,” a three-act play that was in production in 1901. It was to star Elsie de Wolfe as Wharton’s heroine, Kate Derwent, a former nurse married to John Derwent, a gentleman above her social station. Kate’s role in assisting the suicide of her husband’s former wife, Agnes, whom she tended to after an injury, is revealed in the course of the drama.

The production was cancelled, however, and the work slipped into obscurity. It is not mentioned by any of Wharton’s biographers, nor does Wharton mention it in her own memoir, “A Backward Glance,” in which, perhaps understandably, she skates over her brief and not especially successful career as a writer for the stage. (In the first years of the century, she had written a handful of plays, but “The Shadow of a Doubt” would have been her first professional production, had it materialized. Later, she collaborated on an adaptation of “The House of Mirth,” which proved less successful than hoped.)


New Queries: French documentary on EW; EW and architecture article in EWR; EW–did she watch silent movies set in the Arab world?




Where would you like this to appear? : Other

Comment: I’m a french journalist and I’m working on a documentary project for TV about Edith Wharton, and more precisely New York in Wharton’s view.
We are coming on june, and I would need to meet for an interview, someone who could talk on the purpose.
Would you accept to help me ?
Thank you in advance for your precious help.
Rebecca Boulanger
tel : 00 33 6 03 58 00 75
mail :




Where would you like this to appear? : Queries and Replies

Comment: Hi,

My name is Diane, i am from a french television station called Arte : We produce a daily cultural show : Invitation au voyage diffused every day at 4:00 pm.

I am contacting you because i am working with an other journalist on Edith Wharton in New York. Our projet is to film New York though her eyes for a short movie. Do you have some advices to give me ? Do you know people who would be glad to talk about her and about New York ?

Best regards,

Diane Aragou
Journalist Arte
00 33 (0)7 87 03 17 43

Name: Rita



Where would you like this to appear? : Queries and Replies

Comment: I’m doing a research on Edith Wharton and architecture, and I’m wondering where I can find the abstract or the essay:
Beacom, Betsy Currier. “The Decoration of Houses and the Role of space in the Construction of Edith Wharton’s Authorial Self.” Edith Wharton Review 28.2 (Fall 2012): 9-16.
Thank you.

[The Edith Wharton Review is now at Penn State Press (see sidebar); you should be able to get the article either there or through a source such as Project Muse. You can also try contacting the author to receive a copy. –D. Campbell]


Name: Stacy E. Holden



May we publish your name and email address?: Yes

Comment: I am reading In Morocco (1920) and wonder if Edith Wharton ever watched any of the popular silents of her era set in the Arab world. Has anyone seen anything written by her that addresses her feelings about movies as a new industry? And what films she saw and was affected by? And if she thought Hollywood’s imaginings would translate to other places in the world, whether that be France or North Africa? If anyone has any information about Edith Wharton’s view of Hollywood, it would be much appreciated!

CFP: Edith Wharton panel at SAMLA (Deadline: 6.1.17)


The Edith Wharton Society is expanding and extending the call for proposals for the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference (SAMLA 89) to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, November 3-5, 2017.  The Society is widening its call for papers to any aspect of Wharton studies. The conference topic is High Art / Low Art: Borders and Boundaries in Popular Culture, so papers related to this topic will be welcome but not required.  Please submit a 300-500 word abstract and one page CV as email attachments to Mary Carney at on or before Thursday, June 1, 2017.



Results of EWS Executive Board Election

Dear Edith Wharton Society members,

 Please join me in welcoming two new Members-at-Large to the Edith Wharton Society Executive Board: Meg Toth and Anna Girling. We look forward to continuing the work of the EWS together.

Welcome, Meg and Anna!

Best wishes,

Jennifer Haytock

Secretary, Edith Wharton Society


Dr. Jennifer Haytock

Professor and Chair, English Department

227 Liberal Arts Building

CFP: Edith Wharton panels at SAMLA



The Edith Wharton Society invites proposals for a panel at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference (SAMLA 89) to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, November 3-5, 2017.  The conference topic is High Art / Low Art: Borders and Boundaries in Popular Culture. 

Edith Wharton produced a range of cultural products, including canonical novels and short stories, fund-raising anthologies for wartime France, guides to interior design, and travel books. Current popular culture suggests a continuing interest in Wharton, her writings, and those decades that are the focus of her work. Julian Fellows, creator of Downton Abbey, admits that “It is quite true that Edith Wharton has been a tremendous influence on me. . . . I decided, largely because of her work, that it was time I wrote something.” On Wharton’s 150th birthday, Vogue magazine offered an 18-pages to celebrate, including photos by Annie Leibovitz. The Gossip Girl series draws on Whartonian inspiration.  What has driven the renewed attention being paid to the Edwardian and WWI eras in contemporary pop culture?

The Wharton society invites papers that explore a broad range of responses to how Wharton’s art contributes to a continuum of cultural inquiry and commentary that persists to this day in high / low cultural expressions. One might consider such topics as how modern flash mobs reflect or rewrite the tableau vivants of The House of Mirth. How do Wharton’s texts and practices reflect a generational difference (or not) in attitudes toward privacy in (social) media?  How might contemporary short forms or serializations (blog posts, film and music reviews, opinion pieces, etc.) draw on the form and content of her essays, cultural commentaries, letters, or short stories? Does Wharton’s art bear narrative, formal, or thematic similarities to other forms of popular culture, such as soap operas or online TV dramas? Wharton’s travel writing about excursions via automobile might be compared to modern travel blogs, television programming, or websites.  We hope to receive a range of submissions to create lively, even surprising, insights and conversation.

Please submit a 300-500 word abstract, one page CV, and AV requirements via email to Mary Carney, University of North Georgia, at by May 12, 2017. 

Vote in EWS Elections for Executive Board Positions (deadline 4.15.17)

Dear Edith Wharton Society Members,

Please vote for two (2) of the following candidates for the open Member-at-Large positions. The two candidates who receive the most votes will serve 2017-19 terms. Voting will be open until April 15, 2017 at 5:00 pm (Pacific). Below are the candidates’ biographies. Please use the link at the bottom of this message to submit your ballot. Many thanks to the candidates for being willing to serve!

Tricia M. Farwell is an associate professor of advertising and public relations in the School of Journalism at Middle Tennessee State University. She recently completed terms as MTSU’s Faculty Senate President and the Faculty Regent on the Tennessee Board of Regents. She holds a doctorate in English from Arizona State University where her studies focused on romance in Edith Wharton’s works. Her research and teaching assignments include both English and Mass Communication. Her recent conference presentations include situating Edith Wharton in the tradition of war reporting and exploring Wharton’s public relations efforts to raise relief funds. Farwell is the author of Love and Death in the Works of Edith Wharton. Her current research interests include an examination of advertising of Wharton’s novels and furthering the idea of Wharton as a war reporter.

Anna Girling: I am in the latter stages of a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, in the United Kingdom. My thesis is about antimodernism, economic thinking and the representation of exchange in Edith Wharton’s writing (particularly focusing on her early career). I have been a member of the Edith Wharton Society since early on in my doctoral studies – and I am incredibly grateful for the advice, encouragement, support, enthusiasm, and friendship offered to me by both its individual members and the Society as a whole, and would like to continue this tradition by helping to offer the same welcome to other students and new members of the Society. I have presented at a number events organised by (or affiliated to) the Society; these include a symposium on The Custom of the Country (organised by Dr. Laura Rattray and Dr. Bill Blazek at Liverpool Hope in 2013), an EWS ALA panel (in 2015), and the EWS Wharton in Washington conference (June 2016) – and I will be part of a Wharton panel organised by Dr. Virginia Ricard and Dr. Paul Ohler at the SSAWW conference later this year. Additionally, I was lucky enough to win the Edith Wharton Society Beginning Scholar Prize in 2015, for my article, “‘Agrope Among Alien Forces’: Alchemical Transformations and Capitalist Transactions in Edith Wharton’s The Touchstone” – and this went on to be published in the Edith Wharton Review. A second article of mine was published by the EWR in 2016; this was about my discovery of letters between Wharton and the publisher John Murray at the National Library of Scotland – and an article about this correspondence was also published by the Times Literary Supplement (and picked up by the Wall Street Journal) in 2015. I am putting myself forward as a member of the EWS board for two main reasons. Firstly, the work of the Society has been vital in my own development as a graduate student, and I would like to be part of supporting and encouraging other students and early career researchers working on Wharton. Secondly, while Wharton was American, she spent much of her life in Europe and was a truly cosmopolitan, transatlantic figure; I think it is important that this is reflected in the make-up of the Society’s board, and in its activities. At the moment, the board is almost entirely North American; were I elected, I would be able to bring a European perspective to the Society’s work, and would hope to increase its membership and profile on both sides of the Atlantic – and especially among students (both graduate and undergraduate) and scholars in the early stages of their careers.

Margaret Jay Jessee is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she teaches courses on Women’s and Gender Studies and American Literature, including a recent graduate seminar on corporeality in Henry James and Edith Wharton. Among her other publications, her article “Trying it On: Narration and Masking in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence” appears in JML: Journal of Modern Literature, and her essay “Wharton’s ‘Matter that Matters’: Bodies as Agential Objects and Objects as Agential Bodies,” an extension of her presentation at the 2016 Wharton in Washington conference, will appear in Critical Insights: Edith Wharton, edited by Myrto Drizou and forthcoming with Salem Press. In addition to her own scholarly work, she has experience on the editing side as the former assistant editor of Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literatures, Culture, and Theory, a position that included organizing the annual Arizona Quarterly Symposium, a 3-day event with presentations by national scholars of American Literature.

Margaret (Meg) Toth is an Associate Professor of English and the director of the film studies minor at Manhattan College. Her research interests include late nineteenth and early twentieth century U.S. literature, film, and adaptation studies. Her scholarship on Edith Wharton has been published in such journals as Modern Fiction Studies and the Journal of Narrative Theory and in the collections Edith Wharton in Context (ed. Laura Rattray) and Edith Wharton and Cosmopolitanism (ed. Meredith Goldsmith and Emily Orlando). Her current book project, After Innocence: Edith Wharton and Post-War Writings on Art and Faith, is an intertextual study that focuses on the figure of the artist and forms of spirituality in Wharton’s late works.

Please use this link to cast your ballot:

Thanks and happy spring,
Jennifer Haytock
Secretary, Edith Wharton Society