The Mount, 2 Plunkett St, Lenox, MA 01240, USA
884 Park Ave, New York, NY 10075, Stati Uniti
Land’s End, Ledge Rd, Newport, RI 02840, Stati Uniti
Château Sainte-Claire, Hyères, Francia
Le Pavillon Colombe, Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, Francia
Hôtel de Canvoie, 52 Rue des Saints-Pères, 75007 Paris, Francia
53 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris, Francia
Cimetière des Gonards, 19 Rue de la Porte de Buc, 78000 Versailles, Francia
Edith Wharton (born Edith Newbold Jones; January 24, 1862 – August 11, 1937) was the first woman Pulitzer Prize, Fiction (The Age of Innocence, USA) in 1921.
She was an American novelist, short story writer, and designer. Wharton combined an insider's view of American aristocracy with a powerful prose style. Her novels and short stories realistically portrayed the lives and morals of the late nineteenth century, an era of decline and faded wealth. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1921, the first woman to receive this honor. Wharton was acquainted with many of the well-known people of her day, both in America and in Europe, including President Theodore Roosevelt.
On April 29, 1885, at age 23, she married Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton, who was 12 years her senior, at the Trinity Chapel Complex. From a well-established Boston family, he was a sportsman and a gentleman of the same social class and shared her love of travel. From the late 1880s until 1902, he suffered acute depression, and the couple ceased their extensive travel. At that time his depression manifested as a more serious disorder, after which they lived almost exclusively at their estate The Mount. In 1908 her husband's mental state was determined to be incurable. In the same year, she began an affair with Morton Fullerton, a journalist for The Times, in whom she found an intellectual partner. She divorced Edward Wharton in 1913 after 28 years of marriage. Around the same time, Edith was beset with harsh criticisms leveled by the naturalist writers.
Aided by her influential connections in the French government, she and her long-time friend Walter Berry (then president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris), were among the few foreigners in France allowed to travel to the front lines during World War I. She and Berry made five journeys between February and August 1915, which Wharton described in a series of articles that were first published in Scribner's Magazine and later as Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belfort, which became an American bestseller. Travelling by car, Wharton and Berry drove through the war zone, viewing one decimated French village after another. She visited the trenches, and was within earshot of artillery fire. She wrote, "We woke to a noise of guns closer and more incessant...and when we went out into the streets it seemed as if, overnight, a new army had sprung out of the ground".
The Mount, Lenox
Lands End, Newport
Wharton settled in Paris in 1906 (living there part of every year until her permanent residence in 1912). Henry James met Edith Wharton at the Paris home of Edward Darley Boit, whose daughters would be the subject of the marvelous painting by John Singer Sargent at the MFA in Boston. They had other connections. Wharton was friends with Howard Sturgis, whom she had met in Newport. James had met Sturgis when he was 18 and James was 30. The Sturgises were an old Yankee Boston family and Howard's father had settled in London to run the Barings Bank. Later, Wharton and James were involved in a triangular relationship with Morton Fullerton, a Harvard graduate. Introduced to James in 1890 by Harvard Professor Charles Eliot Norton, Fullerton was a correspondent for the London Times and "well-groomed and extremely well-dressed, Fullerton, from numerous accounts, exuded great charm and had powerfully seductive ways, with a slim build, bushy yet groomed mustache, slicked hair and intense eyes." James was captivated. "I'd do anything for you," he wrote. James introduced Wharton to Fullerton. The journalist and bon vivant was involved with the gay circles of Paris and London. Fullerton dined with the gay poet Paul Verlaine, for example, and Oscar Wilde turned to him for help when he arrived in Paris bankrupt after being released from jail. At first, James was intrigued by Fullerton's and Wharton's attraction and encouraged it. Then he began to feel like a third wheel as their affair deepened and the two spent increasing amount of time alone. He grew depressed and left the lovers in France.
The affair between Wharton and Fullerton did not last long and when Wharton became depressed as it reached the end, Howard Sturgis and other gay men around her encouraged Wharton to not lose faith in the power of love. Sturgis told her, "Fly your flight, live your romance, drain the cup of pleasure to the dregs."
Anna de Noailles was an unconventional woman, one with whom the sometimes shy and socially stiff Edith Wharton assumed an immediate intimacy. By the time she met Wharton at tea in early April 1907, the comtesse had been honored by the French Academy for her poetry and was an accomplished novelist whose works examined the psychology of women in love.
Perhaps not thoroughly aware of Vernon Lee’s lesbianism—or politely refusing to recognize it—Edith Wharton pursued in these same years a friendship with Lee, a woman who had written studies of Italian art that Wharton treasured. When Wharton needed support and encouragement for her own interests and self-development, someone to provide friendship and a model for her own ambitions, she “took to the older woman at once, as she would to other women over the years who, like Vernon Lee, combined gifts of mind and imagination with a somewhat unorthodox private character”.
Edith Wharton had a long-standing, very intimate, Platonic friendship with Theodora Bosanquet, whom she met throigh Henry James. Edith Wharton and Theodora Bosanquet's greatest fear was that Harry James, of all people, should be given the task of editing his uncle’s correspondence. First meeting him made a definite impression on James’s secretary, who scribbled this wary description in her Diary: “[N]early white-haired, but still black-moustached,” she noted. “He has a tremendous chin—the most obstinate-looking jaw.” Bosanquet’s nervous apprehension was justified. Distrusted by the family—who also were leery about her lesbianism —she soon was banished from Carlyle Mansions and kept very much at a distance from the final disposition of James’s manuscript remains. Despite her long familiarity with her employer’s difficult handwriting, Bosanquet essentially was dismissed by Percy Lubbock, when Harry insisted that her help in transcribing and typing up letters was neither needed nor wanted. Edith Wharton was afraid that this cruel separation would “kill” Little B. (the affectionate nickname that Wharton and Lubbock had bestowed upon her), but from the sidelines, Theodora Bosanquet remained ever faithful, writing important commemorative articles and publishing (in 1924) her still very useful discussion of Henry James at Work.
The Age of Innocence (1920) won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature, making Wharton the first woman to win the award. The three fiction judges—literary critic Stuart Pratt Sherman, literature professor Robert Morss Lovett, and novelist Hamlin Garland—voted to give the prize to Sinclair Lewis for his satire Main Street, but Columbia University’s advisory board, led by conservative university president Nicholas Murray Butler, overturned their decision and awarded the prize to The Age of Innocence. She was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1927, 1928 and 1930.
Wharton was friend and confidante to many gifted intellectuals of her time: Henry James, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau and André Gide were all her guests at one time or another. Theodore Roosevelt, Bernard Berenson, and Kenneth Clark were valued friends as well. Particularly notable was her meeting with F. Scott Fitzgerald, described by the editors of her letters as "one of the better known failed encounters in the American literary annals". She spoke fluent French, Italian, and German, and many of her books were published in both French and English.
In 1934 Wharton's autobiography A Backward Glance was published.
On June 1, 1937 Wharton was at the French country home of Ogden Codman, where they were at work on a revised edition of The Decoration of Houses, when she suffered a heart attack and collapsed.
Edith Wharton later died of a stroke on August 11, 1937 at Le Pavillon Colombe, her 18th-century house on Rue de Montmorency in Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt. She died at 5:30 p.m., but her death was not known in Paris. At her bedside was her friend, Mrs. Royall Tyler. Wharton was buried in the American Protestant section of the Cimetière des Gonards in Versailles, "with all the honors owed a war hero and a chevalier of the Legion of Honor...a group of some one hundred friends sang a verse of the hymn 'O Paradise'..." She is buried next to her long-time friend, Walter Berry.
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