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Donna Fletcher Crow

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Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

Fay Sampson

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Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick. http://www.faysampson.co.uk

A Visit to The Mount, Edith Wharton's Home

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ October 22, 2015

 

Although born into the privileged world of New York in 1862 where, for women, social expectations eclipsed intellectual ambition, Wharton became the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate of letters from Yale University.

Wharton designed and built The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts, in 1902 to provide herself with a place of privacy and quiet where she could write and to showcase her architectural and landscape design theories. She wrote to a friend that she was a better landscape designer than writer.

Here at The Mount Wharton produced the novels that established her as a fiction writer, incuding The House of Mirth which became a blockbuster bestseller--and of which her mother didn't approve (although her poetry had been a perfectly acceptable hobby for a proper young lady). She also wrote Ethan Frome here--which I have never liked. Visiting the author's home, however, did give me a better understanding of the work because she wrote to a friend at that time, expressing how desperately unhappy she had been during the time she wrote it.

I was also fascinated to learn--and see--Wharton's work habits. She wrote in bed in the mornings:

Over her bed is a portrait of her father who encouraged her writing.

The manuscript pages on her bed showed examples of her pains-taking editing, such as the place where she replaced "a looker-on" with "a spectator"-- choosing a cleaner, stronger noun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the afternoons Wharton edited her work at the desk in the boudoir across from her bedroom: 

Then the manuscripts would be typed by her faithful friend and secretary Anna Catherine Bahlmann. Bahlmann had been hired as German teacher and governess for 12-year-old Edith and remained with her for 40 years as secretary, literary advisor, companion and friend. When Bahlmann died in  1916 Wharton wrote:

 Henry James was the writer Wharton admired most and also a good friend. The Whartons entertained only a small circle of friends at The Mount, but James was one with a regular place at the table:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Whartons sold The Mount after living here for only 8 years. Their marriage, essentially arranged by Edith's mother, was not a happy one, although the couple shared a love of travel and small dogs. Edith and Teddy Wharton divorced in 1911. This probably explains why, although most of her novels deal with matrimony, none show truly happy marriages. Edith moved to Paris where she lived permanently, producing such masterpieces as The Age of Innocence and The Buccaneers. 

Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

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