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Studied Luxury

Margaret Anne Doody, 20 April 1995

No Gifts from Chance: A Biography of Edith Wharton 
by Shari Benstock.
Hamish Hamilton, 546 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 241 13298 3
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Edith WhartonAn Extraordinary Life 
by Eleanor Dwight.
Harry Adams, 335 pp., $39.95, May 1994, 0 8109 3971 1
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... The title of Benstock’s biography of Edith Wharton is somewhat mal à propos. Edith Wharton, other reviewers have pointed out, had plenty of gifts from chance. She was born, in 1862, into wealth and leisure, she had a sufficiency of good looks (in an era when that mattered even more than now ...


Philip Horne, 30 August 1990

Henry James and Edith WhartonLetters 1900-1915 
edited by Lyall Powers.
Weidenfeld, 412 pp., £25, May 1990, 9780297810605
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... Edith Wharton is known, among other things, as the teller of the most devastating of the anecdotes displaying Henry James’s incapacity to communicate efficiently. The story told in her 1933 autobiography, A Backward Glance, has James, late one evening, attempt to ask a doddering Windsor pedestrian how their car can find its way to the address they want ...

Gatsby of the Boulevards

Hermione Lee: Morton Fullerton, 8 March 2001

Mysteries of Paris: The Quest for Morton Fullerton 
by Marion Mainwaring.
New England, 327 pp., £23, March 2001, 1 58465 008 7
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... In the spring of 1907, a few weeks after Edith Wharton had met Morton Fullerton in Paris, she described him to a mutual friend as ‘very intelligent, but slightly mysterious, I think’. Eight years later, by which time her passionate affair with Fullerton was long over, Henry James, in one of his last letters to her, confirmed her first thoughts about the man who had fascinated them both ...

Drawing-rooms are always tidy

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 20 August 1992

The Sexual Education of Edith Wharton 
by Gloria Erlich.
California, 210 pp., £13.95, May 1992, 0 520 07583 8
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... whether we are expected to fear for the heroine or resent her.Gloria Erlich’s new study of Edith Wharton also traces the dire effects of a mother’s reliance on a nanny. Though Erlich begins with a cautious disclaimer, suggesting ‘not that surrogate nurturing is a negative practice with predictable or measurable consequences, but merely that it ...

Self-Made Man

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Edith Wharton’s Domestic Arrangements, 5 April 2007

Edith Wharton 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 853 pp., £25, February 2007, 978 0 7011 6665 6
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... Edith Wharton’s ‘background’ – the word is her own – has always seemed improbable for a future novelist. Persistent rumours that she was not the daughter of George Frederic Jones but the illegitimate offspring of a Scottish peer or an English tutor clearly attest to a sense that there was something otherwise inexplicable about this ambitious daughter of Old New York ...

‘I can’t go on like this’

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 19 January 1989

The Letters of Edith Wharton 
edited by R.W.B. Lewis and Nancy Lewis.
Simon and Schuster, 654 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 671 69965 2
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Women Artists, Women Exiles: ‘Miss Grief’ and Other Stories 
by Constance Fenimore Woolson, edited by Joan Myers Weimer.
Rutgers, 341 pp., $42, December 1988, 0 8135 1347 2
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... Bart to realise how terrifyingly ‘alone’ she is, ‘in a place of darkness and pollution’, Edith Wharton’s doomed heroine thinks for the first time of the Furies: ‘She had once picked up, in a house where she was staying, a translation of the Eumenides,’ the novelist writes, ‘and her imagination had been seized by the high terror of the ...

Dressed in black

Margaret Anne Doody, 11 March 1993

The Furies 
by Janet Hobhouse.
Bloomsbury, 296 pp., £15.99, October 1992, 0 7475 1270 1
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... of desperate solitaries, operating like loose ball bearings in outer space. ‘Why, this is Edith Wharton!’ I thought as I started reading it: ‘a new Edith Wharton for our time.’ Of course, I was wrong about Wharton, as I found on reading the book further. Janet ...

Short Cuts

Deborah Friedell: American Girls, 8 March 2007

... Edith Wharton’s characters are always getting into trouble at the theatre. In The Age of Innocence, it’s the place where Newland Archer first meets the disgraced Countess Olenska (and is mortified, because everyone sees her in his fiancée’s box), and where, during a production of Boucicault’s The Shaughraun, he’s drawn to her ...

I can’t, I can’t

Anne Diebel: Edel v. the Rest, 21 November 2013

Monopolising the Master: Henry James and the Politics of Modern Literary Scholarship 
by Michael Anesko.
Stanford, 280 pp., £30.50, March 2012, 978 0 8047 6932 7
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... venture would fail and be rebranded with the name of a more popular writer: ‘best of all as the Edith Wharton!’ In 1902, when he made this prediction, James was hardly lacking in fame. And in the two years that followed he published The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl. After his death in 1916 his reputation rose ...

Being two is half the fun

John Bayley, 4 July 1985

Multiple Personality and the Disintegration of Literary Character 
by Jeremy Hawthorn.
Edward Arnold, 146 pp., £15, May 1983, 0 7131 6398 4
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Doubles: Studies in Literary History 
by Karl Miller.
Oxford, 488 pp., £19.50, June 1985, 9780198128410
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The Doubleman 
by C.J. Koch.
Chatto, 326 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 9780701129453
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... treatments of the girl divided between romance and everyday, and, as Miller shows, beckons to the Edith Wharton heroine at the end of the century, the Edith Wharton of whom it was said, ‘Wherever there is romance it is the proof that you are outside yourself and leaving yourself behind’ – a remark of Percy ...

A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal, 31 July 2014

... but he likes sex more, and he never strays too far away. Here’s an example. James led to Edith Wharton, and that reminded Vidal of R.W.B. Lewis’s book, which mentioned that she’d met a smoldering young writer in Italy named Alberto Moravia. So Vidal called Moravia to ask if he remembered ...

Four Poems

David Harsent, 12 March 2009

... The Hammock Your book is Summer by Edith Wharton. A smell off the garden of something becoming inedible. Between sleeping and waking, no real difference at all. There’s music in this, there would have to be: a swell of strings and bells becoming inaudible, note by note, before you latch on to it . . . The girl in the story won’t prosper, that’s easy enough to tell ...

Henry James and Romance

Barbara Everett, 18 June 1981

Henry James Letters. Vol. III: 1883-1895 
edited by Leon Edel.
Macmillan, 579 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 333 18046 1
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Culture and Conduct in the Novels of Henry James 
by Alwyn Berland.
Cambridge, 231 pp., £17.50, April 1981, 0 521 23343 7
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Literary Reviews and Essays, A London Life, The Reverberator, Italian Hours, The Sacred Fount, Watch and Ward 
by Henry James.
Columbus, 409 pp., £2.60, February 1981, 0 394 17098 9
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... Edith Wharton once asked Henry James why it was that his novels so curiously lacked real life. James’s private name for her was the ‘Angel of Devastation’, and the fact that she not only perpetrated this remark but went on to record it expressionlessly in her memoirs shows just what he meant. It might be said that by then James had got used to the situation anyway, since for the previous thirty years much the same question had been asked by that large majority of the late-Victorian reading public who simply refused to read his books: after the last mild success of The Portrait of a Lady in 1881, James experienced half a lifetime of small and dwindling sales, which culminated, in the case of the New York Collected Edition, in total failure ...

George’s Hand

Dinah Birch, 7 March 1996

A Son at the Front 
by Edith Wharton.
Northern Illinois, 223 pp., $26, November 1995, 0 87580 203 6
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... Edith Wharton’s reputation is finally disentangling itself from the long, fastidious shadow of Henry James. Only film and television could make the case in the public mind that Wharton is more than an imitative appendage of James. Scorsese’s intense version of The Age of Innocence found admirers, and the capering flounces of last year’s televised Buccaneers, with bosoms hardly out-swollen by the subsequent inflation of Pride and Prejudice, found many more ...


Karl Miller, 2 April 1987

The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories 
by Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert.
Oxford, 504 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 19 214163 5
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The Ghost Stories of M.R. James 
by Michael Cox.
Oxford, 224 pp., £12.45, November 1986, 9780192122551
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Supernatural Tales 
by Vernon Lee.
Peter Owen, 222 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 7206 0680 2
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The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural 
edited by Jack Sullivan.
Viking, 482 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 670 80902 0
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Ghostly Populations 
by Jack Matthews.
Johns Hopkins, 171 pp., £11.75, March 1987, 0 8018 3391 4
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... awful married couple – ‘Hampstead’ progressives – to a pagan-Catholic frame of mind, while Edith Wharton’s house, Bells, nearest post-office Thudeney-Blazes, tries the strength of the sensible grand lady who inherits it. ‘ “Fudge!” muttered Lady Jane,’ who is ‘interested in old houses’ and in travel, like ...

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