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DLB 12

References: John R. Adams, "The Literary Achievement of Harriet Beecher Stowe," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California, 1939; Elizabeth Ammons, ed., Critical Essays on Harriet , Beecher Stowe (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980); Alice A. Cooper, "Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Critical Study," Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1964; Alice C. Crozier, The Novels of Harriet Beecher Stowe (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969);

Edith Wharton
Charles Foster, The Rungless Ladder: Harriet Beecher Stowe and New England Puritanism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1954); Edward Charles Wagenknecht, Harriet Beecher Stowe: The Known and the Unknown (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965).

Papers:
Harriet Beecher Stowe's papers are in the Beecher-Stowe Collection at Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Harvard University.

Edith Wharton
(24 January 1862-11 August 1937)

James W. Tuttleton
New York University

See also the Wharton entries in DLB 4, American Writers in Paris, 1920-1939, and DLB 9, American Novelists, 1910-1945. SELECTED BOOKS: Verses, anonymous (Newport, R. I.: C. E. Hammett, Jr., 1878); The Decoration of Houses, by Wharton and Ogden Cod man, Jr. (New York: Scribners, 1897; London: Batsford, 1898); The Greater Inclination (New York: Scribners, 1899; London: Lane/Bodley Head, 1899); The Touchstone (New York: Scribners, 1900); republished as A Gift from the Grave (London: Murray, 1900); Crucial Instances (New York: Scribners, 1901; London: Murray, 1901); The Valley if Decision (2 volumes, New York: Scribners, 1902; 1 volume, London: Murray, 1902); Sanctuary (New York: Scribners, 1903; London: Macmillan,11903); Italian Villas and Their Gardens (New York: Century, 1904; London: Lane/Bodley Head, 1904); The Descent of Man and Other Stones (New York: Scribners, 1904; enlarged edition, London & New York: Macmillan, 1904); Italian Backgrounds (New York: Scribners, 1905; London: Macmillan, 1905); The House of Mirth (New York: Scribners, 1905; London & New York: Macmillan, 1905); Madame, de Treymes (New York: Scribners, 1907; 433

Wharton, age twe:nty-three,at the time of her marriage

The Age 0/ Innocence (New York & London: Appleton. A Motor-Flight Through France (New York: Scribners. Twelve Poems (London: Medici Society.Jrom Dunkerque to Belfort(New York: Scribners. . 1913). ~ C) ~ . 11 . equals. A Backward Glance (New York & Lmdon: Appleton-Century. 1924). 1918. London: Macmillan. London: Macmillan. The Hermit and the Wild Woman and Other Stories (New Certain People (New York & London: Appleton. for "justice" to Edith Wharton. 1908.1 i J (j iJ . Recently the novelist Gore Vidal remarked in "Of Writers and Class: In Praise of Edith Wharton" that "At best.~ ~ York: Scribners. London: Macmillan. 1917). The Writing of Fiction (New York & London: Scrib- ners. 1923). Born into the conservative. Human Nature (New York & London: Appleton. 1920. 1912. French Ways and Their Meaning (New York & London: Appleton. The Custom of the Country (New York: Scribners. after her death. and her subtle mastery of the techniques of fiction. 1936). there are only three or four American novelists who can be thought of as 'major' and Edith Wharton is one. Tales of Men and Ghosts (New York: Scribners. The Spark (The 'Sixties). 1920). the daughter of George Frederic and Lucretia Rhinelander Jones. Xingu and Other Stories (New York: Scribners. 1913. Ghosts (New York & London: Appleton-Century. London: Macmillan. 1912). 1915). it will be a long time in coming. 1910. the particular angle of that vision (high society seen from the inside)." And he remarks. 1916. a novelist who wrote some of the most important fiction in the first quarter of the twentieth century. they look to be exactly what they are: giants. 1930). 1918). the tutelary and benign gods of our American literature. 1910). 1907). In this counterview. The Buccaneers (New York & London: AppletonCentury. don: Appleton. 1915. Fighting France. Wharton is seen as a serious and deeply committed artist with a high respect for the professional demands of her craft. London: Macmillan. 1916). Edith Jones. Old New York: False Dawn (The 'Forties). While at the close of her career Edith Wharton was sometimes regarded as passe. . 1917. 1920). 1909. Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse (New York: Scribners. The Old Maid (The 'Fifties). London: Macmillan. 1927). 1926). 1908). 1925). London: Macmillan." If that statement is not justice to Edith Wharton. If this point of view has merit. 1930). 1933). particularly during the Jazz Age and the Depression. 1922. a countervailing view has begun to emerge in response to Edmund Wilson's call. a literary aristocrat whose fiction about people of high social standing had little to tell about the masses. London: Macmillan. 1908. London: Macmillan. 1926). In Morocco (New York: Scribners. 1937)." He regards Wharton and James as "the two great American masters of the novel. London: Macmillan. The Marne (New York: Appleton. 1929). London: Macmillan. a woman praiseworthy for the generally high quality and range of her oeuvre. her claim to attention arises from the clarity of her social vision. London: Macmillan. The Fruit of the Tree (New York: Scribners. The World Over (New York & London: AppletonCentury. 1909). The Mother's Recompense (New York & London: Ap- pleton. 1938). which would be interesting to any reader concerned with the processes of writing. Summer (New York: Appleton.Edith Wharton London: Macmillan. 1923). 1923. Twilight Sleep (New York & London: Appleton. 1934). DLB 12 Hudson River Bracketed (New York & London: Ap- pleton. Ethan Frome (New York: Scribners. London: Macmillan. that "now that the prejudice against the female writer is on the wane. and wealthy society of old New York in 1862. 1919. The Reef (New York: Appleton. perhaps in American literary history. 1907). republished as The Marriage Playground (New York: Grosset & Dunlap. 1919). 1908). London: Macmillan. 1928). The Children (New York & London: Appleton. and New Year's Day (The 'Seventies) (New York & Lon- 1932). A Son at the Front (New York: Scribners. 1907. Here and Beyond (New York & London: Appleton. was privately tutored. 1911). The Glimpses of the Moon (New York & London: Appleton. 1925). 1911. London: Macmillan. London: Macmillan. The Gods Arrive (New York & London: Appleton. fashionable.

Lewis's Edith Wharton Edith wharton: A Biography (1975). There novel writing was prescribed therapy. a man considerably older than she and with few intellectual or artistic interests. The Touchstone (1900). Blake Nevius has found the latent subject of her work to be two interlocking themes: "the spectacle of a large and generous nature . W. and Crucial Instances (1901). the echoes of George Eliot sounding through the book. As a chronicler of the manners of New York society from the 1840s into the 1930s. Massachusetts 435 . in these eight short stories. remarked that. unfortunately. and she thus commenced her professional writing career. among them John D. was the conflict between the desire of the individual and the authority of social convention. although she and James were to develop a close friendship.. and master of the short story. based on her private papers. which resulted in convalesence in a sanatorium. Several years after her marriage. Jr. she seems to have done little more than play the role of society matron and hostess in New York and Newport. (apparently to bury the taste of her mother's generation). sometimes passionately eruptive. the house Wharton built in 1901 on her 128-acre farm in Lenox. Her first publication was a book of poems. but never in connection with the great poetic revolution of the twentieth-century avant-garde.. as indicated in her book The Writing if Fiction (1925). she suffered a nervous breakdown. a work on interior decor written with Ogden Codman. Verses was followed by The Decoration if Houses (1897). and was married off on 29 April 1885 to Edward Wharton. it has become vividly clear the extent to which these intensely felt issues arose from her personal situation. Barry in the Boston Literary World. But many early reviewers. privately published in Newport while she was yet a girl-Together with Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse (1909). At the publication of The Greater Inclination. determine what allowance of freedom or rebelcan be made for her trapped protagonist withat the same time threatening the structure of Since the publication of R. and Twelve Poems (1926). an international novelist. trapped by circumstances ironically of its own devising into consanguinity with a meaner nature". and the related problem of trying LO define nature and limits of individual responsibility. Harry Thurston Peck was perhaps more discriminating in his observation that The The Mount. Verses (1878). During the early years of her marriage. Wharton's verse suggests a very conventional poetic sense. Wharton's principal focus. she had been most influenced by J~mes himself-a claim that Wharton came more and more to resent. B. Henry James remarked that he was able to detect. And her first book publications of fiction were The Greater Inclination (1899). in 1894.DLB 12 traveled extensively in Europe as a girl.

He concluded that "We have seen nothing this year that has impressed us so much as Mrs. Some of the greatest short stories owe their vitalityentirely to the dramatic rendering of a situation. One of the predominant themes of this volume of tales is the futility of s. I have tried to reflect the traditional influences and customs of the day. but apparently. . her Scribners editor. to vivify the colorful attitudes of the period. appears to be able to keep a novel alive. As she was to observe in The Writing of Fiction. who is suddenly called to succeed to the dukedom of Pianura. "one may believe in them or not. she said. and a rather tough pragmatic attitude permeates Wharton's treatment of the theme. and tries to apply the theories of the French encyclopedists to his small . Of the short story the same cannot be said. If therefore her personae in the stories seem less than fully "rounded. a series of nine travel sketches recording the impersonal impressions of the Whartons. the Paul Bourgets. and others of their entourage. As one character remarks of conventions. illustrated by Maxfield Parrish's drawings. Wharton tried her hand at the nouvelle. particularly the New England small town. The Valley of Decision (1902)." None of her early critics would have objected to her description of the short story as "a shaft driven straight into the heart of human experience. Still. After their publication. for all her brilliance." In The Touchstone. a "publishing scoundrel. a serious examination of Italian villa and garden architecture. a long chronicle-novel set in settecento Italy on the eve of the Napoleonic invasion. These themes resonate throughout all Wharton's fiction. While some of her early critics were to condemn the "flatness" of her characters in the short story and nouvelle. however fruitful. but the immense intellectual and moral movement of the new regime was at work beneath the surface of things. Wharton always felt that it was the business of the novel gradually to develop character and that the' business of the short story was to reveal a significant situation. "an attempt to picture Italy at the time of the breaking-up of the small principalities at the end of the 18th century. in the mind of a cadet of one of the reigning houses." Glennard becomes the deeply sensitive and moral man Margaret Aubyn had seen in potentia and loved. they may be a little less than individual human beings." her practice was premeditated." The stories in The Greater Inclination vary from a straight drawing-room scene written in dialogue.in praise of Wharton's psychologicalrealism in 436 that Wharton was to be praised for "the geni~s with which she willbring to the surface the underground movements of women's minds. a form she was to bring to perfection in Ethan Frome (1911).. he confesses to his wife the sale of the letters. Margaret Aubyn. and Italian Backgrounds (1905). A number of the tales explore the power of social convention and the difficulty of transcending it. also. identifying himself as the heartless recipient who allowed her anguished love to be published to the world. " Out of a passion for Italy were also to come Italian Villas and Their Gardens (1904). when all the old forms and traditions of court life were still preserved. . in their formal organization. An apt sense of the novel is suggested in Wharton's letter to William Crary Brownell.aesthetic poverty of the American scene. Wharton's book. to a story-e-heavily freighted with psychological analysis-of a symbolicjourney to death of a man and his wife. however. No longer." The Valley of Decision was inspired by the same impulse to recreate that world in fiction. this confession achieves an alleviation of his guilt and the rehabilitation of his marriage. another was the. together with new ideas. Undoubtedly the characters engaged must be a little more than puppets." Crucial Instances was marked by a declining dependence on verbal irony and fin de siecle witticism and by a growth of her mastery of the shortstory form. the novel principally dramatizes the politics of a transitional age in which two political ideologies came into conflict with each other. "No subject in itself. and the stories suggest. Aline Gorren remarked in the Critic I I 1 :i !~ of James's late style but had improved upon it. but as long as they do rule the world it is only by taking advantage of their protection that one can find a modus vivendi. only the characters in it can. in the Jamesian phrase." but her view of characterization in short fiction doubtless accounts for the recurrent conviction that. Wharton's tales lack the human warmth of great art.! . . "'~ Edith Wharton Greater Inclination had caught the "English" manner DLB 12 The Touchstone. in contrastto Europe (as in "The Recovery"). It was. The Touchstone involves a man who secretly sells intimate love letters once written to him by a now-deceased novelist. The title sketch of Italian Backgrounds recreates the color and variety of the settecento "world of appearances-of fine clothes. Like George Eliot's Romola (1863)." Wharton's annual excursions to Europe during her early married life account for the immediacy of the setting of her first novel.elf-sacrifice (as in "The Angel at the Grave"). what Wharton conceived short stories to be: "crucial instances" disengaged from "the welter of experience" that "illuminate our moral lives. gay colours and graceful attitudes.

charged with conteIllpt for radical Enlightenment political theorizing. she later observed.000 copies were in print. L. And it does not demonstrate the growth of principles and manly stamina so much as it does a beautiful. was Illy heroine. tender sentimentality peculiar to women. it is a carefully wrought study of a period and a teIllperaIllent.1905 . whether they are writers." The Valley of Decision taught Wharton two principles about novel writing. she could see in it. mothers or missionaries. Lily Bart. Wharton writes of "mysterious primal influences. with characters put to the use of symbolizingvarious political positions. where the suppression of the Society of Jesus. In trying to render plausible Kate's motivation for marrying. in the "progressive era. a woman marries a man guilty of fraud in order to prevent his unborn children from being "tainted" by their father's moral imperfection. In this case. and the mysterious death of Ganganelli.. notably Van Wyck Brooks and V. Kate Orme saves their son Dick from replicating his father's financial dishonesty by having provided the sanctuary of love necessary to help him triumph over temptation where his father had not. any deeper bearing than the people composing such a society could guess? The answer was that a frivolous society can acquire dramatic significance only through what its frivolity destroys. The answer.f/lrithllreJwwa Title page for Wharton's 1905 best-seller." The general critical response was not favorable." Conservative in its social imagination. a charmingly told story of deep and unusual interest.k beau monde while. in short. In the end. Sanctuary is "the kind of book a woman writes when she conceives her characters all walking upon moral margins too narrow to be quite comfortable. "In what aspect could a society of irresponsible pleasure-seekers be said to have.DLD 12 principality. Its tragic implication lies in its power of debasing people and ideals." Sanctuary (1903) deals once again with the theme of self-sacrifice. had produced a violent reaction toward Formalism and superstition. on the 'old woe of the world'. . Most reviewers felt it to be learned and labored and ." The story of LilyBart is the story of a beautiful but fastidious girl of inadequate means who tries to maintain her social position in the wealthy but dissolute New Yo. lacking in dramatic action. Incidentally I have given sketches of Venetian life. it does not deal with the master passions in a masterly way. "The story is not dramatic. have thought so. Parrington." and that "passion of spiritual motherhood that made her long to fling herself between the unborn child and its fate. NEW YORK: THE LIMITED MACMILLAN COMPANY . The close of the story pictures the falling to pieces of the whole business at the approach of Napoleon. The Valley oj Decision thus took an indirect stand against the perfectibilitarian schemes for American social reform at the turn of the century. an example of fine technique. Was the New York beau monde too shallowto yield deep significance? Some critics." the "sacrificialinstinct of her sex. But Wharton saw her task-in recreating this flat and futile commercial aristocracy in The House rif Mirth (1905)-as that of extracting from New York society the human significance which would have universal meaning: as Wharton wrote in A Backward Glance (1934). Within thefirst three months of publication 140.. the second was that the value of any fictional subject would depend on how much significance 437 Edith Wharton THE HOUSE OF MIRTH BY EDITH WHARTON I. at twenty-nine. and the clerical milieu at Rome. As an anonymous reviewer for the Outlook put it.onbon MACMILLAN AND CO. and gliIllpses of Sir WilliaIll Harnilton's circle at Naples." But none of these phrases quite succeeds in making credible Kate's utterly fantastic motive in marrying Dick's father. As an anonymous reviewer in the Independent put it. The first was that she ought to use the material she knew best.

is more complex than this analysis has suggested-principally because of the influence of Wharton's reading in the sciences. Thomas Huxley. the relatively poor young man who loves her. that he has "points of contact outside the great gilt cage in which they were all huddled for the mob to gape at": "How alluring the world outside the cage appeared to Lily. could never regain their freedom. Lily Bart. to Frances Russell's complaint that Wharton was "full of standards.Edith Wharton trying to find a suitably rich husband." Lily defines her goal in life as "success. K. realizes that Selden has preserved a detached viewof the societyshe aspires to. Lily falls in the socialorder and eventually drops out of it. complicates her portraits. but most of the captives were like flies in a bottle. Wharton could also write of her in such a way as to suggest that Lily is the poignant victim of hereditary and environmental forces which she cannot understand and over which she Wharton in 1905. To keep a kind of republic of the spirit-that's what I call success. so suggestive of Hurstwood's gradual deterioration and suicide in aNew York flophouse. It was Selden's distinction that he had never forgotten the way out. from all the material accidents. E." This celebration of Wharton's philosophical ambiguity returns to Percy Lubbock's claim that Wharton was not committed to anyone philosophical view. The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence-those works that most frequently provoke the question of her world view-shows that free will is ordinarily present." But the problem of free will. however. Her knowledge of the forces of heredity and environment. The product of the social forces that have shaped her. from ease and anxiety." Marilyn Jones Lyde has tried to prove that Wharton's viewoflife was that of ethical tragedy. did call Wharton a writer of naturalistic tragedy.' the while that it glitters with a density. in its refusal to tie itself down to 'meaning. as she knew. and having once flown in. so reminiscent of those of Dreiser's Sister Carrie. for example. however. it is personal freedom-what he callsthe republicofthe spirit: freedom "from money. As she loses her tenuous position with the idle rich. suggest that Wharton's world viewmight have been that of scientific naturalism. Lilyis too poor to run with a fast crowd but too much enamored of its luxuries to give up wealth and glamour and make an independent life with Lawrence Selden. only to die of an overdose of chloral in a cheap boardinghouse. for DLB 12 example. but Robert Morss Lovett found in her a "spirit of comedy. and Lily's tragic fall. gained from writers like Charles Darwin. argued that Wharton saw life as more ironic than tragic. the year The House of Mirth was published . a hardness of surface that only a truly novelistic eye could have seen and an informing mind recreate. the ability to choose between alternatives. Brown. For Selden. Blake Nevius. viewpoints. On this issue critics have frequently disagreed."getting as much as one can out of life.as she heard its door clang on her." Wharton was not a thoroughgoing determinist. A close investigation of Ethan Frome. Herbert Spencer. and John Locke. the door never clanged: it stood alwaysopen. Coxe says of The Age of Innocence (1920) has seemed true of her other works: that one of the graces and delights of Wharton's fiction lies exactly "in the multifariousness of its thematic material. Lily's social values. While according Lily Bart a measure of freedom and responsibility for her behavior. In reality. What Louis O.

like Lawrence Selden. In her insistence that heredity and environment do strongly influence . but they become an engine of destruction through the illusions they kill and the generous ardor they turn to despair. She cannot balance. the irony in the rhetorical questions should not be lost on the reader. that the links of her bracelet seemed like manacles chaining her to her fate.IIXI •• CO Title page for Wharton's 1911 novel. But the book was a best-seller in 1905 and 1906." The experience of writing the novel turned a drifting amateur into a professional writer. William James distinguished between a tenderminded and a tough-minded response to the question of free willand determinism. as Wharton herself confessed.WilliamPayne Morton was typical in praising the novel as "a work which has enlisted the matured powers of a writer whose performance is always distinguished. may seem a negligible factor in the socialdevelopment of the race. She had been fashioned to adorn and delight. and whose coupling of psychological insight with the gift of expression is probably not surpassed by any other woman novelist of our time. 1874). Written rapidly under the pressure of a Scribner's Magazine deadline. to what other end does nature round the rose-leaf and paint the humming-bird's breast? And was it her fault that the purely decorative mission is less easily and harmoniously fulfilled among social beings than in the world of nature? That it is apt to be hampered by-material necessitiesor complicated by moral scruples?" But although the figurative language tends to suggest that Lily is a naturalistic victim. herfirst to reflect intensely personal emotions has little control: "Inherited tendencies had combined with early training to make her the highly specializedproduct she was:an organism as helpless out of its narrow range as the sea-anemone torn from the rock. as he apparently can. Wharton must be called a "tender-minded determinist" who realized. She celebrated her success by moving permanently to France in 1907. bent only on spending and enjoying. This distinction is relevant to Wharton's fiction. Madame deTreymes (1907)dramatizes. which is celebrated for its physical beauty (Wharton always thought brownstone New York to be hideous). In his Boston lectures on pragmatism in 1906.DLB 12 Edith Wharton moral decisions. Set in Paris. To complete the biblical phrase to which the title alludes: "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning. that Lily"wasso evidently the victim of the civilization which had produced her. The novel thus weighs both Lily and contemporary New York society in the balance and finds them wanting. The House of Mirth reflectsweaknessesof styleand plotting and a strain of sentimentality that often mar Wharton's best fiction." Surely Lily Bart was in her mind when Wharton wrote those lines. It also revealed to her the possibilities inherent in the novel of manners set in New York. this nouvelle contrasts the individual goodness of the American with the moral and social com- ETHAN BY FROME WHARTON EDITH LONDON MACMILLAN KC." She learns too late the alternative order of values based on freedom that Selden describes. the conflict between the moral milieus of America and France. the epicurean's delight in pleasure with the stoic's indifference to it. but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth" (Ecclesiastes 7:3). While most reviewers deplored the vanity and vulgarity of high society. after the manner of James's international tales (particularly Madame de Mauves. in her awareness that in a very special sense character is destiny. The point of the novel is suggested by Wharton's remark in her review of Howard Sturgis's novel Belchamber (1905): "A handful of vulgar people. hoping to find in the exclusive Faubourg Saint-Germain quarter of Paris a literate and civilized high society lacking in New York.

of concessions to old tradition. &c. an assistant manager of a mill. Wharton· had been steadily producing short stories. which was growing worse. with the rue de Varenne. perhaps a latent theme of much of her fiction. in short.." As an expression of medieval Catholicism.. amid frequent motor trips through France and Italy. In 1907 Wharton's knowledge of the French scene did not include a perfect command of a conversational idiom. in effect. in telling the story of John Amherst. had "restored the romance of travel. A new invention. sought to capitalize on the then-current vogue of muckraking and reform literature. particularly the irresponsibility of managers who fail to look after the physical and spiritual welfare of their employees. At their best. Henry James. some reviewers won-dered about Madame de Treymes's sinister view of French familial solidarity. may be a portrait of Henry James as the high priest of art. the motorcar. delusions. so laboriously arrived at-the desire.. perhaps "The Last Asset. Only two of the ten tales are about "ghosts"-"The Eyes" and "Afterward. to keep intact as many links as possible between yesterday and tomorrow. The Hermit and the Wild Woman and Other Stories (1908) is a collection of seven tales ranging from a saint's legend (the title story) through Jamesian tales of art and life ("The Verdict" and "The Pot Boiler") to a tale of politics ("The Best Man"). seems incredible. Of these seven stories." . Perhaps the key to the work lies in what Wharton had to say about the effect of antiquities-like the Gothic cathedral at Reims-on the American traveler who has. in the ardour of the newexperiment. but a succession of pitiful compromises with fate. indeed. in its study of the abnegations of a morbidly spiritual hermit. no roots in the past: "Yes-reverence is the most precious emotion that such a building inspires: reverence for the accumulated experiences of the past. The result is a structurally imperfect novel that concludes with the view that life is "not a matter of abstract principles. This book abandoned the drawing-room milieu for the plight of the textile workers in a mill town in Massachusetts. The Fruit of the Tree (1907). even though she had spoken the language since childhood. who had just confessed in his preface to the New York edition of The American that he had not understood the French aristocracy in 1875. Wharton's ghost stories always have a doubleness of significance. is the best. old beliefs. deals with a three-week tour taken by the Whartorrs and Henry James in the Whartons' new automobile. At her request. the cathedral represented both a bondage of superstition to be cast off in the modern age and yet a manifestation to be reverenced of the ancient attempt to struggle upward toward a clearer vision of the human condition. suggests that the fruit of the tree is therefore a knowledge of the inextricable entanglements of good and evil. unwillingness to disturb rashly results so powerfully willed. When the Germans shelled the cathedral at Reims in World War I. to lose. readiness DLB 12 to puzzle out their meaning. but he turned out to 440 . " But Wharton continued to feel more in command of the French scene than James had ever been. don't go in too much for the French or the 'Franco-American' subject-the real field of your extension is [England]-it has far more fusability with our native and primary material. And. Wharton quickly discovered. while Vernon Atwood claimed it to be "an absolutely flawless and satisfying piece of workmanship." The operative terms for her point of view seem to be "enfranchisement of thought" combined with an "atavism of feeling. was to expose and criticize the abuses of the industrial system.." about a divorced couple'S momentary conspiracy to get their daughter married off. Even so. she got many of the details of factory life wrong. Then she shifted away from the reform topic midway through in order to explore the moral implications of euthanasia (Amherst's paralyzed wife is dispatched by an idealistic nurse who then marries him). despite the interest of the title story which. Wharton's next volume-Tales of Men and Ghosts (1910)-was a diversion from the two big novels then partially completed in manuscript-The Reef (1912) and The Custom of the Country (1913). about which she knew little. Wharton's third novel.Edith Wharton plicities of a complex French social order. old charities and frailties. a miltiplicity of possible psychological interpretations that make the spectral tales plausible to the intellect. cautioned her about her subject matter: "All the same. There it was-and now all the tears of rage of all the bereft millions & all the crowding curses of all the wondering ages will never bring a stone of it back!" Meanwhile. That Wharton should have risked such a subject." This observation. between 1904 and 1909. ." But several other stories deal with fantasies." Her next book. James wrote to her: "Rheims is the most unspeakable & immeasurable horror & infamy-& what is appalling & heart-breaking is that it's 'foreuer & ever!' . and hysteria in such a way as to suggest the impact of her breakdown in the 1880s and of her husband's neurasthenia. Her aim. the least that may be of the long rich heritage of human experience. A Motor-Flight Through France (1908). Charles Du Bos found a tutor for her.

Besides that. for a tightly constructed psychological drama focused on a central situation-again a love triangle-with a novelistic structure reminiscent of the manner of James's later works. Like Ethan Frome. 'I never wonder what you are doing when you are not with me. Instead. I am a little humbled." marked by "supreme validity and distinc441 again: "Sometimes I am calm. "exalted almost. But neither heredity nor environment serves to explain the fate of the characters. Looked at in the light of Wharton's anguish over the Fullerton affair. how the personality I had moulded into such strong firm lines has crumbled to a pinch of ashes in this flame! For the first time in my life I can't read! . that I could say to you truly. I hold the book in my hand. he asked her to prepare. In Wharton's exercise book is the germ of Ethan Frome: three chapters in French which introduce the three major characters and pose the complex relationship among them." published in Lewis's biography. deals less with character development than with the creation of an ironic situation-the entrapment of the three crippled victimsoflove and hate shut up together under one roof in a snowbound New England farmhouse: Ethan. Ethan Frome. but this happiest moment of her life could not last. yet . as I did yesterday." At the same time. Stunning in the spare economy of its realistic detail. and stony. Fullerton wasan unstable scapegrace whose amorous escapades. The 1909 poem "Terminus. The Reef glitters with felicities of psychological insight and precision.DLB 12 be too amiable to correct her conversational errors.a written exercise. to find how poor a thing I am. was temporarily forgotten. and he concluded that Wharton "could not lay claim to any such justification. As an anonymous reviewer for the Nation observed. Lionel Trilling. Her private diary suggests the intensity of her feelings: "Wir waren zusammen. who must justify his cruelty "by the seriousness of his moral intention". So trapped is she by her genteel aversion to physical sexuality that she cannot accept this virile man because it would compromise her ideal of perfect love and thus would be a desecration of its sanctity. "The wonder is that the spectacle of so much pain can be made to yield so much beauty. and his beloved Mattie Silver. like The House of Mirth.") And Edith Wharton richly symbolic in its network of recurrent images. in praising it as an analogue to Greek tragedy. the nouvelle completed just after that intense liaison with Fullerton. for example. much like Wharton. nor are determinist considerations invoked to account for them. it is less because he is morally inert than because he is exceptionally responsible for them. so enclosed and satisfied in the thought of you. if not constrained by his guilt." Her next novel-The Reif-marked a significant departure from her characteristic mode as a novelist." ("We were together. the theme of the "monstrousness of useless sacrifice" is invoked. Die siissesten Stunden meines Lebens. there occurred perhaps the most passionate experience of Wharton's life-a brief but intense affair with Morton Fullerton. scandalized their circle of friends." she wrote." It is true that the setting of Stark field is grim. this work is frequently advanced as one of Wharton's most "naturalistic" studies of human defeat and despair.. a little ashamed. In the interim between the French version of the tale and the publication of Ethan Frome (1911) in English. and the cerebrations of suspicion and jealousy that afflict Anna Leath. by George Darrow. he does so at the behest of the author.. a ne'er-do-well American journalist then livingin Paris. The affair was brief and intense. and see your name all over the page. in a repressive New York environment. The tragic ending of the story is nowhere in sight here: Wharton gave up her French lessons after a few weeks and the copybook. which he then corrected. Henry James called it a "beautiful book. The sweetest hours oimy life. the tortured frustrations of unrequited love." For Trilling. for each of his visits. of Wharton's inability-much less her characters'-to escape the moral weight of self-punishment for illicit love. for she believed in the marriage commitment and she knew that no relationship could be satisfactory that was not a total sharing of all the experiences oflife. in the wake of their suicidal toboggan ride into an elm tree. among other things.. a "sheltered American girl" who has grown up. It abandons the chronicle novel. Wharton was filled with guilt. If Ethan remains with these querulous and droning women. The Reef deals with the power of sexual desire. like Frome. but Anna Leath cannot think of herself as Darrow's wife without remembering that Sophy Viner has had an affair with him. Contemporary reviewers seemed to grasp this point. his wife. snowbound.' At such moments I feel that all the mvsticismin me-and the transcendentalism that in women turns to religion-were poured into my feeling for you.. once observed that whenever a character suffers in a piece of fiction. suggests the inevitability of the end of the affair. now crippled. the mind can do nothing with the "perpetuity of suffering" which memorializes "a moment of passion. Zeena.. without imagining what they must have done together. Once again. with both sexes. Ethan Frome is a stark projection. with its unfinished tale.

0 I Q "/ I~. Undine Spragg. the art critic.#~ lt~ ~"rs'. £D Vrit'~ •. whom she drags to New York and nearly bankrupts in her search for a rich husband. ~!'•• .Edith Wharton tion" and quite "the finest thing you have done.···...~..•... the Comte Raymond de Chelles.~$'~ uzsis: 4b:tC< ~H'.~. it was a failure.. ~ ~cdlu. 'M. and lambasting the American businessman as a crude materialist devoted only to mammon.~. The year that The Custom if the Country was finished was in many ways a crucial one for Whatton. ~L'> Utadu.i.. '· If.u." For most reviewers./ tid.•.~h~I-~ ... ~A¥ 442 Pages from the notebook Wharton kept while she was living in Paris at the beginning of World War I .. rambling chronicle of manners.. I~~d U-U-/ ~/ c? .. JI.u. she returned to the long.. an American billionaire railroad king with whom she eventually winds up.:·-~'·"'~~ .L I~ '. the end of her marriage to Edward Wharton.x·A.~ ~ .ew.•..~.~n" h J <1 ". . a type that Edmund Wilson once called the "international cocktail bitch. whose mental derangement and embezzlement of funds in Wharton's trust made life with him unendurable. however. .~ ~. It marked.tl("' ." stripping off the skin of a decadent and lifeless New York social aristocracy.: ~~-~ ~.. lIT ' ... ~ J:. ··•. In her next novel.. Id~ ~ ~·l Jt. U~f~A~. l.. . and finally Elmer Moffatt.. In the long run.)~~ ' •• ~~ IN t~ 9£....) J.*"A ••'. Immediately after her April 1912 divorce she set out for Italy and then for Germany with her friends Walter Berry and Bernard Berenson..··~· . ~~-~. the Jamesian novel developing all sides of a central situation was not to be Wharton's metier.·'. . . is a dazzlingly beautiful girl from the Midwestern town of Apex City whose social ambition is so poisonous that it drives her to exploit everyone who crosses her path-her newly rich parents.u.••. the fashionable New Yorker whom she marries and drives to suicide. however. Pd.~j 'jJ. ·~.I. ridiculing the pretensions and provincialism of the American Midwest.( k.. ~ ~ J). The Custom of the DLB 12 Country recreates in a free-swinging satire the career of Undine Spragg.·A~ W..~.Sy":_ . j't~&~..~~ :r.•. In Germany she met Rainer Maria Rilke .~./ ~K~#/.•• U-.~ ~f"-. Ralph Marvell. ••..I! . fk. Her sense of liberation was reflected in what James called Wharton's "dazzling braveries of far excursionism" throughout the length and breadth of the Continent. ...1.. *' ~. the heroine. . ·.... ·1Z. The Custom of the Country.." .r . a French aristocrat of ancient family who seems more sociallydesirable as a husband than even Ralph. for one thing. MIk( ~ ' ~~~ rs.:t. narrating the rise of a vulgar and aggressive girl to social prominence in the East and in Europe. IVI~ tr: .L-..

Igor Stravinsky. "and there is all the more reason why Americans should hold up the hands of those of their number who. Summer records the story of a poor young New England girl. their summer romance results in her pregnancy." With the entry of the United States into the war in 1917. Her compilation. Royall. In June of 1916. Henry James. but rescue by Mr." the book is nevertheless optimistic propaganda directed at the American 'public during the first fourteen months of the war.DLB 12 and other German artists. The Book of the Homeless. A Son at the Front. Wharton.S. George Santayana. intended to assist the Children of Flanders Rescue Committee. Wharton's hopes for the survival of France soared. only to be killed at the Marne." Wharton did find time. "Xingu" is a broad satire on ladies' clubs which pretend to the mastery . Written at the fin de siecle. are endeavoring to some extent to remedy the national shortcomings. a badly written. Despite her inability to finish the manuscript of "Literature. saw Faust. Most of the tales deal with typical Whartonian themes. Philadelphia. among other things. Unfortunately. an ambitious Kunstlerroman (a novel of education in which the hero becomes an artist) to be called "Literature. "Edith Wharton" committees sprang up to collect funds for the perpetuation of her work. of any love that is not a living together. Thomas Hardy. where Wharton reported on trench warfare. Army Ambulance Service as a driver. who is seduced by a handsome city architect who has come to her town to study its old houses. the impoverished rural lives of the Fromes and the Royalls. Free of what she called "lyrical patriotism or post-card sentimentality. and Washington. "es war der Lenzl" She began a new novel." echoing Sigmund. the book exudes an "Over There" enthusiasm suggesting that it is indeed sweet and dignified to die for one's adopted country.the foster father who takes her in again and marries her. amid her war work. John Singer Sargent. and the quiet heroism of the men and women who stood the rigors of frontline combat. abandonment. Eleanora Duse. some had been written wellbefore the war commenced. organizing. Joseph Conrad. "vernal hours. Sarah Bernhardt. Her new enthusiasm wasreflected in The Marne (1918). Predictably. And she made a continuing claim for the realism of her New England tales. Jean Cocteau. where she wrote Summer (1917). embarrassingly sentimental nouvelle about an underage American boy whose love for France is so impassioned that he joins the U. The Bookman reviewer concurred in praising the authenticity of Wharton's setting and characterization." he wrote. While its portrait of the inbred and degenerate mountain people of the Berkshires angered local residents and led the Boston Evening Transcript reviewer to call the book unconvincing. and others. a sharing of all!" "Autre Temps . WilliamDean Howells. Teddy Roosevelt-who wrote the introduction to the anthology-was concerned about America's continuing neutrality.. Out of this work developed her next two books-Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Beljort Edith Wharton of "subjects" got up from week to week. Boston. Surely Morton Fullerton must stillhave been in her mind when she protested to Charles Du Bos "the poverty.. and threw herself into journalism and war charities. "The part that America has played in this great tragedy is not an exalted part. the miserable poverty." Meanwhile. was a work as remote as possible from the combat scenes around her. she took a brief vacation at Fontainebleau. This New England tragedy. "They were. from the inside. not published until 1923but 443 (1915) and The Book of the Homeless (Le Livre des Sans-Foyer) (1915). "Bunner Sisters"iscomparable to Ethan Frome in the intensity of its vision of poverty and despair. Paul Claudel. returned to Paris." she later wrote. which showed "all the virtue of her style and none of its weakness. Charity Royall. " and "Bunner Sisters" are the most brilliant tales in the collection. Wharton continued to insist throughout her life that she knew. a workroom for unemployed seamstresses in her arrondissement and finding food and lodging for refugees pouring out of Belgium. while the war raged on. a companion piece to the wintry Ethan Frome. the needs of the field hospitals. William Butler Yeats. and discovered the magic of Richard Strauss's operas." But when World War I broke out in 1914. like Mrs. she abandoned her compulsive travels. "The Choice" and "The Long Run" return to the theme of the moral ambiguities of love outside marriage in New York society. contained poetry and music she solicited from such eminent artists as Rupert Brooke. contrasting them to the idealizations of the New England local colorists. in New York. Like Wharton. to put together Xingu and Other Stories for publication in 1916. The first recounts the experience of about six expeditions to the front line. visited the great museums. "Kerfol" and "The Triumph of Night" are both ghost stories which hover between the occult and the psychologicallyaberrant."Bunner Sisters"is a work of such powerful urban realism that Stephen Crane or Dreiser could not have done better. of any love that lies ouside of marriage.

" The 1. were the heirs of an old tradition of European culture which the country has now totally rejected. associated with the people. that one can place one's own country in the history of civilization"). is also a reflection of Wharton's war experience. but partly an aversion to the darker experiences of life. as an inconvenience to his career. though.Grace Church weddings. When it becomes clear that the Allieswillnot win a quick victory. etudie leurs moeurs. This rejection. and then all they had believed in and been guided by would perish. -. "one had to come to Europe". "France. ordered world. western civilization went with her.':9 . the betrothal visits. In this work.~ .~ . "To 'follow up' the traces of vanished old New York." the "always-have-beens. falls in love with a Europeanized American. "c'est seulement en ayant vu d'autres pays. frequente leurs habitants. the formal dinners. a novel set in the old New York of her youth. though he hopes that it may be the means by which his drafted son will gain a finer sense of values." what she once called "the successivesuperpositions of experience _that time brings. with its unnatural sharpness of outline and over-heightening of colour. a young dilettante who grows bored with the stuffy.. It was our English' forbears who taught us to flout tradition and break away from their own great inheritance. specifically"that strange war-world of the rear." In The Age of Innocence. which she felt wastypified by those "French" qualities of reverence. a work published toward the end of the war and intended for Americans. who in moments of crisis stillshaped the national point of view. playgoing at Lester Wallack'stheater. and a submissiveness to the power' of social convention that characterized her parents' class. and bathtub gin. less for these archaeological exhumations than for the spiritual portrait of the age. In effect. On one level the novel is a faithful record of the manners and mores of that New York City haut monde between 1870 and 1900: the opera evenings at the old Academy of Music. que l'on peut situer son pro pre pays dans l'histoire de la civilisation" ("it is only by having seen other countries. flappers. a fear of innovation. But the point is clear: the defense of France is the salvation of Western civilization. there one found that the New York of the 1870swasvery much like that of the English cathedral town or the French "villede province" of the same era. ." In this novel. Wharton regarded old New York as having preserved an order of civilizedvalues too precious to be forgotten in the age of jazz babies. who renounced his American citizenship in 1915 as a gesture of protest at America's seeming indifference to this assault on civilization. "has a lesson to teach and a warning to give[Americans]. Writing The Age of Innocence was therefore an act of piety for her. in France. side by side with the qualities of enterprise and innovation that English blood has put in us." In A Backward Glance Wharton was to observe that "the really vital change" between 1870 and 1934 was that "in my youth. the round of visits and leaving visiting cards. the Americans of the original States. contemplates running away to Europe with her but is maneuvered back into conformity within the dictates of his society when his rebellion threatens to destroy his marriage. lu leurs livres. she remarked on another occasion. has DLB 12 opened a gulf between those days and these. Wharton sought to explain her adopted country to those unfamiliar with its essential spirit. By"reverence" she meant the deeply rooted respect in France for old customs. we should cultivate the sense of continuity. ordered civilityof her parents' world. read their books. France may teach us that. . especially soldiers. What Wharton meant by innocence was partly sexual propriety and financial rectitude. the artist-father John Campton reacts to the war personally and selfishly. The waysin which France stood for civilization is suggested in Wharton's French Ways and Their Meaning (1919). of wasted forces." And by "continuity. and the effect on her New Yorkers of "Arabian Night marvels" like the invention of electricity and the telephone. the Countess Ellen Olenska. Wharton felt. and taboos-"les bienseances. taste. and intellectual honesty. traditions." The son is killed and the grieving father is much chastened by the experience. Yet far from being the story of "a pathetic instance of vain frustration." she remarked. that 'sense of the past' which enriches the present and binds us up with the world's great stabilising traditions of art and poetry and knowledge.rituals.Edith Wharton written atthis time. continuity. Wharton tests the value of this innocence in the character of Newland Archer. the defense of France becomes an obsession to him: "If France went." she meant "the niost homogeneous and uninterrupted culture" in the world. Wharton's continual call for American intervention in the war was like that of Henry James. the summers in Newport and winters in Washington Square. Looking back. Wharton sought to suggest some of those areas in which traditional society in old New York maintained the "old tradition of European culture" no longer characteristic of the postwar world. an attempt to atone for her youthful satire on the graceful. studied their customs. The Age of Innocence interests today's readers.

resemble Lily Bart and Lawrence Selden of The House of Mirth in that they are in love and want to marry." "1U1tMB&. In fact. Howard Sturgis. Teddy Roosevelt. Looking about her at this world.DLB 12 Age Edith Wharton readers generally agreed with the Times Literary if Innocence demonstrates that beneath the surface dullness were things so fine and sensitive and Supplement reviewer. Wharton was disgusted at the spectacle of the wealthy. and this is her best book. Even Paris seemed too much. one which James fertilized but would have been unable to bring to maturity"--closed out the major phase of Wharton's career as a writer. in the summer. and with the definite understanding that whenever either of them got the chance to do better he or she should be immediately released? The law of their country facilitated such exchanges. denationalized. and many of her friends-Henry James. affirms the balanced virtues of both the older ways of Archer's generation and the newer openness of the turn-of-the-century period. 8 D. deracinated cosmopolites rushing about Europe from London to Paris. APPLETON AND COMPANY NEW YORK :: MCMXX·:: WNDON Title page for Wharton's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about high soCietyin the late nineteenth century. Parrington claimed that there was "more hope for our literature in the honest crudities of the younger naturalists. also like Lily and Lawrence. rue de Varenne. It earned her some $70. set in 1900. Henceforth. and in the winter she journeyed to her other estate. fashion. . Despite their desire to remain part of this group. L. while each scouts for a wealthier spouse: "Why shouldn't they marry. OF "THE HOUSE OF IIIIlTJI/' "THE llEEF. Sainte-Claire Le Chateau." In the end. The Glimpses of the Moon (1922) deals with the four cornerstones of their existencemoney. Her best books were behind her. Writing in the postwar world seemed highly problematical to her . belong to each other openly and honourably. who called her a writer who "brings glory on the name of America. and pleasure. the epilogue of the novel. but." and Katherine Mansfield begged for "a little wildness. Perhaps something could yet be done to record the moral history of the postwar world. Yet stories kept clamoring to be told. who described the novel as "a thorough mastery of the whole situation. So Wharton gave up her Faubourg apartment and bought a large estate outside Paris at Saint Brice-sous-Foret. they do not have enough money to maintain themselves in the rich crowd. on the Riviera. Moritz and the Riviera." BTC. Some reviewers complained that Wharton's art was wasted on a negligible high society and trivial people. V. at Hyeres. The publication of The Age of Innocencewhich Yvor Winters once called "the finest single flower of the Jamesian art. Dallas. it did achieve best-seller status.000 plus sales record of The House oj Mirth.000 between 1920 and 1922. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewiswrote admiringly to her." But 'The AGE of iNNOCENCE BY EDITII WHARTON AUTHOR. if for ever so short a time. and young writers such as F. While The Age if Innocence did not match the 100. Nick and Susy return to each other. her war work was over. to St. luxury. to a girl of marginal social position." Indeed. Her young couple. It no longer seemed possible to stay at 53. their experiment a failure. she decided. a dark place or two in the soul. they decide to marry. as well as young soldier-friends such as Ronald Simmons and her cousin Newbold Rhinelander-were gone. 445 delicate that Ellen Olenska's spontaneity and social iconoclasm seem almost crass by comparison. Susy Branch and Nick Lansing." and with William Lyon Phelps. Pavillon Colombe was to be her home. it won for her the Pulitzer Prize in 1920. in the widower Archer's declining to renew his interest in Ellen (out of respect to the memory of his marriage) and in the marriage of Archer's son. and society was beginning to view them as indulgently as the law.

Hers is a drama of renunciation. Kate Clephane. artist.. only to discover that Anne's fiance is a young man with whom Kate has had an affair in Europe. Ruth Hale memorably defined the critical view that would seal the book's fate: "Edith Wharton has no business to be writing such trash.the increasing slicknessof her stories. Wharton's powers. any improvement. and New Year's Day (The 'Seventies). gardening and reading..although there were veiled complaints at her "aristocratic status. In an effort to recreate that vanished world of her parents. OF ~ NEW YOllK. the four parts do succeed as "crucial instances" of the complex struggle of four individuals in relation to the oppressive social order of a conventional society in the process of change. psychology. DI$(IlIZlu. but in many ways the trip was a failure. returns to New York City eighteen years later to attend her daughter's wedding.Edith Wharton poor but happy." By 1925 Edith Wharton had become the A .livingin her villa outside Paris. The Mother's Recompense (1925) expands the theme of "Autre Temps . Perhaps the Independent reviewer caught the general mood in his remarks about The Mother's Recompense: "Competent. fro DLB 12 grande dame of American letters. The Spark (The 'Sixties). was gone without a trace. largely composed during the war." she could remind herself that "once at least she had stood fast. old New York.." Wharton had alwaysfelt that few English and American novelistshad been really interested in the deeper processes of art." her treatment of the beau monde rather than the toiling masses. Most of her old friends were long dead or unrecognizable. SaILLn'. Written for the Pictorial Review. Wharton produced in 1924 four nouvelles dealing with four decades of that vanished society'Ssocial history: Old New York. Kate acquiesces in the marriage to protect her daughter and returns to Europe alone. The Old Maid (The 'Fifties)." OP THE ere.. and was consistently identified as one of "the twelve greatest women in America.JI1UIIII lAi.." MOON. the collective title. adequately chiseled and polished like a painting by a competent. having abandoned her husband and child for a lover in Europe. Wharton wanted most to escape from the present. Perhaps with the exception of Henry James in mind. D. a slick periodical aimed at American housewives. and New York itself was measurably different from the prewar city she had left almost two decades before.. had received an honorary doctorate from Yale. is composed of False Dawn (The 'Forties). her oldfashioned sensibility. In 1923 she returned to the United States to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale University. Old New York is not compelling. the work deals prescriptively with the craft of fiction. Unable openly to oppose the marriage without revealing her own dissipation (except to a New York gentleman who is still willing to marry her). APPLETON AND COMPANY :: MCMXXV NEW YORK :: LONDON Title page for thefirst of Wharton's novels in the middle and late 1920s about the relations between parents and children . As glimpses of the social history of the time and place." Few reviewers gave her really bad reviews. shutting away in a little space of peace and light the best thing that had ever happened to her. skillful work." "THE GU)(PSES "THE AGE OF IKNOCENcx. At sixty. The Glimpses of the Moon marked a steep decline in Mrs. THE MOTHER'S RECOMPENSE BY EDITH WHARTON AtmlllO. Emphasizing in Jamesian terms such issues as selection. but rather tired. her only recompense being that "whenever she began to drift toward new uncertainties and fresh concessions. A compilation of essays that had appeared in Scribner's Magazine. but as a group of sharply realized moral dramas. as she had meditated and practiced it. " in order to suggest certain transformations of moral and social values over two decades in contemporary New York. Her parents' world. While some reviewers gave the obligatory nod to Wharton's stylistic powers. u •." Nor was A Son at the Front. she had The Writing of Fiction published in 1925.

" Between 1925 and her death in 1937. and stream-of-consciousness fiction. And she did not hesitate to criticize Howells for not probing deeply enough or the later James for severing his characters from "that thick nourishing human air in which we all live and move. the tale suggests that the real Roman fever is not the malaria that afflicted their grandmothers' generation." for stripping them of "all the human fringes Edith Wharton we necessarily trail after us through life. she remarked that "As to experience. Over seventy when the book was published. contains only five tales.. Human Nature. Wharton's realism makes great demands on the insight of the writer. that "the surface of life was rich enough to feed the creator's imagination. of which she was an expert practitioner. and a revelation of latent hatred which rises to a sudden and unexpected climax. Like James. In the former novel George Frenside." The point of interest in human behavior. Leon Edel once observed that many of Wharton's stories suffered from "too close an adherence to the 447 .. The World Over (1936). Human Nature (1933). was "the conflicts . Howells. provided it remains long enough in the mind and is sufficiently brooded on. Wharton had been steadily deteriorating in health. During this period she also wrote a volume of poems. "Roman Fever." "The Young Gentleman. the function of memory. whom she visited almost every year at his Villa I Tatti in Florence. and death. Ansley through years of quiet obedience to the social forms of her New York City world." This advice embodies Wharton's belief. of which the best is doubtless "After Holbein. Wharton devoted chapters to "Telling a Short Story. In this tale. as she put in The Gods Arrive. sit at a restaurant table overlooking the Palatine. Wharton produced five more volumes of short stories. and almost all of her contemporaries had died. two widows in Rome. disease. Yet her theme was the inevitable fact that human nature had not changed as fast as Jazz Age social usages. Of the generally trivial group of tales in The World Over. As a vade mecum for the aspiring writer.most of the 'society' novelists did. one." Such an intention. and Emile Zola. For Wharton. one published posthumously. In fact. the controlled revelation of events which happened in the distant past has no equal in Wharton's oeuvre. although the prescriptiveness suggests how conventional were her attitudes in the age of surrealism." a parable. its manners and mores. Her aim was like that of Vance Weston-not "to denounce or to show up. Perhaps some episodes from her novels Hudson RiverBracketed (1929) and The GodsArrive (1932) will lay bare the theory implicit in her realistic art. Again. all but one of them ("A Glimpse") concerned with illness. an overpowering mood of occult strangeness." This corresponds with the view she expressed in The Writing if Fiction-for the novelist "the proper study of mankind is man's conscious and purposive behaviour rather than its dim unfathomable sources. as . once experienced. and five novels. For she is a realist preeminently in the tradition of the early James. Here and Beyond is composed of a half-dozen tales which deal about equally with this world and the next. produced between the social order and individual appetites." The dramatization of such conflicts frequently produces the novel of manners. dedicated to Bernard Berenson. Certain People (1930). Constituted only of their conversation about the girls and their own girlhoods." But her conception of experience was not impressionistic and inward. as always.DLB 12 and the moral sense. as was James's. in its way. Those which explore the supernatural"Miss Mary Pask. It is at the same time a complex study of the sameness of." and "Character and Situation. dadaism. a literary critic and adviser. the Forum." "Constructing a Novel. well executed. its liberties and constraints. after all. the final flowering of her art with the short tale: Here and Beyond (1926). trying to keep up with their two fast-living. the creative imagination can make a little go a long way. and the Colosseum. husband-hunting daughters. the novelist's subject was the individual in full engagement with the social world. The tale makes expert use of suspense. the focus is on age. and Ghosts (1937). but that power of passionate love sufficient. and find out what all those people behind the splendid house fronts signified in the general scheme of things. the generations. and worked out against that vast Roman memento mori. and death. the volume has its uses. tells the aspiring novelist Vance Weston that he ought to get out and mix more often in society: "Manners are your true material. Certain People also offers six tales. of the fatal consequences of the life of social self-indulgence in New York City during the Gilded Age. for her. delivers the novel of manners from the charge of superficiality in its treatment of society. to nourish Mrs." A concluding essay dealt with Marcel Proust." is as good as anything she ever wrote." and "Bewitched"--create. but to take apart the works of the machine. even while Wharton's steady rationalism usually provides us with a means of understanding the inexplicable. her memoir. Honore de Balzac. its rites and traditions. intellectual and moral. and the vital differences between. for the surface must be probed and dissected by one on whom nothing is lost.

that Alida Slade's husband had also fathered Grace Ansley's daughter. there it is. for the supernatural tale: silence and continuity. The Gods Arrive. although The Children "is not by the inspired Edith Wharton who wrote that finest of New England tragedies." Only two requirements were necessary. vain to shudder at what it is creating. she predicted. but high claims have been made for Hudson River Bracketed and The Buccaneers. once refracted. despite the marryings and divorces and abandonments of parents and stepparents. is typical of all of the protagonists of the last five novels. "to deplore what the new order of things has wiped out. If Twilight Sleep reveals how the irresponsible adults victimize the young. dedicating the book to Walter de la Mare. the wireless. They somehow develop the "memorial manner. and "quickie" divorces. constitutes the rationale of her spectral tales.Ansleyquietly drops at the end. jazz. In Ghosts.Edith Wharton formula popular at the end of the nineteenth century. "the conflicting attractions of the gangster. Gaillard Lapsley)-matches the greatness of The House of Mirth. Ethan Frome." which acknowledges and reverences the usable past. As she grew older. But with jazz. by which their elders' conduct is weighed in the balance and found wanting. still brings out the polish of pages that regret the decline in manners and record the new vulgarities. that of the sudden twist. posthumously submitted to Appleton-Century by her literary executor. A satire on modern manners and morals." "It is useless. Wharton collected eleven tales already published in magazines and book form. The first of these five-Twilight Sleep-bids fair to be one of Wharton's weakest novels. or The Age of Innocence. "it is in the warm darkness of the pre-natal fluid far below our conscious reason that the faculty dwells with which we apprehend the ghosts we may not be endowed with the gift of seeing. and the American novelist can best use his opportunity by plunging both hands into the motley welter. it is a characteristically competent Wharton product. frenetic quality of modern social life. Hudson River Bracketed. The final novels dramatize the fate in the modern world of young people who have rejected adults' inanities and who have discovered a value embedded in the cultural past unknown to their elders. This collection contains a preface on the nature of supernatural fiction which. The Children (1928). While many reviewers. The Children makes the point even more explicitly. In the preface to Ghosts she remarks that while the rational mind may not believe in ghosts. and the sun of Henry James.. Judith Wheater. and a vivid moral sense (derived therefrom). this novel ridicules the hurried. may succumb "to the impossibility of finding standingroom in a roaring and discontinuous universe. to whom societymust now look for salvation. and the shallowness of love in the age of Freud. a fifteen year old who tries desperately to keep her brothers and sisters together." None of the five novels published in the last decade of her life-Twilight Sleep (1927). the coup de theatre. the ceaselesspursuit of pleasure and the fear of pain (focusing on the new anesthetic used in childbirth that is indicated by the title). whether for better or worse." 448 . and The Buccaneers (1938. she felt. the DLB 12 Wharton at age sixty-three villains of Wharton's fiction became the middle generation of valueless hedonists-not irreverent youth." Wharton had observed in 1927. found the novel barely credible. the introvert and the habitual drunkard." the ghost and the ghostly story. Ethan Frome. at least for the story-teller." Yet "Roman Fever" could not have succeeded as effectively with any other ending than the ironic bombshell that Mrs. together with her comments in The Writing of Fiction. Gorham Munson was perhaps typical in remarking that. the secular substitutions for religious value in society.

wo contemporary American writers on the basis of literary merit. Wharton has Weston go to Europe in further pursuit of American cultural roots and. especially as they try to assimilate cultural tradition. but with its deeper relevance and its suggestions of a larger whole either unconsciously missed or purposely left out. and could produce no more . to Wharton. set in New York in the 1870s. "invented the once-famous tranche de vie. And in The Gods Arrive. willbe evolved from the present welter of experiment. the realistic novel of manners. she remarked. with all its sounds. Even the naturalistic novel." For her. and in its place readers increasingly encountered both the bitter distortions of satire and a mellow nostalgia for a vanished world that few could remember across the wreckage of the Great Depression and the war years. and upon the inanities of life among the British aristocracy. as well as of The Buccaneers. rather conspicuously. they did so only in spite of their theories. centering on the characters' conscious and purposive motives in the conflict between the social order and the individual's appetites. The Buccaneers. while offering some lively comment on American life. the international literary scene. in her satire upon the snobbishness of old New York." But by the 1930s she did not find modernist theories of fiction to have produced a great narrative art.. the sharp irony of her youthful style. and power of the new Americans." One of the most interesting aspects of Hudson River Bracketed and The Gods Arrive.DLD 12 ~ditb Wbarton The year Hudson River Bracketed appeared. indefatigable plutocrats from the Midwest. In Vance Weston and the St. In brief." Hudson River Bracketed confirmed her general reputation by expertly tracing the apprenticeship of a young American novelist of manners. -that unless the arts were renewed they 'were doomed. In The Gods Arrive. She was never at home in the postwar world. have a tonic effect on society and reinvigorate the meaning of the past and the value of tradition. thirty-one critics were asked to rank sove rrty-t. The novel weaves together two interrelated themes: the age-old perplexing problem of love between men and women. deals with the efforts of the St. dadaism and surrealism. she held. Both books were received as competent and workmanlike. passion. would more than challenge the capacities of any artist. as the art of narrative and the portrayal of social groups. she expressed her dismay at the literati in Paris who denounce tradition and argue that "fiction. generally judging her work as "superior. the novel of manners offering the social surface but probing for its deeper significance. whom she largely misunderstood. George girls. George family. stream-of-consciousness fiction. and tradition. It is clear that. after all. Wharton celebrates the energy. who eventually discover the importance of the cultural roots and the traditions of an established society. uncompleted novel. But although her novels became increasingly deprived of that rich and direct social experience that is the substance of the American novel of manners. the novel deals with the necessity of Weston's discovering in Willows-an old house designed in the Hudson River Bracketed style-a symbol of continuity. according to Wharton. is that they express an increasingly complex attitude toward the American Middle West. Isabel Paterson remarking how Wharton "satirizes the modernists in her own leisurely way. which she had consistently satirized in her earlier work.-just what is needed to nourish the artist's imagination."assharply revising her vie ws about the Midwestern nouveaux riches to show how they might. That Wharton still held her own was indicated by sixteen of them placing her in group 1 and ten in group 2. he descends deeper into himself to discover the source of his creative energies. The great French writers. Wharton lost. her last. were the limitations of novelistic genres. smells. As early as 1914. for Wharton. had failed. she nevertheless tried to deal responsibly and realistically with her times up until 449 . In the process of dramatizing the vulgarity of the modern world and in defending the novel of manners against the emerging modernists. Vance Weston's successive experiments with several kinds of novels in Hudson River Bracketed and The Gods Arrive have the effect of highlighting what. written as a sequel. had reached its climax. as adequate to its purpose as those preceding it. both within and without the married estate. and the artist's imagination." If they succeeded. the exact photographic reproduction of a situation or an episode. Wharton ". who marry into the English aristocracy. history. conceding not the fraction of an inch in either theory or 'practice to their literary claims.. aspects realistically rendered. at the same time. she had left the hope that "some new theory of form. and that in fiction the only hope of renewal was in the exploration of the subliminal. Vance Weston. in Wharton's affection for the invading American beauties. to launch their daughters into New York society. and the discovery of Europe and its old established traditions by a young writer inflamed with the recently discovered concept of continuity. if oldfashioned in their literary attitudes.

l . Robert Norton. 1915." North American Review. 1953). Ethan Frome.. 122-140. 1972). Auchindoss. Periodical Publications: "The Vice of Reading..45 DLB 12 (21 June 1936): 266-286. Bibliographies: Vito J. Edith Wharton and Henry James: The Story of Their Friendship (New York: Braziller. 1975). translated by Wharton (New York: Scribners. with a preface by Wharton (New York: AppletonCentury. new series 16 Guly 1927): 646-656. J: PrenticeHall." Literary Digest. 10 (7 April 1934): 603-604.Edith Wharton her death in 1937. 3 (Fall 1973): 163-202. W. Edith Wharto'a (Boston: Twayne. new series 18 (March 1929): 480-488." Review Heb- 450 . Edith Wharton (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. James W. .~ ~ i i Other: Hermann Sudermann. 1916). 1939). Edith Wharton: A Biography (New York. "Confessions of a Novelist. B. "Permanent Values in Fiction." and "The Other Two. 1962). edited by Wharton. p. "When New York Was Innocent. pp. domadaire. Evanston.. The Book of the Homeless. and The Age of Innocence-and a score of excellent short storiesamong them "Autre Temps . Lewis. "Edith Wharton: An Essay in Bibliography. Margaret McDowell. 230. "Visibility in Fiction. The Custom of the Country. Tuttleton.. Eternal Passion in English Poetry. 99 (15 December 1928): 27. "The Criticism of Fiction. "The Great American Novel. 14 May 1914. Brenni. 177 (October 1903): 513-521. ~i 1966). 151 (April 1933): 385." Yale Review. The Novel of Manners in America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. . 1965). 1971). Edith Wharton: A Woman in Her Time (New York: Viking. The Joy of Living. compiled by Wharton (Paris. 1977). James W." Yale Review. New York: Scribners. 1961). "Souvenirs du Bourget d'Outremer. . References: Louis Auchincloss." They will always be read with close attention and remembered with pleasure. From this high seriousness and from her deep interest in the craft of fiction came a handful of superior novels-The House of Mirth. and Gaillard Lapsley. Millicent Bell. ed. Irving Howe. Edith Wharton: A Bibliography (Morgantown: West Virginia University Library. Edith Wharton: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs. Biography: R. Cynthia Griffin Wolff. '. Tuttleton. Edith Wharton: A Study of Her Fiction (Berkeley: University of California Press. A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton (New York: Oxford University Press." Resources for American Literary Study. N. Blake Nevius." "Roman Fever. 1902)." Times Literary Supplement. San Francisco & London: Harper & Row." Atlantic Monthly." Saturday Review of Literature. 1976).