Edith Wharton (1862-1937)

Edith Wharton is well known as one the more prolific American writers of the twentieth century, being a novelist and short story writer as well as a garden and interior designer. In 1921 she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for one of her best known novels, “The Age of Innocence.” It has been made into at least three movies, the most recent being the Martin Scorsese film released in 1993. In 1923 she became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale.

During her long life her literary endeavors were encouraged by a varied group friends of both the literary elite and other notable public personalities such as: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry James, Jean Cocteau, Andre Gide and Theodore Roosevelt. Additionally she met both Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Her upbringing and varied group of friends and influences provided her with unique insights into the upper class. Through all her life her polished prose and humor produced fiction which appealed to a large audience. She received the French Legion of Honor for her philanthropic work during World War I, and was additionally a member of the National Institute of the Arts and Letters, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

In addition to notable novels such as “The Age of Innocence,” “The House of Mirth,” and “Ethan Frome,” she also wrote at least eighty-five short stories and non-fiction dealing with her European travels and Interior and Garden design such as “Italian Villas and Their Gardens,” and “French Ways and Their Meaning.” She is best known for her novels with portraits of New York’s upper class during pre-World War I society. She used both humor and empathy to discuss their vanishing world at the beginning of the twentieth century. In such novels as “Ethan Frome” she was much more harsh and critical of the rural lower class of Massachusetts.

A few short quotes :

“Nothing is more perplexing to a man than the mental process of a woman who reasons her emotions.”

“If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time.”

“Life is always either a tightrope or a feather bed. Give me the tightrope.”
~ Edith Wharton

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