Wharton, Edith

Wharton, Edith

▪ American writer
née  Edith Newbold Jones 
born Jan. 24, 1862, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died Aug. 11, 1937, St.-Brice-sous-Forêt, near Paris, France

      American author best known for her stories and novels about the upper-class society into which she was born.

      Edith Jones came of a distinguished and long-established New York family. She was educated by private tutors and governesses at home and in Europe, where the family resided for six years after the American Civil War, and she read voraciously. She made her debut in society in 1879 and married Edward Wharton, a wealthy Boston banker, in 1885.

      Although she had had a book of her own poems privately printed when she was 16, it was not until after several years of married life that Wharton began to write in earnest. Her major literary model was Henry James (James, Henry), whom she knew, and her work reveals James's concern for artistic form and ethical issues. She contributed a few poems and stories to Harper's, Scribner's, and other magazines in the 1890s, and in 1897, after overseeing the remodeling of a house in Newport, Rhode Island, she collaborated with the architect Ogden Codman, Jr., on The Decoration of Houses. Her next books, The Greater Inclination (1899) and Crucial Instances (1901), were collections of stories.

      Wharton's first novel, The Valley of Decision, was published in 1902. The House of Mirth (1905) was a novel of manners that analyzed the stratified society in which she had been reared and its reaction to social change. The book won her critical acclaim and a wide audience. In the next two decades—before the quality of her work began to decline under the demands of writing for women's magazines—she wrote such novels as The Reef (1912), The Custom of the Country (1913), Summer (1917), and The Age of Innocence (1920), which won a Pulitzer Prize.

      The Age of Innocence presents a picture of upper-class New York society in the 1870s. In the story, Newland Archer is engaged to May Welland, a beautiful but proper fellow member of elite society, but he falls deeply in love with Ellen Olenska, a former member of their circle who has returned to New York to escape her disastrous marriage to a Polish nobleman. Both lovers prove too obedient to conventional taboos to break with their upper-class social surroundings, however, and Newland feels compelled to renounce Ellen and marry May.

      Wharton's best-known work is the long tale Ethan Frome (1911), which exploits the grimmer possibilities of the New England farm life she observed from her home in Lenox, Massachusetts. The protagonist, the farmer Ethan Frome, is married to a whining hypochondriac but falls in love with her cousin, Mattie. As she is forced to leave his household, Frome tries to end their dilemma by steering their bobsled into a tree, but he ends up only crippling Mattie for life. They spend the rest of their miserable lives together with his wife on the farm.

      Wharton's short stories, which appeared in numerous collections, among them Xingu and Other Stories (1916), demonstrate her gifts for social satire and comedy, as do the four novelettes collected in Old New York (1924). In her manual The Writing of Fiction (1925) she acknowledged her debt to Henry James. Among her later novels are Twilight Sleep (1927), Hudson River Bracketed (1929), and its sequel, The Gods Arrive (1932). Her autobiography, A Backward Glance, appeared in 1934. In all Wharton published more than 50 books, including fiction, short stories, travel books, historical novels, and criticism.

      She lived in France after 1907, visiting the United States only at rare intervals. She was divorced from her husband in 1913 and was a close friend of novelist James in his later years.

Additional Reading
Biographies include R.W.B. Lewis, Edith Wharton (1975, reprinted 1985); Eleanor Dwight, Edith Wharton: An Extraordinary Life (1994); Shari Benstock, No Gifts from Chance (1994); Susan Goodman, Edith Wharton's Inner Circle (1994); and Hermione Lee, Edith Wharton (2007). Analyses of Wharton's work are found in Barbara A. White, Edith Wharton: A Study of the Short Fiction (1991); Carol J. Singley, Edith Wharton: Matters of Mind and Spirit (1995); and Cynthia Griffin Wolff, A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton, 2nd ed. (1995).

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Wharton,Edith Newbold Jones — Whar·ton (hwôrʹtn, wôrʹ ), Edith Newbold Jones. 1862 1937. American writer whose works include subtle satires on New York society, such as The House of Mirth (1905), and the short, tragic novel Ethan Frome (1911). She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1921 …   Universalium

  • Wharton, Edith (Newbold) — orig. Edith Newbold Jones born Jan. 24, 1862, New York, N.Y., U.S. died Aug. 11, 1937, Saint Brice sous Forêt, near Paris, France U.S. novelist and short story writer. Born into upper class society, she began writing a few years after her… …   Universalium

  • Wharton, Edith (Newbold) — orig. Edith Newbold Jones (24 ene. 1862, Nueva York, N.Y., EE.UU.–11 ago. 1937, Saint Brice sous Forêt, cerca de París, Francia). Novelista y cuentista estadounidense. Nació en una familia de clase alta y comenzó a escribir pocos años después de… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Wharton, Edith — ► (1862 1937) Novelista estadounidense. Su obra narrativa está inscrita en el naturalismo. Autora de La edad de la inocencia (1920), entre otras …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Wharton, Edith —    см. Уортон, Эдит …   Писатели США. Краткие творческие биографии

  • Wharton, Edith (Jones) — (b. 1862)    American novelist. The Great Inclination (1889), A Gift from the Grave, Crucial Instances (1901), The Valley of Decision (1902), Sanctuary (1903), Italian Backgrounds (1905), The House of Mirth (1905), Madame de Treymes (1907), The… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • Edith Wharton — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Edith Wharton Edith Wharton fotografiada en 1915. Nombre Edith Wharton …   Wikipedia Español

  • WHARTON (E.) — WHARTON EDITH (1862 1937) Écrivain américain née à New York dans une riche famille, et élevée au milieu des conventions mondaines, Edith Wharton eut une adolescence solitaire quelque peu assombrie par des fiançailles rompues. C’est peut être en… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Edith Wharton — Activités Écrivain Naissance 24 janvier 1862 New York …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Wharton — Wharton, Edith Wharton, Thomas …   Enciclopedia Universal

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