Edith Wharton was born on January 24, 1862, in New York City. She had a privileged upbringing with her father, George Frederic Jones, and mother, Lucretia Stevens. Edith is from a wealthy and well-connected family, who had good relations with the government. In her early years, Edith’s family traveled extensively throughout Europe, allowing her curious and brilliant mind to explore different parts of the world. These travels also opened her to languages like German, French, and Italian as she visited different countries. Unfortunately, when she was just nine years old, she fell seriously ill, and her life was in danger.
Edith Wharton, even as a child, had a strong passion for learning. She eagerly read books from her father’s and his friends’ libraries, gaining knowledge about a wide range of topics that were useful in everyday life. While Edith’s formal education was initially provided by various tutors and governesses, she found the prescribed standards and social expectations for women of her time stifling. These norms reduced women to mere marriage prospects, which she found ridiculous and oppressive. Edith sought to educate herself with her determination to break free from the traditional restrictions. Her mother, however, had forbidden her from reading literary works until marriage, and Edith respected her mother’s wishes. Despite these limitations and less formal education, Edith continued her quest for knowledge, determined to expand her understanding of the world.
In terms of personal life, Edith Wharton had two marriages. Her first marriage was to Edward Robbin Wharton, a renowned sportsman, on April 29, 1885. During the early years of their marriage, they enjoyed a happy and fulfilling relationship. However, as time went on, both Edith and her husband faced struggles with depression and health issues. Edith managed to overcome her challenges, including asthma and bouts of depression. However, unfortunately, her husband’s mental state remained incurable. Feeling that it was time to lead her own life, Edith entered into an extramarital affair with a journalist named Morton Fullerton, leading to her divorce from Edward Robbin in 1913.
Edith Hamilton, despite her successful and accomplished life, experienced a significant heart attack in 1973. She managed to survive the initial attack. However, unfortunately, she passed away as she suffered from a second stroke on August 11, 1973. She was laid to rest in the American section of the cemetery in Versailles, marking the final resting place of this literary genius. Her contributions to the world of literature continue to resonate even after her passing, leaving behind a lasting legacy that will be cherished by readers and scholars for years to come.
Some Important Facts About Her
- Although she produced various literary marvels, her efforts in the interior design field are also commendable. She expressed her artistic ideas in her book, The Decoration of Houses, published in 1897.
- Throughout her life, she produced more than forty books on different topics ranging from architecture, gardening, designing, travel, and others to non-fiction.
- She became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in literature and received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale.
Edith Wharton’s love for writing blossomed from a young age, despite her mother’s reservations. She defied her mother’s restrictions and crafted stories for her family, showcasing her talent and passion. At the age of eleven, she even completed her first novel, although her mother’s criticism initially dampened her spirits. Nevertheless, Edith remained determined, refusing to let her mother’s harsh opinions discourage her. At fifteen, she saw her work published under her father’s friend’s name, titled “Died Steine Erzählen.” In 1879, she anonymously published a poem in a magazine, followed by five remarkable poems in a literary publication the following year.
Despite receiving public acclaim, her family failed to support her literary aspirations. Undeterred, Edith continued to defy their disapproval and enchanted the world with her writing. Her first officially published novel, “The Valley of Decision,” debuted in 1992, and its success fueled her desire to write more. Subsequently, she penned notable works such as “The House of Mirth,” drawing from her own experiences within the stratified society she was raised in. Edith’s literary repertoire expanded to include “Summer,” “The Customs of the Country,” “The Age of Innocence,” and “Ethan Frome,” each showcasing her talent and captivating storytelling abilities.
Edith Wharton’s writing style has garnered worldwide acclaim, placing her among the esteemed authors of her time. Known for her simplicity and precision, her approach to storytelling is both accessible and captivating. Through carefully chosen words and straightforward sentence structures, she creates a delightful reading experience. In her renowned masterpiece, “The Age of Innocence,” she employs an anthropological style, presenting a logical sequence and interconnectedness in her sentence construction. Within her works, Wharton skillfully incorporates literary devices such as vivid imagery, rhetorical techniques, symbolism, and allusions, adding depth and richness to her narratives. Her skillful use of these elements enhances the overall reading experience and contributes to the enduring popularity of her works.
Some Important Works of Edith Wharton
- Best Novels: Some of her prominent novels are The Valley of Decision, The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence, The Glimpses of the Moon, The Custom of the Country, and Hudson River Bracketed.
- Other Works: Besides producing remarkable novels, also she wrote various others. Some of them include The Hermit and the Wild Woman and Other Stories, The Collected Stories of Edith Wharton, Madame de Treymes and Others, Fast and Loose: A Novelette, Edith Wharton: The Uncollected Critical Writings, and Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse.
Edith Wharton’s Impact on Future Literature
Edith Wharton’s profound impact on future literature is a testament to her immense talent and the legacy she left behind. Despite living in an era characterized by oppression and restrictions, her remarkable fictional works continue to inspire critics, authors, and a devoted fan base. Paradoxically, it was through her writing that Wharton found her own liberation, breaking free from the suffocating environment of her time. Her works serve as a window into her character, showcasing the struggles she faced and the lessons she learned. Through her stories, readers have the opportunity to witness the transformative power of perseverance and the strength it takes to overcome obstacles. Edith Wharton’s legacy is a testament to her ability to transcend the limitations of her time and to touch the hearts and minds of generations to come.
- “I couldn’t have spoken like this yesterday, because when we’ve been apart, and I’m looking forward to seeing you, every thought is burnt up in a great flame. But then you come; and you’re so much more than I remembered, and what I want of you is so much more than an hour or two every now and then, with wastes of thirsty waiting between, that I can sit perfectly still beside you, like this, with that other vision in my mind, just quietly trusting it to come true.” (The Age of Innocence)
- “There are lots of ways of being miserable, but there’s only one way of being comfortable, and that is to stop running round after happiness. If you make up your mind not to be happy there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a fairly good time.” (Ethan Frome and Other Short Fiction)
- Archer received this strange communication in silence. His eyes remained unseeingly fixed on the thronged sunlit square below the window. At length he said in a low voice: “She never asked me.” (The Age of Innocence)