Posted by: jeannineatkins | July 16, 2007

A Bow to Edith Wharton

My eighteen-year-old daughter thinks I’m crazy, spending my birthday weekend at museums or historic houses, but I said, Hey, this is what you may be doing in thirty years. Today I went with two friends to the Edith Wharton homestead, the Mount, in Lenox. I’ve been before, but just as with houses many of us live in today, things are changed as funds come their way. White lilies, hydrangeas, and blue delphinium were blooming, and the library was filled with Wharton’s original collection of books that had just been bought back at a staggering price I forget. I just remember the staggering part. The first floor entertaining area is pretty much finished, but I liked the second floor which was this hodgepodge — not in the way my house is, piles everywhere, but more artful, while they await antiques and replicas to fill bedrooms and boudoir. Most of these now were filled with an exhibit about a little known Wharton novel based on mill workers in North Adams. Quotes from the novel were on the wall, many with the sharp wit that went well with the rather stern face we saw in photos all around (with lots of little dogs). Manequins dressed in period costume were set up in different rooms that stood for chapters. A wounded man and a nurse. A mill manager and his mother (laundry drying near the fireplace.) A mill owner and his beautiful wife at a table Wharton sniffed at for being too gaudy. A garden party, with a quote something along the lines as well people LOOKED good, anyway. Finally a woman alone in a room while a gentleman knocked — clearly with bad news.

I liked the way rooms were set up like chapters from a novel. And how easily we moved from room to room compared to how roughly I stumble from page to page, or from chapter to chapter, when I write. I wish I could capture that ease or that of the woman who wrote in bed after being served breakfast there, letting her magnificent pages flutter to the floor, to be picked up by a maid, then typed by someone else. Okay, so it was a fantasy day.



  1. What a treat! I love Edith Wharton’s writing and would love to immerse myself in all things Edith. Thanks for sharing.

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