Some Facts About My Favorite Author, Edith Wharton

“I am an incorrigible life-lover & life-wonderer & adventurer.” 

HBD to my favorite author, Edith Wharton, born on January 24th, 1862.

Edith Wharton, who wrote her first successful novel at the age of 43 (House of Mirth), was much more than just a female novelist of the Gilded Age. Socialite, divorcee, expatriot, philanthropist, writer, designer – She was born into a time of challenge, stricture, and social confinment for women, yet was able to overcome and achieve much in spite of her society.

Rumor has it she was forbidden to read novels until she was married (!) but she didn’t let that stop her from becoming the writer she’d always dreamed of being.

She wrote over 40 books in 40 years, including several novels that have endured as some of the best classic literature in American history, as well as authoritative guides on architecture, gardening, travel, and interior design. The first book she wrote, in fact, was the non-fiction The Decoration of Houses.

In 1920, Wharton was the first woman to be awarded The Pulizter Prize in fiction for The Age of Innocence.

Edith Wharton designed and decorated her own home, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts. She grew up in the New York high society of her wealthy family, and was appreciative of the change of pace in the smaller community of the Berkshires. One of her most famous novels, Ethan Frome, was inspired by this smaller community in Massachusetts. Most of her novels take place in either New York or abroad. 

Of all the Wharton novels I’ve read, my favorites are The Reef, Ethan Frome, Custom of the Country, The Mother’s Recompense, and Hudson River Bracketed. But I recommend them all. For a comprehensive view of her life, I suggest the biography by Hermione Lee.

What Wharton books have you read, and which ones are your favorites?

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