Edith Wharton

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Edith Wharton, photo 1915
Signature of Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton (born January 24, 1862 in New York City , † August 11, 1937 in Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt , France ; born Edith Newbold Jones ) was an American writer and author of socially critical novels.


Edith Wharton was born in New York City to George Frederic Jones and Lucretia Stevens Rhinelander. She had two older brothers, Frederic Rhinelander Jones and Henry Edward Jones. Wharton was born into an aristocratic family whose lineage had been linked to New York for 300 years. Her childhood revolved around perfect behavior and social representation. She was taught exclusively at home with the help of her father's library. In her later life she struggled against this kind of upbringing and social coercion.

She began to read early, to think her way around, to invent stories from them and to play them to her nanny, who came from Europe. Edith married Edward Robbins "Teddy" Wharton in 1885, a Boston banker twelve years her senior . They lived together in a house in New York, later they lived on Rhode Island and in the house known as The Mount in Massachusetts . But she wasn't happy. She found out that her husband was spending money on younger women. The marriage slowly fell apart. Fled to Paris in 1908, she began an affair with The Times journalist Morton Fullerton, a bisexual bon vivant. He was the great love of her life and through him she developed into a sexually liberated woman. This relationship only lasted three years. Soon she was living alone in Paris. Her own story aroused the desire to write. Real people can be found in their works. She quickly became known and could live comfortably as a writer. Wharton's first book, The Decoration of Houses , was published in 1897.

In 1913, Edward Wharton's childless marriage was divorced. She never married again. Instead, they traveled a lot and helped refugees during the First World War . Wharton wrote reports about the war for American newspapers. She only traveled to America one more time to receive the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence in 1920 .

The Castel St. Claire, a residence of Edith Wharton

Many intellectuals of their time, including Theodore Roosevelt , F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway , met in their “salon” to exchange ideas. Wharton had a close platonic friendship with Henry James . Among her friends were Walter Van Rensselaer Berry and Bernard Berenson , with whom she toured Germany in 1913. Wharton owned two houses in France, one in the north of Paris, the Colombe pavilion , and one near Hyères , the Castel St. Claire . Today the castle and the 6500 square meter park, in which rare South American and Australian plant species grow, are owned by the city of Hyères and can be visited.

In August 1937 she died as a result of a stroke. Her grave is on the Cimetière des Gonards in Versailles . Her gravestone reads: "O Crux Ave Spes Unica" - "Holy Cross, our only hope, be greeted!"

Literary meaning

Wharton's central themes were social conflicts, suppressed sexuality, outdated social structures and the status of the nouveau riche. Her literature was considered old fashioned from her death into the 1970s. Through her biography and book adaptations, such as Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of her novel The Age of Innocence , which was shown in German-speaking countries under the title Zeit der Innschuld (1993), a new interest in her works arose.


Works (selection)

  • with Ogden Codman, Jr .: The Decoration of Houses. 1897; 1898 BT Batsford, London.
  • The Greater Inclination. (Stories) 1899.
  • The Touchstone. 1900; dt. The touchstone. Novella. Translated by Manfred Allié . Dörlemann Verlag , Zurich 2004, ISBN 3-908777-11-9 .
  • The Valley of Decision. (Novella) 1902.
  • Italian Backgrounds. 1905, German Italy: travel pictures. Translated by Gerlinde Voelker. Insel Verlag , Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-458-34431-4 .
  • The House of Mirth. 1905; dt. The house of joy. Übers. Gerlinde Völker. Reclams Universalbibliothek , 8520, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3150085209 (as hardcover ibid. ISBN 3150285208 ); also called House Bellomont. The hidden passion of Lily Bart , Munich 2001, ISBN 978-3-453-18873-0 .
  • Madame de Treymes. 1907. Dt. Madame de Treymes. Translated by Jan Ziegler. epubli 2017 (self-published).
  • Afterward. 1910; German afterwards translator Heiko Postma . JMB , Hannover 2015, ISBN 978-3-944342-62-7 .
  • Ethan Frome. 1911; German: The sleigh ride. Translated by Victor Lange. Herbig Verlag 1948; also as Der Unfall , Leipzig 1971.
  • The Reef , 1912; dt. The reef. Translated by Renate Orth-Guttmann. Manesse, Zurich 1997, ISBN 3-7175-1904-2 .
  • The Custom of the Country. 1913.
  • Buzzer. 1917.
  • The Age of Innocence. 1920; German for the first time American Romance Translator Richard Kraushaar. Herbig, Berlin 1939; Post-war editions: One doesn't cry in heaven . Lotte Katscher & Herbert Brunar. Rohrer, Vienna 1951 (and book clubs); further frequent editions from 1986 udT: Time of Innocence ; Übers. Kraushaar (like 1939) & Benjamin Schwarz.
  • The Glimpses of the Moon. 1922; German The fleeting glimmer of the moon .
    • New edition, translated by Inge Leipold: dream dancer , novel. Edition Ebersbach, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-86915-041-3 ; 2012 also as a btb paperback.
  • Twilight sleep. 1927; dt. twilight sleep . Manesse, Zurich 2013, ISBN 978-3-7175-2172-3 .
  • Hudson River Bracketed. 1929; dt. An old house on the Hudson River . Translated by Andrea Ott . Manesse, Zurich 2011, ISBN 978-3-7175-2230-0 .
  • The Gods arrive. 1932, sequel to "Hudson River Bracketed".
  • A backward glamor. (Memoirs), 1934.
  • Ghosts. 1937. Ghost stories. German by Andreas Vollstädt, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-458-35776-6 .
  • The Buccaneers. 1938. (remained unfinished on Wharton's part, finished by Marion Manwaring in 1993).

Film adaptations (selection)


  • Shari Benstock: I go my way. The life of Edith Wharton. Goldmann, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-442-42974-9 . (Translated from America by Sabine Schwenk & Kristine Rohrbach. No gifts from chance. ) (Series: Frauenleben)
  • Hermione Lee : Edith Wharton . Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2007, ISBN 978-0-375-40004-9 . (English)
  • Richard Warrington Baldwin Lewis: Edith Wharton. A biography. Harper, New York 1975, ISBN 0-06-012603-5
  • Susan Goodman: Wharton's Women: Friends & Rivals UP of New England, Lebanon / New Hampshire 1999, ISBN 0-87451-524-6
  • Vivian Russell: Literary Journey through the Gardens of Italy. In the footsteps of Edith Wharton. Knesebeck Verlag , Munich 1999, ISBN 3-89660-040-0

Web links

Commons : Edith Wharton  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Members: Edith Wharton. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed May 3, 2019 .
  2. Post-war editions are based on a change to the original made by EW's godson and later administrator William (Royall) Tyler in 1948. English original version see web links. - Excerpts in English for school use: Cornelsen 2005, ISBN 3-464-24415-6 , new edit . ISBN 3-06-800946-4 .- See also: Filmings