The Life of Edith Wharton

Known for her witty commentary on society, Edith Wharton has impressed us all with her novels The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth, and Ethan Frome. Wharton wrote a large amount of novels over her 40 year career. Today, she still continues to impress audience members with her insightful commentary on societal norms.

VARIOUS...No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage  Mandatory Credit: Photo by CSU Archives / Everett Collection / Rex Features (706757a)  Edith Wharton, American Novelist circa. 1884.  VARIOUS  (1862-1937)

Photo: Telegraph

Edith Wharton was born on January 24th, 1862 to a very wealthy New York family. She was the only daughter born to George Frederic and Lucretia Rhinelander Jones. As a young child, Edith was able to see places many children her age could only dream of.  She lived in Europe, France, Italy, and Germany for the majority of her childhood.

Upon her return to the United States in 1872, she began to show an interest in literature. At the young age of 16, a collection of poems titled Verses, was privately published. Only a year later, Wharton made her debut into New York society. Attending the large parties held by only the richest families in New York gave Edith Wharton the inspiration she needed for her novels. By the time that Wharton had turned 23 she was still unmarried. During this time, 23 was age that many would consider women an “old maid” if they weren’t married yet. She was finally married in 1885 to Edward Robbins Wharton.

Over the course of Edith Wharton’s writing career, she has published a wide variety of novels. Including detailed works on gardens, interior design, travel, and architecture. The first book that Wharton worked on was as a co-author for the 1897 book titled The Decoration of Houses. 

In 1901, Wharton and her husband purchased a 113-acre plot in Lenox. They proceeded to design and construct their dream home that would later be known as The Mount. Edith Wharton was very knowledgable on all aspects of architecture and gardening, so she oversaw everything during its construction. The Mount would be the home to the Wharton’s for ten years. Here, Wharton wrote two of her most famous works, The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome. Due to an their increasing differences, Edith and Edward sold The Mount and were divorced by 1913.

After her divorce, Edith made France her permanent home. As World War I began, Edith refused to flee back to the United States. During the heat of the war, Edith used her fame and wealth to create a variety of charitable organizations. These efforts included establishing work for unemployed seamstresses, homes for victims of tuberculosis, hostels, and even schools for Belgium children.

In 1921, Edith Wharton received one of the most prestigious awards possible. The Age of Innocence won Wharton a Pulitzer Prize in fiction. The rest of Wharton’s life consisted of traveling, writing, and even gardening. On August 11th, 1937, Edith Wharton died at her home in Pavillion Colombe.

Edith Wharton provided the world with a unique look at some of the worlds most upper elite. Her work was revolutionary for its time and continues to impress audiences today.