Today in 1862 Edith Wharton was born in New York City. To celebrate, The Center for Fiction is hosting a marathon reading of The House of Mirth by contemporary female authors, organized by Roxana Robinson, on Thursday at 5 p.m. Robinson also selected and wrote the introduction for our own collection of Wharton stories, The New York Stories of Edith Wharton. Here are the first two paragraphs from that introduction.
The world into which Edith Wharton was born was a dignified one, carefully structured, with a formal façade and an elevated entrance. Based on a solid foundation of Puritan values, it was framed by inherited wealth and insulated by the belief that everything of worth was contained within. The unsettling winds of ambition, need, and change rarely penetrated the thick walls of tradition, pride, and entitlement. The interiors were polished, gleaming, and perfectly composed. The windows were shrouded with drapery, the floors were laid with a heavy carpet of decorum. This was a place of silence, order, and restraint.
A writer’s world both shelters and confines, and she must write her way both into and out of it. She must form her own world, but it will always be part of the one that formed her. It will always be both beginning and end of her journey.