Literary Achievements

A brief personal history and overview of literary achievements The cultural
advancement of the 1920\'s has many important literary figures associated with
it. Names such as T.S. Elliot, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald are some
of the better-known names. Edith Wharton is one of the less known of the period,
but is still a formidable writer. This paper will explore Ms. Wharton\'s life and
history and give a brief background surrounding some of her more popular novels.

Ms. Wharton was born Edith Newbold Jones on January 24, 1862, in her parents\'
mansion and West Twenty-Third Street in New York City. Her mother, Lucretia

Stevens Rhinelander, connected with wealthy Dutch landowners and merchants of
the early nineteenth century, was the granddaughter of an outstanding American

Revolutionary War patriot, General Ebenezer Stevens. After the war, General

Stevens became a very successful East-India merchant. Edith Wharton\'s father, a
man of considerable, private, inherited wealth, did not follow a career in
business. Rather, he lived a life of leisure, punctuated by his hobbies of sea
fishing, boat racing, and wildfowl shooting (activities typical of wealthy men
of the day). During her first few years, Edith Wharton\'s family alternated
between New York City in the winter and Newport, Rhode Island, in the summer. At
the time, Newport was a very fashionable place where New York City families of
wealth might enjoy ocean breezes and participate in a ro! und of tea and inner
parties, the leaving of calling cards, and constant preparations for
entertaining or being entertained. When she was four years old, her parents took
her on a tour of Europe, concentrating on Italy and France. She became as
familiar with Rome and Paris as most children are with their hometowns. It was
here that the small, red-headed child played her favorite game. Not yet able to
read, she carried around with her a large volume of Washington Irving\'s stories
of old Spain, The Alhambra. Holding the Book carefully, often upside down, she
proceeded to turn the pages and to read aloud "make up" stories as she
went along. Whereas most children of her age would be told the familiar old folk
and fairy tales of Anderson, Perrault, and the Brothers Grimm, she listened with
great delight to tales of the "domestic dramas" of the great Greek and

Roman gods of mythology. The young child rapidly learned to read, speak, and
write German, French, and Italian, as a result of the efforts of governess and
the extended family tours of France and Italy. Returning to America after an
absence of sex years in picturesque Europe, the ten-year-old Edith viewed New

York City with mixed feelings. She missed the glamour of Europe; she was
distressed with the busy commercial air of much of her home city; she was
delighted to join her relatives and friends on a rambling family estate at

Newport. Here she continued her study of modern languages and proper manners.

However, she had to return to her father\'s in New York, where she spent her time
perusing his library and immersing herself in the likes of Roman Plutarch and
the English Macaulay, the English Pepys and Evelyn and the French Madame de

Sevigne; the poets, Milton, Burns and Byron, as well as Scott, Wordsworth,

Coleridge, Shelley, and Elizabeth Barrat Browning. With these writers as her
models and inspiration, young Edith Wharton began to cover huge sheets of
wrapping paper with her own prose and verse. Edith\'s family and the families of
most of her friends were not "in business": they lived on their
incomes and investments, living leisurely lives of dining out or dinner going
with much emphasis on good cooking, and sparkling conversation. Once in a while,
they attended the theatre; the opera, seldom. When she was seventeen, Edith\'s
parents decided the time had arrived for her "coming out." The series
of social activities that indicated to the world that she was adult enough to be
invited to social entertainment without her parents as chaperones. Soon, she
joined her father and mother to another trip to Europe - this time for her
father\'s health. He died in France, when Edith was nineteen years old, and the
grief-stricken mother and daughter returned to New York City. There they moved
into a newly purchased house on West Twenty-Fifth Street. For several years,

Edith enjoyed the social life of an average young woman of her wealth and social
background; then her girlhood came ! to an end in 1885 with her marriage to

Edward Wharton of Boston. Thirteen years her senior,