Happy 150th, Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton, the author of Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence and quite a few other classic works of fiction, would turn 150 today. Wharton was born in New York on the 24th of January, 1862. If you happen to find yourself in the Lenox, MA area tomorrow, you can celebrate at The Mount, the home Wharton designed for herself.

Wharton’s presence is felt here at the Providence Public Library because of her connection to not one, but two of our collections:

Edith Wetmore is better known for her terrific collection of children’s books, but she left the library quite a few amazing books intended for older readers as well. Here’s an image from one, a copy of the first edition of Ethan Frome. It captures the relationship between the two Ediths in what is one of my favorite author inscriptions:

"To Edith the reader. (I hope!) From her old friend Edith, the writer of Ethan Frome."

While Wharton and Wetmore interacted as author and reader, Wharton and Daniel Berkeley Updike had an extensive and long-lasting author-printer relationship. Udpike described her as essential to the success of his Merrymount Press:

“The Press has been fortunate in its friends, but never more so than in the friendship of Mrs. Wharton…. To Mrs., Wharton’s thoughtful act the Press owed not merely the prestige of printing her books, but also the printing of many other books for Scribners…”*

Among Wharton’s books printed by Merrymount Press were The Greater Inclination, The Touchstone, Crucial Instances, The Valley of Decision, Sanctuary and Madame de Treymes.The letter below from Wharton to Updike offers an example of their personal and professional lives entwined:

"Is there any chance of your being in New York ... I want to capture you for lunch or dinner."

reverse:

"When are my proofs coming??"


* From page 21 of “Notes on the Press and It’s Work” in Updike: American Printer, and his Merrymount Press (New York: The American Institute of Graphic Arts, 1947). Originally published in Notes on the Merrymount Press and its Work (1934).

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