In honor of Edith Wharton’s birth on this 24th of January, 1862, AND in honor of the hashtag #readwomen2014, here are thirteen things you may not have known about this brilliant literary lady:
- She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature not once, not twice, but three times (in 1927, 1928 and 1930). I, on the other hand, have been nominated exactly zero times.
- She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for The Age of Innocence. She was also the first woman to with the Pulitzer.
- She was a fan of fur and rocked a muff (there was really no way to phrase that with less sexual innuendo):
- She was a New York City native.
- Suzanne Vega wrote a song about her entitled Edith Wharton’s Figurines.
- By the time she was eighteen, Wharton already had poems published in Atlantic Monthly.
- The Downton Abbey connection: Edith (much like Lady Edith of Downton Abbey) had a failed engagement before she married her husband, Edward Wharton, a wealthy sportsman (I think we all remember Lady Edith tragically left at the altar). Also reminiscent of Lady Edith’s plot line: As Wharton’s husband suffered from incurable depression (much like Lady Edith’s beau’s current wife), she had an affair with journalist Morton Fullerton, writer for The Times (Lady Edith’s beau is a journalist…she met him through her column in his paper). Wharton divorced Edward in 1913 (though I have no idea if she had to become a German citizen to do so). In conclusion, Wine and a Book’s official Downton Abbey theory: Julian Fellowes drew inspiration from aspects of Edith Wharton’s life, as well as the Jane/Rochester plot from Jane Eyre for Lady Edith. Boom. Nailed it.
- She had her portrait painted as a girl. By Edward Harrison May. Who also painted her again as a young woman. That’s pretty awesome.
- If you’re a Real Housewives of Atlanta fan (as I am), you will recall NeNe Leakes’ famous catchphrase from the opening credits: “I don’t keep up with the Joneses. I am the Joneses.” Well, I bet you didn’t know that the Joneses in question are thought to be family of Edith’s father, George Frederic Jones. Somehow, though, I can’t see Edith rocking a “I am very rich, bitch!” t-shirt…
- She was close friends with Henry James. She was also know to party with F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby), Sinclair Lewis (who consequently beat her out for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930…which, you know, is not awkward at all between friends!), Jean Cocteau, and Jack London (White Fang)
- She was also friends with Teddy Roosevelt. Yes, that Teddy Roosevelt.
- She was a dog person:
- She spent the latter part of her life France, and is buried in the American Cemetery in Versailles, France. The street where she spent her final years is named for her.
I want to know: What’s your favorite Edith Wharton writing? I LOVE Ethan Frome, but also thoroughly enjoyed The House of Mirth. Let me know your favorites in the comments!