'How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare that after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.' No one made any reply. She then yawned again, threw aside her book, and cast her eyes round the room in quest of some amusement. — from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
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January 24, 2012

Happy Birthday, Edith!




Edith Newbold Jones, who grew up to become the writer Edith Wharton, was born on January 24, 1862, in her parents' spacious brownstone at 14 West Twenty-third Street, just off Fifth Avenue and the fashionable Madison Square. At her daughter's birth, Lucretia Stevens Rhinelander Jones, a society matron in her late thirties, had been married for eighteen years to George Frederic Jones, a gentleman of leisure. They had two sons -- Frederic, aged sixteen, who in autumn 1862 would enter Columbia College, and Henry, aged eleven, known to his friends as 'Harry.' A handsome, worldly woman very certain of her social place as the Mrs. Jones among an extended family of Knickerbocker descendants, Lucretia had long since left behind nursery duties. Indeed, the Twenty-third Street house had no nursery and one had to be improvised. We know nothing of Lucretia's feelings about her third pregnancy, but it broke the pattern of an otherwise predictable existence. Late and unexpected, the pregnancy also betrayed her active sexuality, a possible embarrassment for a woman who could be priggish about such matters. The baby's birth gave rise to gossip about Lucretia's private life and speculation about Edith's paternity.
from No Gifts of Chance:  a biography of Edith Wharton, by Shari Benstock

Oh. It sounds like this could be an Edith Wharton novel, doesn't it?

It's not a big birthday, your 150th But Edith Wharton is a writer I want -- I need -- to read more of, and a woman {from what I've read} that I admire, and otherwise I'd have to read a lot of Charles Dickens, so I'm going to celebrate.  Over the next year, I'm hoping to read (or re-read) a biography, read more of her short stories and travel writing, and finally, finally read several of the novels that I hadn't gotten to yet. And there will be guest appearances by her friend Henry. {There are even two novels set in, or partially in, Venice, for February. Other than that, I haven't made a plan. If there's anything you'd like to read with me, please let me know? I'd love that.}

6 comments:

JoAnn said...

Happy Birthday, Edith! The picture looks like it could have inspired Ethan Frome...

Karen K. said...

I love Wharton! I've read a lot of her novels and I have a volume of her short stories that I really want to get to this year. I feel bad for ignoring her lately. Dickens is getting all the attention.

FleurFisher said...

That sounds like a wonderful reading plan. I've read most of the novels, but I still have a few and a biography to read. And I'm sure that the books I've read would reveal more from a re-read.

And once I've finished with A Tale of Two Cities I plan to re-read friend Henry's The Wings of the Dove for Venice in February. I'd forgotten until I picked it up just how much I love the way he writes.

Vintage Reading said...

Ooh I want to read more Wharton, too. I've heard her last novel The Buccaneers is very good although sadly unfinished.

Lilacs In May said...

Loved House Of Mirth, the only EW I've read.

A Bookish Space said...

Reading book blogs make me realise how many great authors there are out there which I still haven't read. Wharton is one of those authors. Hopefully I get around to reading at least one of her books soon.

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