04/10/2018 by BBC Radio 4
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the works of Wharton (1862-1937) such as The Age of Innocence for which she won the Pulitzer Prize and was the first woman to do so, The House of Mirth, and The Custom of the Country. Her novels explore the world of privileged New Yorkers in the Gilded Age of the late C19th, of which she was part, drawing on her own experiences and written from the perspective of the new century, either side of WW1 . Among her themes, she examined the choices available to women and the extent to which they could ever really be free, even if rich.
Dame Hermione Lee
Biographer, former President of Wolfson College, Oxford
Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Leeds
Reader in North American Literature at the University of Glasgow
Producer: Simon Tillotson
The most notable things from this episode:
- Edith Wharton’s impressive work ethic and pace – she published twenty eight novels in as many years
- Her antisuffragist views and low grade racism running parallel with her general sympathy for the condition of women
- How she made an ex-lover (a caddish one!) read her draft to see if everything was accurate
- The delightful line a critic used about her books, saying that her “men were ladies with moustaches”
- Wharton being a Eurosnob and insisting on British English spelling from her publishers
- Finding out that Edith Wharton had remixed Henry James
Overall, this again served as a gentle reminder that I should really get down to reading Edith Wharton. Which was the book which either The Princess Diaries or the Ruby Oliver books held up as the exemplar of early feminism?