Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"So palpably present ..."

As the biographer of Katherine Pease Routledge, who was an intrepid Edwardian explorer, a British contemporary of Edith Wharton, and my scientific predecessor on Easter Island, I was invited to speak at The Mount. My presentation there dealt with Routledge's life and achievements, and the extraordinary setting provided by The Mount was a vivid inspiration.

Edith Wharton's love of The Mount, so palpably present in her beautifully restored home and gardens, was paralleled in the warm attachment Routledge had to Woodside, her family seat in Yorkshire. Yet, both women had ranged intellectually and spiritually far from their privileged families to create independent and lasting artistic and scientific legacies.

The Mount, and other such fascinating real places, whether humble or great, anchor us to the real world and are vital to the preservation and recall of cultural memory.

- Jo Anne Van Tilburg, Ph.D.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sharing The Mount with Each New Generation

From a supporter in Georgia:

In 2004, I received my Master of Arts degree in English Literature. I wrote my thesis on Edith Wharton's fabulous novel The House of Mirth. The following year, my husband and I traveled from our home in Georgia to Massachusetts to tour the area and see The Mount because of my love for Edith Wharton. I truly fell in the love with the beauty and history of the house and gardens! Since then, we have visited two more times and have found something new upon each visit.

I am deeply saddened by the news of the impending foreclosure on this beautiful property and hope it can be saved through the efforts of Edith Wharton's supporters and fans. I had a baby girl this past year and was looking forward to sharing The Mount with her one day. I hope that with the help of everyone, this can still happen!

A young Edith Wharton

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Letter from Eleanor Dwight

Eleanor Dwight is the author of Edith Wharton: An Extraordinary Life. Below is an excerpt from her Letter to the Editor published in the New York Times on February 26, 2008:

As an Edith Wharton biographer, I know that intimacy with [The Mount] is a way not only into Edith Wharton’s fascinating life but also the Gilded Age milieu: it is an authentic mansion in the Berkshire area fully restored for the public to visit.

Its carefully replanted gardens alone, which she created with her excellent eye and the profits from her novel writing, evoke that vanished world she recorded in her fiction.

Visits to writers’ houses are not always that rewarding. But a visit to the Mount is different and has something to offer to a wide range of interests. It offers an understanding of Wharton’s ideas on decorating and architecture and the way she lived in the world.

The location today for lectures on women’s achievements, the art of decorating, on architecture and writing, the Mount is the perfect place for a research center for American cultural and literary history. The accomplished scholar, the aspiring writer, the high school student, the curious tourist cannot help but come away knowing more about our past and specifically the past of this unusual woman.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Gorgeous Restoration

From a supporter in Nebraska:

I attended the Edith Wharton Society conference at The Mount in 1997, its one hundred year anniversary. Even though the restoration had not been done and the house was shrouded in scaffolding, the spirit of Edith Wharton was palpable and magical. This is the place where she wrote The House of Mirth and entertained luminaries such as Henry James. Everything was intact despite the deterioration and you could see the outline of what now is reality -- a gorgeous restoration, including the gardens and Wharton's library back where it belongs.

A short walk away, Lenox provides more Wharton milestone moments, such as the setting for Ethan Frome, especially the hill on which he and Mattie Silver embark on their tragic sled ride. The Lenox Library contains Wharton notes to the young woman who inspired Mattie's character as she was injured badly on the real sled ride at the heart of the novel. There is much more than this in Lenox and at The Mount, bringing one of the greatest American writers to life for contemporary readers. We need to save this treasured literary and historical site.

Deadline Extended to April 24!

Thanks to a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we've received a one month extension for the Save The Mount campaign. Talk about a shot in the arm! This additional time will be crucial in helping us meet our fundraising goal.

Please check this space for updates!

Friday, March 14, 2008

95 Pledges in One Day!

Dear Supporters,

Yesterday was a true red letter day for the Save The Mount campaign. We received a total of 95 pledges, which was our highest one-day count so far!

Every day we welcome new friends, new admirers of Edith Wharton, new Mount enthusiasts from all across the country. And much encouragement is also coming from abroad! We've received pledges from Ireland, England, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Canada.

Thanks to all for your ongoing support!

Yours gratefully,
The Mount Staff and Volunteers

Such an Influence, Such a Site of Memory

A supporter in Arkansas writes:

In 1993 I was a newly married (just a few weeks!) young woman visiting The Mount with my husband and mother before my husband and I set off to begin our new lives as Ph.D. literature students in Louisiana. Even then, before many of the renovations had been undertaken, I was captivated by the exquisite "bones" of the Mount, by the information I learned on the tour about interior design and Wharton's life. I loved the symmetry, the "wedding cake" moldings, the efforts to replicate paint colors to the original -- I feel sure that tour and the time in my life when it occurred set me off on a lifelong love of good interior design, of devouring shelter magazines like House Beautiful and Home and Garden, appreciating all that is simple and beautiful. I also set off on a love of Wharton's work, writing many essays about The House of Mirth, The Decoration of Houses, and The Age of Innocence (which, as a film, is also a visual feast of which Wharton certainly would have approved) and enjoying many of her biographies.

Last summer, I visited the Mount a second time, on a "girlfriends getaway" in the Berkshires in which several old college friends and I celebrated our fortieth birthdays. Imagine my delight at the renovation, in finding The Mount had in some ways become a "designer house" where I could actually see, in person, a room designed by long-admired icon Charlotte Moss. I could hardly believe my eyes. But that was not all! Next, I discovered I could actually see Wharton's library reconstituted -- an immensely fascinating prospect to this writer -- to see the very volumes that had inspired a truly great writer! Finally I was able to visit an exhibit based on one of Wharton's stories and then enjoy a truly special lunch with my girlfriends on the terrace, sharing, encouraging, the way old friends do. The Mount has been such an influence for me, such a site of memory, as I'm sure it has been for so many others. It would be a tragedy for it to disappear.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The House of Mirth on NPR

Thought you heard Wharton being discussed on NPR? You were right! Click here to read or listen to Mireille Guiliano on one of her favorite books, The House of Mirth. In this personal essay, as part of NPR's series "You Must Read This," she writes:

In my early 20s, I "met" author Edith Wharton in a literature class while I was living in Paris and attending the Sorbonne. Right away, I felt I had a friend.

You may know Mireille Guiliano from her hit book, French Women Don't Get Fat, or from her many other accomplishments (check out her web site here). Thank you, Mme. Guiliano, for this wonderful essay!

Thanks to DailyCandy!

Many thanks to DailyCandy for generously spreading the word of the Save The Mount campaign through their subscriber list! We're delighted by the number of new friends that The Mount has attracted as a result of this Emergency Campaign. Thanks to all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

From "Aging Beauty" to "Rejuvenated Knockout"!

A supporter in Brookline, Mass., writes:

As an avid admirer of Edith Wharton and her books, I was thrilled when our daughter attended Miss Hall's School in Pittsfield and we had the chance to visit The Mount. At that time (1985) it was derelict and deserted but still had "good bones". Imagine my joy and surprise when I saw it again in 2006. What had been a lovely but aging beauty was now a totally rejuvenated "knockout"! Along the way, I had also followed the saga of Mrs. Wharton's library and was thrilled when the Edith Wharton Restoration was able to acquire her books. Good luck to you all in your endeavor to keep this remarkable landmark going. It will be a tragedy if it is lost.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Where Wharton's "Two Souls" Came Together

A supporter in Wisconsin writes:

This January I deposited my dissertation and became a Ph.D. The subject of my research and writing is The Mount and Wharton's first book, The Decoration of Houses. In 1995, I visited the marvelous house for the first time. I spoke with the late Scott Marshall, scholar and historian of Wharton's beloved home. I sketched, photographed, wandered the grounds, and took notes rapidly as I listened to the tour guides. I fell in love with the place and sensed the intense connection Wharton had with her home.

Over the next seven years, I poured over Marshall's book The Mount and its floor plans. I read about other "cottages" around Lenox. I learned about the architecture and architects of the time. And of course I read Wharton's books over and over. I am entirely convinced that Wharton's work emerged from her relationship with The Mount. When I visited in 1995, the restoration was just beginning. I have not yet returned to see the glorious results I have followed in the pages of the Restoration newsletter, but my plans are made to visit this summer.

It is not enough to just read Edith Wharton's books, as fine as they are. The true Wharton devotee needs to see how her "two souls" -- homemaker and writer -- came together and freed the reluctant socialite to be an artist.

What a Thrill!

A Supporter in California writes:

I've never had the opportunity to visit The Mount, but I am so in awe of Edith Wharton, and have read such interesting books about her life. I've "traveled" with her and Henry James up many roads to "see" the gardens. I have a lifelong interest in literature and gardens! So I just have to support this movement and plan someday to be able to actually see it. What a thrill that will be for me.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Share Your Story

Dear Friends:

Since announcing our emergency campaign to Save The Mount, there has been a terrific outpouring of support from all across the country and abroad. The Mount is blessed to have such a strong network of friends.

Because of the widespread admiration for The Mount, we are launching this new blog, which will feature personal stories from our supporters about why The Mount is so important. We invite you to send in a brief comment or story about your experience visiting Edith Wharton's home, and why you are supporting the campaign to Save The Mount. Please click here to email us with your comment.

Thank you for your generosity, both in deed and in spirit.

Stephanie Copeland
President and CEO

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Help Save The Mount

Dear Friends:

Please help us save The Mount! This national treasure, located in Lenox, Massachusetts, is the only monument to Edith Wharton in our country. The estate now faces imminent foreclosure, which could result in its being closed to the public forever. The Mount could be sold into private hands as soon as next month.

With the organization's very survival at stake, Edith Wharton Restoration has launched a major fundraising effort to keep The Mount open to the 30,000 visitors who come each summer. The goal is to raise $3 million by March 24. Matching funds have been pledged, but they will be released only if we reach our goal. Please click here to send in your pledge.

If we do not reach our goal, the consequences could not be more serious. Foreclosure proceedings will begin immediately, and this National Historic Landmark, one of very few that are dedicated to women, will be sold. Following ten years and $13 million in restoration, we cannot let this happen.

Your support -- at any level you can afford -- will help us Save The Mount. Thank you for pledging today.

Yours sincerely,

Stephanie Copeland
President and CEO

Please be assured: If we do not reach our goal, pledges will not be called in and contributions will not be processed.

Click here to pledge online. You may also contribute by phone by calling 413-551-5104, or write us at info@edithwharton.org with any questions.

Click here for recent coverage of the Save The Mount campaign in the New York Times.