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.