Friday, December 4, 2009

Timely and topical adaptations of Wharton masterpieces

One of Edith Wharton's greatest gifts as a writer was her ability to sum up an entire life in one succinct moment. Your blogger's favorite example is from The Age of Innocence, when Newland Archer is dining at the home of his employer, Mr. Letterblair: "On the sideboard, between fluted Sheraton knife-cases, stood a decanter of Haut Brion, and another of the old Lanning port (the gift of a client), which the wastrel Tom Lanning had sold off a year or two before his mysterious and discreditable death in San Francisco--an incident less publicly humiliating to the family than the sale of the cellar."

However, Mrs. Wharton's own "nutshelling" abilities are left in the dust when one contemplates John Crace's recent treatment of the novel in the Guardian. To get the most from this "Digested Classic" click on the audio link.

A more timely "adaptation" is suggested in the Huffington Post. Although not intended seriously, we here at The Mount think that "The Real Housewives of Mirth" has legs, so as soon as we find a backer with sufficient capital, casting could begin! After all, Edith Wharton has conquered the world of prime-time drama with Gossip Girl, why should the world of "reality tv" be left behind?

Friday, November 20, 2009

The only climate she could breath in

In The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton wrote that Lily Bart "was not made for mean and shabby surroundings, for the squalid compromises of poverty. Her whole being dilated in an atmosphere of luxury; it was the background she required, the only climate she could breathe in."

It is probable that all of us have made a few "squalid compromises" at some point or other, but we do appreciate the odd moment of luxury. And with that exceedingly smooth seque, we are led to The Mount's appearance on the PBS series "Moment of Luxury" with Bill Stubbs. The entire episode focussed on the Gilded Age, and included an interesting interview with Ann Brown, the owner of Blantyre, The Mount's beautiful and exceedingly luxurious neighbor and with Christopher Brooks, the Executive Chef.Francine Segan, food historian, talked of picnics and Roman Punch. Alas, none of the picnic or punch was left for the Mounties, but Blantyre is just around the corner!

Above: Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart in The House of Mirth

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Mount is on a roll and having a ball (boule)!

Last month The Mount hosted a special day of pétanque and the following report was filed by our special sports correspondent, Nynke:

On Columbus Day, October 12th, playful Berkshire residents and visitors of all ages got together at The Mount to try out the French ballgame "pétanque", also know in Italian as "bocce". On this gorgeous, sunny fall day, Edith Wharton's flower garden had been transformed into several pétanque courts which were filled with people of all generations playing, loudly discussing the game, and enjoying fresh crèpes and warm apple cider. Little did we know that there were so many local pétanque lovers; new leagues were set up on the spot! The more serious players (bringing their own balls...) showed of some of their awesome master-throws which got everyone cheering. Families took turns playing pétanque, strolling through the gardens (still in full color), and visiting the house. It was a beautiful day outside, filled with laughter and good food. To be continued as soon as the weather permits next season!

For more information on the game of pétanque, please visit:
This video gives a basic introduction.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dennis Lehane, Jane Austen, John Keats and Edith Wharton

Is Edith Wharton the Center of the Cultural Universe? Pondering this question and trying to reach an unbiased conclusion is one of The Mount's blog's principal reasons for existence. There may be some other contenders for the title, but proof that Mrs. Wharton is definitely in the running just keeps appearing, and one instance follows.

Dennis Lehane, author of some of the best novels to appear out of Massachusetts since Mrs. Wharton departed for France, was quoted in an interview which first appeared in 2005, but was recently reposted on

He has this to say "People always think it strange that I dig Edith Wharton. I can’t explain it myself, since I can’t stand Henry James and Wharton’s a direct literary descendent of his. There’s just something cool about the genteel savagery of her “violence.” It’s not the violence of a blow or a gunshot; it’s the violence of a well-placed whisper."

Dennis Lehane's novel Shutter Island is now being turned into a feature film, directed by Martin Scorsese, director of 1993's The Age of Innocence. What was that about the Center of the Cultural Universe?

Austen, Keats and of course Wharton used the English language in a timeless, dynamic and romantic way. The houses in which they lived haved proved to be equally timeless, and are all now house museums open to the public. The Financial Times recently published an article highlighting a number of writers' homes, and it is very interesting to see the similarities of The Mount's experience to those of British houses open to the public. Visit them (virtually) now:Janes Austen's House Museum and Keats House

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Edith Wharton's other "niece"

Whartonians are all familiar with Beatrix Farrand, one of America's foremost landscape gardeners and Mrs. Wharton's niece, the only one that we knew about, anyway. This article by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, indicates that there may have been a rather less reputable "niece" out and about in New York. The article also posits some interesting ideas on how to bring journalism in its printed form back to the forefront of the media. This hearkens back to our recent panel on Food Writing here at The Mount, and the very interesting timing of the closure of Gourmet Magazine shortly after.

Ms. Dowd's gambling idea has some promise, but one does balk at the new Conde Nast dating website which purports to “unite glamorous girls with fashion-conscious GQ-reading boys to create matches made in style heaven.” However, anything that promotes and assists the written (and printed) word is something that The Mount will support. Perhaps a site for like-minded Wharton "nieces" and "nephews" might be the way forward ...
(The photo above is by E.J. Bellocq and was taken in the infamous Storyville district of New Orleans sometime in the early 20th c.)

Edith Wharton's Paris

no. 58 rue de Varenne

Last Sunday's New York Times contained an interesting article about Edith Wharton and her years in Paris. It mentions Morton Fullerton, with whom she is known to have had an affair. (Some of us have our theories about Walter Berry, but that is for another day's blogging ... ).Our favorite quote from the article "She and Fullerton plotted their encounters via the text-message technology of the era: a furious exchange of brief notes delivered often several times a day by the Paris postal system."

Your blogger also came across this article printed in 1975 and written by R.W.B. Lewis, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Edith Wharton, now out-of-print but still obtainable through used and rare booksellers. This details his discovery of the affair with Fullerton, and of a side of Edith Wharton's life which had been previously unknown. Not as timely as the article above, but of interest to Whartonians nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Mount is in a beautiful and interesting part of the world ...

Your self-styled intrepid blogger, an inhabitant of the southern part of Berkshire County, is not actually as intrepid as all that, and tends to confine herself to a ridiculously limited geographical area. Of course, as that area includes The Mount, who can wonder at this self-imposed isolation? However, as a result of being called to do her civic duty as a citizen and report for jury duty, she found herself in the heart of the northern Berkshires, North Adams, Massachusetts. She was not alone on her trek northward, and those companions who were not called upon to perform one of the most precious rights and privileges given to a citizen of these United States, were able to take advantage of this opportunity. They visited Mass MoCA and in particular the Sol Lewitt Wall Drawing Retrospective. This was a treat that cannot be more highly recommended by these companions, one of whom who admittedly attended Byam Shaw School of Art and tends toward a rather Lewittian world view at times. There is time to see it, as it is going to be in place for 25 years, but it is a fantastic conglomeration of his work.

Civic duty notwithstanding, your blogger did find a little time at the end of the day to visit one of the most impressive natural features of the Berkshires, the summit of Mount Greylock. It was snowing. In October. When the snow stopped, and the view cleared it was indescribable.

As this post has not yet mentioned Edith Wharton, it seems fitting to add at this point that Mrs. Wharton, in the back seat presumably, was in the car when her chauffeur, Charles Cook of Lee, Massachusetts, was the first person EVER to drive a car up Mount Greylock! The above photo shows Charles Cook, Edith Wharton, her pal Henry James in the back, and Teddy Wharton with dogs standing by, in front of The Mount in about 1904. The Wharton legacy and influence lives on, even in the far and extremely picturesque northern Berkshires. Your blogger has had her eyes opened, today North Adams, tomorrow Vermont?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Foodies food-fest of fabulousness and can The Mount be called "bleeding edge?"

This news about Gourmet Magazine comes as a shock, and with such incredible timing that we had to blog it at once. The Mount hosted noted food writers Judith Jones, Amanda Hesser, Kim Severson, Oliver Strand, Amanda Kludt and Christine Muhlke on Saturday, October 3, in a discussion on the future of food writing. A great deal of the panel was taken up with the topic of print vs. internet, blogs vs. magazines, and of course, the flagship food magazine Gourmet was discussed at length. There was some speculation that the future of such landmark titles was uncertain, but this news seemed to come out of the blue.

The Mount presented a slideshow before the panel which addressed some of these issues in its own way and it is presented below for your edification. Click autoplay on the menu and enjoy!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The ubiquitous Mount!

In a bloggy fog this week, The Mount is thrilled to find itself mentioned in many fascinating links in the news and blogosphere. Always proud to be at the cutting edge, The Mount is not afraid of tooting its own horn now and then, and is basking in the wholly deserved attention it is receiving. For some reason, The Mount is indulging in a feast of personification as well, and for that The Mount apologizes. Back to the link-o-mania--

Hamish Linklater of The New Adventures of Old Christine lived at The Mount as a boy and had ghostly encounters!

Beautiful fall destinations include The Mount!

Foodies are coming to talk about food writing, food blogging and food ...

Banned Books Week

This is Banned Books Week, designed to draw attention to the constant threat of censorship that exists not only throughout the world, but as a very real threat here in the United States. Of particular interest is the list of Banned and Challenged Classics, some of which were not only threatened when they first appeared, but are consistantly brought up again and again in this context.

Edith Wharton's works are not among the challenged on this list, but she certainly fought editorial censorship while trying to publish a number of her works, in particular Old New York The 'Fifties, The Old Maid. She was opposed to censorship both editorial and official, and in fact wrote to Upton Sinclair in support when his novel Oil! was charged with obscenity. Those who value freedom must never cease their vigilance and we encourage all who fight the banning of books.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Even More about Food!

Somehow in our travels throughout the blogosphere, we missed this very interesting blog entry about Edith Wharton and food from the extremely Whartonian blog An Aesthete's Lament.

Wharton often used dining, food, and entertaining in her writing as fantastic indications of her characters and their place in the world. As Diane McGee puts it in her book Writing the Meal: Dinner in the Fiction of Twentieth-Century Women Writers: "The society of Old New York decribed in The Age of Innocence is marked by many customs, rituals, and taboos; those surrounding dining and entertaining are the most potent and meaningful ones. Dining practices are central to social identity. ... As the author, Wharton plays the roles of both hostess and critical guest."

As Mrs. Wharton herself said in The Gods Arrive (1932): "The same trivial, over-dressed and over-fed people acquired a sort of Titianesque value from the sheer loveliness of their setting; grouped about the table with its fruits and flowers, framed in the pink marble shafts of the loggia, above gardens sloping away to the illuminated curve of the shore, they became as pictorial as their background, and Vance’s first thought was: “If only they knew enough not to speak!”

Here at The Mount we have the dining room set as a table for six and try to give Mrs. Wharton more interesting dinner companions than the ones of whom she writes above! We hope she would approve of our current choices, Miss Michelle Pfeiffer and Mr. Daniel Day-Lewis, who both appeared in 1993 film of The Age of Innocence; Mr. Liam Neeson of 1993's Ethan Frome; Mr. Dan Ackroyd, Gus Trenor in 2000's The House of Mirth; and in pride of place (other than our hostess Mrs. Wharton of course) Miss Bette Davis, who appeared in the 1939 movie version of The Old Maid.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Julie and Julia and Judith and Edith

Food writers, food bloggers, and food critics will be converging on The Mount on October 3 for a panel discussion on the Future of Food Writing. Among our panelists will be Judith Jones, the food writer and book editor, who, among her many many other accomplishments, introduced Julia Child to the American reader (the photograph above shows them together); another is Amanda Hesser, food writer and blogger. Both of these women appear in this summer's hit movie Julie and Julia, with Amanda actually appearing in the film, and of course Judith Jones is a featured character, played in the film by Erin Dilly. This event should prove interesting to both foodies and writers, and writers who eat, or foodies who write. What else can we say but "Bon appétit!"

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Wharton's work wows WowOwow

The wonderful website WowOwow has just added a photo essay on The Mount, in particular focusing on the gardens. They were designed by Mrs. Wharton herself, with help from her niece, Beatrix Farrand, née Jones. Beatrix Farrand became one of the United States's leading landscape designers and gardeners. She was the only woman to be made a charter member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. At The Mount, Mrs. Farrand designed the maple sugar allée pictured above which leads to the main house. She also designed the kitchen and cutting garden, but unfortunately this garden is no longer extant. There are some apple trees left from the Wharton's time here, but that is all. We hope in the future to resurrect the kitchen and cutting garden and do have Beatrix Farrand's drawings to which to refer.

Our own WoW--Wharton on Wednesdays--has finished for the season and we would like once again to thank the members of the Berkshire Theatre Festival who read for us this year. Our readers were Kate Maguire, Ariel Bock, Jonathan Epstein, Ralph Petillo, Tara Franklin, Gray Simons, David Adkins and Robert McFadyen. We have been so grateful for their help and their absolutely wonderful performances at our readings. We look forward to a long relationship with BTF and they may as well consider this written notice that we want them back next season! (Or maybe even sooner!)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Senator Edward Kennedy

The Mount was greatly saddened to hear of the recent death of Senator Edward Kennedy. We were lucky enough to host Senator and Mrs. Kennedy on August 2, 2000, when they officiated at the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the completion of the restoration of The Mount’s exterior. The photo above shows the Senator at the ceremony with the late Scott Marshall, Vice-President of The Mount.

Senator Kennedy was instrumental in helping The Mount achieve recognition in May 1999 as an Official Project of Save America’s Treasures, a public-private partnership of the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Accompanying this recognition was a $2.9 million challenge grant (representing nearly 10% of the $30 million pool allotted for the 1999 program). Without his assistance, the very crucial structural repairs needed at the time might well have been delayed with disastrous results.

All of us at The Mount would like to offer express our thanks for Senator Kennedy’s years of service, and offer our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Kennedy and all of the Senator’s family at this time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jules, The Mount's Wonderdog

In our travels throughout the blogosphere, we are always searching for any tributes, accolades, hommages, etc. etc. to Edith Wharton and the things she loved. We came upon a blog entry that is just such an one, as it highlights both Edith and Teddy Wharton's love of dogs, in particular the above-pictured Jules (with Teddy Wharton). We thank McPolack for the comments, and hope they enjoyed their visit to The Mount.

As you can see, Jules's haircut has often caused comment, and we at The Mount are still searching for a good reason for doing such a thing to an innocent creature like Jules. We here all have a very soft spot for Jules, as did the Whartons, who buried him in the pet cemetery with the beautiful epitaph "Our Friend Jules."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mermaids at the Mount

Four magical performances by the Berkshire Children’s Theater filled The Mount’s stable auditorium with hilarious laughter, terrifying awe and great pride last week. Talented young Berkshire County performers ages 4 to 18 took us on a fun-filled undersea journey with the Little Mermaid, her beautiful mermaid sisters, all sorts of sea creatures and her loyal Prince as they performed "The Little Mermaid". The colorful costumes, fantastic acting, singing and dancing were a true delight to young and old in the audience.

The tuneful adaptation of "The Little Mermaid" is based on the classic story by Hans Christian Anderson. The original script and music were written by Berkshire Children’s Theater Director Kara Demler, with musical arrangements by Joe Rose and costumes by Debbie White and “Berkshire Masquerade”. The Berkshire Children's Theater has been presenting family musicals and concerts in the Berkshires year round since 2004. “The Little Mermaid” marked their debut at The Mount’s Stable’s Theater, and hopefully will be followed by many more performances!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Return of Some Old Friends

We are extremely pleased that a number of present and former members of Shakespeare & Company will be performing again at The Mount, their first home in the Berkshires. The Wharton Salon is bringing one of Mrs. Wharton's very best stories, Xingu, to life in the best possible setting, The Mount's drawing room. This story from the Boston Globe highlights this reawakening of an old friendship. We have so many visitors who remember with great fondness and appreciation the productions that Shakespeare & Co. presented here, and we hope that Xingu will be the first of many more such performances. Click here for more information on next week's performances.

Why didn't we think of this first?

The Mount is always trying to expand the world's appreciation of and exposure to the works of Edith Wharton. Hence the wonderful cake "Eatin' Frome" pictured above, and designed and made by former Mountie Tracy for a contest in Lenox.

The idea for a game based on Ethan Frome presented on IGN's website seems an exceptional one, but perhaps is not in the best of taste. (Beware, this article contains spoilers!) Maybe a better one would be an archery game based on The Age of Innocence, or perhaps a survival horror game based on some of Wharton's ghost stories (Kerfol has the obligatory dogs ...)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Today is the 72nd anniversary of the death of Edith Wharton, who died in Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt near Paris on August 11, 1937. Here at The Mount we try to celebrate the life of Mrs. Wharton every day, but today we thought it would be appropriate to commemorate her life and works here on The Mount's blog. And of course that means lots of links to Whartoniana of all sorts.

After Mrs. Wharton left The Mount she moved to Paris. She lived at two different addresses in the rue de Varenne. After the First World War she lived in St.-Brice, Pavillon Colombe. The street on which she lived is now named "rue Edith Wharton". She also lived part time in the south of France at Sainte-Claire du Château, Mrs. Wharton's home in the south of France which now belongs to the city of Hyères. These are all very nice places one is certain, but of course none can hold a candle to The Mount!

The perfect start to a search for all things Wharton is the Edith Wharton Society. It is comprised of Wharton scholars and enthusiasts who hold a wealth of knowledge and are happy to share it. Great repositories of online texts are here and here.

The Beinecke Library holds Edith Wharton's personal papers, manuscripts, letters and photographs and we have made free use of their online materials here at the blog many times and must once more express our thanks. Other primary sources for Wharton are the Lilly Library at Indiana University and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas (your blogger's alma mater). A brief compendium of quotations ends our linkathon for today.

We will end with a quotation of our own choosing from a letter Edith Wharton wrote in 1936 to her friend Mary Berenson: "I wish I knew what people mean when they say they find 'emptiness' in this wonderful adventure of living, which seems to me to pile up its glories like an horizon-wide sunset as the light declines."

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Red Leather Diary

Lily Koppel, author of The Red Leather Diary is lecturing today at The Mount at 4pm. This should prove to be a great lecture, and the story behind the book is fascinating. The diary was rescued from a New York dumpster, and Lily Koppel has traced its owner's life, giving a glimpse into a world of wealth and privilege between the wars.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hidcote Manor

Edith Wharton's interest in gardens, gardening, and gardeners was lifelong, and one of most important and influential gardening friends was Lawrence Johnston, an American who emigrated to England and created a number of spectacular gardens. In an article from the Financial Times it is reported that a few years ago a number of diaries and notebooks detailing the life and gardens at Hidcote Manor had surfaced after a long absence. Although we Whartonians should not complain at the moment, due to the recent appearance of the Anna Bahlmann Collection, unearthed after years in obscurity, we at The Mount are still hoping that we will one day find such information about our gardens here in Lenox. We have done a great deal of research and feel that the reconstruction of The Mount's gardens is exactly as Mrs. Wharton would have wanted it, but imagine if we found her own plant lists, notes, observations ...

No, neither Sarah Palin nor James Garner...

Creative Mavericks is a new series being launched this Saturday at The Mount. The word Maverick has come to be used for many things, including the above mentioned former Governor as well as the fantastic TV series of yesteryear featuring Bret, Bart and Beau. The Mount's Creative Mavericks are artists, writers, filmmakers and comedians who work to expand the boundaries of what we call "art". Edith Wharton said in The Age of Innocence "The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing" so what better place than The Mount for our Mavericks to present their works. The Production Front, a group of artists from Toronto, will be performing on Saturday, August 1, in the tented courtyard at The Mount. Click here for details and we hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The beautiful Mount

For many years The Mount has been fortunate enough to have on staff a wonderful and gifted photographer, David Dashiell. In addition to his many other duties at The Mount, most recently as Publications Director, he has provided us with almost all of the beautiful photographs that we have used in our various publications as well as on our website. David has decided to move on and concentrate on his photography. We wish him all the best and he knows full well that we will be calling on him constantly in the future, not only to pick his brain for his vast knowledge of Edith Wharton and The Mount, but for more and more of his fantastic pictures. We decided to post a few here on the blog, and will be adding more to the main website over the next weeks. Thank you David!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Edith Wharton Extravaganza!"

The fantastic interior decor/design blog Surroundings has been featuring a visit to The Mount in recent posts. There are some beautiful photographs of the property and we at The Mount's blog salute them--and in fact have appropriated one of their photographs of the linen closet (above). Thanks to Linda Merrill and her team for their visit and support!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Allons, enfants!!

What better day than le quatorze juillet, Bastille Day, to blog about The Mount's fantastique exhibition next year! We will be hosting a Salute to French Design, thus combining two of Mrs. Wharton's favorite things, interior design and France, in one très très chic package. Some of France's most fabulous designers and architects have agreed to take part and it should prove to be an exciting time. A recent brunch at the French Embassy in New York launched our Salute, and the designers then travelled up to Lenox to see The Mount and begin their preparations.

Mrs. Wharton wrote "The artistic integrity of the French has led them to feel from the beginning that there is no difference in kind between the curve of a woman’s hat-brim and the curve of a Rodin marble ... " and we at The Mount look forward to a great artistic collaboration next year. Vive la France!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Triumphant Return of Wharton on Wednesdays!

There is more good news for The Mount today, as we announce the beginning of this season's Wharton on Wednesdays. For a number of years a stalwart Mountie, David Dashiell, as well as being the creator of a great number of wonderful photographs of The Mount, has been the reader for these afternoons of Wharton. We are sorry that David will not be joining us this year, but are very excited to be able to welcome Berkshire Theatre Festival to The Mount. They will be collaborating with us and providing the readers for each week's slice of Whartoniana. The first reading is this afternoon (July 1) at 5:00 pm. Kate Maguire, Artistic Director and CEO of BTF will read Writing a War Story, a gentle satire first published in 1919. Readings will take place every Wednesday in July and August on the terrace, and one is glad to report that the café will be open until the reading begins. A glass of wine, a beautiful view, some of Wharton's best work ... and best of all, it's free!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hot off the presses, Wharton, The Mount (and even the blog)

The Mount is pleased to note this recent mention in the Wall Street Journal's Blog. Although it is under the heading Bankruptcy Beat, the report contains the good news of The Mount's recent restructuring. Even more crucially, this very blog is at last acknowledged as being "key to The Mount's recovery"!

An interesting follow-up to previous posts, this piece in the New Yorker confirms that the Anna Bahlmann Collection was sold last week at Christie's, and achieved $182,500, an amount much higher than the original estimate. We congratulate the very astute buyers ("an American educational institution"), and hope that they will enable access to the collection as soon as possible.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Edith Wharton, Gilded Age Gossip Girl

The Mount follows Gossip Girl avidly, especially since their fantastic retelling of The Age of Innocence. As noted in this column at, reading Rebecca Mead's article in the New Yorker this week shows that Edith Wharton might have been the perfect prototype for today's Gossip Girls. One of Jezebel's readers makes the perfect comment, and one could not put it better: "Edith Wharton was all kinds of awesome."

Feasting with Edith Wharton

If you are in New York on Thursday, June 25 you might want to pop over to the 92Y Tribeca for a slide presentation and tasting of food using recipes from the Gilded Age. Entitled Feasting with Edith Wharton, it is presented by Francine Segan, author of The Philosopher’s Kitchen, Shakespeare’s Kitchen and The Opera Lover’s Cookbook. The above image is from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management. Bon appétit!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The splendour or sweetness of words ...

This week's New Yorker features a fascinating article by Rebecca Mead on the recently rediscovered letters from Edith Wharton to her governess and companion Anna Bahlmann. As has been mentioned previously, these letters, as well as other items including objects, photographs and ephemera, are being auctioned at Christie's on Wednesday. A few Mounties were fortunate enough to be allowed "backstage" at Christie's to have a brief look at the collection, and it is a wonderful treasure, and should prove an enormous boon to Wharton scholarship. Rebecca Mead's article concentrates on the earliest correspondence, most of which comes from a time when no other letters from Edith Wharton are known to exist. We look forward to the auction, and hope that the collection finds an appropriate home, a place where access can be made for the many Whartonians who are waiting in line to delve into this amazing archive. For more information on the collection visit Christie's.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

First ever family lecture at The Mount!

As part of our new expanded programming, on Saturday, June 13th, Denise Brunkus held the first family lecture at The Mount; a wonderful, inspiring and fun-filled afternoon! Denise is a prominent children’s book illustrator, the artist behind Junie B. Jones, and many other terrific characters.

The stable auditorium was filled with children, parents, grandparents, teachers and artists, who listened to Denise’s fascinating stories of her life as an illustrator. Everyone was in awe when she quickly drew one of her characters in front of the crowd (the horrible Mrs. Ferdman from “Chocolatina”…), followed by a collaborative monster drawing. Children received a free “Chocolatina” book; Denise signed every single one with much care and enthusiasm. Lemonade, cookies and more drawing followed, and many families ended their afternoon roaming the mansion and the gardens. We hope this will be the first of many such family events, and especially hope that Denise will come back again soon!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"One wondered how they could have looked on the Medusa face of war and lived."

The above quotation from Fighting France seems apt as we prepare to celebrate the 111th birthday tomorrow of the last surviving Tommy, Harry Patch, of Somerset in England. The Mount wishes Mr. Patch a very happy birthday and thanks him for his service. Here at The Mount we have been studying Mrs. Wharton's work in the First World War, both her charitable work and her literary efforts. Mr. Patch was involved in the Battle of Passchendaele (the 3rd Battle of Ypres). Mrs. Wharton had visited Ypres after the Second Battle and wrote the following in Fighting France:

"We had seen other ruined towns, but none like this. The towns of Lorraine were blown up, burnt down, deliberately erased from the earth. At worst they are like stone-yards, at best like Pompeii. But Ypres has been bombarded to death, and the outer walls of its houses are still standing, so that it presents the distant semblance of a living city, while near by it is seen to be a disembowelled corpse. Every window-pane is smashed, nearly every building unroofed, and some house-fronts are sliced clean off, with the different stories exposed, as if for the stage-setting of a farce. In these exposed interiors the poor little household gods shiver and blink like owls surprised in a hollow tree. A hundred signs of intimate and humble tastes, of humdrum pursuits, of family association, cling to the unmasked walls. Whiskered photographs fade on morning-glory wallpapers, plaster saints pine under glass bells, antimacassars droop from plush sofas, yellowing diplomas display their seals on office walls. It was all so still and familiar that it seemed as if the people for whom these things had a meaning might at any moment come back and take up their daily business. And then--crash! the guns began, slamming out volley after volley all along the English lines, and the poor frail web of things that had made up the lives of a vanished city-full hung dangling before us in that deathly blast."

"The fresh call of birds at sunrise ... "

In her novel Summer Edith Wharton writes of "... the breath of the summer earth, the rustle of the forest, the fresh call of birds at sunrise ... " and as your blogger sits and listens to the birdsong here at The Mount she can see and hear Mrs. Wharton's inspiration all around her. A group of early risers (too early for the previously mentioned blogger, alas) had the good fortune to go on a bird walk here at The Mount recently. Hosted by Jody Soules of Wild Birds Country Store in Great Barrington, they arrived bright and early on a Saturday morning, and took many beautiful photographs of the property at a time when very few are fortunate enough to see it. We thank Wild Birds Country Store for adding these photographs to their blog, and hope they come back soon!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Does she look familiar?

Nancy, a recent visitor who went on one of our new ghost tours sent us the above photograph taken during the tour. If you look at the lamp which is lit in the middle of the photo, you can see a rather strange figure. Your blogger can vouch for the fact that there was no figure that she could see at that part of the room on the tour. We thank Nancy for sending us this photo, and welcome any other items which might add to our documentation of The Mount's paranormal activity.

One thing to remember--we have been told that the Drawing Room, of which this is a photo, is one of the LEAST haunted places at The Mount! There is something familiar about the profile, especially the chin ...

Mountie is Sleepless in Lake Placid

The Mount is spreading its influence far and wide throughout the world of the arts. Haldane McFall, a recent graduate from the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, and stalwart member of The Mount's staff, has been chosen to represent Ithaca College at the Lake Placid Film Forum taking place this weekend. Sleepless in Lake Placid is a film competition in which the chosen teams have 24-hours to deliver a completed 10 minute film. As Hal's previous films have often featured members of The Mount's staff or used The Mount as a location, we hope that being in these strange surroundings will not hamper his creativity. We wish the entire Ithaca College team, Hal, Zach Redmond, Alex Evans, and Edward Bursh the best of luck!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Frances Y J Wheeler recently sent us the above photo which she took on a visit to The Mount and writes:

"While checking your web site the tab entitled "Ghosts" caught my eye. It reminded me of a photo I took when I visited The Mount with the Landscape Design Council on June 20, 2007. ... the light anomaly on this image of a path into the woodlands does not appear in other photos I took of The Mount that same day.

As far as when I took the photo, I didn't notice anything on the path, I was just trying to capture the "linear path experience," as we Landscape Design Council members would say.

I was visiting The Mount with the Landscape Design Council of Massachusetts on a three-day learning excursion to the Berkshires, where we visited several properties. Due to the nature of our group, we were particularly interested in the landscaping and gardens.

While in the formal floral garden, I noticed some paths leading off into the woodlands, and I followed them for a bit to take a look. I liked the way this path wound through the lawn and then disappeared into the darker woods, and so I took the image. Only later did I discover the white spot in the center of the photo.

We visited on June 20, 2007 and it was an overcast day. Aside from the evidence in the photographic images, I recall that we were disappointed that our lunch, which had been planned for the patio, had been moved into the stables. So it is unlikely that the white spot on the image was caused by glare from the sun."

The Mount is sorry that the lunch had to be moved, but are very grateful for the photograph. It seems appropriate here to quote one of Mrs. Wharton's own stories--there is a ghost but "You won't know till won't know till long, long afterward."

Not just essential but quintessential!

Time Magazine has just published a list of great summer getaways, and of course the beautiful Berkshires come top of the list. However, at The Mount we ask "Why wait for Tanglewood?" Not only do we have our beautiful gardens, and our excellent exhibition on the First World War, our Terrace Café will be opening for lunch and light snacks this weekend, and Some Enchanted Evenings, featuring The Mount's own jazz band Triage will begin on June 26th. We hope to see you soon!

Monday, June 1, 2009

One hopes they were allowed to do the "Twist"

Last Saturday The Mount was the venue for a very special event. Lenox Memorial High School asked to use The Mount for their Junior/Senior prom this year, and we were happy to be able to accommodate them. This was the first prom since the closing of the Foxhollow School in the 'seventies, and although the dinner and dancing on the terrace may have been the same, there were definitely a number of changes since the last Foxhollow dance.

According to alumna of the Foxhollow School, this was the only time that the girls were allowed to use the main staircase of the mansion, at all other times they had to use the service stairs. The Twist was strictly prohibited, as it was considered obscene! And then there was the 12-inch rule. Chaperones at the dances carried rulers, and if they found anyone dancing closer than 12 inches to their date, they were separated. When asked if the Twist was going to be allowed this year, The Mount's Executive Director Susan Wissler said: "I will leave that to the prom's organizers!" Twist or no Twist, it appears that the prom was a great success, and we wish all of the Lenox Memorial High School students the best of luck, especially the graduating Seniors, and hope they come back soon.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Barbra Streisand's "Decoration of Houses"

Following in the footsteps of Mrs. Wharton, another woman of many diverse talents is writing a book dedicated to interior design and architecture. Barbra Streisand has signed a book deal with Viking for "A Passion for Design" to be released in 2010. She has been building her own house for the last few years, and of course, one of her inspirations was The Mount! Although your blogger was not here at the time, some of her colleagues remember the day well, as she brought her little doggies with her, something unheard of at the time here at The Mount. One is happy to say that our policy is somewhat less strict now, and well-behaved dogs (and owners) are welcome on the grounds. We wish Ms. Streisand luck with her book, and will watch with great interest to see how much influence Mrs. Wharton and Mr. Codman had on her design.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Fantastic Opportunity for the Dedicated Whartonian!

An incredible collection of papers, letters, and artifacts of great interest to Whartonians everywhere has just come to light. The Anna Bahlmann Collection, mainly consisting of letters from Edith Wharton to Anna Bahlmann, her lifelong friend, companion, tutor, secretary and amanuensis, has been put up for sale at Christie's. It is a treasure trove of material, never before reviewed or published, including a letter that appears to be the earliest known extant letter from Edith Jones, written in May 1874. This vast archive could be the greatest contribution to Wharton scholarship for many years, and it is to be fervently hoped that it will be bought by some person or institution who will give access to researchers, and not keep it hidden away as it has been for so many years. Of course, the perfect home for these papers is The Mount! But alas, with an estimate of between $80,000-120,000 they are beyond our means at the moment. If any Mountie out there feels that they would like to help both Wharton scholarship and The Mount, get down to Christies on June 24th and keep on bidding, then simply donate them to us and everyone wins!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WWI Memorial

Frank Buckles, the only known American WWI veteran still living, is 108 years old. He was recently interviewed on ABC News, and he still has a mission. Surprisingly, there is no memorial to WWI Veterans in the nation's capital. After spending time recently here at The Mount researching the Great War for our new exhibition, we have a new understanding of what Mr. Buckles and so many other young men went through. Texas Representive Ted Poe is sponsoring a bill before the House entitled the Frank Buckles WWI Memorial Act. If you would like more information on the memorial visit their website.