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 Jezebel.com, 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 afterward...you 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.