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