15 August 2007

Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton was born in Aquarius of 1862. She was an American novelist, short story writer, designer and landscape architect. Fluent in French, many of her books were published in both French and English.

She was also highly regarded as an interior designer and a taste-maker of her time. She wrote several influential books including The Decoration of Houses, her first published work, and Italian Villas and Their Gardens.

Born Edith Newbold Jones to a wealthy New York family often associated with the phrase "Keeping up with the Joneses", Edith combined her insiders view into America's privileged classes with a brilliant natural wit to write novels and short stories notable for their humour, incisiveness and subtle use of dramatic irony. Having grown up in upper-class pre-World War I society, Wharton became one of its most astute critics.

Written in 1920 The Age of Innocence was perhaps her best known work, winning the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature, making her the first woman to win the award.

In another of her books, The House of Mirth, she employed both humour and profound empathy to describe the lives of New York's upper-class and the vanishing of their world in the early years of the 20th century.

Wharton was friend and confidante to many gifted intellectuals of her time: Henry James, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide were all guests of hers at one time or another.

Her meeting with F. Scott Fitzgerald is described by the editors of her letters as "one of the better-known failed encounters in the American literary annals". She was also down with Teddy Roosevelt.

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