Authoress Edith Wharton grew up in upper class society—it’s said that her family inspired the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses.” Perhaps because of her upbringing, she became one of the upper crust’s most shrewd critics, most especially in her famous works The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth. The former work made her the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1921, while the latter, her first bestseller, was the most highly-regarded novel which she wrote while living at The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts–a superb example of late Victorian decor. In addition to her literary endeavors, she contributed numerous articles on domestic and landscape architecture. She and her husband, Edward, lived in the home from 1902 to 1911.
Try it At Home: Three Victorian Décor Tips to Take Away From the Mount
1. If you’re a reader of Victorian writers like Edith Wharton, then you likely have plenty of novels stacked in various places in your house. Wharton designed her library around a primary decoration: the books themselves. Rather than think of your book collection as something you should hide, display it as the main decoration of your own home library.
2. If you’re too timid to go full on Victorian “gingerbread” in your home, think about keeping your house’s design and decorations clean and Neo-Georgian. Then add Victorian decor accents like an elaborate table setting or antique hardware.
3. When you’re creating your own garden, think beyond the flowers themselves. Go so far as to think of the garden you’re creating as an extension of your house. Make an outdoor room with seating, walkways, and fountains.
Important Books by Edith Wharton:
- The Line of Least Resistance (1900): The short story that prompted legendary author Henry James to write a somewhat critical letter to Wharton, which marked the beginning of their friendship.
- The House of Mirth (1905): Wharton’s first acclaimed novel, written while living at The Mount.
- A Motor-Flight Through France (1908): In 1907, Edith and Edward “Teddy” Wharton explored France by car with Henry James—an adventure she documents in this book.
- Ethan Frome (1911): Wharton turns her eye from the upper class to the working poor in this intense, brooding novella about a struggling farmer and his anxious wife.
- Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belfort (1918): One of the few non-combatant foreigners allowed to help refugees on France’s front lines, Wharton recounted her experiences in Europe in the fall of 1914 in a series of magazine articles.
- The Age of Innocence (1920): Wharton became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for this novel, a critique of old New York’s outmoded social mores.
by Suzanne Leder