Edith Wharton

About the Author

Edith Wharton (née Newbold Jones) was born in 1862 into a wealthy New York family. She was educated privately, both in New York and Europe, and in 1885 she married Edward Robbins Wharton, a banker from Boston. They settled in France in 1907 but the marriage was a troubled one, and they eventually divorced in 1913. This was due in part to Edward Wharton’s increasingly mental ill heath, and in part to Edith Wharton’s struggles to balance the expected duties of a wife with her ambitions as a writer. She had published her first book, The Decoration of Houses in 1897.


After the Whartons’ divorce, Edith continued to live in France, where she would remain for the rest of her life. She took on the role of ‘literary hostess’ and her Paris home saw frequent visits from Henry James, Walter Berry and a number of other writers. By this time she had gained a considerable reputation as a writer herself with a number of books behind her: The Greater Inclination had appeared in 1899, followed by The Touchstone (1900), and, in 1905, The House of Mirth. France provided the setting for a number of her novels – Madame de Treymes (1907) and The Reef (1912) among them – and in fact she returned to the States only very rarely after this, preferring instead the European lifestyle.


During the First World War she worked for a number of American newspapers, and also become involved in work with refugees. She continued to write novels and in 1920 produced perhaps her most famous novel, The Age of Innocence which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. This study of New-York society life brilliantly encapsulated many of her themes and concerns as a writer. These, and in particular the role of women in turn-of-the-century America, she also explored in her numerous short stories.


The Buccaneers was to be her last novel and in fact she died before it was completed, on 11th August 1937. It was published posthumously in 1938.

Books by the author