Thursday, January 24, 2013
Author Edith Wharton was born on January 24, 1862, to a wealthy, old-line New York family. Her parents, George and Lucretia Rhinelander Jones, were in fact the people to whom the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” refers. Raised in high-society opulence, she began writing at an early age. Her failed marriage to socialite Edward Wharton, an acute depressive, ended in divorce in 1913. Wharton applied her insider’s understanding of America’s upper classes with themes of unhappy marriages, divorce and society’s expectations. The House of Mirth (1905), a bestselling novel, focuses on socialite Lily Bart, whose social standing is destroyed by a treacherous scandal. Ethan Frome (1911) is based on an actual accident. Ironically titled The Age of Innocence (1920), which won the Pulitzer Prize, is an 1870s novel of morals in which Newland Archer is tragically cornered into a loveless, Old New York marriage.