A Series of Facts about Edith Wharton, for Aid Workers. Part I.

This post is written by Rachel Unkovic, an aid worker, artist and oral historian. This is the first post in a serial–stay tuned for more.

The Age of Innocence ?1788 by Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723-1792

“The Age of Innocence” from which Edith Wharton derived the title of one of her books. Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, it was commissioned as a character study or ‘fancy picture’. Source: Tate (check out their website for more interesting stories about the painting itself)

A Series of Facts about Edith Wharton, for Aid Workers.

Part I

1.) Edith Newbold Jones was born on 24 January 1862 in New York City to a mother, a father, and two much older brothers.

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2.) The Civil War was raging. It depreciated American currency. Her mother and father whisked their three children off to Europe where their money meant more.

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3.) Edith was privileged as fuck. If you have heard the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” and wondered to whom it refers, allow me to introduce to you Edith’s father, George Fredric Jones, and her mother, Lucretia.

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4.) Toddler Edith would hold a book in her hands and pretend to read it out loud, making up stories, flipping pages periodically as if the stories were there on the ink and not just in her mind.

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5.) She was admonished that reading was fine, but writing was certainly not the occupation of a proper young lady.

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6.) In Europe, Edith learned to read English, French, German and Italian fluently.

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7.) Age 11, finally back in New York, Edith attempted chapters of her first novel. Her mother told her it was shit.

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8.) At age 15, under a male pseudonym, Edith published her first poem. She also wrote a novella, this time in secret, showing no one, in her room, alone, at night. Her novella was called Fast and Loose.

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9.) When Edith was 16, her father arranged for the private publishing of a collection of her poems. Perhaps he hoped to physically separate the poetry from his proper daughter. Edith held her first book.

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10.) 17-year-old Edith came out into society as a debutant. She got engaged.

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11.) The engagement was broken off.

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12.) Edith got engaged again.

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13.) She married. Teddy, 12 years her senior, had depression. He kept Edith homebound because traveling made his soul ache. Society dictated that Edith take his last name, Wharton. She did.

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14.) Teddy repeatedly, publicly cheated on her.

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15.) Edith waited five years and then she began publishing again, this time under her own, new name.

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To be continued… 

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2 thoughts on “A Series of Facts about Edith Wharton, for Aid Workers. Part I.

  1. Pingback: A Series of Facts about Edith Wharton, for Aid Workers. Part II. | Missing in the Mission

  2. Pingback: A Series of Facts about Edith Wharton, for Aid Workers. Part III. | Missing in the Mission

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