[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“The true felicity of a lover of books is the luxurious turning of page by page, the surrender, not meanly abject, but deliberate and cautious, with your wits about you, as you deliver yourself into the keeping of the book.”[/quote]
Edith Wharton (New York, 1862–Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France, 1937) was an eager reader who began writing at an early age. She came from a distinguished family and made observations on the uptight conventions of the upper-class New York society, which she in turn often portrayed in her work. After marrying a wealthy banker named Edward Wharton in 1885, the young writer found herself in an unhappy marriage. She frequently travelled to Paris before eventually settling there on a permanent basis, and on one of her trips to the city she met journalist Morton Fullerton, with whom she had an affair. Wharton’s husband, who also had a mistress of his own, suffered from a deep depression. It was this illness and the couple’s different intellectual interests that led them to divorce in 1913. The first book that gained Wharton critical acclaim was The House of Mirth (1905). She later wrote the novels Ethan Frome (1911) and The Custom of the Country (1913), as well as a number of short stories, which were brought together in the collections entitled Xingu and Other Stories (1916) and Old New York (1924), among others. She received the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for her novel The Age of Innocence (1920), and two years later she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Yale University, making her the first woman to receive both of these honours. Wharton has more than fifty books of poetry, short stories, travel books and essays to her name.