Yoon Joung Lee
A Pulitzer Prize-winning American author who chronicled the life of upper-class Americans between the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, Edith Wharton, was born into the wealthy family of George Frederick and Lucretia Jones in 1862 in New York city. She kept her birth year secret from the public during her lifetime. Gossip held that her biological father was the family’s English tutor, not her father George Frederic Jones. No one knows the truth still, but Wharton believed the story.
After the Civil War, her family moved to Europe, where they could have a better quality of life. There, they spent the next five years traveling to Italy, Spain, Germany and France. In Europe, she began to develop her passion on writing. When she was eighteen, she came back to New York city to continue her education under private tutors. She studied literature, philosophy, science, and art. She also started to write stories and poems. In 1877, she published ‘Fast and Loose’ and in 1878, she published a poem collection ‘Verses.’
In 1879, she made her debut into society, but she had to travel back to Europe because her father George Jones was ill and he eventually died in 1882. At twenty three years of age, she married Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton who was a sportsman from a well-established Boston family. Marriage brought her the things she valued most; travel and leisure for writing. In 1910, she moved to France to nurse Edward Wharton who suffered a nervous breakdown and was placed in a sanatorium. However, their marriage didn’t last long. She was slowly disappointed by Teddy after she used her money to provide a home for his mistress in Boston. They divorced in 1913.
After their divorce, she stayed in France, writing novels. When World War I began, she spent much of her time in assisting refugees and orphans in France and Belgium. She also traveled to battlefields and hospitals with her good friend Walter Berry, while she was writing her experience in diaries and essays.
From 1900 to 1938, she created many well-known novels including Fighting France, The House of Mirth, Tale of Men and Ghosts, Ethan Frome, French Ways and Their Meanings, The Age of Innocence and The Old Maid. The Age of Innocence won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 and The Old Maid won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1935. Edith Wharton died by stroke in 1937 and she was buried in Versailles, France, next to Walter Berry.