Edith Wharton (1862–1937)

  1. Christopher MacGowan

Published Online: 24 FEB 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781444393675.ch7

The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook

The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook

How to Cite

MacGowan, C. (2011) Edith Wharton (1862–1937), in The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444393675.ch7

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 24 FEB 2012
  2. Published Print: 21 JAN 2011

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405160230

Online ISBN: 9781444393675



  • Edith Wharton (1862–1937), the first woman - awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Yale University;
  • Edith Wharton, born Edith Newbold Jones in New York City - from a cultivated, but conventional wealthy family;
  • The House of Mirth, in 1903 - becoming a bestseller;
  • Lily's own social and romantic misjudgments - making her vulnerable;
  • story of Lily Bart's social decline, incorporating - major themes of Wharton's fiction to come;
  • last of Wharton's major novels, The Age of Innocence - published in 1920, returning to clash of social obligations and love;
  • Old New York aristocracy, regulated social world - closing ranks in Wharton's novels against outsiders, threatening change or open scandal;
  • Wharton, continuing to publish novels, poems, and stories up to her death - increasingly, seen as old-fashioned;
  • Wharton's work, following The Age of Innocence - marking a decline in her writing;
  • Wharton's reputation, suffering a further decline after her death - seen as a student of the Jamesian novel, never quite able to match James


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • Bibliography