Julian Fellowes on Edith Wharton

Julian Fellowes on the Set of Downton Abbey (click to view larger)

Julian Fellowes on the Set of Downton Abbey (click to view larger)

I know both Downton Abbey and Edith Wharton fans will appreciate this article from the Berkshire Eagle in which Julian Fellowes, the writer of Downton Abbey talks about how his late-in-life reading of two Wharton novels inspired first his failed writing venture, then Gosford Park and then, of course, Downton Abbey.

“She observes but she does not judge…” is Fellowes’ comment on Wharton’s writing and as soon as I read those words, I knew what made trying to do a biography of Wharton so challenging. In many cases, Wharton was highly opinionated (she decidedly did not like either cats or unintelligent people!) but there were so many times when I found myself trying to pin her down on particular characters and issues in her novels. Just what is she saying about society and all its rules? Or about Lily Bart? I find myself responding to Lily differently each time I read The House of Mirth and when I turn to Edith herself to tell me what I’m to think I find myself stonewalled.

The only thing to do is keep reading until I get it all figured out. It appears I’m not the only one who has reached that conclusion!

The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton

By Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge


Edith Wharton, author of Ethan Frome, The House of Mirth, and other acclaimed novels, was born into a wealthy New York City family during the Gilded Age. In fact, she was a Jones of “keeping up with the Joneses” fame.  This anecdote opens Woodridge’s biography of an astonishing life.  Beginning in childhood, Edith found ways to escape from society’s and her family’s expectations and follow an unconventional, creative path. Unhappily married and eventually divorced, she surrounded herself with the cultural creatives of her day, mostly male friends.  To escape the obligations of New York City high society, she spent much of her life in Paris and was recognized by the French government for her work establishing four charities during World War I. Her literary and personal life, her witty and incisive correspondence, her fondness for automobiles and small dogs–all are detailed in this vibrant account of a woman well ahead of her time.  Includes photographs, a bibliography, source notes, and an index.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

Connie Nordhielm WooldridgeBiography | View

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