Eleanor Dwight: Pleads to preserve Edith Wharton House

Historians in the News

To the Editor:

Your article about the possible foreclosure of the Mount, Edith Wharton’s estate in Lenox, Mass. (Arts pages, Feb. 23), has alerted readers that the fascinating abode of one of our best American writers may be closed and therefore crossed off the itinerary of literary and cultural pilgrims. It must be saved.

As an Edith Wharton biographer, I know that intimacy with the house is a way not only into Edith Wharton’s fascinating life but also the Gilded Age milieu: it is an authentic mansion in the Berkshire area fully restored for the public to visit.

Its carefully replanted gardens alone, which she created with her excellent eye and the profits from her novel writing, evoke that vanished world she recorded in her fiction.

Visits to writers’ houses are not always that rewarding. But a visit to the Mount is different and has something to offer to a wide range of interests. It offers an understanding of Wharton’s ideas on decorating and architecture and the way she lived in the world.

The location today for lectures on women’s achievements, the art of decorating, on architecture and writing, the Mount is the perfect place for a research center for American cultural and literary history. The accomplished scholar, the aspiring writer, the high school student, the curious tourist cannot help but come away knowing more about our past and specifically the past of this unusual woman.

Eleanor Dwight
New York, Feb. 24, 2008

Read entire article at Letter to the Editor of the NYT

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