Wednesday, December 21, 2005


The Wharton school

According to an article on CBC Arts, an English bookseller has sold Edith Wharton's personal library back to her estate. The cache of 2,600 volumes, which fetched a price of $2.6 million, will be repatriated to The Mount, Wharton's estate in Lenox, Massachusetts. There the trustees plan to launch a fundraising "adopt-a-book" program to help with the renovation of the house and gardens. The fee: anywhere from $1,000 to $1 million. Put in your orders now, folks! The possibilities are endless:
The most expensive book put up for adoption will be Wharton's copy of The Decoration of Houses, her first published work. Others include a copy of Theodore Roosevelt's America and the World War in which he wrote, "To Edith Wharton from an American-American." There's also Henry James's The Golden Bowl, with this message by the author: "To Edith Wharton--in sympathy."
Not sure what the Rough Rider meant by the hyphenated bit. Nor do I know exactly what was eliciting Henry James's sympathy, since his genuine affection for Wharton was leavened by a head-shaking perplexity at her sybaritic existence. Meanwhile, I wondered if there were any inscribed books by Morton Fullerton, the great love of Wharton's middle years. (If so, maybe I could adopt one of those.) Clearly he was an irresistible cad, cavorting with both guys and dolls and incessantly flipping back and forth through the erotic Rolodex. Elizabeth Hardwick said it best, in a memorably amusing paragraph from Sight-Readings:
Morton Fullerton, Harvard, son of a minister in Waltham, Massachusetts, became a political and cultural journalist, at one time the correspondent from France for the London Times. Fullerton seems to have been an attractive, perhaps we could say lovable, young man. In his love life, he is something like a telephone, always engaged, and even then with several on hold. Whether he wished so many rings on his line is hard to tell; perhaps he was one of those who would always, always answer. In any case, among his callers were, in youth, Ronald Gower, a homosexual and friend of Oscar Wilde; Margaret Brooke, the Ranee of Sarawak; his cousin, Katherine Fullerton Gerould; Victoria Chambert, whom he married and with whom he had a child while living with a Mme. Mirecourt--and Edith Wharton.

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