A Backward Glance

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Overview

This antiquarian volume contains 'A Backward Glance', Edith Wharton's detailed account of her life, both pubic and private. She describes in a dazzling yet delicate manner, the upper-class New York society within which much of her youth was spent. The book details her traversing of Europe and her prolific achievement in the field of literature when she was an adult. A fantastic and insightful read, this text will appeal to those with an interest in this most accomplished woman, and it would make for a worthy ...
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A Backward Glance

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Overview

This antiquarian volume contains 'A Backward Glance', Edith Wharton's detailed account of her life, both pubic and private. She describes in a dazzling yet delicate manner, the upper-class New York society within which much of her youth was spent. The book details her traversing of Europe and her prolific achievement in the field of literature when she was an adult. A fantastic and insightful read, this text will appeal to those with an interest in this most accomplished woman, and it would make for a worthy addition to any bookshelf. The chapters of this text include: The Background, Knee-High, Little Girl, Unreluctant Feet, Friendships and Travels, Life and Letters, New York and the Mount, Henry James, The Secret Garden, Paris, Widening Waters, The War, and more. This book is being republished now in an affordable, modern edition complete with a specially commissioned new biography of the author.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781406753646
  • Publisher: Wharton Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2007
  • Pages: 434
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Edith Wharton
Wharton was born to George Frederic Jones and Lucretia Stevens Rhinelander in New York City. She had two brothers, Frederic Rhinelander and Henry Edward. The saying "Keeping up with the Joneses" is said to refer to her father's family. She shared a lifelong friendship with her Rhinelander niece, landscape architect Beatrix Farrand of Reef Point in Bar Harbor, Maine, and often traveled with Henry James in Europe. Wharton combined her insider's view of America's privileged classes with a brilliant, natural wit to write humorous, incisive novels and short stories of social and psychological insight. She was well acquainted with many of her era's other literary and public figures, including Henry James and Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1885, at 23 years of age, she married Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton, who was 12 years older than her. From a well-established Boston family, he was a sportsman and a gentleman of her social class and shared her love of travel, although they had little in common intellectually.[citation needed] From the late 1880s until 1902, he suffered acute depression, and the couple ceased their extensive travel. At that time his depression manifested as a more serious disorder, after which they lived almost exclusively at The Mount, their estate designed by Edith Wharton. In 1908 her husband's mental state was determined to be incurable and she divorced him in 1913. Around the same time, Edith was overcome with the harsh criticisms leveled by the naturalist writers. Later in 1908 she began an affair with Morton Fullerton, a journalist for The Times, in whom she found an intellectual partner.

In addition to novels, Wharton wrote at least 85 short stories. She was also a garden designer, interior designer, and taste-maker of her time. She wrote several design books, including her first published work, The Decoration of Houses of 1897, co-authored by Ogden Codman. Another is the generously illustrated Italian Villas and Their Gardens of 1904
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    1. Also Known As:
      Edith Newbold Jones Wharton (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 24, 1862
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      August 11, 1937
    2. Place of Death:
      Saint-Brice-sous-ForĂȘt, France

Introduction

A Backward Glance is Edith Wharton's vivid account of both her public and her private life. With richness and delicacy, it describes the sophisticated New York society in which Wharton spent her youth, and chronicles her travels throughout Europe and her literary success as an adult. Beautifully depicted are her friendships with many of the most celebrated artists and writers of her day, including her close friend Henry James.

In his introduction to this edition, Louis Auchincloss calls the writing in A Backward Glance "as firm and crisp and lucid as in the best of her novels." It is a memoir that will charm and fascinate all readers of Wharton's fiction.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 23, 2012

    The writing life, uncloseted

    In this orderly collection of autobiographical sketches Edith Wharton - generously and with nearly photographic recall - begins by inviting readers into her early life in nineteenth-century New York. We are treated to its cast of characters, old New York, country life up the Hudson River, the clothes, the houses, and the remarkable (and unremarkable) personalities - Washington Irving was a friend of the family - as well as the sensibilities of a sociable, bright, and wonderfully observant little girl.

    Edith began to read so early that it surprised her upper-class (but unintellectual) family. Before long she became an "omnivorous reader," happiest plowing through the volumes of the classics in her father's library. She soon found that she required time alone - to invent characters, to make up stories. She knew that she had to write fiction - from childhood on, despite realizing by young adulthood that "in the eyes of our provincial society authorship was still regarded as something between a black art and a form of manual labor." Of the social imperative to closet one's writing urges she elaborates: "My father and mother were only one generation away from Sir Walter Scott, who thought it necessary to drape his literary identity in countless clumsy subterfuges, and almost contemporary with the Brontes, who shrank in agony from being suspected of successful novel-writing." The idle rich, Wharton makes clear, were intended to stay idle - and not busy themselves with writing, especially for (horrors!) pay. Her descriptions of her early popular successes are memorable.

    In subsequent chapters Wharton lays out her well-thought-out opinions regarding childhood, self-discovery, the formation of the writer's imagination and intellect, and the importance of finding one's own way - as an intellectual and as a social being. There is dry humor, too. She treasured good literature and good conversation - and pursued (and found) them throughout her life. She loved beautiful things and places, too. Finally, she describes her sojourns abroad (mainly England, France, and Italy) and the relationships and places that sustained her and nurtured her creativity, her productivity - and her soul.

    Lifelong friends play a central role in much of this memoir. She describes people well, without breaches of privacy or confidences. This is not at all limiting. She writes tenderly of the blossoming of her friendship with "American gentleman" Egerton Winthrop, a man of "cultivated intelligence," a shy, physically awkward man whom Wharton considered "the most perfect of friends." Others were George Cabot Lee, Vernon Lee, Howard Sturgis, Geoffrey Scott, Percy Lubbock, and most of all, Henry James, who is drawn wonderfully (and not uncritically) in this book. Of her friendship with James she remarks "The real marriage of two minds is for any two people to possess a sense of humor or irony pitched in exactly the same key, so that their joint glances at any subject cross like interarching search-lights."

    I loved this memoir, and greatly admired Wharton's ability to reveal herself and her world so fully and well.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2013

    Never read it

    Never read it. Hope it is a good book!!!

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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