Edith Wharton Letters to Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Austin
Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Edith Wharton was an American novelist, short story writer, and landscape designer. In 1901 she built "The Mount," her estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, and primary residence till 1911. When her marriage deteriorated, Wharton decided to move permanently to France, living at 58 Rue de Varenne, Paris. In 1912 she published her best-known work, Ethan Frome. Throughout World War I she championed charitable efforts for refugees and, in 1916, was named a Chevalier of the "Legion of Honor" in recognition of her commitment to the displaced. After the war Wharton divided her time between Paris and Hyères, in Provence, where she finished her book The Age of Innocence in 1920 (winner 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature.) In 1927 she purchased a villa on the site of a seventheenth-century convent in the hills above the city of Hyères in Provence, where she lived during the winters and springs. She called the villa "Sainte-Claire du Chateau" and filled the garden with cactus and subtropical plants. She returned to the United States only once after the war to receive an honorary doctorate degree from Yale University in 1923. Wharton spoke flawless French, and many of her books were published in both French and English. She was friend and confidante to many intellectuals of her time such as Jean Cocteau, André Gide, Henry James, and Sinclair Lewis.
Alfred Austin was an English poet, who was appointed Poet Laureate in 1896 upon the death of Tennyson. Among his works are Pacchiarotto, Prince Lucifer, and The Human Tragedy (1862). His autobiography was published in 1911.
The collection consists of twenty-seven autograph letters and note cards sent by Edith Wharton to her English friends, poet Alfred Austin and his wife, Hester Austin. Wharton usually startseach letter by thanking the Austins for their letters and their hospitality. The body of her letters are full of details about her life, her estate at "The Mount", her husband, Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton, their many travels to Europe and England, the death of her husband's mother which was followed by Edward's mental problems, her marital problems, and the collapse of her marriage. Wharton also talks about her apartment at Rue Varenne in Paris, which was purchased and decorated with the help of her brother after her divorce, and about her charitable relief efforts to help the refugees during World War I. Other topics of Wharton's letters include books that she sent the Austins, literary works by other authors, Alfred Austin's writings, and news of her close friend, the British author Henry James. Wharton consistently used French words and expressions in her letters.
In addition, the collection also includes a quitclaim deed to property on Sixth Avenue in New York City, signed by Wharton and dated 1920.
Folders are organized by accession number.
The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.
The quitclaim deed was purchased in December 1946.
The letters were purchased in November 1965. AM13257, 18731.
This collection was processed by Dina Britain on August 29, 2008. Finding aid written by Dina Britain on September 9, 2008. Folder Inventory added by Hilde Creager (2015) in 2012.
No appraisal information is available.
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The collection is open for research.
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