Edith Wharton

(24 January 1862 – 11 August 1937 / New York City / United States)

Quotations

  • ''There is too much sour grapes for my taste in the present American attitude. The time to denounce the bankers was when we were all feeding off their gold plate; not now! At present they have not only my sympathy but my preference. They are the last representatives of our native industries.''
    Edith Wharton (1862-1937), U.S. author. letter, Feb. 11, 1934. The Letters of Edith Wharton (1988). The letter was written during the economic crisis following the 1929 Wall Street crash.
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  • ''There's no such thing as old age, there is only sorrow.''
    Edith Wharton (1862-1937), U.S. author. "A First Word," A Backward Glance (1934).
  • ''I am secretly afraid of animals.... I think it is because of the usness in their eyes, with the underlying not-usness which belies it, and is so tragic a reminder of the lost age when we human beings branched off and left them: left them to eternal inarticulateness and slavery. Why? their eyes seem to ask us.''
    Edith Wharton (1862-1937), U.S. author; later relocated to France. Part 6. As quoted in Edith Wharton, by R.W.B. Lewis (1975). From a journal entry dated 1924.
  • ''The American landscape has no foreground and the American mind no background.''
    Edith Wharton (1862-1937), U.S. author; relocated to France. As quoted in Edith Wharton, ch. 9, by R. W. B. Lewis (1985). In a letter written to her friend Sara Norton in the early 1900s.
  • ''I have been spending my first night in an American "summer hotel," and I despair of the Republic! Such dreariness, such whining callow women, such utter absence of the amenities, such crass food, crass manners, crass landscape!... What a horror it is for a whole nation to be developing without a sense of beauty, and eating bananas for breakfast.''
    Edith Wharton (1862-1937), U.S. author; relocated to France. As quoted in Edith Wharton, ch. 9, by R. W. B. Lewis (1975). Written in August 1904 to her friend Sara Norton after Wharton's car broke down in Petersham, Massachusetts, and she was forced to stay at a "fashionable" new hotel called the Nichewang. Wharton came from a privileged background, had elegant taste, and lived lavishly. Beginning in the early 1900s, she spent most of her time in Paris.
  • ''... how I understand that love of living, of being in this wonderful, astounding world even if one can look at it only through the prison bars of illness and suffering! Plus je vois, the more I am thrilled by the spectacle.''
    Edith Wharton (1862-1937), U.S. author; relocated to France. As quoted in Edith Wharton, ch. 9, by R. W. B. Lewis (1985). In a letter written to her friend Sara Norton in spring 1906, commenting on a mutual friend who was seriously ill yet still spirited.
  • ''Almost everybody in the neighborhood had "troubles," frankly localized and specified; but only the chosen had "complications." To have them was in itself a distinction, though it was also, in most cases, a death warrant. People struggled on for years with "troubles," but they almost always succumbed to "complications."''
    Edith Wharton (1862-1937), U.S. author. Ethan Frome, ch. 7 (1911).
  • ''When people ask for time, it's always for time to say no. Yes has one more letter in it, but it doesn't take half as long to say.''
    Edith Wharton (1862-1937), U.S. author. Judith, in The Children, ch. 25 (1928).
  • ''A New York divorce is in itself a diploma of virtue.''
    Edith Wharton (1862-1937), U.S. author. The Descent of Man, ch. 1 (1904).
  • ''I despair of the Republic! Such dreariness, such whining sallow women, such utter absence of the amenities, such crass food, crass manners, crass landscape!!... What a horror it is for a whole nation to be developing without the sense of beauty, & eating bananas for breakfast.''
    Edith Wharton (1862-1937), U.S. author. letter, Aug. 19, 1904, to Sara Norton, daughter of distinguished scholar Charles Eliot Norton. The Letters of Edith Wharton (1988).

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A Failure

(She Speaks.)


I MEANT to be so strong and true!
The world may smile and question, When?
But what I might have been to you
I cannot be to other men.
Just one in twenty to the rest,
And all in all to you alone, -

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