Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Age of Mirth, The House of Innocence

Mrs. Wharton, scratching her head in wonder at her future literary reputation.

My husband read an article about New England writers' house museums in this morning's online Boston Globe, and eagerly called my attention to this choice paragraph as soon as I awoke and tottered to my own laptop:

You may need to be a Globe subscriber to follow the link, but this was the part you didn't want to miss. Along with Wharton's house, The Mount, and Melville's Arrowhead, the article covered Orchard House (the Alcotts), the Emily Dickinson Museum, H.W. Longfellow's House, the Mark Twain House, and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.

I encourage you to visit all of those — why not every house museum in New England while you're at it? Visiting an author's house is magical: it not only takes you back in time, it also gives you a different, deeper connection to the books, enriching your experience whenever you read them afterwards. I love house museums of all kinds, and I'll be telling you more about Back Bay's own "literary" townhouse museum in the near future. I've been to many of the museums listed above and find it difficult to choose a favorite. You will have a great time.

For the record, Edith Wharton wrote The House of Mirth at The Mount. It seems that the author of the article, Globe correspondent Daniel Grant, was shocked to learn that she wrote about Manhattan while living in the country — although key scenes take place in elegant country houses; rich New Yorkers escaped to them then, just as now.  I suspect Mr. Grant (who in my mind resembles Hugh Grant) had to sit down (not on the antique museum furniture, please!) when he discovered that she had also set her story several decades earlier, too. What might he have done if he'd absorbed the fact that Wharton wrote The Age of Innocence (1920, Pulitzer Prize), another superb novel set in New York during the Gilded Age, after moving to France? But, by his logic, she could have written her own Society version of Moby Dick while on the boat crossing.

I suspect that Mr. Grant does his best work when he stays at home.

1 comment:

  1. Love this. I would also love to visit EVERY historic house museum in New England! =)

    I recently read Age of Innocence while I was in GERMANY (gasp). Did I commit a cardinal sin?

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