Edith Wharton in France

Edith Wharton in France

Claudine Lesage


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Using previously unexamined and untranslated French sources, Claudine Lesage has illuminated the intertwined characters and important relationships of Wharton’s French life. The bulk of the new material comes from the daybooks of Paul and Minnie Bourget; Wharton’s letters (in French) to Léon Bélugou; and the author’s personal research in Hyères. Highlights include letters used in Wharton’s divorce proceedings and a mysterious autobiographical essay written by Wharton’s lover Morton Fullerton. Most significantly, Wharton’s friendship with Bélugou, absent from most Wharton biographies, is, for the first time, fully recounted through their extensive intimate correspondence. The year 1907 was a milestone in Edith Wharton’s life and work. Unlike Joseph Conrad, who had, virtually overnight, forsaken his native land for an adopted one, Mrs. Wharton’s transition required several years of shuttling back and forth across the Atlantic. At first, all of Europe beckoned to her, but, from 1907 on, Wharton would claim Paris and, after the war, the French countryside as her home. All the while, her work, long regarded as being exclusively American, followed a similar trajectory.