New for 2015

What’s new at The Mount for 2015?  Summer programming is back, SculptureNow returns, and we’re really excited about several new initiatives, including:

“The house and gardens being full of visitors enjoying this very special place that Edith Wharton created.” -Rebecka McDougall, Communications Director

“Easy! Being outside on the Terrace all day long – working in the Terrace Café!” -Lynn Sciacca, Café Manager

“I think I’m most excited to welcome people and activity back to the property. It gets lonely here in the winter months, without the constant stream of visitors passing through the gates, and I’m looking forward to unexpected encounters and conversations with both new and familiar faces.” -Kelsey Mullen, Director of Public Programs and Education

A colorful view of the Main House, by Grounds Superintendent, Chad Donovan-Hall.

A colorful view of the Main House by Chad Donovan-Hall, Grounds Superintendent at The Mount.

 

Edith Wharton’s Workshop

Last summer, when director Susan Wissler asked me to be this year’s writer-in-residence at The Mount, I replied with a laugh and a rapid-fire “yes, yes, yes.” When asked what room I wanted to occupy during my two-week residency, I also didn’t hesitate: the library, with its French doors opening to the wrap-around terrace and a view of the Berkshire mountains, the same view I’d tried to commit to memory on my first visit to The Mount in the summer of 2012.

That year, I gave a talk on my book, Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life, as part of The Mount’s Summer Lecture Series. I arrived on one of those liquid-gold July afternoons, the light shimmering on the landscape. My talk was held in the converted carriage house, where Wharton had originally stabled her horses and later parked her cars that she liked to take on expeditions along winding Berkshire roads. I remember the faces in the crowd that day, as the lights dimmed and the first of Clover’s photographs (she was a gifted photographer in the early 1880s) was projected on a nearby screen. After my talk and a gracious service of tea, I ambled down the road through a canopy of trees to Wharton’s white stucco, three-story mansion for a treat: dinner with guests on that terrace facing Laurel Lake and the mountains beyond.   A Palladian staircase off the terrace leads to a sunken garden and a second garden planned by Wharton’s niece, the gifted landscape designer Beatrix Ferrand. That evening, as I heard the wind whoosh through the evergreen trees, I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

It’s been more than six weeks now since I’ve returned home from my residency at The Mount. The weather has warmed and spring is here. But I think often of those days in cold, snowy March. I’ve worked in some beautiful spaces over the years: the main reading room of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., with its high ocular ceiling and iron clock; the stately reading room at the Massachusetts Historical Society; the small but perfectly proportioned room in the Sturgis Library on the Cape, with Captain Sturgis’ 19th c. book collection lining the walls. But spending ten days writing in Wharton’s library was different somehow.

Here was my pathway every morning on the mansion’s second floor from the servant’s kitchen through the formal dining room and living room to the library – the last window is one of the library’s French doors.

Dining Room

This view, where the axis of each room lines up with the next to form an enfilade or corridor, is a distinguishing feature of the house, borrowed from the grand European homes.

The library itself is not imposing. Like the other rooms, its size feels just right, conforming to how Wharton described what a library should be in chapter XII of her 1897 Decoration of Houses:

The general decoration of the library should be of such character as to form a background or setting to the books, rather than to distract attention from them. The richly adorned room in which books are but a minor incident is, in fact, no library at all.

Library

The furniture, rug, and curtains are not Wharton’s, but all the books that line the three walls between four French doors are hers. They are all “good editions in good bindings,” as she prescribes in Decoration, and were purchased back by The Mount in 2005. The story of that purchase is itself a fascinating tale, as told by one of my favorite writers, Rebecca Mead, in the April 28, 2008 issue of the New Yorker. Every once in a while even now, a book comes back. Wharton’s copy of Jane Eyre came back 2½ years ago. Madame Bovary is still missing.

Books

I put my writing desk and chair next to where Wharton had placed hers, catching the light on my left and facing the far wall lined with more books and punctuated by the fireplace where Wharton and Henry James, a frequent guest, would repair after dinner to read and gossip. Wharton didn’t write in the library. She wrote The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome, her best known novels from her time at The Mount, in her boudoir, where she liked to write in bed in the mornings. Even so, I got a small sense of what she saw when she was in her library. Mostly, I had the view I most wanted – the terrace, pine trees, and the mountains beyond. I didn’t even mind all the snow. It gave the landscape a hushed, less hectic aspect I found comforting. Plus, if I’d been able to open those doors, I wouldn’t have been able to resist going outside, and I’d come to The Mount to work.

Terrace

I was left quietly alone my first week, as I settled in to finish an article on 19th century pressed flower albums, which I’ve titled “Enduring Beauty.” What are pressed flower albums, you ask? Perhaps you’ve run across a pressed flower in a book of poems or a novel. Prior to the advent of photography in the mid-nineteenth century, young women were encouraged to keep flowers, plucked and pressed and put in albums, as a way to remember the places they’d visited or special occasions. I’d first seen an extraordinary 1839 example, with the colors of its daisies and primroses still detectable, at the Massachusetts Historical Society while doing research for my book on Clover. I couldn’t stop thinking of it—I found those bits and pieces of nature, flattened between pages and often accompanied by a poem, incredibly moving.

My first days I did a lot of up-down, up-down. I call it “writer’s vertigo.” But when that happened, I’d take down one of Wharton’s books (carefully, I promise) to steady me. Many are inscribed and still more have her markings in the margins. Books of poetry, theater, and science, particularly those on evolution; the classics; books on travel, history, philosophy; a Bible prayer book, biographies, and, of course, lots of novels: a whole collection of George Eliot and Henry James, to name just two writers. Hermione Lee, Wharton’s biographer, says that the “most revealing and moving pages in these marked-up books are where Wharton has paused over something that seems to give her advice, on how to live or how to write, or has marked something that speaks to her own circumstances.” A favorite example would have to be a mark next to this passage by Keats: “Do you see how necessary a world of pain and troubles is to school an Intelligence to make it a Soul?” At what point did Wharton make this mark? Hard to know, but his words spoke to her much as her words speak to us. As Lee remarks, “her library is…her education, her inspiration, and her workshop.”

Two weeks in Wharton’s workshop surrounded by the beauty of The Mount and the Berkshires – it’s enough to inspire. Happily, my article is just about ready to be sent out for review – I’ll be sure to post a link at this blog when it’s in print.

Many thanks to Susan Wissler and all the wonderful people who run The Mount (you know who you are)—for the opportunity to spend this time with you, for your encouraging words, cups of tea, and invitations to dinner. Thank you to Nynke Dorhout, librarian extraordinaire, who first invited me to The Mount and for her expertise about Wharton’s books. A special thanks to Naomi and Roger Gordon, who let me stay in their beautiful home nearby. You can find out more about my book on Clover Adams at nataliedykstra.com and can reach me by email at ndykstra@hope.edu.

One more item: The Mount will be accepting applications for next year’s writer-in-residency, starting July 1. Be sure to contact The Mount for more information, and good luck to all the applicants!

Photo credit: Ellen Dykstra

Photo credit: Ellen Dykstra

Natalie Dykstra is an Associate Professor of English at Hope College in Holland, MI. She teaches one semester a year, and in the spring and summer lives with her husband in Waltham, MA. Her first book, Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life, was nominated for the Massachusetts Book Award in 2013.

First Signs of Spring

After a particularly long winter, we were very excited to see the first signs of spring here at The Mount, including blue skies, pleasant temperatures, sprouting plants in Wharton’s gardens, and the arrival of Yarmey’s Window Cleaning Co. to wash away that winter grime!

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Berkshire Magazine May 2015

Berkshire Magazine

May 2015

                          “Living With Edith”

Out Traveler 4-29-15

Out Traveler

April 29, 2015

   “Spotlight on The Berkshires”

The Mount Welcomes Kate Bolick for a Reading & Celebration of her Bibliomemoir, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own

(Lenox, MA) —On May 15, The Mount will celebrate journalist and cultural critic Kate and the release of her book, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own. The evening starts at 5:00 p.m. and includes a reading by Bolick followed by a book signing and reception on The Mount’s Terrace. The Mount is located at 2 Plunkett Street in Lenox. For more information and to register, visit EdithWharton.org or call 413-551-5100.

Bolick first made waves with her powerful 2011 Atlantic cover story, “All the Single Ladies,” about the social and economic trends shaping America’s current romantic landscape. In Spinster, Bolick uses her personal experiences as a starting point.  She takes the reader through her intellectual and sexual coming of age to explore why she, and more than 100 million American women, remain unmarried. “Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence,” Bolick writes, “[and] govern her until they’re answered, even if the answers are nobody and never.” It’s time, Bolick argues, for this to change.

Bolick also introduces a cast of pioneering women from the last century who led lives of deliciously shocking modernity and whose genius, tenacity, and flair for drama have emboldened her to fashion a life on her own terms. Bolick calls these women her “Awakeners” and they include: journalist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton.

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, published by Crown, was released on April 21, 2015 has been garnering national attention including being named a New York Times Editor’s Choice.

“Kate has started a timely dialogue on relationships and why we might choose to remain single for creative reasons,” said Susan Wissler, executive director of The Mount. “I think Edith would have identified with Kate’s journey and would be pleased to know her difficult choices as a writer have proven inspirational to a new generation.”

Bolick has a long history with The Mount. In 2008, she wrote a story for Slate Magazine about the The Mount financial troubles. Her article helped bring the crisis to national attention. She has returned several times over the past three years, first as part of the 2012 Berkshire WordFest, next as a writer-in-residence, and most recently as host for last summer’s Touchstones series which featured Andre Dubus III and Jennifer Finney Boylan. Bolick and the Touchstones series will be returning in September 2015.

For images, additional information, and to attend the event, please contact: Rebecka McDougall rmcdougall@edithwharton.org.

ABOUT KATE BOLICK:

Kate Bolick is a contributing editor for The Atlantic, freelance writer for ELLE, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, and host of “Touchstones at The Mount,” an annual literary interview series at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home in Lenox, MA. Previously, she was executive editor of Domino and a columnist for The Boston Globe. She has appeared on NBC’s Today show, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and numerous NPR programs across the country. A recipient of a MacDowell fellowship, she holds a master’s in cultural criticism from New York University, where she also taught writing.

About The Mount:

The Mount is a National Historic Landmark and cultural center that celebrates the intellectual, artistic, and humanitarian legacy of Edith Wharton. We engage a diverse audience by providing context to Wharton’s life and achievements through our educational and public programs and the conservation and preservation of her historic estate and gardens.

Each year, The Mount is host to over 40,000 visitors. Daily tours of the property are offered May through October, with special events throughout the year. Annual summer programming includes a joint exhibit with SculptureNow, Wharton on Wednesdays, Music After Hours, and the celebrated Monday Lecture Series. Exhibitions explore themes from Wharton’s life and work.

For more information about The Mount, visit EdithWharton.org.

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New Faces at The Mount

April saw the arrival of glorious spring weather and a series of young, new faces at The Mount!  Berkshire students recently visited to work and study.

lenoxcrew1

On April 11, The Mount hosted The Lenox Crew Team’s Silent Auction and Wine/Beer Tasting fundraiser, in exchange for several days of spring grounds clean-up.

LenoxCrew4

The team – part of Lenox Memorial Middle and High School – helped The Mount’s Grounds Superintendent, Chad Donovan-Hall, gather sticks, branches, and other debris left over by various winter storms.

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And they did an excellent job!

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Afterward, they spent some quality time with The Mount’s unofficial mascot, Pippy!

Working on their portfolios

On April 17, students from Miss Hall’s AP Art class visited The Mount.

Miss Hall's AP Art Class

Within Wharton’s beautiful mansion, they worked on their portfolios.

The Mount Announces Winners of 2015 Edith Wharton Writing Competition

(Lenox, MA) – The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home proudly congratulates the winners of the 16th annual Edith Wharton Writing Competition. The Mount and The Berkshire Eagle established the writing competition in 1998, in honor of Edith Wharton’s remarkable legacy, and in support and recognition of emerging young writers in her beloved Berkshire region and the surrounding area. This year’s writing competition is sponsored by Berkshire Life, the Feigenbaum Foundation, and the local cultural councils of Great Barrington, Lenox, New Marlborough, Northern Berkshire, Richmond, and Stockbridge.

The 2015 competition invited students from grades 9-12 to submit entries in fiction and poetry categories. Karen Shepard, an author and professor at Williams College, and Simon’s Rock professor Peter Filkins served as judges. The Mount offered particular encouragement to Berkshire County teachers and their students, and special recognition goes to Monument Mountain Regional High School and Taconic High School as the two Berkshire County schools with for the most submissions. The Mount received a record-breaking 159 entries from twenty seven schools. The student winners represent the towns of Becket, Lee, Pittsfield, Sheffield, and Stockbridge among others.

The 2015 winners are:

11th and 12th First-Prize $250 Awards

Joscie Norris, Westover School – Poetry

Emma Lezberg, Pittsfield High School – Fiction

11th and 12th Second-Prize $150 Awards

Samantha Westwood, Rockville High School – Poetry

Samantha Reagan, Berkshire School – Fiction

9th and 10th First-Prize $200 Awards

Alexandra Ose, Rockville High School – Poetry

Sophia Cohen, Monument Mountain Regional High School – Fiction

9th and 10th Second-Prize $100 Awards

Amanda Adams, Hampshire Regional High School – Poetry

Isabelle Morley, Monument Mountain Regional High School – Fiction

9th and 10th Honorable Mention Gift Awards

Tagan Mundy, Monument Mountain Regional High School – Fiction

The Mount invites all participating students, their families and teachers, and the general public to attend an awards ceremony at The Mount on Sunday, April 26, 2014 from 2-4 p.m. The program will open with remarks by Brendan Matthews, a published author and faculty member in the Languages & Literature department at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. Awardees will be presented with prizes totaling $1,500 and will be invited to read their winning works aloud. Following the ceremony there will be a reception with light refreshments. This event is free. For more information and to reserve your space, please contact Kelsey Mullen at 413-551-5110.

About The Mount:

The Mount is a National Historic Landmark and cultural center that celebrates the intellectual, artistic, and humanitarian legacy of Edith Wharton. We engage a diverse audience by providing context to Wharton’s life and achievements through our educational and public programs and the conservation and preservation of her historic estate and gardens.

Each year, The Mount welcomes over 40,000 visitors. Daily tours of the property are offered May through October, with special programs and events throughout the year. Annual summer programming includes a joint exhibit with SculptureNow, Wharton on Wednesdays, Music After Hours, and the celebrated Monday Lecture Series. Exhibitions explore themes from Wharton’s life and work.

The Mount is located at 2 Plunkett Street in Lenox, MA. For additional information about The Mount, visit EdithWharton.org.

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Literary Death Match returns for another knockout show at The Mount

(Lenox, MA) On April 24, literary nerds will assemble for another round of the high-energy reading series Literary Death Match at The Mount: Edith Wharton’s Home in Lenox, Massachusetts. Four authors will read original work before a panel of three all-star judges. Performances will be judged on literary merit, performance style, and intangible factors. Participants include Jedediah Berry, Arda Collins, Ron Currie Jr., Paul La Farge, Courtney Maum, Sue Smith and Jenny Zigrino. Doors open at 7:30 and the show begins at 8:00; tickets are $20 in advance and $22 at the door. A cash bar will be available. For tickets or more information, visit EdithWharton.org or call 413-551-5100.

Since its creation in 2006, Literary Death Match has been performed over 1,000 times in over 50 cities across the globe. Each episode features a unique line-up of established poets, writers, and comedians reading their original work and is hosted by Literary Death Match co-creator Adrian Todd Zuniga. Judges offer critique and select their favorite two writers to advance to the finals. The two finalists then compete in the Literary Death Match finale, which trades in the show’s literary sensibility for a comical climax to determine who takes home the Literary Death Match crown. The LA Times has called this spectacle “The most entertaining reading series ever.” It may sound like a circus — and that’s half the point. Literary Death Match is passionate about exploring new and innovative ways to present text off the page, and the most fascinating part about the show is how seriously attentive the audience is during each reading.

The Mount first collaborated with Literary Death Match for Berkshires Ep. 1 as part of Berkshire WordFest in 2013, and Rural Intelligence called the evening one of the “most memorable parties of the year.” “We welcomed a sold out crowd two years ago, and many people left with a new book or the name of a new author to explore,” said Susan Wissler, executive Director of The Mount. “Literary Death Match reinforced the notion that literature and entertainment can and do co-exist.”

About The Mount:

The Mount is a National Historic Landmark and cultural center that celebrates the literary, artistic, and humanitarian legacy of Edith Wharton. We engage a diverse audience by providing context to Wharton’s life and achievements through our educational and public programs and the conservation and preservation of her historic estate and gardens.

Each year, The Mount is host to over 40,000 visitors. Daily tours of the property are offered May through October, with special events and programs throughout the year. Annual summer programming includes a joint exhibit with SculptureNow, Wharton on Wednesdays, Music After Hours, and the celebrated Monday Lecture Series. Exhibitions explore themes from Wharton’s life and work.

For more information, visit EdithWharton.org.

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New Opportunities for Engagement at The Mount this Season

Furnishings and Admission Policy will Create New Opportunities for Engagement at The Mount

(Lenox, MA) The Mount is pleased to announce two initiatives that will engage our audiences in new ways this season. The first is a partnership with the Preservation Society of Newport County that includes a loan of period furniture and paintings from its collection. The other is a new admission policy that welcomes visitors back to the property for up to seven days. The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home, is located in the Berkshires of Western MA. Hours, directions and a full calendar of events can be found at EdithWharton.org.

The Preservation Society of Newport County has partnered with The Mount on a loan of period furniture and paintings from its collection to assist in the interpretation of Edith Wharton’s home. This loan makes it possible for new audiences to see and enjoy them. The pieces selected are stylistically linked to the type of furnishings that Wharton used at The Mount, and reflect the widespread influence of her 1897 book, The Decoration of Houses, on interiors in Newport and beyond.

“Historic house museums like the Newport Mansions and The Mount play an important role in educating the public about America’s architectural, social and artistic heritage,” said Preservation Society CEO & Executive Director Trudy Coxe.  “This collaboration is especially appropriate because of Edith Wharton’s early connections to Newport, and so we are happy to be able to contribute to telling her story.”

In addition to the furnishings, The Mount has also acquired a set of Edith Wharton first editions. The books will be displayed in a newly crafted interactive exhibit dedicated to Wharton’s literary legacy. This exhibit will discuss themes in her work and how they stand the test of time as well as her modern appeal and influence on new generations of writers. Visitors will be able to browse the first editions at their leisure so they can experience Wharton’s words through a publication issued during Wharton’s lifetime.

The second initiative focused on audience engagement is a new approach to general admissions. Starting in May, adult admission to The Mount will be $18 and include access to the house, gardens, and exhibits for up to seven days from the date of purchase. According to recent visitor surveys, the average visit to the property is over four hours. This policy is intended to allow for deeper visitor engagement, without time constraints.

“We are looking to make meaningful, personal connections with our visitors. Encouraging people to spend more time on the property—interacting with Wharton’s story through her work, period objects, and the beauty of The Mount—is the greatest way can foster these connections,” said Susan Wissler, executive director.

About the Preservation Society of Newport County

The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a non-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history.  Its 11 historic properties–seven of them National Historic Landmarks–span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.

For more information, please visit NewportMansions.org

About The Mount:

The Mount is a National Historic Landmark and cultural center that celebrates the intellectual, artistic, and humanitarian legacy of Edith Wharton. We engage a diverse audience by providing context to Wharton’s life and achievements through our educational and public programs and the conservation and preservation of her historic estate and gardens.

Each year, The Mount is host to over 40,000 visitors. Daily tours of the property are offered May through October, with special events throughout the year. Annual summer programming includes a joint exhibit with SculptureNow, Wharton on Wednesdays, Music After Hours, and the celebrated Monday Lecture Series. Exhibitions explore themes from Wharton’s life and work.

For more information, visit EdithWharton.org.

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