The Perfect Gift: A Private Library Tour

Looking for the perfect gift for the person in your life who has everything? Consider giving the one-of-a-kind experience of a private tour of Edith Wharton’s personal library at The Mount. The Mount’s librarian, Nynke Dorhout, will share with guests the remarkable inscriptions and annotations of Wharton’s 2,700 volumes, dating from the 1500’s to the 1930’s, including her own works, historic volumes of fiction, poetry, science and theater, and works of her close friends, such as Henry James and Theodore Roosevelt. This is a unique and memorable gift for a friend, family member, or yourself!

Librarian Nynke Dorhout: “I always look forward to giving a private tour. Every tour is different, very personal, and I often tailor the visit to people’s specific interests. Sometimes guests get emotional, overwhelmed and surprised by the intense presence of Edith Wharton, and that is totally fine. Everyone is touched by the way the library reveals Wharton’s most intimate thoughts and brings her so much closer, whether she was a young girl underlining her favorite German poets or annotating her own Bible; showing her humorous side by sly remarks and poems penciled in the back; or marking her final, most essential thoughts during the last few months of her life. The library is often called her ‘autobiography in books,’ and the books truly make you feel that you get to know and understand Edith Wharton in a way nothing else can, not even her own work. It is truly an unforgettable experience.”

Click here for more information about private library tours!

Photo by David Dashiell.

Photo by David Dashiell.

Edith Wharton in her library at The Mount.

Edith Wharton in her library at The Mount.

 

Wee Wharton Book Charms

We sat down with Retail Manager Patricia Pin for an exclusive Q&A about the newest product at The Mount’s gift shop, Pins and Pegs!

Patricia, I know you have been getting ready for the holiday gift season. Tell us about the gift shop’s newest products!

Patricia Pin: I am very excited about our latest offering, a series of miniature books made by an American artist. They’ll feature mostly first edition dust jackets of Edith Wharton’s works, nonfiction to fiction to novellas to short story collections. We have two sizes available: the large, which is 1.25 inches, and small, which is 7/8 of an inch. The smaller size is great for jewelry, if you don’t mind wearing miniature books on your ears and around your neck and around your wrists! I have to say I’m having a lot of fun wearing a sample pair of earrings with a 1930’s cover of Ethan Frome, complete with wee baroque pearls. We have made limited edition Christmas tree ornaments out of the larger books, looped with hemp and either copper, gold, or silver metallic wire. It comes with a little clothespin to attach to your tree in honor of our Pins and Pegs store.

How did you come up with the idea?

PP: A guest came in the fall with a handmade leather bound journal on a chain around her neck, maybe 1 ½ to 2 inches high. It was spectacular, made from a recycled Louis Vuitton bag. I was mesmerized by this idea of wearing a book around your neck. So I went immediately to Etsy, which has all handcrafted things by artisans and artists, and in the process of looking I came across the miniature artist, David Curd.   What caught my eye is that he had mostly nineteenth century dust jackets of some of my favorite authors. I ordered my own miniature copy of Pride and Prejudice to see the quality; they’re actually made out of wood. So, I sent him a dust jacket scan from our collection, and he reproduced it faithfully on this teeny tiny little book, so much so that you can read the writing; you can actually see Edith Wharton’s photograph on the back of this Ethan Frome, for example. Since he did not have any Wharton titles on his site, he has agreed to do these exclusively for us. You can only get your miniature Edith Wharton library from our Pins and Pegs store.

What do you think will make this product so unique to people coming to shop at Pins and Pegs?

PP: Edith Wharton published over forty volumes of work and we have many of the first edition dust jackets here, some of which are rare and very, very hard to find. These are archived and not accessible to the public. What fun to have a pristine dust jacket on a tiny book representative of Edith Wharton’s library that we have here. A teeny wearable piece of history!

What else can visitors expect from The Mount’s shop in the New Year?

PP: I’ve noticed that our biggest sales, notwithstanding the Edith Wharton titles, have been products that are specific to The Mount. We want to give people what they’re looking for, mementos they may take with them to remind them of Wharton’s spectacular place. I’d like to build upon the relationships we have with local artisans and promote their work, and at the same time, continue to promote Edith Wharton’s legacy, as well as build a memorable Mount brand.

Click here to browse the Pins and Pegs online store, but hurry! The Christmas ornaments are limited edition for the 2014 season.

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The Wharton Salon Returns!

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Corinna May. Photo by Kevin Sprague.

We’re very excited to have The Wharton Salon return to The Mount this week for their holiday run!

The Wharton Salon will be performing adaptations of two Edith Wharton short stories, The Long Run and The Rembrandt, in Wharton’s very own Drawing Room.

To purchase tickets, click here or call 1-800-838-3006.

Note: Tonight’s performance (September 26) has been cancelled, due to dangerous weather conditions.

Victorian Boudoir: Halloween Masquerade at The Mount

This post was contributed by Grace Leathrum, The Mount’s Special Events Coordinator.

This year, for the first time ever, we partnered up with the party people from Berkshire Shenanigans who are known for their Halloween fêtes to bring you Victorian Boudoir: Halloween Masquerade at The Mount. We’ve had dreams of a Halloween Masquerade floating around for years, but it took the perfect partners to make it happen. Together we transformed The Mount into a spookier, sultrier version of itself so that 250 guests could dance the night away. We had the help of some amazing vendors. Classical Tents provided all the rentals. DJ BFG kept the dance floor packed with a mix of current and 80’s favorites. How We Roll served up some sorcery in an egg-roll. The talented and incredibly balanced Terri Moore dazzled guests with her stilt skills. Last but definitely not least, Ogden Gigli was there to snap some super cool shots of our party-goers. For the full album check out our Facebook. Feel free to tag your friends and share, share, share!

Cheers,

Grace

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The Mount’s Staff and the Berkshire Shenanigans crew.

The Mount’s Staff and the Berkshire Shenanigans crew.

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What Did She Really Mean By That?

This post was contributed by Meredith Goldsmith, President of the Edith Wharton Society.  Meredith did research in Wharton’s library in October.

“What did she really mean by that?”

Walt Whitman's image in 1855, included in the 1897 edition of Leaves of Grass, owned by Edith Wharton.

Fig 1: Walt Whitman’s image in 1855, included in the 1897 edition of Leaves of Grass, owned by Edith Wharton.

At some point, almost every reader has asked this question about an author; it’s a question that keeps students engaged and English professors in business. We typically tell students that such questions are impossible to answer, that intentionality is an outworn concept. Yet visits to author’s archives and libraries, such as my recent research visit to Edith Wharton’s library in The Mount, tell a different story. While the texts in Wharton’s library can’t tell us “what she really meant by that,” they complicate this already complicated riddle, challenging us to think about a writer’s context, about what her intentions might be, and about the significance of the books with which she surrounded herself and the role of those books in her life.

I came to The Mount with the specific intention of researching Wharton’s annotations in her copies of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and other books she owned about the poet. It was my first visit to Wharton’s library, which I only knew via the bibliography compiled by George Ramsden, the bookseller who acquired and catalogued the 2,700 books that Wharton left to her godson, Colin Clark (the son of art historian Kenneth Clark). However, Ramsden made only minimal annotations in his bibliography; we know what books Wharton owned and have a basic sense of books with which she was particularly engaged, but we don’t know much more than that.

Until I sat down with Wharton’s copy of Leaves of Grass, all I knew was that she was a passionate reader of Whitman’s poetry, as biographer Hermione Lee tells us and as Wharton recounts in her letters and autobiography. Her fiction occasionally attests to her engagement with Whitman’s poetry, when characters read or study Whitman, or when the protagonist of the novella The Spark, on which I am currently writing a book chapter, realizes that he was nursed by Whitman in the Civil War. I didn’t come to understand the depths of Wharton’s interaction with Whitman’s poems until I held her copy of Leaves of Grass in my hands at The Mount two weeks ago.

Wharton's underlining in Whitman's poem "I Sing the Body Electric."

Fig 2: Wharton’s underlining in Whitman’s poem “I Sing the Body Electric.”

Wharton owned two editions of the poems, one published in 1897 and one in 1916. The first, which she heavily annotated, was given to her by her dear friend Walter Berry and contains his inscription, a quote from Leaves of Grass. The table of contents is full of tick marks, indicating poems that Wharton and her friends may have read aloud at The Mount. More compelling, though, are the markings Wharton made throughout the text. They demonstrate that Wharton read Leaves of Grass actively; on page after page, one finds vertical lines next to passages Wharton seems to have particularly admired. Significantly, many of the passages she marked concern the body and sexuality: in “I Sing the Body Electric,” Wharton underlined the following verse: “The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body” (l. 158). In “Song of Myself,” she notes the famous first line of stanza 28: “Is this then a touch? Quivering me to a new identity” (l. 619). That Wharton annotated these passages, like many others, prompts us to question assumptions we might have about the author’s straitlaced conservatism. Wharton seems to have embraced the physicality Whitman celebrated in his poetry. Working in the archive can be a tactile experience, as we hold books in our hands and let our fingers linger over the pages; as I went through Leaves of Grass page by page,I received visceral evidence of Wharton’s material engagement with these poems.

Working through Wharton’s texts, I found many other compelling discoveries. Wharton owned two of the most important American texts produced about Whitman in the early twentieth century: Horace Traubel’s With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906; 1908) and Bliss Perry’s Walt Whitman: His Life and Work (1906). These two were annotated carefully. The passages Wharton marked suggested that she was engaged with Whitman’s persona, how he constructed himself as a celebrity, but also with the ambiguity of his identity: in one line she marked in Traubel’s book, she noted the poet’s observation that “I meet new Walt Whitmans every day. There are a dozen of me afloat. I don’t know which Walt Whitman I am.” Wharton too would become a celebrity sensitive to the many images of her circulated through popular culture, and perhaps she identified with Whitman, who actively worked to control his perception in the public eye.

So, “what did she really mean by that?” The lesson of the archives is that we’ll never really know. New pieces of evidence force us to revisit old ones; objects we find generate more questions than answers. After Lily Bart’s death in The House of Mirth (1905), Laurence Selden ruminates on the nature of evidence, wondering whether the letter he has found from Lily to Gus Trenor “explains the mystery [of her death] or deepens it.” The more we learn about Wharton’s reading–made possible by the library at The Mount and the dedicated archivist who maintains it—the deeper the mysteries of her creativity. My first visit to the library only deepened my curiosity about how and why Wharton was driven to create, and I hope that other visitors—scholars, students, and lifelong lovers of literature–will take advantage of this unparalleled opportunity to learn.

Meredith Goldsmith is an Associate Professor of English at Ursinus College, President of the Edith Wharton Society, and Editor of the Edith Wharton Review. Her scholarship on Wharton has appeared in modern fiction studies, American Literary Realism 1880-1920, and Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers.

Thanks For a Great Season!

Happy November! We have closed our doors for daily tours, but we’re busy getting ready for the colder months, winterizing the house and gardens, planning programs for early 2015, and preparing our end-of-year appeal.

Before too much time passes, we want to thank everyone for a wonderful season.

In 2014:

We welcomed over 40,000 visitors.

13 couples said “I do” on the grounds.

We partnered with The Nutrition Center for our first ever children’s camp.

SculptureNow returned with “Common Ground,” an exhibit that saw 25 new sculptures calling The Mount home for six months.

Shakespeare and Company also returned, this time with a riveting production of Romeo and Juliet.

The month of May brought the grand opening of a new kitchen exhibit, along with a new guided tour of the servants’ wing of the house.

We launched a successful new literary series in August where journalist Kate Bolick interviewed four contemporary writers on the high and low points of their careers.

The Mount was named a top ten house tour by Fodor’s.com, a top nine house museum to visit by The Boston Globe, and one of the creepiest literary haunts in the U.S by Fox News.

TripAdvisor recognized House Manager Laurie Foote with a pin of excellence for her wonderful customer service.

After a devastating storm in June left the flower garden severely damaged, The Mount was able to raise $80,000, thanks to our community of members, donors, and supporters. Our team of gardeners, landscapers, and facilities staff quickly repaired the damage and the garden has never looked better!

Join our mailing list to hear what’s planned for 2015!

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Photo by Donna DeMari.

Photo by Donna DeMari.

Photo by John Seakwood.

Photo by John Seakwood.

Photo by John Seakwood.

Photo by John Seakwood.

Photo by John Seakwood.

Photo by John Seakwood.

Photo by Lynne Tucker.

Photo by Lynne Tucker.

Boston Globe 8-10-14

 

bostonglobeBoston Globe

August 10, 2014

     “The Great Historic House Museum Debate”

2014 Paranormal Recap

Happy Halloween!

The Mount had a wonderfully spooky 2014 season and, as promised, here is a recap of recent supernatural encounters.

Starting in September, tour guides began hearing strange sounds, specifically a big bang in the Main House and in the hayloft of the Stable. It may not have seemed out of the ordinary to those unfamiliar with the property, but our guides knew it was not a natural occurrence!

“As a ghost tour guide I try to stay open and aware to the different ways our ghostly occupants choose to communicate,” said guide Marge Cox. “On our last tour, while in Mrs. Wharton’s bedroom, I heard my name called right behind my ear.  I turned and asked my fellow guide Travis, ‘Did you call me?’  No, he said.  I knew then that it was one of our ghosts acknowledging our presence. “

Other unexplained encounters this season…

One a recent evening, a visitor caught someone peering out of the upstairs window of the Stable.

Another visitor felt her cane shaking under her hand for no apparent reason and she was filled with a very strange sensation.

And another visitor had just arrived at the top of the third floor staircase when she felt something, or someone, pushing her forward.

And last but not least, what we hear the most often from our Mount ghost tours, technical difficulties! Guests reported having trouble with their phones and cameras, being unable to take pictures. Maybe The Mount’s resident spirits are not ready for their close up!

Even though a good number of guests report problems with their cameras, there are a lucky few who have managed to capture a shot or two. Take a look below and decide for yourself, is The Mount haunted?

 

An outline of a woman above the tub in the Henry James Suite.  Photo by Colin Dermody.

An outline of a woman above the tub in the Henry James Suite. Photo by Colin Dermody.

A possible dog face in the clouds.  Photo by Robert Oakes.

A possible dog face in the clouds. Photo by Robert Oakes.

Orb in Edith Wharton's boudoir.  Photo by Stephanie Kolonkowski.

Orb in Edith Wharton’s boudoir. Photo by Stephanie Kolonkowski.

A possible apparition in the Stable.  Photo by Lisa Perkins.

A possible apparition in the Stable. Photo by Lisa Perkins.

A possible woman's face in the fireplace.  Photo by Maria Rudden.

Possibly a woman’s face in the fireplace. Photo by Maria Rudden.

Teddy Wharton lit up in the photograph on the wall.  Photo by Rene Brouillard.

Teddy Wharton lit up in the photograph on the wall. Photo by Rene Brouillard.

A shape in the Henry James Suite.  Photo by Merrybeth Lannon.

A shape in the Henry James Suite. Photo by Merrybeth Lannon.

Figure in Edith Wharton's bathroom window.  Photo by Laurie Sutherland.

Figure in Edith Wharton’s bathroom window. Photo by Laurie Sutherland.

Another figure in Edith Wharton's bathroom window.  Photo by Julie Williamson

Another figure in Edith Wharton’s bathroom window. Photo by Julie Williamson

Berkshire Eagle 10-18-14

 

Berkshire Eagle

October 18, 2014

“Berkshire Haunts Host Ghost Tours For the Brave”

Edith Wharton and the Lizzie Borden murder case

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The Borden House in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Edith Wharton authored numerous ghost stories, but did you know she wrote murder tales, as well?

“Wharton’s fixation on the woman who takes on a new identity to get away from her (supposedly) criminal past resurfaced…in a plan to rework the notorious Lizzie Borden story, a favourite American murder-trial,” says Hermione Lee in her biography of Wharton.

Lizzie Borden’s story has fascinated Americans ever since the news came out on August 4, 1892 that Abby and Andrew Borden were found murdered at the family’s home in Fall River, Massachusetts. Their daughter, Lizzie, was tried for the murders and it was this murder case that Wharton initially planned to turn into a play called Kate Spain.

Instead, the play turned into a short story, “Confession,” in which a New York banker falls in love with a young American woman named Mrs. Kate Ingram, whom he meets at a hotel in the French Alps. What he doesn’t know is that Mrs. Kate Ingram is actually Kate Spain, a woman tried for murdering her father (although Wharton had said of her original play idea, “My young woman could quite as well have murdered an intolerable husband”).

Lizzie Borden and Kate Spain were both acquitted of murder charges.  But while Kate Spain fled the country, procured a new identity, and married, Lizzie Borden remained in Fall River as a spinster and was never quite forgiven by the town folk.

This Halloween, visitors to Fall River can spend the night in the room where Lizzie allegedly killed her step-mother with a hatchet, and enjoy the same breakfast the family ate on the morning of August 4, 1892. Those who can’t get away can create their own eerie experience by reading Wharton’s murder tale that was based on a true story.