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Why Ethan Frome is Actually Great Beach Reading

The following blog post was contributed by Miranda Cooper, a student at Williams College and seasonal tour guide at The Mount. Picture1

Sometimes our visitors put hard-hitting questions to the staff here, questions like, “Is Wharton readable?” or “Is she any fun?” Many of us happen to think so, but the question is a good one worth a careful answer. While hardly bodice-rippers, Wharton’s titles aren’t squarely academic either and most are surprisingly readable. If you’re not afraid of an SAT word here or there, most find the themes she wrote about 100 years ago hold up pretty well.

But this leads us to a more complex question: must a book be fun to be considered pleasure reading? Rebecca Mead (who spoke at The Mount on July 21!), who wrote an excellent piece in The New Yorker, addresses just this.

Mead shares the experience of perusing an old journal in which she recorded her reading list between ages 17 and 21, and her list skews decidedly… heavy. Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Joyce, James, Rushdie, and Calvino. Mead readily admits that her literature survey as a young woman led her primarily to the classics rather than guilty pleasures, but then points to something delicious: it is very possible to derive pleasure not just from reading something fun but from reading “to become well read.”

So, maybe you can bring Ethan Frome to the beach? Toss it in next to the sunscreen because as Mead maintains, “…there are pleasures to be had from books beyond being lightly entertained. There is the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one’s range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation.”

Picture2Ethan Frome certainly fits these criteria. So perhaps we can conclude that Edith Wharton’s oeuvre sits comfortably in both the popular and literary camps, if we accept Mead’s insightful definition of pleasure reading. And if you do need something a little more lighthearted than Ethan Frome, there are plenty of great works of literature and Wharton titles that fit the bill.

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Trustee Spotlight: Cris Raymond

This post was contributed by Cris Raymond, one of the newest trustees on The Mount’s board.

Cris Raymond.

Cris Raymond

I have been asked to relate why I joined the board at The Mount. First, let me say that it truly was an honor to have been invited. As an English major in college, an editor in New York City, and a writer, I always have admired the works of Edith Wharton. The fact that she was the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in literature and that she chose to build her home here in the Berkshires is also something that I behold with pride.

Although I spent most of my adult life in New York City and Europe, I grew up in the Berkshires. When I was at school here, my headmistress constantly reminded us that the “O” of “obligation,” comes before the “P” of privilege. We had to spend one afternoon a week working for and in our community. When I returned to live in the Berkshires, I took that “O” very seriously and continue to do so. I can think of no better way to serve my community than by working with the board of The Mount to protect this national treasure.

There is a creative energy in the Berkshires. Practitioners of Chi Qigong, the art of transferring healing energy through the body, believe that hemlocks and pines give off energy. Here in the Berkshires we are surrounded by forests of pine and hemlock. It cannot be a coincidence that this energy may have played a part in Edith Wharton, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Serge Koussevitzky, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and many others choosing to have their homes here. Longfellow began his poem Evangeline with “This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks ….” It is most unfortunate that Longfellow’s house in nearby Pittsfield was torn down.

We must do everything in our power to preserve, protect, and cherish the heritage these creative artists left us and share it with the world at large. Another poet, T.S. Eliot wrote: “Time past and time present are all contained in time future.” Now, in the present, we must act and do what we each can to ensure the future of The Mount.

If you are interested in learning more about The Mount and ways you can help, please contact Lindsay Codwise in the Development office by e-mail or by telephone at 413-551-5112.

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Staff Spotlight: Anne Schuyler

Anne Schuyler, The Mount's House Manager and Group Tour Coordinator.

Anne Schuyler, The Mount’s House Manager and Group Tour Coordinator.

We sat down with Anne Schuyler, House Manager and Group Tour Coordinator, for a few minutes to learn more about her and her role at The Mount.

Q: Did you always see yourself working in a cultural nonprofit organization?

A: Not at all. I started out in the hospitality business, in hotels, although my academic interest was always in history. And so when I had a chance to get back into that area, I jumped at that chance.

Q: How did you end up at The Mount?

A: I had moved back into New England from the Chicago area. I had decided to go back to school to do graduate work in public history and was looking for a place to combine my love of history, my experience with customer service, and my love for Edith Wharton. I just happened to see an ad for The Mount for a part-time tour guide.

When I was hired, I lived about 60 miles east of Lenox and I took the back roads home and somewhere in a little hill town, while thinking of my new job and how excited I was about it, I managed to get a speeding ticket! It was the only speeding ticket I had gotten in twenty years and I have not gotten one since.

Q: What do you find most gratifying about working at The Mount?

A: It’s a beautiful place. Edith Wharton is a fascinating person to me and a fascinating author- someone I still read often. To be able to interpret and share the house and the grounds with all kinds of people, some who are expert Wharton fans and readers and some who may never have heard of her, is a joy. I try to get people as excited about history and the literature of Edith Wharton as I am.

Q: What have you learned about Edith Wharton that you didn’t know before working at The Mount?

A: I learned she made a traditional Christmas pudding that was actually quite similar to the one my mother made for many, many years. I learned that she liked moussaka and some other interesting dishes. I’ve learned a lot about her support system – her servants – that I didn’t know before. With reading and rereading her work about all kinds of different subjects, I’ve learned even more about the wide range of her mind and developed a great deal of respect for the quality of her education and the quality of her intelligence. And she has a great garden!

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: I read a lot. As fascinated as a lot of people are these days with the comparison of the whole Downton Abbey era with Wharton, it is a busman’s holiday trying to pick up things from various shows, particularly Downton Abbey, that are applicable to The Mount. I love to cook, and all kinds of music. In nice weather, I love to walk and swim. And garden!

 

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Smithsonian Spring 2015

untitledSmithsonian

Spring 2015

        “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time”

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The 2015-2016 Edith Wharton Society Awards

Dr. Orlando

Dr. Emily Orlando

Dear Friends of Edith Wharton and The Mount,

I am very pleased to share the call for submissions for the 2015-2016 Edith Wharton Society Awards. Here are the details on the Prize for a Beginning Scholar, the Undergraduate Essay Prize, and The Mount Research Prize. Please share and encourage students and colleagues to submit their work for consideration.

As a fan of Edith Wharton’s you may want to consider a membership to the Edith Wharton Society. Membership has many benefits, not the least of which is receiving the peer-reviewed journal, The Edith Wharton Review, now edited by Meredith Goldsmith and Sharon Kim. The journal recently signed a contract with Penn State University Press and is indexed in the MLA International Bibliography. Please watch the Wharton Society website for information on Calls for Papers and the 2016 Edith Wharton Society Conference.

Being a member of the Edith Wharton Society is one meaningful way in which you can sustain the good work of the Society and help keep Edith Wharton’s legacy alive.  Thank you for your consideration.

All good wishes,

Emily Orlando

Emily J. Orlando, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English
President, The Edith Wharton Society
Book Review Editor, The Edith Wharton Review
Fairfield University Fairfield, CT 06824 USA
http://www.emilyorlando.com

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Visit The Mount’s grounds this winter!

All this recent snow has certainly turned The Mount into a winter wonderland!  Although our buildings are currently closed for daily tours (but remain open for frequent public programs!), the grounds remain open every day, from dawn until dusk, free of charge.

We encourage you to visit us this weekend and see The Mount’s grounds in all it’s winter splendor – take a walk around the property, explore the woodland trails, or wander the frosty gardens.  The Mount will officially reopen for the 2015 season on May 1st!

Photo by Patricia Pin.

Photo by Patricia Pin.

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Help The Mount furnish exhibits!

A copper bain marie.

A copper bain marie.

 

As the icy, cold weeks pass and opening day looms nearer, the exhibits team at The Mount has been working diligently to expand the Backstairs Project and our interpretation of servants’ lives at The Mount. But we need your help! Historic finishing touches are required to really bring these exhibits to life.

 

We’re currently searching for:

*Vintage sewing related items circa 1905, including:

     -Embroidery hoops & threads

     -Sewing bird

     -Vintage shears, scissors, whet-stone (for sharpening scissors)

     -Thimbles

     -Hanging pockets for threads, etc.

     -A covered wicker basket

     -Vintage sewing patterns, ca. 1905

*Copper Bain Marie

*Large Copper Mixing Bowl

*8×6 (or slightly smaller) red-toned Oriental rug

If you have any of the above items that you would like to donate to The Mount for exhibits, please e-mail info@edithwharton.org. Last year’s kitchen exhibit, as part of the Backstairs Project, was furnished and stocked largely due to the generosity of Mount friends and supporters.

Kitchen

 

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Staff Spotlight: Kelsey Mullen

We sat down with Kelsey Mullen, Director of Public Programs and Education, for a few minutes to learn more about her and her role at The Mount.

Q: Did you always see yourself working in a cultural nonprofit organization?

A: I thought for a long time I was going to be a history teacher. I discovered on the way that I’m much better at and much more passionate about informal education, which means museums and other cultural organizations and that has been my professional focus now for about ten years. It’s everything I hoped it would be.

Q: How did you end up at The Mount?

Kelsey

Kelsey Mullen, The Mount’s Director of Public Programs and Education

A: I grew up in the Berkshires and have to confess that I never came to The Mount as a youth! But I was very much aware of it. One summer, I was home from college and needed June through August employment, and The Mount was hiring tour guides. I applied and worked two summers as a guide here and learned a lot. It was during the period of time where I was studying public history and learning what it meant to be a museum educator and my experiences here were incredibly informative. And by total happenstance, when I was finishing my graduate degree in museum studies, a position was open here at The Mount.  I got the job within a week and I have been here since.

Q: What do you find most gratifying about working at The Mount?

A: What I find most gratifying is helping to shape the community’s relationship with the organization. It has over a hundred years of history here in Lenox and a good thirty years as a public organization, first with Shakespeare & Company and now as a museum. I think people relate to The Mount in different ways and their relationships have evolved over time. Being able to facilitate or be involved in that meaning-making I find really gratifying.

Q: What have you learned about Edith Wharton that you didn’t know before working at The Mount?

A: I came in as a total Wharton newbie that first summer I guided here. But I’ve always enjoyed learning and [House Manager] Anne Schuyler asks her guides to come up to speed very quickly. The easy answer is to say that I learned everything about Edith Wharton because of my time here at The Mount! What I find so fascinating about history, and Edith Wharton only being one part of that, is that it’s an organic moving organism. The past is not written in history books and decided for certain, our perspective on it is always changing, and new information comes to light periodically, which is very exciting for us historians. And so, coming to a better, more nuanced understanding of Edith Wharton has been part of the joy of working here and also watching her history come together, change, come apart, and reconfigure itself over and over again.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: In my spare time I’m pretty involved in the choral networks of the Berkshires. I do sacred harp singing both here in Lenox and in the Pioneer Valley, as well. During the winter, I ski – the only way I can bear the cold! I recently joined a book club, so more reading outside of work, too!

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Thank you from The Mount!

Dear Friends,

We’re pleased to report that nearly 300 of you responded to our end-of-year appeal, raising over $75,000!  We’d like to express our deepest thanks for your generous support, which we will put immediately to work as we expand our programming, maintain Edith Wharton’s gracious home, and strive to keep her legacy burning bright.

We wish you a very Happy New Year and look forward to seeing you at The Mount this summer!

With best wishes,

Susan, Lindsay, Nicole, and everyone at The Mount

A special shout-out to our fearless chief development officer, Sara Hudson, who is based in NYC and couldn’t join us for our thank you wave.  Thank you, Sara, for all your tireless and dedicated efforts!

Lindsay, Susan, and Nicole

Lindsay Codwise, Susan Wissler, and Nicole Knapp.

 

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Warm Holiday Wishes

 

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2015, from everyone at The Mount!

Happy Holidays

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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.

 

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