New Biography Focuses on Edith Wharton’s Unexamined Three Decades in France

(Lenox, MA) – The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home is pleased to announce the release of a new biography of Edith Wharton entitled Edith Wharton in France by deceased French scholar and author Claudine Lesage. Published by The Mount Press in partnership with Prospecta Press (Westport, CT), it is the first full-length account of Wharton’s three decades in France. Scheduled for release on October 23, 2018, Edith Wharton in France is available for pre-order at


Lesage’s text chronicles Wharton’s dogged efforts to penetrate the Byzantine levels of French high society, her love for the French and Italian countryside, and her consuming passion for the Mediterranean garden. While Lesage is initially skeptical of Wharton’s ability to “become French,” this work ultimately portrays a woman of indomitable spirit who, in the end, succeeds in fashioning a French home of her own making in her beloved adopted country.

Using previously unexamined and untranslated French sources, Lesage’s work illuminates the intertwined characters and important relationships of Wharton’s life in France, many of them overlooked or minimized in earlier biographies. Prominently featured in the account are the French novelist Paul Bourget and his wife Minnie, whose meticulous diary entries over a 35-year period provide a fresh look at Wharton’s active social life both in Paris and on the French Riviera.

A still more intimate look into Wharton’s French circle is provided by her extensive correspondence with the Frenchman Léon Bélugou, a widely travelled mining engineer, writer, and well-known figure in Parisian high society. Spanning more than 25 years, the letters portray a mutual intellectual kinship and devoted friendship. Other newly discovered highlights include letters presented as evidence in Wharton’s French divorce proceedings, a mysterious autobiographical essay written by Wharton’s lover, American journalist Morton Fullerton, and numerous photographs never before published.

About Claudine Lesage:

Claudine Lesage obtained a Ph.D. in English Literature at Amiens, specializing in the works of Joseph Conrad, about whom she has published several books as well as French translations of his work. In 1989, while researching Conrad at the library of the Côte d’Azur town of Hyères, Lesage discovered an unsigned manuscript that she ultimately determined was an unpublished account of Edith Wharton’s 1888 cruise aboard the private yacht, the Vanadis. After publishing the journal (Rizzoli, 2004), Lesage probed further into Wharton’s life, focusing on her French years and publishing several French works. This book, written through Lesage’s final illness, arose from her determination to finish her story of Edith Wharton’s life in France for an English-language audience.Advance Praise for Edith Wharton in France:

“In this smooth English translation, Claudine Lesage’s Edith Wharton in France provides essential reading for lovers of Wharton’s novels.  Drawing on new letters for its intimate rendering of Wharton’s circle, Lesage has constructed a kind of epistolary biography that reveals an extraordinary woman seeking and finding independence in an elite social world both familiar and strange.”

Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

“This view of Edith Wharton, from a new, French, perspective, not only fleshed out, but in some instances completely upended, what I already knew of the author from my research.  There are sparkling new insights here.”

Connie Woolridge, author of The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton

“Claudine Lesage’s inspired sleuthing has produced thrilling new material no Wharton scholar can afford to miss.  Edith Wharton in France will also intrigue a wider readership with its crucial additions to known facts about Wharton’s overseas friendships and its provocative argument that gardening was as important as writing to the great novelist during her last years.”

Diane Jacobs, New York Times notable book author of Dear Abigail: The Intimate Lives and Revolutionary Ideas of Abigail Adams and her Two Remarkable Sisters

About The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home:

The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home 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 interpretive and public programs, and preservation of her historic estate.

The Mount is located at 2 Plunkett Street in Lenox, Mass. For more information visit or call 413-551-5100.