Each month, we will be sharing writing prompts with you. We will provide a quote or an image related to Edith Wharton or The Mount and encourage you to exercise your mind and creative writing skills. Please feel free to send your responses to email@example.com for the chance to be featured on The Mount’s social media.
“Oh, Dorsetshire’s full of ghosts, you know.”
-Edith Wharton, “Afterward,” published 1910
The days are growing shorter and colder, which means that the season of spirits and spookiness is very much upon us. Not only was Edith Wharton a fan of ghost stories, but she penned many herself. “Afterward” is about a woman named Mary and her husband who move from America to Dorsetshire, England. The couple is determined to purchase a home that is haunted, but they end up getting more than they bargained for.
Take a stab at writing your own ghostly tale! We have many stories to tell here, for The Mount is full of ghosts, you know…
Photo taken by Robert Oakes, ghost tour guide
We have been in the new house ten days, & have enjoyed every minute of it. The views are exquisite, & it is all so still & sylvan—I have never seen the Michaelmas daisies as beautiful as this year—the lanes are purple.” –Edith Wharton to Sara Norton, September 30, 1902, Box 29, Folder 894, EW Collection, Beinecke Library
Edith and Teddy Wharton moved into their newly-built home, The Mount, in September of 1902. She reflected on this new home with happiness and contentment, appreciating the beauty of the surrounding landscape. The Mount in September is truly spectacular, as many of us can affirm. Try to recall your feelings surrounding your first couple of weeks spent in a new home. What time of year did you move, and how did that impact the transition?
Edith Wharton died August 11, 1937 at the age of 75 in Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France. For this month’s writing prompt, we point you to this uplifting quotation, found in one of the opening paragraphs of her autobiography A Backward Glance, published in 1934:
“In spite of illness, in spite even of the arch-enemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”
This recipe for a long life certainly rang true for Wharton, whose love of architecture, gardens, history, travel, writing, and her dogs kept her busy until the end of her days. What are some ways in which you are “insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways”? What would your recipe for long life look like?
Edith Wharton wrote to Eunice Maynard in July of 1911 from The Mount, “I am a little stupefied by the heat – we have reached 94° here, & the ripe gooseberries in the garden yesterday were literally burnt up by the sun!”
Summer is most definitely upon us! Reflect on a time you felt “a little stupefied by the heat.” Where were you? How was the heat impacting your senses? What about your surroundings?
The title for The Age of Innocence is drawn from the Sir Joshua Reynolds painting of the same name. Wharton often drew inspiration from art; many of her poems are ekphrastic poems, i.e. poems about particular works of art. Choose a work of art and write a short poem or prose piece about your response to it.
“My ruling passions:
A good joke & perhaps that should have come first”
-Edith Wharton, from her personal diary
What are your ruling passions? What should could come first on your list? Take inspiration for Wharton’s passions and see where it takes you.