The Style & Arts section of this morning's Washington Post features a gorgeous 2-page spread about attempts to save Edith Wharton's Lenox, Massachusetts home from foreclosure. The story also highlights Wharton's own aesthetics as reflected in the home where she wrote the bulk of her most recognized works. Now this has been an ongoing story this year as the banks were forced to threaten Edith Wharton Restoration, the organization that runs the house museum, with foreclosure beginning back in February. Fundraising efforts were launched on a grand scale, and a reprieve on the large sum of money owed has been granted until October 31. If you decide to donate, your check or your charge will only be processed if they reach the 3 million dollar goal. An anonymous source has offered to match that amount if they reach the goal.
Some people have expressed reservations about aiding yet another house museum on the American landscape, even a protected site that has received a Preserve America Presidential Award as The Mount has. However, this is not just another house museum. This is the home and work site of an American woman that was the first of her gender to be awarded a Pulitzer prize for fiction, an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University, and a full membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Born into a world of privilege, nothing was expected of her other than to make a successful marriage. Her marriage failed, she earned a living as a highly-esteemed professional writer, and she left her native country to craft a life of her own design, both figuratively and literally as her works on landscape and architecture were as well-regarded as her fiction.Post article by Phillip Kennicott touches upon a wish that there was more of Wharton's own presence in the house aside from the restoration of her personal library to The Mount and the pet graveyard on the grounds for her beloved dogs. However, Wharton's voice was in part defined by her isolation both from the patriarchal, class-conscious New York society she was born and married into and from mainstream thought in general. Her battle with depression further exacerbated her solitary existence. Her subtle voice often satirized the Gilded Age through characters only tangentially tied to the upper classes portrayed. Wharton was personally elusive. One almost expects to find her aesthetics rather than her person in any space. And that should be enough. It seems to me more fitting to save that which she created rather than wish for something of a more personal nature that she never intended to divulge.