Edith Wharton, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with her novel The Age of Innocence, was also a brilliant poet. This revealing collection of 134 poems brings together a fascinating array of her verse—including fifty poems that have never before been published.
The celebrated American novelist and short story writer Edith Wharton, author of The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, and the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Age of Innocence, was also a dedicated, passionate poet. A lover of words, she read, studied, and composed poetry all of her life, publishing her first collection of poems at the age of sixteen. In her memoir, A Backward Glance, Wharton declared herself dazzled by poetry; she called it her “chiefest passion and greatest joy.”
The 134 selected poems in this volume include fifty published for the first time. Wharton’s poetry is arranged thematically, offering context as the poems explore new facets of her literary ability and character. These works illuminate a richer, sometimes darker side of Wharton. Her subjects range from the public and political—her first published poem was about a boy who hanged himself in jail—to intimate lyric poems expressing heartbreak, loss, and mortality. She wrote frequently about works of art and historical figures and places, and some of her most striking work explores the origins of creativity itself.
These selected poems showcase Wharton’s vivid imagination and her personal experience. Relatively overlooked until now, her poetry and its importance in her life provide an enlightening lens through which to view one of the finest writers of the twentieth century.
Edith Wharton (1862–1937) was an American novelist—the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Age of Innocence in 1921—as well as a short story writer, playwright, designer, reporter, and poet. Her other works include Ethan Frome, The House of Mirth, and Roman Fever and Other Stories. Born into one of New York’s elite families, she drew upon her knowledge of upper-class aristocracy to realistically portray the lives and morals of the Gilded Age.
Dr. Irene Goldman-Price earned her PhD in English from Boston University and spent much of her career teaching English and Women's Studies at Ball State University in Indiana. She is the co-editor of American Literary Mentors and editor of My Dear Governess: The Letters of Edith Wharton to Anna Bahlmann, for which she earned fellowships from the Beinecke Library at Yale University and the Edith Wharton Society. She has served on the editorial board of the Edith Wharton Review; as a trustee at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s house museum in Lenox, Massachusetts; and is a frequent public speaker on various aspects of Wharton's life and work. She is married to fellow Wharton scholar Alan Price.