R. W. B. Lewis and Nancy Lewis, editors
The Letters of Edith Wharton.
Scribner’s, 576 pages, $21.95
No fewer than eight thousand letters of Edith Wharton survive in libraries and private collections. Correspondence was the lubricant of the many whirring wheels of her long and active life. If her art was her first love, it was still only one of many. She ran two large houses, one near Paris, the other on the Riviera, with well-trained staffs and elaborate gardens; she travelled incessantly, the most indefatigable and discriminating of tourists; she entertained with charm and skill (Henry James spoke of her “succulent and corrupting meals”); she raised large sums for charity, particularly in World War I; and she kept a sharp eye on her publishers and her investments. In her “leisure” hours she read exhaustively, treasured her friendships, and loved her dogs. Percy Lubbock quoted ingenuous...