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Edith Wharton's home in Lenox, Mass., where she wrote The House of Mirth.

Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Mass., where she wrote The House of Mirth.

These would have been wax candles in Wharton’s day; she felt that candlelight was much more flattering than those newfangled electric lightbulbs.


Stairs from the gardens at The Mount leading towards the terrace. Wharton felt that a garden should be designed as an outdoor room, an extension of the interior spaces.

A section of wall in the Sunken Garden at The Mount

My favorite photo of Edith Wharton because it is so candid — she is smoking a cigarette during a picnic with friends. Such unposed images of her are rare amongst the collections of her existing photos; she was very aware of her public image as an author and controlled that image carefully.

The dining room is my favorite room at The Mount, because its windows open to the south-facing terrace, filling it with light, and its intimate feel speaks of Wharton’s preference for small gatherings of close friends rather than large dinners that were more for show than for conversation. Wharton photographed many of the rooms in her houses, which has helped with the restoration of The Mount to its original look and feel.


The gardens at The Mount have been restored in recent years according to Wharton’s extensive notes on the garden plan and what would be planted where and when.


This posed image of Wharton is much more typical than the one of her smoking — it is a publicity shot and is meant to portray her as An Important Writer. In truth, she wrote in bed, never at this desk, but I suspect here she was recalling similar portraits of male writers at their desks or in their studies, perhaps to give herself more gravity as a female author.

the innermost room

Wharton’s innermost room — her bedroom at The Mount — where she wrote The House of Mirth on a lapboard (not a laptop!) in bed. The room was her imaginative sanctuary.