(1862 - 1937)
“The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.”

Born into aristocratic New York society in 1862,  Edith Newbold Jones’s family was one of such wealth and privilege it is said to have inspired the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses.”  Despite these advantages her early life was not always easy, with a cold and disapproving mother and having to live within the very restrictive mores of her time. However this background also proved a fertile store of memories for her ironic and polished prose about the social conventions she so disliked, and she was able to shine “the full light of my critical attention” on the complicated struggle of the individual with the conventions of a powerful, and triumphant, moneyed class. Despite not publishing her first novel until she was forty, Edith became an extraordinarily productive writer. In addition to her fifteen novels, seven novellas, and eighty-five short stories, she published poetry, books on design, travel, literary and cultural criticism, and a memoir.  She mingled with the American literati of her day, but Henry James was a particular friend, who travelled with her and visited her regularly at The Mount, her house in Massachusetts.  He wrote of her “Edith might at times be ‘difficult’ .. but you will never find her stupid, and you will never find her mean”.  She divided her time between America and France, but after her divorce from Teddie Wharton in 1911 she spent most of her time in France, staying in Paris at the outset of WWI, where she established organisations for war refugees, distributed medical supplies and raised funds for the homeless.

Edith was was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature three times, in 1921 she became the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for The Age of Innocence, in 1923 she became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale University and in 1930 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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