Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, known for such classics as The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, and The Age of Innocence, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921. A member of the New York elite, Wharton drew on her experiences as part of society to critique its inner workings and the conflict between personal desires and societal norms. Wharton died in 1937, leaving behind a rich literary legacy.
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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.
I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.

If you know Starkfield, Massachusetts, you know the post-office. If you know the post-office you must have seen Ethan Frome drive up to it, drop the reins on his hollow-backed bay and drag himself across the brick pavement to the white colonnade; and you must have asked who he was.

It was there that, several years ago, I saw him for the first time; and the sight pulled me up sharp. Even then he was the most striking figure in Starkfield, though he was but the ruin of a man. It was not so much his great height that marked him, for the "natives" were easily singled out by their lank longitude from the stockier foreign breed: it was the careless powerful look he had, in spite of a lameness checking each step like the jerk of a chain. There was something bleak and unapproachable in his face, and he was so stiffened and grizzled that I took him for an old man and was surprised to hear that he was not more than fifty-two. I had this from Harmon Gow, who had driven the stage from Bettsbridge to Starkfield in pre-trolley days and knew the chronicle of all the families on his line.

"He's looked that way ever since he had his smash-up; and that's twenty-four years ago come next February," Harmon threw out between reminiscent pauses.

The "smash-up" it was—I gathered from the same informant—which, besides drawing the red gash across Ethan Frome's forehead, had so shortened and warped his right side that it cost him a visible effort to take the few steps from his buggy to the post-office window. He used to drive in from his farm every day at about noon, and as that was my own hour for fetching my mail I often passed him in the porch or stood beside him while we waited on the motions of the distributing hand behind the grating. I noticed that, though he came so punctually, he seldom received anything but a copy of the Bettsbridge Eagle, which he put without a glance into his sagging pocket. At intervals, however, the post-master would hand him an envelope addressed to Mrs. Zenobia—or Mrs. Zeena—Frome, and usually bearing conspicuously in the upper left-hand corner the address of some manufacturer of patent medicine and the name of his specific. These documents my neighbour would also pocket without a glance, as if too much used to them to wonder at their number and variety, and would then turn away with a silent nod to the post-master.

The third in the Modern Library's series of original compilations, The Raven and the Monkey's Paw is a collection of classic tales and poems to engage our fear-seeking senses. The beauty of these stories and poems lies in their readability: ideal for sharing aloud around the campfire or for a quick, thrilling dip . . . under the covers with a flashlight. The writing itself sends as many awe-inspired shivers down the spine as do the ghosts and goblins on these pages.

Edgar Allan Poe, the master of the horror story and the chiming lyric poem, opens the volume with his best-loved stories: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Black Cat," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Premature Burial," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "Berenice," and "Ligeia." Every bit as chilling now as on the day they were written, these tales retain their power to stir the reader again and again. Poe, who was as well known for his poems as for his stories, is also represented by such verse standards as "The Raven," "Lenore," "To Helen," "Ulalume," and "Annabel Lee," among others.

Numerous other practitioners of the supernatural story are included: Edith Wharton, with her gripping "Afterward"; Charles Dickens and his famed ghost story "The Signalman"; W. W. Jacobs, with this compilation's inspiration, "The Monkey's Paw." Also here are Saki's engrossing "Sredni Vashtar"; O. Henry's story of love lost and hopes dashed, "The Furnished Room"; Wilkie Collins's lively "A Terribly Strange Bed"; and "The Boarded Window," Ambrose Bierce's tale of the bizarre.

A year-round collection for reading aloud—and frightening your friends—The Raven and the Monkey's Paw will gratify all manner of thrill-seekers.
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