If you want something doing, ask Edith Wharton


Edith Wharton, best known for her novel ‘Ethan Frome’, was one hell of a woman. Born in New York in 1862 to affluent parents, her equally affluent and well-to-do marriage didn’t work out, and she realised there was no hope of salvaging it, she found herself living in France. Then the first world went and broke out, and she stayed to help. Not just in the drawing rooms of the rich, raising funds and holding benefits, although she probably did that too, but she also set up work programs and did hands-on humanitarian work, at one point, taking charge of 600 children who had to flee their orphanage due to the German advance. I break into a cold sweat if I have to marshal and keep alive one child that’s not my own, let alone 600.

In 1916, Edith took six weeks off, and went to the Fountainbleu to work on a story she had been thinking about for some years, and in that time, pretty much wrote ‘Summer’, a story of trying to escape roots, genetics, and fate, and while not light and fluffy, it does have some funny moments, such as this –

The hours of the Hatchard Memorial librarian were from three to five, and Charity Royall’s sense of duty usually kept her at there desk until nearly half-past four.

Well, that made me laugh, anyway, as I read that while at my desk, during an afternoon quiet patch, or what I like to call Lunchbreak II: The Sequel, or lunchbreak+1, as is my sense of duty.

Which kind of makes me ashamed when I think that Edith could have probably churned out a series of novels and housed the homeless in the time I usually spend reading in the bath and eating jellybeans.

summer edith wharton