Edith Wharton’s Favorite Novels (and The House of Mirth isn’t among them)

From an interview, supposedly Edith Wharton’s first.

Carroll, Loren. “Edith Wharton in Profile. In first interview of Long Career, America’s Famed Novelist Talks of Growing Interest in Theatre.” New York Herald. Paris Edition. Nov. 16, 1937.

. . .

But many “radical” novelists, she thinks, are only deceiving themselves. “Their preoccupation with new methods and details of technique is simply a sign of fatigue. The English language is not dead; it is inevitably enlarging itself. Dropping out capital letters and punctuation is only a symptom of poverty of imagination. The main thing is still creation of character, just as it was for Tolstoy, Stendahl, Trollope, Thackeray, George Eiot, Flaubert, and Henry James.”

These names were not produced at random. From their work Mrs. Wharton makes her choice of great novels: “War and Peace,” “La Chartreuse de Parme,” “The Portrait of a Lady,” “Middlemarch,” Trollope’s political novels and “several of Thackeray’s.” Of “The Portrait of a Lady, she says, “It is a perfect thing of its kind.” And of George Eliot, “If she hadn’t gone to live with George Henry Lewes, and felt obliged in consequence to defend conventional morality, she might have been one of the greatest of English novelists.”

Disclaiming any intention of estimating her own work, Mrs. Wharton is willing, nevertheless, to choose her own favorites. They are “The Custom of the Country,” “Summer,” “The Children,” “Hudson River Bracketed” and “The Gods Arrive.”

. . . .

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