Edith Wharton (1862–1937) was born in New York City. Her father, George Jones, was a relative of the Joneses that fashionable people proverbially strive to keep up with; her mother, Lucretia Rhinelander, came from one of the city’s oldest families. Raised in New York and in Europe, Edith Jones was twenty-three when she married Edward Robbins Wharton (known as Teddy). In 1902 they built themselves a forty-two-room house, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts, but Teddy’s mental instability and financial irregularities led to a divorce in 1913, after which Edith moved to France, where she lived for the rest of her life. During the First World War, Wharton threw herself into war relief, traveling to the front lines and founding a charity for refugees, in recognition of which she was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1916. Wharton published her first book, a collection of poems, in her teens and in 1897 achieved popular success as co-author of The Decoration of Houses, a treatise on aesthetics and interior design. Her first volume of short stories, The Greater Inclination, came out in 1899. Among the most famous of her many novels are The House of Mirth (1905), Ethan Frome (1912), The Custom of the Country (1913), and The Age of Innocence (1920), for which she received the Pulitzer Prize in 1921, the first woman to do so.
The first collection to focus on what was perhaps Edith Wharton’s greatest and most enduring subject, her native city.