Sunday, June 27, 2021

Another journey, to Edith Wharton's country house.


This past Monday and Tuesday we took another brief vacation, this one a small group tour led by our friend Louise Devenish, to the Berkshires of western Massachusetts; to the house, The Mount, that Edith Wharton and her husband, Teddy Wharton, had built as a country retreat. Above is a photo of The Mount, looking from the courtyard to its main entrance. Credit for the architecture of The Mount is given to Ogden Codman Jr. and to Francis L.V. Hoppin. Edith fired Codman as the exterior architect early on, as she didn't like his designs. He did remain to design the interior spaces. Edith herself was very involved in design decisions, following the precepts expressed her book, The Decoration of Houses, co-authored by Codman.

We spent Monday afternoon and night, and Tuesday morning, at the Seven Hills Inn, a short and walkable distance from The Mount. This is a view of Seven Hills from the grounds in back.
This is a view looking from Seven Hills' patio toward the grounds and the forest beyond.
Esther, a fellow member of our tour group, produced a hat that could come from one of Carmen Miranda's wildest dreams.
Our tour of The Mount began Tuesday morning and ended early in the afternoon. This is the drawing room. Our guide asked how many of us knew the origin of that term. A few hands, not including mine, went up. It was originally "withdrawing room", to which ladies would withdraw after dinner to socialize while men remained in the dining room to enjoy port and cigars.

None of the furniture in these rooms is original. It was chosen based on what was popular at the time, as well as by any accounts surviving of what was there.
This is the dining room. The table is small, as the Whartons preferred to have intimate dinners with close friends, such as Henry James.
This is the kitchen.
This is Edith's office, used for correspondence and conversation about business matters concerning her writing, family concerns, and the household.
According to our guide, this is where Edith did all of her creative writing; in the bed, not on the couch. The portraits above the headboard are of her father flanked by her two brothers.
This is the sewing room.
This is Edith's library. A photograph of her is at left. The Mount's librarian said that many of the books were obtained from a London book dealer who had purchased them from various sources after ascertaining their having been part of Wharton's collection. 
After a buffet lunch on the terrace we were scheduled to tour The Mount's gardens. Unfortunately, it was raining, so we stayed on the terrace, covered by a canvas awning, and heard a lecture on the gardens' design. I got this photo of the walled, or Italian garden from where I was standing on the terrace.
As we were leaving The Mount, I took this photo of the entrance hall, with its succession of arches, seen from the stairwell.

Edith and Teddy lived at The Mount for only nine years, from its completion in 1902 until 1911, when Edith separated from Teddy and later moved to Paris. They were divorced in 1913. During their time at The Mount it was hardly a House of Mirth, to refer to one of Edith's more popular novels. Teddy was subject to bouts of severe depression compounded by other health problems. As our guide put it, today he would probably be classified as "bipolar."

Kudos to Louise for putting together a most enjoyable and educational tour.