This past year has been a remarkable period for Edith Wharton revivals, and the variety and quality of the attention that our greatest woman novelist is now receiving says much about cultural life in the United States today. Surely any distinguished recognition of her considerable art is well deserved. Mrs. Wharton’s achievement in novels and tales like The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, The Reef, The Custom of the Country, “Autres Temps …”, “Roman Fever,” and “After Holbein” is without parallel in the sisterhood of American writers. But that in itself does not say enough. Gore Vidal—who usually gets almost everything wrong—remarked a few years ago that Mrs. Wharton and Henry James were our two best novelists. At least in this instance I think he was absolutely right.

How do we treat our two best novelists? One answer is...

 

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