One of America’s Greatest Writers
Edith Wharton is one of America’s greatest writers. The first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (for her 1920 classic, The Age of Innocence), she wrote more than forty books in forty years. She published in virtually every genre: short fiction, the novel, poetry, memoir, travel literature, reportage, ghost stories, and authoritative volumes on garden and interior design. With Berkshire WordFest, we celebrate this extraordinary legacy by gathering together some of the finest writers across the literary spectrum.
A Uniquely Autobiographical Home
Created by Wharton in 1902, The Mount is a uniquely autobiographical estate. It reflects Wharton’s aesthetic sensibilities and personality in a reclusive yet accessible setting ideal for the pursuit of her craft. It is here that Wharton wrote her first bestseller, The House of Mirth, published in 1905. And it is here that Wharton entertained distinguished literary guests, including her great friend Henry James. Berkshire WordFest revives that tradition, welcoming contemporary writers and readers and bringing new literary life to the estate.
The Berkshires has long been home to writers of regional and national note. Catherine Maria Sedgwick (1789-1867) lived and wrote in Stockbridge. Herman Melville (1819-1891) wrote Moby Dick at his home, Arrowhead, in Pittsfield, and hiked Mount Greylock with Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), also a onetime Berkshire resident. Poet Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) lived in Pittsfield. Writer, scholar, and civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) grew up in Great Barrington, where, decades before, poet and journalist William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) had practiced law. And, of course, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) built The Mount in Lenox, where she lived, wrote, and gardened for the better part of a decade. Other writers associated with the greater region include Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) in Amherst, Mass., and Edna St. Vincent Millay (1882-1950), whose home, Steepletop, in Austerlitz, N.Y., is newly open to the public.