THE MOUNT - The Estate and Gardens of Edith Wharton (1862-1937)
I recently had the pleasure of visiting The Mount, the home and garden designed and built by Edith Wharton in 1902. It is located in Lenox MA. As the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Edith Wharton's achievement as one of America's greatest writers is unquestioned. She wrote over 40 books including The Decoration of Houses (1897). The Mount was a project into which she could pour all her ideas about home decoration. Once it was completed she was able to entertain her friends (including Henry James) and work on her writing. While living here she wrote one of her most famous works The House of Mirth (1905). She lived at this estate for ten years, when she was unfortunately forced to sell and move to France after the failure of her marriage.
The Mount has been restored and is now open to the public. You can take a guided tour or wander around on your own. There is a gift shop and a cafe where you can sit on the terrace and overlook the grounds. I found the whole place to be enchanting, but my favorite room was the library. The books displayed on the shelves are actually the same books that Wharton had when she lived there, some with her notations and inscriptions. They were returned from Europe to The Mount in 2006.
Henry James described The Mount in a letter to a friend saying, "...I am very happy here, surrounded by every loveliness of nature & every luxury of art & treated with a benevolence that brings tears to my eyes." I couldn't agree more. The gardens are so peaceful and being able to visit in July meant I could enjoy all the blooming flowers.
Wharton's understanding of the power of homes in human lives is evident in her works. For example this excerpt from The Age of Innocence (1920):
"The young man, as he followed his wife into the hall, was conscious of a curious reversal of mood. There was something about the luxury of the Welland house and the density of the Welland atmosphere, so charged with minute observances and exactions, that always stole into his system like a narcotic."
If you care to visit the Mount website you will find a lot more information and much nicer photos.