Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was one of America's greatest writers. It was clear from the comments of our fellow visitors that her fame needs no explanation in the U.S - she was an author with whom an entire generation of school children had an intimate acquaintance. As Australians, David and I had not heard of her, although I recognised the titles of some of her books from movies and TV mini-series we have seen - titles such as 'The Age of Innocence' and 'The House of Mirth.'
Edith was born into a world of privilege, centred on New York and Newport, Rhode Island. She drew on the experiences of her early years to immerse her readers in the private passions and scandals of the wealthy elite. Her first major work however, was a co-authored non-fiction book - 'The Decoration of Houses.'
|The dining room at The Mount - small and intimate by the standards of grand houses.|
In designing her home, The Mount, she put into practice many of the ideas in her book. She had a particular passion for symmetry, incorporating fake doorways, windows and other architectural features to maintain the symmetrical lines of the house. I can't say I liked all her design quirks but, with our guide pointing them out as we explored, they made for a fascinating tour. The house had so many oddities it felt at times like we had wandered into a Harry Potter novel - things like the faux grotto entrance (too much like walking into a cave for my taste), the mirror on the first floor creating the illusion of a room which didn't actually exist and the staircase jammed up against an outside window.
|Notice the fake (permanently closed) shutters on the left of the house. Their purpose was to maintain the symmetrical look of the exterior.|
|My photograph doesn't do it justice but from the right angle this mirror makes it look as if there is another room behind it.|
The Mount was sold in 1911, and in 1913 Edith and Teddy divorced and Edith moved to Paris where she lived for the rest of her life. Edith Wharton was the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Today, The Mount is one of only 5% of American National Historic Landmarks dedicated to women.
|Edith's bedroom - most of her books were written in bed.|
|Teddy's bedroom - I can't help thinking it must have been less plain than this.|
|The kitchen - you can take a Backstairs Tour to explore the lives of staff who lived and worked at The Mount.|
|We had a very pleasant lunch on the terrace.|
Tips and tricks and things to know: -
Where is The Mount?
- The street address of The Mount is 2 Plunkett St, at the corner of Rte 7 in Lenox, Massachusetts.
- It is two hours from Boston and two and a half hours from New York city.
- For detailed directions, and even GPS co-ordinates, click - here
When is it open?
- The Mount is open from mid-May to the end of October between 10.00 am and 5.00 pm. The exact dates vary slightly from year to year.
- It closes early on some dates. Click - here - for information on early closings.
How much does it cost and do you need to join a tour?
- Admission is $18 (adult), $17 (seniors 65 and older), $13 (students with ID) and free for children and teenagers 18 and younger.
- Admission tickets are valid for 7 days.
- The general admission ticket includes guided house and garden tours. You can also see the house at your own pace without joining a tour.
- As well as the general tour there is a Backstairs Tour for $23 which includes your regular admission. David and I didn't have time for it but if it is half as good as The Servant Life Tour we did at The Elms at Newport, Rhode Island then I would highly recommend giving it a go.
- Click - here - for information on The Mount's Ghost Tours and - here - for a calendar of special events.
My tips: -
- You can see both the house and the gardens at your own pace, however I highly recommend you do the tour. Both Edith's life and her house are so interesting it would be a shame to just wander through and miss all the anecdotes and information you get on the tour.
- Stay for lunch at the Terrace Cafe. The food is ordinary but the view and general ambiance are lovely.
- Leave yourself plenty of time. The house is on 49 acres so you can easily spend the whole day there.
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For all the posts so far on our north-east USA road and cycling adventure click - here.
Note: David and I received complimentary admission to The Mount.