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Edith  Wharton
依蒂絲•華頓
圖片來源:wharton.thefreelibrary.com/
主要文類:Novel
資料提供者:Evelyn; Kate Liu
關鍵字詞:American novelist, poet, short-story writer

Edith ( Newbold Jones) Wharton

依蒂絲•華頓

Evelyn Sung/宋怡緻


 

家庭背景

一八六二年一月二十四日(一說為一八六一年),依蒂絲•華頓誕生於紐約市的一個保守而富有的家庭。華頓於三個小孩中排行最 小,是家裡的獨生女。其父喬治佛德瑞克•瓊斯的家族顯赫,經營商船買賣,其母露克莉雅•史蒂芬美麗時髦,家世淵源溯及波士頓茶葉黨的參與者。華頓自小於家 中接受家庭教師的私人教育,且常有遊歷歐洲的機會。不旅行的時候,她常把時間花在父親的圖書室裡,除非父母堅持,否則鮮少參加社交場合。華頓自青少年時期 開始寫詩句和短篇小說,但其父母因受荷蘭改革教派和新教聖公會信仰的影響,對藝術並不予之特別的重視,他們不但不賞識華頓的寫作天份,後來也鮮少提及華頓 在文壇的成功。

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婚姻生活

一八五五年,年方二十三的依蒂絲,嫁給了長她十一歲的波士頓銀行家愛德華•華頓。依蒂絲是在母親的社交圈中認識愛德華的, 據稱她在這之前,便愛上了華特•貝瑞。貝瑞是少數知曉她自青少年時期即對寫作展開嘗試的人之一,並協助她精進其寫作。貝瑞後來成為華頓終生的知己,在知識 的追求上相互扶持。

 

由於愛德華深受精神疾病之苦,再者依蒂絲不喜社交生活中的繁瑣與人際應對,婚後的依蒂絲並不快樂。婚後數年,依蒂絲即精神 崩潰。醫生鼓勵她寫作以改善精神狀況。華頓夫婦在興趣和世界觀上,並無很大的共鳴,因此,依蒂絲於創作 Ethan Frome 時,與旅居巴黎的美國記者摩登•福羅頓墜入情網。依蒂絲為打破婚姻神聖的誓言而深感自責。華頓夫婦最終於一九一二年離 婚(一說為一九一三年),之後依蒂絲遊歷義大利、德國,定居於法國巴黎,並結交了許多旅居法國的作家與藝術家。

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戰時生活

一九一四年第一次世界大戰爆發,華頓致力於慈善工作,為成衣女工組織工作室,為結核病患者成立療養院,同時為比利時難民張 羅食宿。其善行後來紛紛獲頒法國與比利時的榮譽勳章。她也將戰時的所見所聞寫進自己的創作之中,如 Fighting France (1915), The Book of the Homeless (1915), The Marne (1918), French Ways and Their Meanings (1919) 和 A Son at the Front (1923).

 

然而,華頓寫戰時經驗的著作,並不被視為她最傑出的作品。路易士•奧勤克勞斯評論:「華頓對戰爭的觀點,是簡單而一 致的-法國在這場文明與權力的戰爭中孤軍奮鬥,法國軍人為這種精神而戰,但華頓卻未將此種孤軍奮鬥的精神寫入小說 … 故今日閱讀 The Marne A Son at the Front ,好似在閱讀塵封於閣 樓許久的募兵海報一般 … 因為不乏於戰時探視醫院,甚至前線戰場的經驗,華頓清楚了解戰爭的可怕,然而不管多麼致力於後勤醫療支援的工作,她畢竟非上戰場與敵人交鋒的士兵,其略顯 振奮的筆調,對戰後倖存的人而言,仍顯尖銳。」

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晚年

一九二三年,華頓短暫地返回美國,於耶魯大學獲頒榮譽博士學位,成為首位獲頒此獎的女性。詹姆斯•陶托頓指出,九三年華頓 所返回的紐約市,已非他二十年前時離開的紐約市。許多朋友不是過世了,就是不認得了。昔日父母時代的紐約市,也換了一番面貌。因為這個原因,華頓於一九二 四年出版的 Old New York ,其中描述她記憶中的紐約,並沒有受到很大的迴響。愛德蒙•威爾 森表示:「華頓在 Old New York 中的描述有欠忠實,無法用作社會研究的題材 … 且因張力不夠,不足以成為令人喜愛的短篇小說。 」

 

一九二七年是華頓生命中難熬的一年。她畢生的知己貝瑞(有一說是愛人)於當年逝世。華頓也於當年被提名諾貝爾獎,但並未獲 獎。一九三七年,華頓死於心臟病,享年七十五歲,與貝瑞同葬於法國凡爾賽。

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作品風格

A.亨利•詹姆斯的影響

華頓以 The House of Mirth (1905), Ethan Frome (1911), 和 The Age of Innocence (1920 ,中譯純真年代)聞名,並出版詩集、評論、旅遊札記、短篇小說集等。有一段時間,其著作因風格酷似詹姆斯而受到忽視。華頓於遊歷法國時認識詹姆斯,詹姆斯 後來成為她的良師益友。華頓曾於 The Writing of Fiction (1925) 一書中提到,「她和詹姆斯皆喜探討社會規範對個人自由的制約。此種制約不分社會層級,且以富有的美國人和旅外的美國人為最。」他們筆下的角色,往往無法了 解別人的想法,或是逃離不了環境的悲劇。

 

然而,華頓的風格仍有其迥異於詹姆斯之處。奧勤克勞斯在 Edith Wharton 一 書中寫到,「在塑造角色性格方面,詹姆斯擅於運用細微的累積與醞釀,華頓則擅於藉對周邊人事物的生動描述,帶領讀者經歷一連串的衝擊。藉由她那難以捉摸而 有力的筆觸,瞬間揭示角色的內在,或深度情感中的隱意。」此種瞬間準確揭示角色內在的天份,讓華頓保有其獨特於詹姆斯的風格。

 

B.創作主題

1.社會規範

二十世紀初,美國作家對女英雄成功擺脫舊包袱的冒險故事趨之若鶩,華頓卻與多數作家背道而馳,她的作品傾向於呈現受挫、理 想幻滅的女英雄。她的著作,多以坎坷的羅曼史、對歡樂的追求與迷失、抱負與能力間的落差、人與責任如何共存等為創作主題。華頓在 The Writing of Fiction (1925) 表示,「個人慾望與社會規範之間的衝突,是她創作的主要著眼點。」現實生活中的華頓,也為社會規範和她的社會地位所羈絆。終其一生,她不斷在學習如何在慾 望與自小即內化於心中的道德規範之間,尋求一個平衡點。

 

2.超自然力量

華頓自小便認為自己被某物所跟隨,且深深為這個想法而感到害怕。日後,

她逐漸著迷於超自然的力量,並希冀能在社交生活中尋求安全感。沒料上層社會的社交生活帶給她的,是全然的疏離與孤立。此種 疏離感後來成為她創作鬼故事的靈感。華頓約莫創作了十六個關於超自然力量的故事,其中 Ghosts (1937) 中收錄了一些最傑出的創作。

 

延續先前疏離感激發的創作,華頓之後轉而嘗試書寫關於死亡和來生的鬼故事。直至她定居巴黎,華頓方能以較客觀的態度面對內 心對鬼的恐懼,而得以塑造出一系列發展完全、巧妙刻劃的鬼故事。概觀言之,華頓的超自然小說反映出人性中恐懼、罪惡、喜悅、慾望等情感。在這之後,她又試 圖將巫術融入她的創作,如 "Bewitched"(Pictorial Review , 1925) 和 "All Souls'"(首度刊載於 Ghosts),故事的氛圍塑造的十分成功,可惜情節欠缺說服 力。然而,華頓擅於刻劃內心情感的天份,是不可否認的。

 

C.創作力的衰退

華頓的創作一般而言分為兩個階段。多數評論家認為她最傑出的作品寫於一九一四年以前,一四年之後的作品,難免落入俗套,平 板而無新意。對此說法,有三個解釋可供參考:

親近她的朋友指出,華頓盡全力寫出賺稿費的商業作品,如此她才能獲得支持戰時慈善工作的經濟來源。但愛德蒙•威爾森表示:「某些作家藉由譴責與抨擊當代的 社會現象,來釋放自身情感上的壓力。華頓就是最佳的寫照。當自身情感的壓力被解除,溫婉與懷舊便取代了以往的辛辣與犀利。」她的傳記作者,博西•魯寶克則 持另一說法。他認為:「華特•貝瑞嚴肅、狹隘、高傲的性格,壓制了華頓的想像力,使她步向創造力枯竭的命運。」

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Edith ( Newbold Jones) Wharton

1862-1937

American novelist, poet, short-story writer

Evelyn Sung/宋怡緻

 Family Background

 Marriage

 Life in Wartime

 Later Life

 Writing Style

 Motifs

 Decline


Family Background

Edith Wharton was born to a wealthy and conservative family, on January 24, 1862 (some sources say 1861), in New York City, She was the youngest of three children and the only daughter of George Frederic Jones, a descendent of a notable family of merchant-ship owners, and Lucretia Stevens (Rhinelander) Jones, a beautiful, fashionable woman descended from a Boston tea party participant, Young Edith was educated privately by tutors and governesses, and traveled about Europe throughout her childhood, When she was not traveling, she spent most of her time in her father's library, and only entered the social milieu when her parents insisted, In her teens, she started to write some verse and short stories; however, because of the influence of Dutch Reformed and Episcopalian beliefs, her parents did not have a high regard for art, They did not appreciate her talent, and later seldom mentioned her literary success.

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Marriage

In 1855, Edith, at the age of 23, married Edward Wharton, a Boston banker from her mother's social circle, who was 11 years older, It is said that before she knew Edward Wharton, she had already fallen in love with Walter Berry, a friend of the family, who was one of the few that knew her early attempts at writing fiction, and helped her to make the necessary improvements, Berry later became her life-long confidant, sharing with her the intellectual pursuits that few were able to share.    

 

Edith was not happy in her marriage life half because Edward suffered from mental illness, and half because she disliked playing the role of society matron and hostess, A few years into her marriage, in 1894, she had a nervous breakdown, She was advised by her doctor to write to improve her conditions, She and her husband had never had much in common, either in terms of interests or worldview, While working on Ethan Frome (1911), she fell in love with an American journalist living in Paris, Morton Fullerton, She felt terribly guilty for breaking her marriage vows, which she took seriously, The affair between Wharton and Fullerton was intense and brief, but one of the happiest times of her life, She and her husband divorced in 1912 (some sources say 1913), She traveled in Italy and Germany, and then moved to France, settling down near Paris, where she consorted with American expatriate writers as well as English and French artists.

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Life in Wartime

When the World War I broke out in 1914, she devoted herself into charity works, organizing a workroom for female garment workers, and a sanatorium for women and children with tuberculosis, and finding food and lodging for Belgium refugees, France recognized her charitable deeds by awarding her the Cross of the Legion of Honor; she also was made Chevalier of the Order of Leopold in Belgium, Also, she retold her wartime experiences in Fighting France (1915), The Book of the Homeless (1915), The Marne (1918), French Ways and Their Meanings (1919) and A Son at the Front (1923).

  

However, books informed by her wartime experiences were not considered her best. The critic, Louis Auchincloss explained that she saw the war "from a simple but consistent point of view: France, virtually singlehanded , was fighting the battle of civilization against the powers of darkness, It was the spirit that made men fight and die, but it has never, unfortunately, been the spirit of fiction, Reading The Marne ... and A Son at the Front ... today gives one the feeling of taking an old enlistment poster out of an attic trunk.... Mrs. Wharton knew that the war was terrible; she had visited hospitals and even the front itself, But the exhilaration of the noncombatant, no matter how dedicated and useful her services, has a shrill sound to postwar ears."

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Later Life

Wharton briefly returned to United States in 1923—the first time since she became a resident of France—to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale University, It was the first such degree at Yale given to woman, James W. Tuttleton pointed out that the New York City Wharton went back in 1923, was no longer the pre-war city she left almost two decades ago, Many of her friends were long dead and unrecognizable, Her parents' world, old New York, was gone without a trace, Old New York, a work comprised of four short novels set in the New York that Wharton remembered, was not celebrated when it appeared in 1924, Edmund Wilson commented in New Republic that the stories "do not . . . follow life quite faithfully enough to be impressive as social studies and . . . are not quite dramatically enough developed to be satisfactory as conventional short stories."

    

The year of 1927 was a difficult period in her life, Her companion (some say lover), Walter Berry, died and it was at the same year that she was nominated for a Nobel Prize, but she did not receive it, Wharton died in 1937 of a heart attack at the age of seventy-five, and was buried next to her beloved Walter Berry in Versailles, France.

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Writing Style

Jamesian influence

Best known for her novels The House of Mirth (1905), Ethan Frome (1911), and The Age of Innocence (1920), she also published poetry, criticism, nonfiction about the First World War, travel writing, and several collections of short stories, Her books suffered a period of critical neglect because of their similarity to the works of James, Wharton met James in her travel to France, where James became her friend and her mentor, The Writing of Fiction (1925) explained that "their similarities lie in the common interest in social conventions, which encroach upon the freedom of individuals from every social stratum, in particular the wealthy and the American abroad." Most of the characters in their stories had problem getting into others' minds, coming to a full understand to others, and escaping from the environment.

However, Wharton's works were still significantly different form the works of James, In Edith Wharton, Auchincloss observed, "in contrast to the gradual accumulation of subtle effects for which James is known, Wharton's vivid depictions of people and objects led readers through a series of impacts, It is those half-elusive but exquisitely effective strokes that reveal in an instant a whole mental attitude or the hidden meaning of a profound emotion." The ability to affect impacts upon characters' inner psyches in a moment is Wharton's talent, which makes her distinct from James.

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Motifs

1. social convention

In the turn of the 20 th century, while American writers wrote adventure story in which the heroine rebelled successfully against the past, Wharton tended to portray her heroines in defeat and disillusion, Her works centered on the motifs such as an ill-starred romance, the evils of divorce, the aftermaths of deception, the individual versus society, the need and the danger of joy, the gulf between ambition and ability, and the importance of living with a sense of duty to others, As Wharton indicated in her book, The Writing of Fiction (1925), her major focus was "the conflict between the desire of the individual and the authority of social convention." Wharton was a woman trapped by convention, and her own social status; she had to learn, throughout her life, how to balance her own desires and interests with the morals she internalized as a child.

 

2. supernatural

Since her childhood, Wharton had terrified herself with the feeling that she was being followed by something, She later became entranced by the idea of the supernatural and tried to seek safety in the society, However, instead of warmth and a sense of security, she sought alienation and isolation from the high society, It is this sense of alienation and foreboding that enabled Wharton to create some of the best ghost stories of her age, She wrote some 16 or so stories of the supernatural, the best being collected in her omnibus volume, Ghosts (1937), Later she moved her genre into macabre, exploring the idea of death and afterlife, It was not until she moved to France that Wharton could view her life and her inner fears more objectively so as to produce a series of rounded, cleverly observed supernatural stories, In all her supernatural stories, Wharton was able to use the supernatural to project aspects of the human psyche ranging from fear and guilt to joy and longing, Once she tried to write stories of witchcraft or black magic, as in "Bewitched" ( Pictorial Review , 1925) and "All Souls'" (first published in Ghosts ), where the atmosphere is strong but the plot lacks conviction, In short, Wharton was always at her best when dealing with the projection of human and spiritual emotions.

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Decline

Wharton's writings generally fall into two periods, Most critics have agreed that her best work was done during the years before 1914 and that her later work is but an echo of it, namely, rather static and without new things to tell, Three explanations have been offered for this decline.

Those close to Wharton say that she did her best to produce "potboilers", by which she was able to make a large sum of money to support the charity works during the wartime, However, Edmund Wilson has suggested that she was "a brilliant example of the writer who relieves an emotional strain by denouncing his generation, When such a strain had been relieved, her writing was no longer a personal necessity and thus blandness and nostalgia replaced the acerbity of her earlier social criticism."As for her biographer, Percy Lubbock, believed that Walter Berry, "a man of 'dry and narrow and supercilious temper', had the effect of shutting Mrs. Wharton's mind 'in a box' and contributed to the 'doom of an imagination that alights on sterile ground.'"

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References

  Contemporary Authors Online , Gale, 2004.

"Edith Wharton." Authors and Artists for Young Adults. Vol. 25. Gale Research, 1998.

"Edith Wharton." American Decades CD-ROM. Gale Research, 1998.

"Edith Wharton." Encyclopedia of World Biography , 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research,1998.

"Edith Wharton." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. 5 vols. St. James Press, 2000.

"Edith ( Newbold ) Wharton." St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers. St. James Press, 1998.

"Edith Wharton." Twentieth-Century Romance & Historical Writers , 3rd ed. St. James Press, 1994.

"Edith Newbold Jones Wharton." Dictionary of American Biography, Supplements 1-2: To 1940. American Council of Learned Societies, 1944-1958.

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