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Cet article retrace le rôle, souvent sous-estimé, joué par Edith Wharton dans l’évolution des perceptions de l’histoire et de la littérature américaines au début du xxe siècle en France. Perçue d’abord par la critique française comme une disciple de Balzac et de Bourget, Wharton n’avait d’américain que le nom. Il a fallu attendre la fin de la Première Guerre pour qu’elle soit reconnue comme l’auteur de romans proprement américains, peut-être même comme l’auteur de ce qu’elle a elle-même appelé ironiquement le « grand roman américain ».

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  • 1 In A Backward Glance, Wharton provides an amused account of James’s remarks (Wharton, 1990a 919).
  • 2 Wharton may or may not have worked with Minnie Bourget, “MPB,” on the translation of “The Muse’s Tr (...)
  • 3 See, for example, Wharton’s letter of August 10, 1917 to Gide about the translation of Summer: “Je (...)

1Edith Wharton lived in France during the greater part of her writing life, but unlike Stuart Merrill or Beckett, and with a few remarkable exceptions (one of which famously drew a rebuke from Henry James), she did not write in the tongue of her adopted country.1 Wharton did speak perfect French, however, as her letters to her numerous French correspondents show. Although she does not seem to have translated her work herself (again with one or two minor exceptions),2 she did take a keen interest in translation and had frequent discussions with many of her own translators, sometimes working under difficult conditions, with magazine deadlines looming. She also often chose her translators herself – and sometimes expressed dissatisfaction with the results in her correspondence.3 So Wharton was not a translator, at least not in the literal sense of the term – unless translating, as well as converting words and meanings from one language to another, means adapting “a thing to another system, context, or use” (OED). She was, to be sure, a cultural translator who not only explained French ideas to Americans but was also capable of making America – the American phenomenon, its history, its literature, its meaning – intelligible to the French. To use her own vocabulary, she was an “introducer,” a “metteur en scène.” Like the protagonists of two short stories to which she gave those titles, one written in English (“The Introducers,” 1905), the other in French (“Les metteurs en scène,” 1908), indeed like any marriage broker, Wharton knew that the task of establishing ties between two entirely different codes and contexts was hard work. And because she had a profound knowledge of the language, history and culture of both the United States and France, she was acutely aware of all the opportunities for misunderstandings. In the following pages, I will examine the images and perceptions of America Wharton’s work purveyed just before the beginning of the period envisaged in this issue, that is up to and just after 1917.

  • 4 Marie Thérèse de Solms Blanc (“Th. Bentzon”) went to the United States twice, once in 1893 and agai (...)

2From the moment she settled in France in 1908, Wharton established relations with five literary periodicals, La Revue de Paris, the Revue des deux mondes, La Revue hebdomadaire, Le Gaulois, Le Correspondant, and a daily newspaper, Le Temps. The Revue des deux mondes, in particular, had demonstrated a long-standing interest in American letters, even sending, among others, the prolific Thérèse Bentzon across the Atlantic to investigate.4 In 1908, mainly thanks to her friend Paul Bourget, Wharton’s second novel, The House of Mirth, was translated by Charles Du Bos and published as Chez les heureux du monde, first by instalments in La Revue de Paris (November 1907-April 1908) and then by Plon-Nourrit (1908), also Bourget’s publisher at that time. It was an immediate success. The French reception of Wharton’s early work – and of this novel in particular – is worth examining. Why did this tale of high-society New York captivate French readers? And what do the massive sales of the French translation of Wharton’s novel tell us about French perceptions of America – particularly in what seems, with hindsight at least, to have been a defining moment, the beginning of the twentieth century?

  • 5 The House of Mirth originally appeared in Scribner’s Magazine between January and November 1905.
  • 6 This and the following translations mine. The French reads, “elle fournit une excellente riposte au (...)
  • 7 “[U]ne maison où l’on ne dînait jamais, sauf quand on avait du monde […] les éléments hétérogènes d (...)
  • 8 “Les liens de famille et les devoirs de tutelle nous sont montrés sous un aspect tellement bizarre (...)
  • 9 “Les parents français de filles un peu trop américanisées […] devront la mettre [cette histoire] so (...)
  • 10 Bentzon misunderstood the word “tip,” which she construed as a gratuity (un pourboire) rather than (...)
  • 11 “Onze ans de luxe emprunté, de faux plaisirs, de flirts multiples, d’humiliantes aventures, pour ar (...)

3One way to answer that question is to look at the way readers were prepared for the novel. Even before it had acquired its new French dress, as Wharton once put it in A Backward Glance (997),the novel was the object of a thirty-page review in the Revue des deux mondes by Thérèse Bentzon, who had read The House of Mirth in Scribner’s magazine.5 Bentzon began by declaring that Mrs. Wharton should be praised not only for having written the best book in English that year but also for having “provided an excellent response to the accusations of immorality that continue to fall thick and fast on […] wicked french novels [sic]” (Bentzon 200).6 In New York, she wrote, the “so-called grand monde” is at least as immoral as its equivalent in Paris. There too, men covet their neighbours’ wives: they simply require more alcohol, while the women require more money (201). Bentzon was glad that The House of Mirth should be such a transparent indictment of the world it described: Wharton’s novel made it clear that Americans, who loved to criticize French dissipation, were not so well-behaved themselves. She noted with dismay the absence of family life in the novel: in the household in which the heroine, Lily Bart, grew up, there were no dinners unless there were guests. There was, in fact, no family life at all, no centre, simply a succession of servants, or as Bentzon put it, an amalgamation of “the heterogeneous elements that compose a home” (213).7 As a child, then, Lily has only the appearance of a home and, as an adult, she is entirely unprotected. To Bentzon, American parents seemed criminally deficient: “Family ties and guardianship are shown in such a bizarre and revolting light that we must return to our own memories in order not to condemn American customs wholesale” (222).8 Bentzon’s advice to French parents is to give their daughters Mrs. Wharton’s novel to read. French girls would see that this “dazzling American girl” had attempted to “fly alone over unknown quagmires” and thus had lost both the possibility of happiness, and a certain “irreplaceable grace” (227).9 Bentzon also observed the disruptions caused by money and its multiple misuses in the novel.10 It was not the endless spending itself that she criticized, but rather that it should result in no lasting beauty: most spending was entirely meaningless. She wondered how this abundance could produce such disastrous results: “eleven years of borrowed luxury, false pleasures, multiple flirtations, and humiliating adventures, simply to end up losing an inheritance and inspiring defiance and condescension in all manner of men” (227).11

4By the time the novel was published in French, then, many readers had some idea of what was coming, an idea bolstered by the preface that came with the French translation. The preface was by Paul Bourget, who also saw the novel as a cautionary tale. This was no roman mondain: Wharton had devoted her attention instead to the more far-reaching and pernicious failings of gilded age New York. Bourget describes what he calls the “improvised patriarchy” (v) in the novel: the problem as he saw it was not its existence as such, but rather its ad-hoc, its makeshift nature, its newness in fact. In old civilizations, writes Bourget, society – “la vie mondaine” (vi) – developed slowly; in America, on the contrary, society was the result of the efforts of an energetic few, a tiny isolated caste. So, as well as the atomization and waste that Bentzon had denounced, Bourget drew attention to what he saw as another major flaw in America as it was represented in the novel: society was a sham hastily put together. Like Bentzon, Bourget wondered at length at the fabulous sums at the disposal of the multibillionnaires (“archimilliardaires”) in the novel, and at the “monstrous luxury” of their lifestyles (vii). How was it, he asked, that in a supposedly egalitarian society, differences in social status were “more implacably marked” than in any European country, even in feudal times? He went on to note the “disconcerting” and “outrageous elegance” of the characters in the novel (iv). The problem, as he saw it, was not so much wealth itself, but rather the display of wealth. The way money circulated – excessive spending (“a clothing account superior to that of a royal princess”) – but also speculation, gambling, borrowing were the source of evil: “America is the home of every abuse that the almighty dollar can possibly cause,” he wrote (v). And Wharton was to be praised for exercising her ancient right to speak out, to speak the truth: The House of Mirth was a form of parrhesia.

  • 12 Translated as Outre-Mer. Impressions of America. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895.
  • 13 See Bourget’s “Lettre-Préface” to Mme la Comtesse de Galard’s translation of L’Appel de la forêt. T (...)

5Bourget even gave his encomium a biblical ring, placing the novel among the sacred texts that the human mind has difficulty assimilating because they contain too much truth to be easily comprehended. Bourget’s allusion to “truth” (iv) in his preface also framed the novel in another way: Wharton was an American and could be trusted to be accurate; her novel was the narrative of an insider whose authority could not be questioned. He called on readers to see it as a “study,” an “exact account,” a sort of sociological “document” (viii) that somehow “completed” the information, or filled in the gaps, of previous reports – previous reports such as his own widely read and influential Outremer: Notes sur l’Amérique (1893).12 This estimation clearly coincided with Bourget’s view of American literature, which he saw as a sort of journalism. In his “lettre-préface” to the work of a very different writer, Jack London, Bourget would say of The Call of the Wild: “This literature follows action so closely that it is almost reporting, almost instant photography” (Bourget, 1928 6).13 Bentzon had also dwelt on the “impersonal manner” in which The House of Mirth was written, on the “accent of personal indifference,” on the “pitiless” tone and aloofness of the narrator that she felt also contributed to the novel’s status as a somehow objective report (Bentzon 205, 207). French readers could be forgiven for believing they were about to discover a chronicle of American life.

  • 14 “[C]e grand monde américain […] apparaît si odieux qu’il épouvante. [Ils n’ont] ni noblesse, ni dis (...)
  • 15 “[U]n ‘succès’ ou un ‘four’ comme on dit chez nous en parlant d’un vaudeville ou un mélo.”
  • 16 “[Ils] ne vivent que pour jouer leur rôle stupide…”.
  • 17 Basses intrigues mondaines, prétentions ridicules, folie de luxe, d’orgueil et d’envie, décors som (...)
  • 18 “[E]n mourant ruiné, feu M. Bart méconnut donc ses devoirs les plus élémentaires.”
  • 19 “Ceux qu’on appelle les heureux du monde sont partout d’assez méchants diables.”
  • 20 “C’est le roman de toute une caste qui nous montre l’Amérique comme la patrie de tous les abus que (...)

6After publication, reviewers of Chez les heureux du monde often repeated and expanded Bentzon’s and Bourget’s remarks and the author was repeatedly acclaimed as a moralist. The novel provided a lens through which to compare American society – almost always unfavorably – to French society. These people, wrote one critic, are “so awful that it is frightening. They have neither moral nobility, nor intellectual or physical distinction, nor artistic sense, nothing really aristocratic.” They are “all vulgar, and entirely closed to ideas or the highest human feelings” (Lionnet 253).14 In America, everything was done for show: even the words the characters use to describe their amusements are borrowed from the compendium of vaudeville: their parties are either hits or flops, notes one reviewer (Deschamps n. p.).15 Another added that the characters in The House of Mirth “live only to play their silly part in this expensive show” (Lionnet 253; emphasis added).16 Henry-D. Davray, the French translator of H.G. Wells and others, who, in 1896, had founded the “Lettres anglaises” column in the Mercure de France, devoted only one paragraph to the novel, finding the characters “odious” and “disgusting”: “Contemptible social intrigue, absurd pretentiousness, foolish luxury, pride and envy, lavish and artificial décors, odious, disgusting characters […] every possible sort of vile behavior – all are represented in this singularly comprehensive picture of American high society” (Davray 182).17 Most reviewers agreed that the society depicted in the novel presented a real threat to French notions of the family and the place of women. More generally, the novel seemed to illustrate what Philippe Roger has called “the enigma of Americanness” (Roger 249) – Americanness as something that required explaining, as a mystery to which Wharton might provide a key. Her novel supplied new evidence that the United States was indeed “an astounding country,” an “astonishing land” (Deschamps n. p.).Marcel Ballot, in the Figaro, remembering the scene in which Mrs. Bart sits waiting for her husband to die “with the provisional air of a traveller who waits for a belated train to start” (Wharton, 1985 34), noted with melancholy astonishment that in America the old ties of family affection no longer existed, that men had one function only: to earn money. By dying impoverished, he writes, Mr. Bart was “neglecting his most elementary duty” (Ballot 4).18 In Gil Blas, there were two articles about the novel, one of which, by Jules Case, concluded: “The people we think of as the happy few are rather nasty wretches everywhere” (n. p.).19 In the other, by Maurice Cabs, the villain of the piece was the United States itself: “it’s a novel about a caste that shows that America is the homeland of every abuse the ‘dominion of the dollar’ can possibly produce” (n. p.).20

7Chez les heureux du monde was, in the end, mostly read as a wholesale indictment of American ways and Wharton’s almost immediate admission to the French literary and cultural world was associated with the very negative image of American society her novel projected. Wharton’s name was, for better or for worse, almost always connected with that of Bourget: even ten years later, in 1916, she was still being referred to as Bourget’s “literary disciple” – his American heir (Flament 234). Wharton never attempted to obviate these assertions and she remained Bourget’s faithful friend to the end, although she made no secret of their political differences (concerning, for example, the Dreyfus Affair), or, in her correspondence at least, of her reservations about his work.

  • 21 Madame de Treymes was translated by Frédérique Daber and Emmanuèle de Lesseps, (Christian Bourgois, (...)
  • 22 See Wharton’s letters to Gide dated 26 September [1916], 8 October [1916], and 18 December [1916] ( (...)
  • 23 Louis Gillet and Dominique Gillet are named as the translators on the cover of some French editions (...)
  • 24 In one of the letters referred to in note 22 above (26 September [1916]), Wharton wrote: “Je sens t (...)

8Yet, although Chez les heureux du monde was a significant cultural phenomenon, a literary and cultural event, Wharton’s other work remained largely unknown and only partially understood, and her reputation in France was founded on only a small part of what she wrote and published in the United States. Both Bentzon (who died before the French translation of The House of Mirth was published) and Bourget had, in their different ways, enrolled Wharton – not entirely unwillingly – in a campaign to deprecate American ways. Wharton’s subsequent novels were not translated into French until much later, except for Ethan Frome (1911), which, set in rural Massachusetts, provided an altogether different picture of the United States: Starkfield is a far cry from New York and the dominion of the dollar. Like The House of Mirth, the novella was translated immediately, again by Charles Du Bos and was published as Sous la neige in 1912. But Madame de Treymes (1906), The Fruit of the Tree (1907), The Reef (1912), and The Custom of the Country (1913) were all translated only much later, to say nothing of Wharton’s first novel The Valley of Decision (1902).21 Wharton did secure the services of Robert d’Humières, Kipling’s translator, for The Custom of the Country, but d’Humières was killed in action in 1915. She also asked André Gide to translate Summer (1916), an idea he apparently considered.22 It is still uncertain who did translate Summer (Plein été, published in La Revue de Paris in 1917),23 but in any case it was not Gide, who was already translating Conrad’s Typhoon.24

  • 25 On 30 June [1899], after Wharton had sent him her first volume of stories, The Greater Inclination,(...)
  • 26 Retaining its French title, “Les metteurs en scène” was translated by Becky Nolan and published in (...)

9The only other works by Wharton available to French readers before 1917 were fifteen short stories. The first was “The Muse’s Tragedy” (1899), which appeared in La Revue hebdomadaire in May 1900, a project clearly instigated by Bourget.25 No other stories were translated until eight years later. But between 1909 and 1911, in the wake of Chez les heureux du monde, thirteen more stories appeared, nine of them in the usual reviews, and four others translated especially for the collection called Les Metteurs en scène (Plon-Nourrit, 1909), the title story of which was written in French (and only translated into English in 1968).26 Finally, a French war story with an American narrator, “Retour à la maison,” was published in 1916. In many of these stories, artifice, humbug, imposture, philistinism, are recurring themes – themes already discerned by French critics in The House of Mirth. Five stories (“Les deux autres,” “Échéance,” “Lendemain,” “Les metteurs en scène,” and “Le bilan”) are variations on the theme of modern marriage. Four others (“La tragédie de la muse,” “Un voyage,” “Le verdict,” “Un lâche”) concern art, bogus artists, and impersonation. Three Italian stories (“Le confessionnal,” “La lettre,” and “L’ermite et la femme sauvage”) are historical – the first two are set during the Risorgimento (but include English and American characters), and the third is a medieval tale. The war story (“Le retour à la maison”), as well as being a tale of German atrocities – and French revenge – concerns the New Woman (or rather new young girl) faced with the realities of violence. All these stories, even those in historical settings, and including the war story, are – to borrow the title of an essay by Bourget (1891) – physiologies of modern love – and concern the changing relationships between men and women as well as the role and place of art.

  • 27 “Cette romancière n’est pas indulgente pour les travers de ses compatriotes. […] Qui peut nous inst (...)
  • 28 “Le livre de Mrs Edith Wharton n’est pas favorable aux femmes américaines.”
  • 29 Two examples of characteristically American writers according to Virginia Woolf: in her essay entit (...)

10The author of these stories was seen, then, as a sort of honorary member of the French literary world. This would not change until after the war when Marie-Louise Pailleron for the first time recognized Wharton as the genuine article – a full-blooded American writer. In 1920, in a long article entitled “L’évolution du roman américain,” Pailleron discussed Wharton’s The Custom of the Country (1913) and reiterated earlier French critics’ views of the writer as essentially anti-American: “This novelist has no indulgence concerning the shortcomings of her compatriots. […] Who could possibly speak more knowledgeably about The Custom of the Country than an American? […] [I]f, having read her book, I had to say which of the two countries Mrs. Wharton preferred, I would say France” (67).27 Pailleron understood the satirical thrust of Wharton’s novel and translated a number of passages in order to demonstrate how American women – whom, she said, the French thought so modern – were kept out of their husbands’ affairs: “Mrs. Wharton’s book is not favorable to American women” (75).28 But she also added something new: she compared the protagonist of Custom, Undine Spragg (“Ondine Spragg”), to her European counterparts. Ondine, she says, is not an original character, but rather a descendant of Becky Sharp or Madame Bovary, and Mr. Spragg, her father, is “related to Dickens’s best characters” (“parent des meilleurs personnages de Dickens”). Undine and her father, in other words, are ignorant, selfish, and rude – clownish figures of fun that are meant as objects of self-scrutiny for American readers. Marie-Louise Pailleron was the first to present Wharton as an American writer addressing an American readership, just as Thackeray or Flaubert were English and French writers. This new status as an American novelist did not go without saying. Wharton was not, after all, either a Cooper or a Whitman, her material was not the American landscape, and her diction was not that of, say, Ring Lardner or Sherwood Anderson.29 Her work was clearly not founded on the themes and myths that seemed to so many French critics and readers – to so many European critics and readers – to be distinctively American. All the more so since there was still some question as to whether there was such a thing as American literature. Pailleron was the first to note that the American types Wharton created were after all part of the overall meaning of America.

11In 1917, then, Wharton was still not really thought of as being from Outremer, as Bourget had named the United States. Her chosen task seemed instead to be the investigation of American ways as they were seen from Paris. With her two novels, Chez les heureux du monde and Sous la neige, she had provided French readers with two contrasting views – one urban, one rural – of the United States. With her stories she had shown herself to be an anatomist of modernity, but modernity, after all, was American too. One story, set in eastern France during World War I, was different: “Le retour à la maison” (1916) focuses entirely on rural France. The “cosmopolitan vista” (to borrow Tom Lutz’s term) that frames the narrative of Sous la neige and the ironic narrative voice in Wharton’s stories and Chez les heureux du monde serve here to distance French codes and characters, obliging French readers to see Réchamp – the French village that is the “home” of the title – from outside and afar. From the point of view of its construction, “Le Retour à la maison” is in fact a sort of French Ethan Frome. An unnamed American records the story told to him by H. Macy Greer, also American but nevertheless fully engaged in the European conflict and devoted to the French cause: Greer works for the American Relief Corps behind the French lines. Both men repeatedly underscore their distance, in spite of their benevolent involvement, from the scenes Greer describes. At the outset, Greer’s interlocutor tells us that, unlike other members of the Relief Corps, Greer does not “tend to drop into sentiment and cinema scenes” (2001a 26). Later, Greer says, “Well – I leave you to brush in the rest. Old family servant, tears and hugs and so on. I know you affect to scorn the cinema, and this was it, tremolo and all. […] and then more doors opened on another cinema-scene: fine old family drawing room with family portraits, shaded lamp, domestic group about the fire” (43). Greer makes it clear that he views local pieties and codes of honour in the light of his wider experience. Telling the story of how the young Frenchman (the man he helps to “come home”) becomes engaged, he says:

Before long they confessed their love […] and Jean went down to Réchamp to ask permission to marry her. Neither you nor I can quite enter into the state of mind of a young man of twenty-seven who has knocked about all over the globe, and been in and out of the usual sentimental coils – and who has to ask his parents’ leave to get married! Don’t let us try: it’s no use. We should only end by picturing him as an incorrigible ninny. But there isn’t a man in France who wouldn’t feel it his duty to take that step, as Jean de Réchamp did. All we can do is to accept the premise and pass on. (35)

12The reader never knows whether the Comte de Réchamp’s fiancée, the New Woman in the story – an artist who has freed herself from attachment to place and tradition and yet saves the village and home of her future husband’s family – has merely used her knowledge of music to seduce the enemy or whether she has also extended sexual favours. Nor is it certain whether or not Jean de Réchamp murders the wounded German officer, the same terrifying Oberst Graf Benno von Scharlach who had spared his home and who is left under his supervision. All this is left unsaid, but of the two young men, the American, Greer, and the Frenchman he helps, the American turns out to be the more civilized: he trudges through the dark for two hours in order to fetch the gas he needs to drive an enemy officer to the operating table that may save his life. He clearly represents universal justice while Jean de Réchamp merely defends his small world and the sense of his own honour. This was an altogether different – more positive – view of the United States.

  • 30 The lecture was published in La Revue hebdomadaire on 2 March 1918. A slightly edited version of th (...)
  • 31 See Alan Price’s The End of the Age of Innocence: Edith Wharton and the First World War (1996) and (...)

13Two years later, in February 1918, after the United States had entered the war, Edith Wharton gave a lecture in Paris to an audience of about 400.30 Wharton had remained in France throughout World War I. She had not stinted her efforts to help unemployed women and refugees, she had visited the front, reported on the state of Paris and the progress of the war, and she had continuously attempted to convince the American reading public of the need to engage in the conflict.31 Yet the lecture reveals what might be seen as a change of heart: not only a desire to defend a vulnerable civilization that she felt was on the point of being obliterated, but a rapprochement with her country of origin, a desire for it to be understood in the most flattering possible light.

14The speech was part of a series called “France and Its Allies at War: The Witnesses Speak.” Wharton’s war work justified her being requested to speak as a “witness.” The other speakers were statesmen (e.g. René Viviani), members of the Church (e.g. the auxiliary Bishop of Reims), and writers (e.g. Maurice Donnay). Rather than explain why the United States had entered the war with such enthusiasm, what Wharton did in her talk was to provide her French audience with an arresting overview of American history from the first settlers to Wilson’s plan for a League of Nations. She began by demonstrating why French assumptions about the United States led to misunderstandings:

When he arrived in Paris, Mr House [the close associate of President Wilson and his envoy to France] made a speech before the press, a simple, modest and dignified speech – provided it was read in English. Mr House began by saying, “America is already mobilizing her millions in the factories, the fields and the trenches.” Now, the genius of English is essentially elliptic. We leave a great deal out, we imply words, whole phrases even, which could never be omitted in the French. So Mr House did not say her millions of men, since the word men was implied by the meaning of the sentence. Anyone who knew English well could not possibly have misunderstood. But many French newspapers reported that Mr House had said, “L’Amérique a déjà mobilisé ses millions dans les usines”, etc., which of course can only mean one thing in French: her millions of dollars. Thus poor Mr House was recast as an oncle d’Amérique clinking the dollars in his pocket as he arrived at your doorstep. (2018)

15Here Wharton shows how stereotypes are deceptive. “A small but very typical example, which I call to your attention to show you how difficult it is to translate us,” she says. This, of course, is ironic, since, as we have seen, Wharton herself had done a great deal to promote the stereotypes that she says prevent the French from understanding the United States. The problem is not only language, as her example shows, but background, culture, and prejudice. She goes on to say that the reasons why the United States entered the war are to be found in the past and that she has come to realize that “many French people have a very imperfect knowledge of that past.”

I will not do you the injustice of supposing that you think all my compatriots are what you call oncles d’Amérique – fat planters who throw around gold by the fistful and, in the last act, solve disputes and misunderstandings with the help of their dollars […]. But are you really so far from believing that our grandparents went to America mainly to acquire dollars so that their grandsons could spend them merrily in the luxurious hotels of old Europe? […] Our impatience to enjoy European refinement is immense – and very childish, but that impatience, which you have observed a thousand times and recorded with exquisite irony, is also the result of our past, of our austere, arduous, and joyless past. (2018)

16Wharton then outlines the origins of her country: the “narrow-minded but honourable” Puritans, whose plan for municipal administration she praises and whose fanaticism she condemns; the shrewd Dutch merchants, whose “fondness for profit, respect for rank and fortune, […] provided a useful corrective to the sombre ideology of the Puritans by contributing the healthy enjoyment of earthly goods to our national outlook”; the patrician planters of the South; the introduction of slavery – “one of the elements which contributed, long afterwards, to creating […] an attachment to the particular rights of a State rather than to the nation”; the shaking off of “the yoke of a clumsy (but not tyrannical as was once taught) government”; the Civil War and the struggle against what she calls “centrifugal tendencies.”

17Wharton insists on the bleakness of Puritan life because, she says, “these men of iron, and the women who were their equals in stoic resilience, formed the kernel from which our civilization grew,” but she draws attention to the final defeat of Puritan theocracy and to the founding of schools and universities. American history is explained mainly in terms of belatedness:

Think that while you were building Versailles, we were cutting down virgin forests, that while Descartes was writing his Discourse on Method, our scholars were drafting books on demonology, that while the King’s players were putting on Tartuffe and The School for Husbands, the parishioners of Reverend Shepard were beaten for having criticized his sermons, and husbands in Connecticut had to pay a large fine if they kissed their wives on a Sunday. Think that while your great-grandfathers were polishing their manners in Madame de Rambouillet’s alcove and in Madame de Sévigné’s beautiful painted salons, ours, in trappers’ huts, surrounded by wild beasts, were doing their best to become labourers and merchants, blacksmiths and lawyers, fur traders or professors of rhetoric. Between these two pasts, one entirely improvised, the other founded on a long tradition of culture, there is no common measure. (2018)

18Once she has punctured French prejudices, Wharton gives her own interpretation of American history and American literature. Things were not quite as simple as they seemed, she says, and in the beginning, the New World was not merely a money-making enterprise. She condemns Puritan fanaticism, slavery, and the separatism that led to the Civil War. She comes out clearly in favour of what she sees as the distinctively American contributions to civilization: democratic municipal government and free public primary education – hardly the expected objects of admiration for a “literary heir” of Paul Bourget. She explicitly calls into question French literary stereotypes – in particular the Oncle d’Amérique – that she had, in her own novels, reappropriated and, with Undine Spragg, turned into a female figure.

19The lecture seems to have made a lasting impression. We know from Wharton’s correspondence that Paul Bourget, the American ambassador (invited by Wharton), Raymond Recouly, and a few académiciens including René Doumic, who was the director of the Société des conférences as well as the editor of the Revue des deux mondes were present. Three years later, in La Revue hebdomadaire, Marc Logé (the pen name of Marie-Cécile Logé, translator of, among others, Lafcadio Hearn) began the first of two long articles published in La Revue hebdomadaire in September 1921 on “The Founders of American Literature” (“Les Fondateurs de la littérature américaine”) with a long quote from Wharton’s “remarkable lecture” (Logé 228). For Marie-Cécile Logé, it was Wharton’s presentation of “the spiritual and material influences that early American society had to face” (228) that provided the key to understanding American literature:

  • 32 À côté de la théocratie puritaine fondée ‘sur les âpres rochers du Massachusetts, par des hommes d (...)

While the Puritan theocracy was being founded on “the rough stones of Massachusetts, by narrow-minded but honorable men,” another more opulent – “both mercantile and patrician” – society flourished in New-Amsterdam (New-York). For these Dutch colonists, the best preparation for eternal life was the full enjoyment of life on earth. (Logé 228)32

Money, in other words, was only part of the story. Based on that founding narrative, Marie-Cécile Logé then produced “a panorama of the founders of American Literature” (228) from Cotton Mather to Walt Whitman.

  • 33 “[M]ais, à quelques exceptions près, ils ne sentaient pas le terroir : leurs auteurs étaient surtou (...)
  • 34 “Edith Wharton, qui explore le cénacle des ‘Quatre Cents’ comme Kipling la jungle, réussit élégamme (...)

20In 1918, Wharton had endeavoured to show that history had not prevented the United States from coming to the aid of France. She had also thought about the connections between American history and American literature. The United States was perhaps a newcomer in the world of literature, but one for whom a place needed to be made. She knew, even after the First War, that for many French critics, there was still no such thing as an American novel. In 1922, Charles Le Verrier, an early French admirer of Nietzsche, said as much in an article bluntly entitled “Torpor of the American Novel” (“Le sommeil du roman américain”). He began by saying that although novels had of course been published before now in the United States, “apart from a few exceptions, there was nothing American about them: their authors were mainly disciples of the English, the Russians or the French” (284).33 Le Verrier went on to explain at some length that American society and American institutions were not propitious to the writing of novels – an opinion shared by Van Wyck Brooks who, also in 1922, said that “the literary life” was impossible in the United States (179-197). In fact, Brooks began his essay with Ned Winsett, a minor character in Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (1920), as an example of the American literary man: in the novel, Winsett has published a single book of poems and is unable to continue to write (179). In “Torpor of the American Novel,” Le Verrier nevertheless concludes on a slightly more optimistic note. He mentions James Branch Cabell, Floyd Dell, Willa Cather, Joseph Hergesheimer, Sinclair Lewis, Theodor Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, Sherwood Anderson, and Evelyn Scott, but sees Edith Wharton in particular as the herald of an awakening. She “explores the coterie of the “Four Hundred” much as Kipling does the jungle and elegantly manages the feat of making us see high society intrigue as something serious and even tragic. Perhaps we are about to behold the birth of a new literary genre: the American novel” (298).34 According to at least one critic, then, Wharton was the initiator of a “new literary genre, the American novel.” This probably came as a surprise, even to her: an expatriate who looked without complacence at her fellow Americans, suddenly promoted to the status of founder of the American novel.

21Five years later, in a brilliant essay published in The Yale Review, “The Great American Novel,” Wharton would dispute the idea that the scene of the American novel need necessarily “be laid in the United States, and [the] story deal exclusively with citizens of those states” (1996 152). The remit of the American novel was not limited to Main Street in other words. An American novel “might be, like La Chartreuse de Parme (assuredly one of the greatest of French novels), a tale of eighteenth-century Italian life; or, as in the case of Lord Jim or Nostromo or Kim, its scene might be set on the farther side of the globe” (151). Americans, she argued were in large part responsible for what we now call globalization. “We have, in fact, internationalized the earth” (156) and the task of the American novelist was not to represent “the tottering stage-fictions of lavender-scented New England, a chivalrous South, and a bronco-busting West” (153), nor even to imitate Sinclair Lewis’s revelation of small-town America “with all its bareness in the midst of plenty” (152). “It is useless,” she added “to deplore what the new order of things has wiped out, vain to shudder at what it is creating” (157). All that is left for the American novelist, is to “use his opportunity by plunging both hands into the motley welter” that his “compatriots have helped, above all others, to bring into being” (157). Wharton noted that “America’s acute literary nationalism” and the “very recent Americanism of the majority of our literary leaders” had developed “in inverse ratio to the growth of modern travelling facilities” (156). This was clearly both a candid if somewhat premature death knell for regionalism and a call for American novelists to cast a wider net. Wharton was the unashamed American author of American novels that explore life on various sides of the globe. Perhaps even the author of at least one Great American Novel.


Stories by Edith Wharton published in France before 1917

Title in English

Publication in English

Title in French

Publication in French

“The Muse’s Tragedy”

1899

“La tragédie de la muse”

Translated by

M[innie] P B[ourget]

La Revue hebdomadaire,

May 1900

Included in

Les Metteurs en scène,

Plon, 1909

“The Other Two”

1904

“Les deux autres”

Translated by

la baronne Jean de Bail

Revue des deux mondes,

March 1908

Included in

Les Metteurs en scène,

Plon, 1909

“The Reckoning”

1904

“Échéance”

Translated by

Jeanne Chalençon

Revue des deux mondes,

July1908

Included in

Les Metteurs en scène,

Plon, 1909

“Les metteurs en scène”

Translated by Becky Nolan

R.W.B. Lewis, The Collected Short Stories of Edith Wharton. New York: Charles Scribner‘s Sons, 1968.

“Les metteurs en scène”

Written in French

Revue des deux mondes,

September 1908

Included in

Les metteurs en scène,

Plon, 1909

“A Journey”

1899

“Un voyage”

Translated by

Jeanne Chalençon

Le Temps,

20 November 1908

“Souls Belated”

1899

“Lendemain”

Translated by

Jeanne Chalençon

No periodical publication.

Included in

Les metteurs en scène,

Plon, 1909

“The Confessional”

1901

Le secret du Don Egidio”

Translated by

Jeanne Chalençon

Le Gaulois,

November 1908

Included in

Les metteurs en scène,

Plon, 1909 as "Le confessional”

“The Verdict.”

1908

“Le verdict”

Translated by

Jeanne Chalençon

Le Correspondant,

February 1909

Included in

Les metteurs en scène,

Plon, 1909

“A Coward”

1899

“Un Lâche”

Translated by

Jeanne Chalençon

Le Correspondant,

May 1909

“The Hermit and the Wild Woman”

1906

“L’ermite et la femme sauvage”

Translated by

Alfred de Saint-André

No periodical publication.

Included in

Les metteurs en scène,

Plon, 1909

“The Letter”

1904

“La lettre”

Translated by

Jeanne Chalençon

La Revue hebdomadaire,

August 1909

“The Letters”

1910

“Le bilan”

Translated by

Léon Bélugou

Revue des deux mondes,

September 1910

“A Cup of Cold Water”

1899

“Le verre d’eau”

Translated by

Jane Chalançon

La Revue hebdomadaire,

December 1910

“Other Times, Other Manners”

later

“Autres Temps”

1911

Century Magazine

“Autres temps”

Translated by

M[innie] P B[ourget]

La Revue hebdomadaire,

June 1911

“Coming Home”

1916

“Le retour à la maison”

La Revue de Paris,

March-April 1916

Haut de page

Bibliographie

Ballot, Marcel. “La vie littéraire.” Le Figaro, 31 August 1908, p. 4.

BENTZON, Th. [Marie Thérèse de Solms Blanc]. “Le monde où l’on s’amuse aux États-Unis.” Revue des deux mondes, 1 November 1906, p. 200-228.

Bourget, Paul. Physiologie de l’amour moderne. Fragments posthumes d’un ouvrage de Claude Larcher. 1889. Paris: Alphonse Lemerre, 1891.

Bourget, Paul. Outremer. Notes sur l’Amérique. Paris: Alphonse Lemerre, 1893.

Bourget, Paul. Outre-Mer: Impressions of America. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895.

Bourget, Paul. “Préface.” 1908. Edith Wharton. La Splendeur des âmes. Paris: Flammarion, 2012. p. iv-x.

Bourget, Paul. “Lettre-Préface.” L’Appel de la forêt. Jack London. Translated from the English by Mme la Comtesse de Galard. 1906. Paris: La Renaissance du livre, 1928, p. 5-8.

Brooks, V.W. “The Literary Life.” Civilization in the United States: An Inquiry by Thirty Americans. Ed. H. Stearns. 1922. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1971, p. 179-198.

Cabs, Maurice. “Le livre du jour : Chez les heureux du monde par Edith Wharton.” Gil Blas, 23 July 1908, n. p.

Case, Jules. “Tablettes littéraires : Un roman américain.” Gil Blas, 24 September 1908, n. p.

Cotnam, Jacques. “Correspondance André Gide-Edith Wharton (1915-1923).” Bulletin des amis d’André Gide, vol. 39, no. 17, 2011, p. 291-332. www.jstor.org/stable/265252254. Accessed 18 February 2019.

Davray, Henry-D. “Lettres anglaises.” Mercure de France, 1 September 1908, p. 178-182.

Deschamps, Gaston. “La vie littéraire.” Le Temps, 30 August 1908, n. p.

Flament, Albert. “Jours de guerre.” Le Monde illustré, 15 April 1916, p. 234.

Garrison, Stephen. Edith Wharton: A Descriptive Bibliography. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990.

Gonnaud, Maurice. “Democratic Aesthetics.” Transatlantica, no. 1, 2007. transatlantica.revues.org/1206. Accessed 24 April 2019.

Lesage, Claudine. Edith Wharton in France. Westport: Prospecta Press, 2018.

Le Verrier, Charles. “Le sommeil du roman américain.” La Revue hebdomadaire, April 1922, p. 284-298.

Lionnet, Jean. “Les livres.” La Revue hebdomadaire, October 1908, p. 240-259.

LogÉ, Marc [Marie-Cécile Logé]. “Les lettres américaines. Les fondateurs de la littérature américaine.” La Revue hebdomadaire, September 1921, p. 228-235.

Lutz, Tom. Cosmopolitan Vistas: American Regionalism and Literary Value. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004.

Olin-Ammentorp, Julie. Edith Wharton’s Writings from the Great War. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004.

Oxford English Dictionary [OED]. “translation, n.” www.oed.com/view/Entry/204844. Accessed 23 December 2019.

Price, Alan. The End of the Age of Innocence: Edith Wharton and the First World War. London: Robert Hale, 1996.

Pailleron, Marie-Louise. “L’évolution du roman américain.” La Revue hebdomadaire, 1 May 1920, p. 60-76.

Ricard, Virginia.Introduction.Journal of the Short Story in English, vol. 58, 2012, p. 13-23.

Ricard, Virginia. “Reading The Age of Innocence in France.” Edith Wharton Review, vol. 33, no. 2, 2017, p. 84-87.

Ricard, Virginia. “Edith Wharton’s French Engagement.” The New Edith Wharton Studies. Eds. Jennifer Haytock and Laura Rattray. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2020, p. 80-95.

Roger, Philippe. L’ennemi américain. Généalogie de l’antiaméricanisme français. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2002.

Wharton, Edith. Chez les heureux du monde. Translated from the English by Charles Du Bos. Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1908.

Wharton, Edith. Sous la neige. Tranlated from the English by Charles Du Bos. Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1912.

Wharton, Edith. “Jean du Breuil de Saint-Germain.” La Revue hebdomadaire, May 1915, p. 351-361.

Wharton, Edith. “L’Âme de la France.” Translated from the English by Raymond Recouly. Revue de Paris, 15 February 1916, p. 673-682.

Wharton, Edith. The Book of the Homeless/Le Livre des Sans-Foyer. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916.

Wharton, Edith. “Le retour à la maison.” Revue de Paris, 15 March 1916, p. 225-244, and 1 April 1916, p. 512-530.

Wharton, Edith. “L’Amérique en guerre.” La Revue hebdomadaire, March 1918, p. 5-28.

Wharton, Edith. “Les Français vus par une Américaine.” La Revue hebdomadaire, January 1918, p. 5-21.

Wharton, Edith. Plein été. Translator unknown. Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1918.

Wharton, Edith. French Ways and Their Meaning. New York: Appleton, 1919.

Wharton, Edith. Le Bilan. Translated from the English by Louis Gillet. Paris: Perrin, 1928.

Wharton, Edith. Leurs enfants. Translated from the English by Louis Gillet. Paris: Plon, 1931.

Wharton, Edith. Les Beaux mariages. Translated from the English by Sophie Mayoux. Paris: Robert Laffont, 1964.

Wharton, Edith. “Les metteurs en scène.” 1908. Translated from the French by Becky Nolan. The Collected Short Stories of Edith Wharton. Ed. R.W.B. Lewis. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1968, p. 555-568.

Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. 1905. Novels. New York: The Library of America, 1985.

Wharton, Edith. L’Écueil. Translated from the English by Sophie Porte. Paris: Christian Bourgois 1986.

Wharton, Edith. Madame de Treymes. Translated from the English by Frédérique Daber and Emmanuèle de Lesseps. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1986.

Wharton, Edith. A Backward Glance. 1934. Novellas and Other Writings. New York: The Library of America, 1990.

Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. 1911. Novellas and Other Writings. New York: The Library of America, 1990, p. 61-156.

Wharton, Edith. Le Fruit de l’arbre. Translated from the English by Marthe Gauthier. Paris: Flammarion, 1990.

Wharton, Edith. Summer. 1917. Novellas and Other Writings. New York: The Library of America, 1990.

Wharton, Edith. “The Great American Novel.” 1927. The Uncollected Critical Writings. Ed. Frederick Wegener. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996, p. 151-159.

Wharton, Edith. “Coming Home.” 1915. Collected Stories, 1911-1937. New York: The Library of America, 2001, p. 26-58.

Wharton, Edith. “The Introducers.” 1905-1906. Collected Stories, 1891-1910. New York: The Library of America, 2001, p. 548-577.

Wharton, Edith. Les Amours d’Odon et Fulvia. Translated from the English by Jean Pavans. Paris: Flammarion, 2016.

Wharton, Edith. “America at War.” Translated from the French by Virginia Ricard. Times Literary Supplement, 8 February 2018. www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/america-at-war-wharton/. Accessed 1 March 2020.

Woolf, Virginia. “American Fiction.” 1925. The Moment and Other Essays. 1947. gutenberg.net.au/ebooks15/1500221h.html#ch17. Accessed 3 January 2019.

Haut de page

Notes

1 In A Backward Glance, Wharton provides an amused account of James’s remarks (Wharton, 1990a 919).

2 Wharton may or may not have worked with Minnie Bourget, “MPB,” on the translation of “The Muse’s Tragedy,” for example (Garrison 400).

3 See, for example, Wharton’s letter of August 10, 1917 to Gide about the translation of Summer: “Je corrige les épreuves de la traduction de mon petit roman qui doit paraître dans La Revue de Paris. La traduction est lamentable” (Cotnam 328); or her remarks about her translator Jeanne d’Oilliamson in a letter dated April 30, 1912 to Léon Bélugou (Lesage 113). Her correspondence with Charles Du Bos about a French translation of The Reef that was never published also shows how seriously she took this question (see Bibliothèque Jacques Doucet, MS MS 27567 and MS MS 38451).

4 Marie Thérèse de Solms Blanc (“Th. Bentzon”) went to the United States twice, once in 1893 and again in 1897 when she accompanied Ferdinand Brunetière and his wife on a lecture tour. For thirty-five years from 1872 until her death in 1907, Bentzon was the main authority on American literature at the Revue des deux mondes. See for example Gonnaud. A slightly different version of this analysis of the reception of Chez les heureux du monde was published in my “Edith Wharton’s French Engagement” (2020).

5 The House of Mirth originally appeared in Scribner’s Magazine between January and November 1905.

6 This and the following translations mine. The French reads, “elle fournit une excellente riposte aux accusations d’immoralité qui continuent de pleuvoir sur […] the wicked French novels.

7 “[U]ne maison où l’on ne dînait jamais, sauf quand on avait du monde […] les éléments hétérogènes de ce qu’on appelle le foyer…”.

8 “Les liens de famille et les devoirs de tutelle nous sont montrés sous un aspect tellement bizarre et révoltant que nous avons besoin de nous reporter à nos propres souvenirs pour ne pas condamner en bloc les mœurs américaines.”

9 “Les parents français de filles un peu trop américanisées […] devront la mettre [cette histoire] sous leurs yeux comme un épouvantail ; elles verront ce qu’elles auront à perdre en imitant l’éblouissante Américaine […], à vouloir voler de leurs propres ailes au-dessus de bourbiers inconnus.”

10 Bentzon misunderstood the word “tip,” which she construed as a gratuity (un pourboire) rather than as information (Bentzon 201). As many of the characters in The House of Mirth receive or exchange financial tips, this was a significant error which, in Bentzon’s review, further magnified the pernicious effect of money in the world the novel represents.

11 “Onze ans de luxe emprunté, de faux plaisirs, de flirts multiples, d’humiliantes aventures, pour arriver à perdre un héritage et à n’inspirer aux hommes de toute catégorie que de la méfiance et du mépris.”

12 Translated as Outre-Mer. Impressions of America. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895.

13 See Bourget’s “Lettre-Préface” to Mme la Comtesse de Galard’s translation of L’Appel de la forêt. The French reads, “C’est de la littérature si voisine de l’action qu’elle touche au reportage, à l’instantané photographique…”.

14 “[C]e grand monde américain […] apparaît si odieux qu’il épouvante. [Ils n’ont] ni noblesse, ni distinction intellectuelle ou physique, ni sens artistique : rien d’une véritable aristocratie. Ces gens, tous vulgaires, tous fermés aux idées et aux meilleurs sentiments humains…”.

15 “[U]n ‘succès’ ou un ‘four’ comme on dit chez nous en parlant d’un vaudeville ou un mélo.”

16 “[Ils] ne vivent que pour jouer leur rôle stupide…”.

17 Basses intrigues mondaines, prétentions ridicules, folie de luxe, d’orgueil et d’envie, décors somptueux et factices, personnages odieux, écœurants, […] vilenies de toute sorte nous sont présentés dans ce tableau singulièrement complet de haute vie américaine.”

18 “[E]n mourant ruiné, feu M. Bart méconnut donc ses devoirs les plus élémentaires.”

19 “Ceux qu’on appelle les heureux du monde sont partout d’assez méchants diables.”

20 “C’est le roman de toute une caste qui nous montre l’Amérique comme la patrie de tous les abus que peut produire le ‘roi dollar.’”

21 Madame de Treymes was translated by Frédérique Daber and Emmanuèle de Lesseps, (Christian Bourgois, 1986); The Fruit of the Tree by Marthe Gauthier (Le Fruit de l’arbre, Flammarion, 1990); The Reef by Sophie Porte (L’Écueil, Christian Bourgois, 1986); The Custom of the Country by Sophie Mayoux (Les Beaux mariages, Robert Laffont, 1964); and The Valley of Decision by Jean Pavans (Les amours d’Odon et Fulvia, Flammarion, 2016).

22 See Wharton’s letters to Gide dated 26 September [1916], 8 October [1916], and 18 December [1916] (Cotnam 319-323).

23 Louis Gillet and Dominique Gillet are named as the translators on the cover of some French editions (e.g. Éditions de la Découverte), Charles Du Bos on others (e.g. Éditions Sillage). However, Louis Gillet (1876-1943) does not seem to have been acquainted with Wharton in 1916 although he did translate The Mother’s Recompense (Le bilan, Perrin, 1928) and The Children (Leurs enfants, Plon, 1931). Dominique Gillet (born 7 July 1945 and not related to Louis Gillet d. 1943) is also the author of English textbooks according to the bibliographic record on the site of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, but has said, in a private email (dated Mon, September 2, 2019, 9:22 PM), that she had never translated Wharton.

24 In one of the letters referred to in note 22 above (26 September [1916]), Wharton wrote: “Je sens toute l’indiscrétion de ma demande surtout au moment où vous venez de vous occuper de la traduction de ‘my betters’.” Her “my betters” is clearly a reference to Conrad but was mistakenly transcribed as “my letters” by Jacques Cotnam, making the sentence incomprehensible (321).

25 On 30 June [1899], after Wharton had sent him her first volume of stories, The Greater Inclination, Bourget noted his enthusiasm in his journal (Ricard 2012, 13-23; 2017 351).

26 Retaining its French title, “Les metteurs en scène” was translated by Becky Nolan and published in R.W.B. Lewis’s The Collected Short Stories of Edith Wharton in 1968.

27 “Cette romancière n’est pas indulgente pour les travers de ses compatriotes. […] Qui peut nous instruire avec plus de science sur The Custom of the Country (Les mœurs du pays) qu’une Américaine ? […] s’il me fallait dire, après la lecture de son livre, lequel des deux pays Mrs Wharton préfère, je prononcerais : la France.”

28 “Le livre de Mrs Edith Wharton n’est pas favorable aux femmes américaines.”

29 Two examples of characteristically American writers according to Virginia Woolf: in her essay entitled “American Fiction” (1925), Woolf opposes the “refreshing unfamiliarity” of the language of these and a few other authors to that of Henry James and Wharton of whom she writes, “they are not Americans; they do not give us anything that we have not got already.”

30 The lecture was published in La Revue hebdomadaire on 2 March 1918. A slightly edited version of the English translation appeared in the Times Literary Supplement in February 2018. Wharton described the lecture in two letters to her friend Alice Garret, dated March 11 and March 18 [1918] (Alice Warder Garrett Papers, Collection of the Evergreen House Foundation, Evergreen Museum & Library, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland). My thanks to Sharon Kim who drew my attention to these letters.

31 See Alan Price’s The End of the Age of Innocence: Edith Wharton and the First World War (1996) and Julie Olin-Ammentorp’s Edith Wharton’s Writings from the Great War (2004). Some of Wharton’s articles were made available to French readers: in particular “L’Âme de la France,” published in La Revue de Paris in February 1916; and “Les Français vus par une Américaine” (the translation of the conclusion of French Ways and Their Meaning), published in La Revue hebdomadaire in January 1918. Wharton also published a tribute to a French friend killed in action in 1915, “Jean du Breuil de Saint-Germain,” and in 1916 she edited The Book of the Homeless/Le Livre des sans-foyer, a bilingual volume of essays, poems, artwork, and musical scores designed to raise money for her charities.

32 À côté de la théocratie puritaine fondée ‘sur les âpres rochers du Massachusetts, par des hommes d’esprit étroit mais honorables,’ fleurit la société cossue, à la fois ‘commerçante et patricienne’ des colons hollandais, établie à la Nouvelle-Amsterdam (New-York), et qui estimaient que la meilleure façon de se préparer à la vie future, était de jouir pleinement de la vie présente.”

33 “[M]ais, à quelques exceptions près, ils ne sentaient pas le terroir : leurs auteurs étaient surtout les disciples des Anglais, des Russes ou des Français.”

34 “Edith Wharton, qui explore le cénacle des ‘Quatre Cents’ comme Kipling la jungle, réussit élégamment ce tour de force de nous amener à prendre au sérieux, voire au tragique, les intrigues mondaines. Peut-être allons-nous assister à la naissance d’un genre littéraire : le roman américain.”

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Virginia Ricard, « Edith Wharton, Translator »Transatlantica [En ligne], 2 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2022, consulté le 02 février 2023. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/transatlantica/19863 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/transatlantica.19863

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Virginia Ricard

Université Bordeaux Montaigne, CLIMAS

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