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About This Book
In his Introduction, Louis Auchincloss calls the writing in A Backward Glance "as firm and crisp and lucid as in the best of her novels".Written in 1934, three years before her death, A Backward Glance is a vivid account of Wharton's public and private life.
Edith Jones came of a distinguished and long-established New York family. She was educated by private tutors and governesses at home and in Europe, where the family resided for six years after the American Civil War, and she read voraciously. She made her debut in society in 1879 and married Edward Wharton, a wealthy Boston banker, in 1885.
Although she had had a book of her own poems privately printed when she was 16, it was not until after several years of married life that Wharton began to write in earnest. Her major literary model was Henry James, whom she knew, and her work reveals James’s concern for artistic form and ethical issues. She contributed a few poems and stories to Harper’s, Scribner’s, and other magazines in the 1890s, and in 1897, after overseeing the remodeling of a house in Newport, Rhode Island, she collaborated with the architect Ogden Codman, Jr., on The Decoration of Houses. Her next books, The Greater Inclination (1899) and Crucial Instances (1901), were collections of stories.
Wharton’s first novel, The Valley of Decision, was published in 1902. The House of Mirth (1905) was a novel of manners that analyzed the stratified society in which she had been reared and its reaction to social change. The book won her critical acclaim and a wide audience. In the next two decades—before the quality of her work began to decline under the demands of writing for women’s magazines—she wrote such novels as The Reef (1912), The Custom of the Country (1913), Summer (1917), and The Age of Innocence (1920), which won a Pulitzer Prize.