Books, Literary Notes, etc: Edith Wharton

Books, Literary Notes, etc: Edith Wharton


Books, Literary Notes, etc.

By Winnifred Reeve
A new book by Edith Wharton is always a distinguished event in the literary world. “Old New York” comes in four volumes, “False Dawn,” “The Old Maid,” “The Spark” and “New Year’s Day.”
The New York Times, in reviewing “The Old Maid,” says that she has “written a story as universally significant and as enduringly beautiful as ‘Ethan Frome,’ a story which exercises the inevitable authority of great art.”
I should not call “Ethan Frome” beautiful, but great it is, probably one of the greatest stories ever written. Though it is several years since I read it, the characters still stand out clear cut in their stark realism.
“Ethan Frome” was different from anything Edith Wharton had previously written. “The House of Mirth,” “The Fruit of the Tree,” even “Summer” gave no inkling of the fact that she was capable of depicting the bare, sordid life of the poverty stricken farmer of an isolated region with such vivid verisimilitude. “Summer,” it is true, was laid in a country region. It was a study of beauty, adolescent youth and betrayal in the environment of a small town near the mountains.
“Ethan Frome,” on the other hand, was a haunting study of a strong man’s love for his wife’s niece, whose beauty, youth, goodness and gaiety of heart contrasted with the narrow, dull, mean and hard nature of the wife who was several years his senior. The drama unfolds in an isolated farmhouse, with a background of penetrating poverty and work, and there is something terrific in the way in which the story sweeps along its course to the immense climax.
“The Old Maid” was, I believe, published some time ago as a serial in an American magazine . It is slightly reminiscent of “Ethan Frome,” inasmuch as there is the same tense situation of drama with the overhanging and threatening tragedy.
In her youth “the old maid” had made one false step. She is the mother of a child, adopted by the woman the “old maid” had wronged. The story is mainly concerned with the conflict between the real and the foster mother in the upbringing of this child. The futile, reaching out mother love of the “old maid” for the child who regards her with careless interest, makes a poignant situation.
Variations of this plot will probably be attempted by less skilled writers than Edith Wharton.
A Canadian writer whose work is coming to the fore is Mrs. M. L Strange of Fenn, Alberta, wife of Major Strange of champion wheat fame. Mrs. Strange is writing stories and articles concerned with farming in Alberta. Several have been bought for publication by well known American magazines, and she has recently made contracts with two British publications for stories of this country. A series of her farm stories are running at the present time in the Grain Growers’ Guide, and are attracting very favorable notice. Prior to coming to this country from England, Mrs. Strange was already well known as a writer of short stories. Despite the distractions of a large farm and the growing fame as a scientific agriculturist of her husband, her inclinations have never been weaned from her former occupation as a writer. Young, attractive and full of energy and interest, Mrs. Strange has taken up her writing again with renewed enthusiasm, and we may look for some good results from her effort.
MacLean’s Magazine is unique this month (May), inasmuch as it publishes a spended article by M. D. Geddes of this city, who has recently been sojourning in the east. Mr. Geddes’ article, “Canada’s Mountain Play-12grounds,” is about the best thing we have seen in the pages of MacLean’s for years. After reading Mr. Geddes’ article, it is hard to restrain the impules to set out at once upon one of the thrilling trips into the hills of which he writes so well. The article is illustrated with numerous photographs of points of beauty in our mountains. Mr. Geddes himself is shown in one picture crossing a crevasse by means of a snow bridge. An ardent mountain climber and member of the Alpine Club, Mr. Geddes has been a guest of honor at several functions in the east, where his addresses on mountain climbing have been listened to with interest. In fact, his appearance before a well known New York club, where he told of the Alpine club members climbing the ramparts of the Assiniboine group, created something of a furor. Part of his story was told in rhyme, for besides being a clever speaker Mr. Geddes is also a poet. Splendid views along the Banff-Windermere Highway, of the club house of the Alpine club nestling amongst the pines on the slope of the Sulphur Mountain at Banff, of the herd of seven thousand buffalo at Wainwright park, of Moraine Lake, of the Lake of Hanging Glaciers showing ice cliffs 300 feet high, of the “mammoth snout” of Tumbling Glacier as it enters Berg Lake close to Mount Robson, of the Haig Glacier 40 miles from Banff, of the mighty Assiniboine, widely known as the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies at an altitude of 11,870 feet––all these fine views make Mr. Geddes’ article of more than usual interest and of especial value.
An especially distinguished visitor from New York arrives in Calgary about June 5 in the person of Elmer Clifton, to famous motion picture producer. Both Mayor Webster and Mr. Richardson, manager of the Calgary Fair, have sent special invitations to Mr. Clifton to be the guest of the city during stampede week, but it is not certain how long Mr. Clifton will be in the city.
Mr. Clifton’s rise to fame has been rapid. A few years ago he was associated with D.W. Griffith, and played the part of the the southern soldier in “The Birth of a Nation.” His play, “Down to the Sea in Ships,” made a great impression upon the movie-jaded public of New York, where it had the record run of 18 consecutive months, playing to capacity audiences. Charlie Chaplin, in an article in the Literary Digest, reviews the 16 best plays of the year, and writes that whatever plays are to be put in the class of teh “best” foremost mustbe put “Down to the Sea in Ships.” He gives an interesting description of how this epic of the sea was produced, without the usual trimmings of Hollywood, and actually filmed on the sea itself, with the characters, seamen and the inhabitants of the coast. Only the stars and a few of the main characters were professional actors. Mr. Clifton chose his cast right from among the people in the place where he was taking the picture.
In somewhat this same mood he comes to Calgary. Our immense ranges, our grain fields, our herds, our farms and our ranches will now be studied, with a view to the production of a great drama of the soil, which will reveal this country to the world as probably it has never been shown before.
Mr. Clifton is the first of the great producers to visit this country, and his coming may mark the beginning of an exploitation of the motion picture possibilities in Alberta.


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People Mentioned

Leean Wu

Leean is an Honours English language and literature student at the University of British Columbia and a research assistant for The Winnifred Eaton Archive. She was an undergraduate teaching assistant for the UBC Coordinated Arts Program for two years and a research assistant for the UBC Public Humanities Hub.

Winnifred Eaton

  • Born: August 21, 1875
  • Died: April 08, 1954
See the Biographical Timeline for biographical information on Winnifred Eaton.

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is the Technical Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive and a Developer at Simon Fraser University’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (DHIL). He is a graduate of the M.A. program in English at the University of British Columbia where he specialized in Indigenous and diasporic literature, science and technology studies, and the digital humanities.

Mary Chapman

Mary Chapman is the Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive, a Professor of English, and Academic Director of the Public Humanities Hub at University of British Columbia. She is the author of the award-winning monograph Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and US Modernism (Oxford UP) and of numerous articles about American literature and women writers. She has also edited Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (McGill-Queen’s UP) and published essays on the Eaton sisters in American Quarterly, MELUS, Legacy, Canadian Literature, and American Periodicals. Her current research project is a microhistory of the Eaton family. For more information, see

Organizations Mentioned


Also known as the Calgary Albertan. First established as the Calgary Tribune in 1886. Would be called variations of the Albertan from 1899 until 1980. Had a variety of names until the newspaper was sold to the Toronto Sun Publishing Corporation and renamed the Calgary Sun in 1980.
Written by Samantha Bowen, Joey Takeda, and Mary Chapman


Winnifred Eaton Reeve Fonds

Collection of Winnifred Eaton’s papers and unpublished manuscripts, which were transferred to the University of Calgary in 1982. The finding aid for this material is located here:
Written by Joey Takeda


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