Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937.
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Edith Wharton Letters to Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Austin
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1


Consists chiefly of letters (1903-1927) sent by the American novelist Edith Wharton to her English friends Alfred and Hester Austin. During that period Wharton lived in Lenox, Massachusetts, and several places in France.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of twenty-seven autograph letters and note cards sent by Edith Wharton to her English friends, poet Alfred Austin and his wife, Hester Austin. Wharton usually startseach letter by thanking the Austins for their letters and their hospitality. The body of her letters are full of details about her life, her estate at "The Mount", her husband, Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton, their many travels to Europe and England, the death of her husband's mother which was followed by Edward's mental problems, her marital problems, and the collapse of her marriage. Wharton also talks about her apartment at Rue Varenne in Paris, which was purchased and decorated with the help of her brother after her divorce, and about her charitable relief efforts to help the refugees during World War I. Other topics of Wharton's letters include books that she sent the Austins, literary works by other authors, Alfred Austin's writings, and news of her close friend, the British author Henry James. Wharton consistently used French words and expressions in her letters.

In addition, the collection also includes a quitclaim deed to property on Sixth Avenue in New York City, signed by Wharton and dated 1920.


Folders are organized by accession number.

Collection Creator Biography:

Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937.

Edith Wharton was an American novelist, short story writer, and landscape designer. In 1901 she built "The Mount," her estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, and primary residence till 1911. When her marriage deteriorated, Wharton decided to move permanently to France, living at 58 Rue de Varenne, Paris. In 1912 she published her best-known work, Ethan Frome. Throughout World War I she championed charitable efforts for refugees and, in 1916, was named a Chevalier of the "Legion of Honor" in recognition of her commitment to the displaced. After the war Wharton divided her time between Paris and Hyères, in Provence, where she finished her book The Age of Innocence in 1920 (winner 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature.) In 1927 she purchased a villa on the site of a seventheenth-century convent in the hills above the city of Hyères in Provence, where she lived during the winters and springs. She called the villa "Sainte-Claire du Chateau" and filled the garden with cactus and subtropical plants. She returned to the United States only once after the war to receive an honorary doctorate degree from Yale University in 1923. Wharton spoke flawless French, and many of her books were published in both French and English. She was friend and confidante to many intellectuals of her time such as Jean Cocteau, André Gide, Henry James, and Sinclair Lewis.

Alfred Austin was an English poet, who was appointed Poet Laureate in 1896 upon the death of Tennyson. Among his works are Pacchiarotto, Prince Lucifer, and The Human Tragedy (1862). His autobiography was published in 1911.

Collection History


The quitclaim deed was purchased in December 1946 .

The letters were purchased in November 1965 . AM13257, 18731.

Custodial History

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Dina Britain on August 29, 2008. Finding aid written by Dina Britain on September 9, 2008. Folder Inventory added by Hilde Creager (2015) in 2012.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Edith Wharton Letters to Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Austin; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1