How I Discovered The Custom of the Country

Part One of Sarah Emsley’s posts celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Edith Wharton’s novel The Custom of the Country.

Sarah Emsley

Part One in a series celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Edith Wharton’s novel The Custom of the Country.

It was my interest in Nova Scotia history that led me to a discovery of Edith Wharton and her fiction. Not because Wharton had any interest in Nova Scotia, but because the poet Helen Pinkerton visited my family in Halifax when I was eighteen, and I took her to see the Halifax Citadel. Her thank you gift to me, for which I will always be grateful, was the Library of America edition of Wharton’s novels The House of Mirth, The Reef, The Age of Innocence, and The Custom of the Country.

I read The House of Mirth first, and when I later read The Custom of the Country, I was struck by the contrast between the plot of the former, with Lily Bart’s decline, and that of the…

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