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My Dear Governess: The Letters of Edith Wharton to Anna Bahlmannby Irene Goldman Price
Synopses & Reviews
An exciting archive came to auction in 2009: the papers and personal effects of Anna Catherine Bahlmann (1849and#8211;1916), a governess and companion to several prominent American families. Among the collection wereand#160;one hundred thirty-fiveand#160;letters from her most famous pupil, Edith Newbold Jones, later the great American novelist Edith Wharton. Remarkably, until now, just three letters from Whartonand#8217;s childhood and early adulthood were thought to survive. Bahlmann, who would become Whartonand#8217;s literary secretary and confidante, emerges in the letters as a seminal influence, closely guiding her precocious young studentand#8217;s readings, translations, and personal writing. Taken together, these letters, written over the course of forty-two years, provide a deeply affecting portrait of mutual loyalty and influence between two women from different social classes.
This correspondence reveals Whartonand#8217;s maturing sensibility and vocation, and includes details of her life that will challenge long-held assumptions about her formative years. Wharton scholar Irene Goldman-Price provides a rich introduction to My Dear Governess that restores Bahlmann to her centraland#160;place in Whartonand#8217;s life.
"Given her preoccupations with class and social status, it is apropos that Wharton scholar Goldman-Price's volume makes available Wharton's letters to Anna Bahlmann — her tutor, governess, and secretary — and offers a glimpse inside that class-bound high society. Bahlmann began as a German tutor for the precocious 12-year-old Wharton and the two bonded as the older woman fed her student's voracious appetite and nurtured her literary ambitions. The most engaging material comes from this early part of their relationship, during which Bahlmann offered criticism of Wharton's literary efforts and made suggestions for further reading. Over the years, Bahlmann became something of a personal assistant and a member of the Wharton household staff, often responsible for turning Wharton's manuscripts into print. Despite clear affection, Wharton's letters to Bahlmann are frustratingly devoid of comment either on her tumultuous life (a husband institutionalized, a faithless lover) or artistic process. Aesthetically flat and concerned with tedious domestic matters — cities to travel to next, the quality of the day's outing — the letters will only interest specialists. However, despite the lackluster content, the volume itself is well edited, with a competent introduction and a useful commentary throughout that situates each letter in the context of Wharton's life and travels. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A rich trove of letters from Edith Wharton to her governess, written over the course of their long and affectionate friendship
About the Author
Irene Goldman-Price has taught literature and women's studies at Ball State University and Penn State University. She serves on the editorial board of the Edith Wharton Review and has consulted and taught at The Mount, Edith Wharton's house museum in Massachusetts. In 2010and#8211;2011 she was a visiting fellow at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where the Wharton letters are held.
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