"Edith Newbold Jones was born in New York City on January 24, 1862. She was born into one of New York's most prominent and wealthiest families. She was educated privately at home and abroad by a governess and was an avid reader. It was during this time that she began writing poetry, which was later published anonymously in the Atlantic Monthly in 1880. At 23, she married Edward Wharton, a wealthy Boston banker. After the marriage, she divided her time between foreign travel and her Newport, Rhode Island home called ""Land's End.""
Because she was accustomed to the architectural beauty of Europe, she despised the ""ugliness"" of the exterior of ""Land's End"" and tried to improve it. She and architect Ogden Codman decided instead to decorate the interior to express the owners' personalities, something that was considered a novel idea in those days. They later published a how-to book based on the experience, The Decoration of Houses, which enjoyed popular success.
Because Mrs. Wharton was bored with her stuffy social life, and troubled about her husband's ill mental and physical health, she turned to ""unfashionable"" intellectual pursuits. With her family's full disapproval, she launched herself into a career of writing. She moved to Lenox, Massachusetts in 1899, where she made many literary friends. She became especially attached to Henry James, and she later dedicated some of her books to him. It was during these years that she published a volume of short stories titled The Greater Inclination (1899), and a novelette which reflected her admiration for Henry James, The Touchstone. The Valley of Decision, a novel, was published in 1902, and Sanctuary, in 1903. Her next, and one of her most well-known novels, The House of Mirth, published in 1905, dramatizes the dangers of varying from a set social pattern and won her critical acclaim.
In 1907, she moved permanently to France. In 1912, she divorced her husband, mainly because of his mental difficulties. Tales of Men and Ghosts, a collection of stories about the supernatural, was published in 1910; and Ethan Frome, which remains her best known work, was published in 1911.
During World War I, Wharton remained in Paris, where her relief work won her a Cross of the Legion of Honor. She described her wartime experiences in the novel Fighting France, published in 1915. In 1916, she published Xingu and Other Stories, which became the most well-known of her war writings. Others include the novels The Marne (1918), and A Son at the Front (1923). Also during this time she published The Age of Innocence (1920), a satirical novel of manners, which won her a Pulitzer Prize.
Her later writings include four novelettes collected in a volume titled Old New York, which was published in 1924. One of these, The Old Maid, was the basis for a Pulitzer Prize-winning play. In The Writing of Fiction, Wharton acknowledged her debt to her great friend and mentor Henry James. She explored societal and family tribulations in The Mother's Recompense (1925), Twilight Sleep (1927), and The Children, published in 1928. Another major novel, Hudson River Bracketed, published in 1929, and its sequel, The Gods Arrive, published in 1932, contrast the cultural values of New York and England. In 1934, Wharton published an autobiography titled A Backward Glance. During her lifetime she produced over 50 books, and she was the first woman to earn an honorary degree from Yale University. She died in France, on August 11, 1937. "