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Weekend Recs: Exploring the Chilling Tales of Edith Wharton

We’ve made it to Halloween weekend! For this week’s weekend recs we’re changing it up and bringing to you all things Edith Wharton. If you’re looking to add some spooky stories into your weekend, consider picking up one of Edith Wharton’s short story collections. Learn more about Wharton, her life, and written works below. 

Edith Wharton Biography 

Wharton was an American novelist, short story writer, and designer. Wharton drew upon her insider’s knowledge of the upper-class New York “aristocracy” to realistically portray the lives and morals of the Gilded Age. In 1921, she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Literature, for her novel The Age of Innocence. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996. 

Horrified by ghost stories as a young girl, Wharton took that fear and channeled it into creating a series of chilling short stories filled with spirits beyond the grave and other supernatural phenomena.  As an adult, Wharton claimed she did not believe in ghosts, while somewhat paradoxically also confessing that she was afraid of them. Whether you believe in ghosts and the supernatural world or not, Wharton’s tales are enough to send a tingle running down your spine. 

Fun Fact: Edith Wharton was honored on a U.S. postage stamp issued on Sept. 5, 1980. 

Re-released Short Story Collection 

In total, Wharton has published upwards of 85 short stories that have been published in many different formats over the years. This October, her collection Ghosts will be revived by NYRB Classics, with the same preface with which it was initially published in 1937, shortly after Wharton’s death. Spanning the length of Wharton’s career—the earliest story, “The Lady’s Maid’s Bell,” is from 1902—the tales appear in their original, somewhat perplexing order. The collection contains 11 short stories in total. 

Kate Moss of The Guardian says of the collection, “A blend of Poe, Hawthorne and Henry James, [Wharton] has a lightness of touch that belies the often very grisly tale.” 

Read more about the collection in this New Yorker article. 

About the Edith Wharton Review 

If you want to learn more about Edith Wharton, consider viewing the Edith Wharton Review. The Edith Wharton Review is a peer-reviewed, MLA-indexed, scholarly journal publishing scholarship on Edith Wharton, Wharton in the context of other authors, and Wharton in relation to other writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The journal is published by the Pennsylvania State University and can be accessed through Falvey’s database. 

AVAILABLE AT FALVEY – Short Stories Collections by Edith Wharton: 


""Jenna Renaud is a graduate student in the Communication Department and graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library.


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When the Comet is Right: Proving Lovecraft’s Astronomical Observations

Astronomy professors pointing at a projection of the night sky.

Falvey Library’s Distinctive Collections and Villanova Astronomy Faculty collaborated in order to show that H.P. Lovecraft, famed horror writer, viewed Halley’s Comet in his recently acquired one-of-a-kind astronomical journal, now available to the public online.

“This manuscript—hitherto held privately—has long been a ‘Holy Grail’ to scholars of Lovecraft eager explore connections between Lovecraft’s literary output and his ventures into amateur science and journalism. Villanova University brings a commitment to open scholarship for a global community of inquiry by sharing rare resources,  such as this manuscript, through making high resolution digital surrogates freely available,” says Michael Foight, Director of Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement.

One class of Villanova undergraduate students received a chance to view them in person, as Foight brought Lovecraft’s astronomical journal as well as other rare documents for a special presentation. It was a unique opportunity to look over primary works by prominent figures in the field, including Galileo, and another way Falvey staff reach out to the community to enrich the academic experience.

But the students were also on hand to see history, literature, and astronomy lead to discovery.

Edward Guinan, PhD, Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics, and Frank Maloney, PhD, Associate Professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics, used software to recreate the sky the night that Lovecraft indicated he made a rare observation of Halley’s Comet.

Lovecraft journal page with Halley's Comet

A page from the digitized astronomical journal of H.P. Lovecraft showing Halley’s Comet.

It turns out that, exactly as the author indicated, Halley’s comet was visible on May 26, 1910, 9 p.m., in the exact direction indicated.

Lovecraft’s work, which is heavily influenced by astronomy and mythology, may have roots in this unearthed journal, which was used by Lovecraft from age 18 to 25.

Currently, S.T. Joshi, a leading Lovecraft biographer, is reviewing the recently digitized journal. There are also scholars around the world poring over the work for new revelations about Lovecraft’s work.

Falvey Library is helping write a new chapter in Lovecraft’s legacy*, one which still holds the imagination of authors today, from Stephen King to Brian Lumley to Jordan Peele.

 

* Note: In recent years, Lovecraft has been criticized for his personal views, including strong racism, which resulted in his appearance being removed from the statute given for lifetime achievement in the World Fantasy Awards.


headshot of Shawn Proctor

Shawn Proctor is Communication and Marketing Manager at Falvey Library. His favorite Lovecraft story is “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”


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Last Modified: November 18, 2019