Edith Wharton: Unknown work discovered


02 June 2017
p46-masterclass-69422.jpg Edith Wharton
The 1901 play The Shadow of a Doubt is the only complete play manuscript to have been written by Wharton


The 1901 play The Shadow of a Doubt is the only complete play manuscript to have been written by Wharton

It was discovered by University of Glasgow Reader in North American Literature Dr Laura Rattray and Professor Mary Chinnery from Georgian Court University when they were researching a collection of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Age of Innocence author's papers in Texas.

'After all this time, nobody thought there were long, full scale, completed, original, professional works by Wharton still out there that we didn’t know about. But evidently there are. In 2017 Edith Wharton continues to surprise,' said Dr Rattray.

The two typescript copies of the manuscript of The Shadow of a Doubt were found in the Playscripts and Promptbooks Collection (Performing Arts) of the Harry Ranson Center at the University of Texas. Dr Rattray and Professor Chinnery have been able to establish that it was produced for performance with theatrical impresario Charles Frohman.

'The late 19th and early years of the 20th century cover a pivotal, formative period of Wharton’s career, about which scholars still have less information than they would like,' said Dr Rattray. 'Well before the publication of her first novel, we can now ascertain that Wharton was establishing herself as a playwright, deeply engaged in both the creative and business aspects of the theatre - playwriting more important to her at this time than establishing herself as a novelist.'

Edith Wharton may now be best known as a novelist, but she didn't publish her first novel until she was 40. She was 29 when she first published a short story, Mrs Manstey's View, and in the August issue of WM, out at the beginning of July, this story will be analysed in Helen M. Hunt's Short Story Masterclass.

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