Edward Robbins Wharton

The Man Who turned  Edith Newbold Jones into Edith Wharton

A Sad Life

On the face of  it , the marriage between Edward Robbins Wharton (Teddy) and Edith Newbold Jones April 29, 1885, at Trinity Chapel, NYC should have been the perfect match.  Although he was twelve years her senior,  by all accounts Teddy, a Harvard graduate,  was a charming and handsome young man.  Both were descendants of old American families with power and wealth. Both had been raised "properly" and had every reason to believe the marriage would work. It is hard to imagine that by the time Edith Wharton wrote her autobiography A Backward Glance  in 1934, she only mentions Teddy twice.

Teddy Wharton, 1898 Beinecke Library

Image of Edith Wharton courtesy of the "Edith Wharton's World: Portraits of People and Places" exhibit at the Smithsonian website

There has been a great deal written about Edith Wharton and there are numerous links on the web that deal with her writing and her life.  A good starting point is Edith Wharton which allows you to search extensive links.  One of the best books on the subject in my opinion is Edith Wharton : A Biography  by R. W. B. Lewis. However there is one glaring error in the book when Lewis links Teddy to the VA Whartons which is simply wrong.

My interest of course is in Teddy more than Edith. Teddy was charming and affable but early in his marriage it was clear that both partners suffered from nervous ailments. According to the biographies it took them three weeks to consummate the marriage and were shortly living in separate rooms. Edith recovered Teddy did not. In today's parlance it may be guessed that Teddy was suffering from manic depression. For twenty three years the couple - who remained childless struggled together and apart to keep the marriage together. One such attempt was the purchase of The Mount in Lenox, MA. While the Wharton's had maintained a home in Newport, Edith never liked it and preferred Lenox. The marriage finally came apart permanently when Teddy stole money from Edith to keep a mistress in Boston. He was always borrowing from his family and died a sad figure February 07, 1928. Edith died in French exile 1937 and is buried there.

After their divorce in 1913 Edith sold The Mount saying it was really Teddy's project.  Extensive efforts to restore the Mount are underway and you can support that effort on the web, through The Edith Wharton Restoration.