17 Years at The Mount, Lenox
July 6 - August 24, 2009
Sunday may be the traditional day of rest, but in the Berkshires it's Monday. So, what's an arts-loving tourist to do? Get thee to Edith Wharton's home, The Mount, for eight consecutive Mondays at 4pm. Noted authors (primarily biographers) read from their works, discuss their subject, and answer questions from the audience.
After researching topics, writers, and receiving recommendations from series' participants, The Mount's staff invites authors whose books focus on the interests which were those of Edith Wharton; i.e. literature, history, garden design, and architecture. The authors are national and international award recipients in writing, filmmakers, professors, and Pulitzer Prize winners.
July 6th starts with an intimate, behind the recluse story of poet Emily Dickinson, written by Brenda Wineapple, who has also penned books on Gertrude Stein and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The following week, architectural historian Richard Guy Wilson talks about turn-of-the-century high society New Yorkers at Harbor Hill. Perhaps this year's most famous historic figure is Abraham Lincoln. But where would the man have been without Mary Todd Lincoln by his side? Catherine Clinton discusses this enigmatic Southern daughter who found herself a Northern wife. Brad Gooch has written the first major, long overdue biography of the great southern writer Flannery O'Connor. While her life was short, O'Connor is considered one of the brilliant writers of the 20th century.
The lectures in August begin with Lily Koppel's "The Red Leather Diary," the story of a chance discovery of a diary which led to a fascinating journey into the past. On August 10th, John Matteson speaks about the Alcott family - particularly Louisa and her relationship with her father. "The Hemingses of Monticello," by Annette Gordon-Reed, is the true story of Sally Hemings and her master Thomas Jefferson. The series ends on August 24th with author/lecturer Barry Werth on the topic of Darwin's "Origin of Species" and the repercussions that these controversial ideas had on Americans at that time.
While the atmosphere is casual in what once was the estate's barn, the programs exude an air of sophistication. Wharton and her friends, including Henry James, read their own works in this same setting a century ago. Lectures end with a meet & greet, book signing, munching on currant scones and sipping iced tea. The series is a very pleasant and welcome step back in time, when life was a bit more civilized and formal. www.edithwharton.org