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My Dear Governess

The Letters of Edith Wharton to Anna Bahlmann

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An exciting archive came to auction in 29: the papers and personal effects of Anna Catherine Bahlmann (1849–1916), a governess and companion to several prominent American families. Among the collection wereone hundred thirty-fiveletters from her most famous pupil, Edith Newbold Jones, later the great American novelist Edith Wharton. Remarkably, until now, just three letters from Wharton’s childhood and early adulthood were thought to survive. Bahlmann, who would become Wharton’s literary secretary and confidant, emerges in the letters as a seminal influence, closely guiding her precocious young student’s readings, translations, and personal writing. Taken together, these letters, written over the course of forty-two years, provide a deeply affecting portrait of mutual loyalty and influence between two women from different social classes.

This correspondence reveals Wharton’s maturing sensibility and vocation, and includes details of her life that will challenge long-held assumptions about her formative years. Wharton scholar Irene Goldman-Price provides a rich introduction to My Dear Governess that restores Bahlmann to her centralplace in Wharton’s life.

From Publishers Weekly

Apr 09, 2012 – Given her preoccupations with class and social status, it is apropos that Wharton scholar Goldman-Price’s volume makes available Wharton’s letters to Anna Bahlmann—her tutor, governess, and secretary—and offers a glimpse inside that class-bound high society. Bahlmann began as a German tutor for the precocious 12-year-old Wharton and the two bonded as the older woman fed her student’s voracious appetite and nurtured her literary ambitions. The most engaging material comes from this early part of their relationship, during which Bahlmann offered criticism of Wharton’s literary efforts and made suggestions for further reading. Over the years, Bahlmann became something of a personal assistant and a member of the Wharton household staff, often responsible for turning Wharton’s manuscripts into print. Despite clear affection, Wharton’s letters to Bahlmann are frustratingly devoid of comment either on her tumultuous life (a husband institutionalized, a faithless lover) or artistic process. Aesthetically flat and concerned with tedious domestic matters—cities to travel to next, the quality of the day’s outing—the letters will only interest specialists. However, despite the lackluster content, the volume itself is well edited, with a competent introduction and a useful commentary throughout that situates each letter in the context of Wharton’s life and travels.
My Dear Governess
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  • $25.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Fiction & Literature
  • Published: Jun 05, 2012
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Seller: Yale University Press
  • Print Length: 288 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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