Autobiography, with Letters

By William Lyon Phelps | Go to book overview
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81
MRS. WHARTON; CONRAD; BENAVENTE

IN 1923 Mrs. Wharton came from her home in France to New Haven in America to receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Yale. She has always hated hot weather and the heat on that June Commencement day was terrific; in giving out the degrees as Public Orator, I lost four pounds. She suffered even more, but made no complaint. In presenting her for the degree, I said


DOCTOR OF LETTERS EDITH WHARTON

American novelist of international fame. Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in France. For nearly twenty-five years she has produced novels, some of the most notable being The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence. Her books are marked by sincerity in art, beauty in construction, distinction in style. She writes short stories and full-length works with equal skill. She is a master in the creation of original and living characters, and her powers of ironical description are exerted to salutary ends. She is a realist in the best sense of the word; revealing the inner nature of men and women without resource to sensationalism and keeping ever within the boundaries of true art. She holds a universally recognized place in the front rank of the world's living novelists. She has elevated the level of American literature. We are proud that she is an American and especially proud to enroll her name among the daughters of Yale.

On 13 August 1928 we were in Paris and she very kindly invited us to lunch with her at her summer home, Villa Colombe, at St. Brice sous Forêt. It is a beautiful place, a fine old eighteenth century house, with magnificent gardens.

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