My Dear Governess

The Letters of Edith Wharton to Anna Bahlmann
My Dear Governess: The Letters of Edith Wharton to Anna Bahlmann. Yale Univ. Jun. 2012. c.336p. ed. by Irene Goldman-Price. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300169898. $30. LIT
Anna Bahlmann tutored Wharton in German beginning in 1873, when Wharton—then Edith Newbold Jones—was 11. Their association continued until Bahlmann's death in 1916; thus Bahlmann served as governess, companion, and secretary to Wharton for over 40 years. The 135 letters in this volume, written by Wharton to Bahlmann and spanning the years 1874–1916, were recently acquired by Yale University; they are especially valuable because they represent a period for which little primary Wharton documentation is known to exist. Apparently Wharton did not save Bahlmann's letters to her. Editor Goldman-Price (coeditor, American Literary Mentors) provides a precise transcription of the Wharton letters and includes some Bahlmann letters to others. Wharton's letters here describe her reading, her travel adventures, and the weather and show Wharton's thorough knowledge of French and Italian history and her enthusiastic appreciation of drama, music, and painting. There is less on Wharton's personal relationships and works, although Goldman-Price contends that a great deal of new information about Wharton's life is revealed through these letters.
VERDICT This is essential for Wharton scholars as well as informed general readers interested in Wharton or her literary and social circles.
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