Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Biltmore, Edith Wharton, Henry James and I

Early this week I was out of town with my husband. To celebrate our anniversary, we went to the Biltmore Estate. (I have some photos at the end of the post.) It was amazing—the history, the architecture and the forestry. But even more fascinating to me was how many famous people visited, including authors. Henry James stayed there. Edith Wharton visited. What a fabulous time they must have had visiting each other and talking about writing.

I could just imagine them discussing (disagreeing over?) the latest novels, poetry, and philosophies. Perhaps they were a kind of Inklings group but for literary writers. I admit I became a little jealous of the camaraderie and the opportunity to share and learn. But then I realized how spoiled I am. The numbers of books about the life and craft of writing is unparalleled. They didn’t have On Writing or any of the host of books that we have. They learned by trial and error—others and their own.

And as for the camaraderie, if I’m honest with myself, I probably would have had nothing in common with Henry James. And all we would have done is argued about adverbs. I abhor adverbs. And he said, “I adore adverbs; they are the only qualifications I really respect.”

Instead of the opportunity to bicker over adverbs, I have something better. Thanks to writers’ groups and conferences and the internet, I have a whole host of writing friends. Think of how easy it is for us to send a quick email (or even a phone call) for an opinion, a shoulder to cry on, or a kind “stop whining and write.” Back in the day, you’d have to write and letter and wait. And wait. And then wait some more.

So I think I’ll keep my word processor, my internet author friends, and my books on writing. After all, changing clothes four to eight times a day would be frustrating—I like yoga pants and t-shirts. And the hours of polite party talk would drive me crazy. Though I wouldn’t mind the eight course meals at the Biltmore or the servants who take care of everything.

Here’s a photo of me at the Biltmore.

Here I am on the loggia, pretending I'm Edith Wharton. No doubt she wrote while overlooking the Smoky Mountains. (You can get a sense of the view from the reflection on the French doors.)

Be sure to check back on Tuesday when I'll be participating in "Indie-pendence Day," a celebration of indie authors.


  1. What a beautiful place to write! No wonder Edith Wharton was such a prolific writer... there would have been NO excuse not to produce great works with that kind of inspiration all around her :D

  2. Great pictures!

    I'm kind of glad that I'm writing in 2012 and not back in the days of Henry James and other classic writers. There are a lot more resources available now.

  3. Beautiful pictures. I stopped by from Query Girl's blog :-) And I also loved The Biltmore. I went my first year of college for a service trip (we had a day off there), and I kept asking them if I could move into the Biltmore's library :-P They didn't let me. But didn't it totally look like the library from Beauty and the Beast??

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