Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Mary Ann Caws

Committee Members

N. John Hall

Hildegard Hoeller

Rachel Brownstein

Subject Categories

American Literature | American Studies




This dissertation, “Brought Up For Each Other”: The Letters of Edith Wharton to Bernard Berenson, presents the complete correspondence of Edith Wharton to art historian Bernard Berenson. It is the first time Wharton’s voice – detailed, openhearted, confident, emotional at times, speaking to the pleasures and troubles of the moment – is available in a singular arc to one person and an intellectual equal, for twenty-eight years, beginning in 1909 until her death in 1937. The friendship of this significant American author to the most prominent art historian and critic of his time was based on numerous personal interests including literature, art and architecture, travel, expatriate life, history and love of conversation. In a letter to her dated February 19, 1917, Berenson wrote, “…we truly were, if not made, then brought up for each other.” Wharton’s letters function as a kind of autobiography, drawing a static image of the progression of her life and career and containing snapshots of the details of her world, including the quotidian (organizing and maintaining her households), the professional (finding time to work and read, scaling the highs and lows of her career), and the personal (contending with her husband’s illnesses, their divorce, her other friendships). These letters trace the development of a friendship that survived a world war and an economic depression, and serve as a cultural, social and historical record of the early twentieth century. In addition, it provides a new and integral component to understanding the life and work of one of America’s greatest writers.

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