Edith Wharton Collected Stories: 1891-1910
Library of America
“A Journey” was written in 1899, at the midway point in Edith Wharton’s difficult marriage to Edward Wharton, from whom she divorced in 1913. It is not surprising that the handful of stories that she wrote during the 1890’s were tales of marital misery. “A Journey” features a young wife traveling with her terminally ill older husband by train to New York, having spent time in Colorado’s climate under doctor’s orders. The journey itself becomes a metaphor for an unhappy marriage.
Edith Wharton was born into a wealthy and socially prominent old New York family. She became an enormously successful and critically respected writer – a rarity for women of her time. “A Journey,” is not one of Wharton’s more typical works of short fiction. And despite its obsessive, dream-like tone, it is also not a tale of the supernatural, but rather a remarkably modern tale of a bad marriage.
Edith Wharton’s writing career was launched one hundred years ago, with the publication of her first book, The Decoration of Houses, written with an architect friend. In her long career, which stretched over forty years and included the publication of more than forty books, Wharton portrayed a fascinating segment of the American experience. She was a born storyteller, whose novels are justly celebrated for their vivid settings, satiric wit, ironic style, and moral seriousness. Often portrayed as tragic victims of cruel social conventions, her female characters are trapped in bad relationships or confining circumstances. Her own life stands as an example of the obstacles that a woman of her time had to overcome to find self-realization.
“A Journey” appears in Library of America’s two-volume, Edith Wharton: Collected Stories, edited by Maureen Howard.