Wharton, Edith: Twilight Sleep
(researched by Meredith Kinsey)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Edith Wharton. Twilight Sleep. New York: D. Appelton and Company, 1927. Copyright Statements: 1927 by D. Appelton and Company 1927 by Pictorial Review Company Parallel first editions: New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1927. London: D. Appelton and Company, 1927.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first American edition published in trade cloth binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
209 leaves, [3]pp.4-14[2]16-26[2]28-38[2]40-53[2]55-68[2]70-81[2] 83-92[2]94-108[2]110-116[2]118-129[6]133-144[2]146-159[2] 161-176[2]178-187[2]189-195[2]197-208 [2]210-219[2]221-234 [2]236-243[3]247-259[2]261-267[2]269-274[2]276-285[2]287-296 [2]297-304[2]306-315[2]317-328[2]330-339[2]341-349[2]351-366 [2]368-372[8].
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
No editor or introduction. Includes publisher advertisement at end for other books by Edith Wharton and praise for Wharton's previous works. Wharton's books are grouped into 3 categories titled "Books by...", "Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence", and "Four period stories of Old New York".
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
Illustrated plates on front and back of book cover. Illustrations are green and white prints of Romanesque garden scene with urns and fountains. Artist identified only as "M.F".
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
Wide margins and clear, large type contribute to excellent readability. Amount of space between lines is standard throughout. No type description offered on verso of title page. Chapters are numbered with Roman numerals but not titled. First letter of chapter capitalized and ornamented.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The book is printed on wove paper. The pages have been cut at irregular lengths throughout. Both copies in Special Collections have yellowed an equal amount. There is no additional foxing or staining. Overall the book appears to have been used carefully.
11 Description of binding(s)
Bluish trade cloth binding with dotted- line grain. Dust jacket of matching material. Gold leaf design on top edge of title. Designs are decorative fleurs. Transcription of front cover: TWILIGHT SLEEP| EDITH WHARTON| Transcripiton of spine: TWILIGHT| SLEEP| EDITH| WHARTON| APPELTON|
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: TWILIGHT SLEEP| Edith Wharton| New York London| D. APPELTON AND COMPANY| Mcmxxvii| Verso: COPYRIGHT-1927-BY| D.APPELTON AND COMPANY| Printed in the United States of America| COPYRIGHT , 1927, BY THE PICTORIAL REVIEW COMPANY|
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
The most important collection of Edith Wharton's works is kept at Beinecke Library at Yale University. Large collections papers and photographs are also held at Houghton Library at Harvard University, the Firestone Library at Princeton University, Lilly Library at University of Indiana, Bloomington.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
Barret's Library stamp in front fly leave.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Although a May 13, 1928 Appleton royalty report notes a "Colonial Edition" which sold 270 copies, no colonial printing or issue has ever been located. Therefore, after extensive research it appears Appelton and Company published Twilight Sleep in only one edition.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
1927: 20,672 copies 1927: 5,450 copies Appleton printed the first edition 5 additional times, but number of copies sold not available.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Grosset and Dunlap, 1927 Grosset and Dunlap, 1929 Virago Press, 1996 Scribner Paperback Ficiton, 1997 Simon and Schuster, 1997 Two issues of the first edition were purchased from Appelton by Mcleod publishing for a resale of 50 cents ea. for 50 copies. Therefore Mcleod is credited as publisher on title page verso of two issues.
6 Last date in print?
December 1997, Simon and Schuster Trade. Still in print at present time. Retail price $11.00 / paperback. Books in Print
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
Total number of copies sold unknown. Hackett does not list Twilight Sleep as a best seller which sold over 750,000 copies.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
Twilight Sleep was ranked 2nd in the Publisher's Weekly list of best sellers for 8 weeks. It remained on the best sellers list for 16 weeks total, failing to make the list in September, 1927. The printings done in 1927 sold over 26,122 copies at $2.50 per copy. Sales for the following years are unavailable.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Publisher's Weekly, July 16, 1927: A full page adverstisement with quote from The Retail Bookseller. "Note well-- Twilight Sleep takes the lead. Mrs. Wharton's newest novel surpasses all competitors in fiction and non-fiction. Edith Wharton's 'Twilight Sleep' is far and away the best selling book throughout the country today." Price noted as $2.50. Publisher's Weekly, August 20, 1927: Wharton's promotion shares page with 6 other small advertisements for authors published by Appleton. "[Twilight Sleep] is showing increasing signs that it will outsell every previous novel by Mrs. Wharton. The brillant picture of modern society is being read and talked of everywhere." $2.50 The latter advertisement is the more typical. Advertisements of this sort for Twilight Sleep are common throughout Publisher's Weekly.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
N/A
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
After extensive searching in World Cat, Eureka, J.M Salem's A Guide to Critical Reviews, and the American Film Institute, Twilight Sleep seems not to have been reproduced in any other media.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Although Wharton's novels of long-lasting popularity, Ethan Frome and the Age of Innocence, have been translated into many different languages, there is no evidence Twilight Sleep has ever been translated.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
Serialized, in lightly revised form, in Pictorial Review in February 1927, March 1927, April 1927, and May 1927 issues.
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
There is no evidence of either a sequel or prequel to Twilight Sleep.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
For more general biographies of Edith Wharton's life see Joanna Kozakou's research on The House of Mirth and Amanda Muir's research on The Age of Innocence. Edith Wharton published her novel Twilight Sleep in 1927, ten years before her death. Margaret B. McDowell, author of Edith Wharton a biography of Wharton's life and works, says that Twilight Sleep shows us a much less restrained, more satirical Wharton compared to her previous works. The novel itself is another one of Wharton's many studies of the ways of the New York rich before the 1929 stock market crash. Or a bizarre novel based on her image of America in which everyone is either obsessed by work or drugged (228), as Eleanor Dwight, another Wharton biographer, describes the novel. The image of the New York elite presented in Twilight Sleep may have been influenced by Wharton's disillusionment with postwar America. She was disgusted by the American policy of isolationism, and wrote to a friend that she was humiliated to be known as an American (Lewis 424). Edith returned to America in June of 1923 as the first woman to accept an honorary doctorate from Yale University. This was the last trip she ever made to the states (Dwight 228). Later, when she was challenged by critics with charges of no longer being able to speak for Americans (in 1907 she took up residence in Paris), Wharton strongly denied such claims.
No, I'm afraid my young Americans don't talk the language as spoken by the Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis jeunesse; but I saw dozens of young Americans from all parts of America during the war, and none of them talked it; any more than your sons-in-law do!
(Dwight 228). The war as a whole had a huge effect on Wharton which is manifest in her writings. She experienced serious writer's block, or rather writer's confusion, during the wartime period. She remarked to the editor at Appelton publishing, Rutger B. Jewett, that the face of the world is changing so rapidly that the poor novelist is left breathless and mute, unless...he can treat things 'topically', which I never could (Lewis 423). During the postwar period Wharton searched for the world of her girlhood which was gone forever, remarking Je me cherche, je ne me trouve pas (I look for myself, I cannot find myself) (Lewis 424). With all these emotions in mind, Wharton set to work on her last six novels , of which Twilight Sleep is a member. Most of her later work focuses itself on the alienation and frustrations of men and women in the postwar era which, according to Wharton, was extremely impersonalized and rootless (McDowell 106). Her main concern was the isolation of people in all age groups and the gulf of understanding between generations (McDowell 106). The result is the many superficial personal relationships recurring throughout her novels. In the 1920's Wharton faced criticism that her artistic ability was on the decline. She refused to adopt the new writing trends which included the use of stream-of-consciousness, the explicit treatment of sex, and the "slice-of-life" tradition which revealed man as a passive victim of natural law, and because of this her writing did suffer (McDowell 105). Yet, as Grace Kellog insists in her bibliography of Wharton's life after her 1913 divorce, she wrote exactly what she wanted to write, and by it was fulfilled(225).
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Reviews following the publication of Edith Wharton's novel Twilight Sleep are very mixed. Some deemed it another memorable hit for Wharton; some claimed it did not live up to the standard set by her previous works. By the time Twilight Sleep was published in 1927, Wharton already had a number of bestsellers, including Ethan Frome and Age of Innocence. She was already established in the literary world, and for this reason may have had fewer dissenters than devotees.One critic whole-heartedly denounced the work: In the May 28th issue of the Boston Transcript, Dorothy Gilman voiced her discontent with Wharton's latest production.
The result of deserting her own class is disastrous for Mrs. Wharton. She now adventures in a world which she does not really know. Her characters are, therefore, slightly exaggerated. No one desires to accuse Mrs. Wharton of vulgarity. Yet she seems deliberately to set out to write a commonplace story that will delight and entertain readers of serialized fiction. In achieving this she has lost much of her former charm of style, her wit, her gift for delicate characterization and her talent for portraying tragedy with the restraints of civilization. She has now become merely one more novelist writing for a magazine read by the unsophisticated.
Meanwhile admirers of Wharton's work tooted Twilight Sleep as the best yet, a perfect work to follow in the footsteps of her others. In direct contrast to Gilman, Edmund Wilson, who reviewed the novel in New Republic, claimed Twilight Sleep was an extremely distinguished piece of literature. It is a striking proof of Mrs. Wharton's insight that Twilight Sleep should be something other than (with what many novelists, even of high gifts, we have to be content) a mere paler repetition of the author's earlier characters and situations. She has really, to a surprising extent, renewed herself with the new age. Many others including Naomi Royde-Smith and a reviewer in the London Literary Times praised the satirical edge Wharton showcases in the novel. The title itself refers to the comatose condition in which most American women of gentle birth, according to Wharton, pass their adult lives (Lewis 474). The London Literary Times claimed "the world of self-delusion of Twilight Sleep seems to her so horrible that at itmes she can scarcely laugh at it.. She sets it brilliantly before her readers, writing with such certainty and vigour that their senses anyhow will not be lulled." The New York Times review states, "Mrs. Wharton has not written a colorful story. Rather it is a steely gray. She intended it
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Reviews following the publication of Edith Wharton's novel Twilight Sleep are very mixed. Some deemed it another memorable hit for Wharton; some claimed it did not live up to the standard set by her previous works. By the time Twilight Sleep was published in 1927, Wharton already had a number of bestsellers, including Ethan Frome and Age of Innocence. She was already established in the literary world, and for this reason may have had fewer dissenters than devotees.One critic whole-heartedly denounced the work: In the May 28th issue of the Boston Transcript, Dorothy Gilman voiced her discontent with Wharton's latest production.
The result of deserting her own class is disastrous for Mrs. Wharton. She now adventures in a world which she does not really know. Her characters are, therefore, slightly exaggerated. No one desires to accuse Mrs. Wharton of vulgarity. Yet she seems deliberately to set out to write a commonplace story that will delight and entertain readers of serialized fiction. In achieving this she has lost much of her former charm of style, her wit, her gift for delicate characterization and her talent for portraying tragedy with the restraints of civilization. She has now become merely one more novelist writing for a magazine read by the unsophisticated.
Meanwhile admirers of Wharton's work tooted Twilight Sleep as the best yet, a perfect work to follow in the footsteps of her others. In direct contrast to Gilman, Edmund Wilson, who reviewed the novel in New Republic, claimed Twilight Sleep was an extremely distinguished piece of literature. It is a striking proof of Mrs. Wharton's insight that Twilight Sleep should be something other than (with what many novelists, even of high gifts, we have to be content) a mere paler repetition of the author's earlier characters and situations. She has really, to a surprising extent, renewed herself with the new age. Many others including Naomi Royde-Smith and a reviewer in the London Literary Times praised the satirical edge Wharton showcases in the novel. The title itself refers to the comatose condition in which most American women of gentle birth, according to Wharton, pass their adult lives (Lewis 474). The London Literary Times claimed "the world of self-delusion of Twilight Sleep seems to her so horrible that at itmes she can scarcely laugh at it.. She sets it brilliantly before her readers, writing with such certainty and vigour that their senses anyhow will not be lulled." The New York Times review states, "Mrs. Wharton has not written a colorful story. Rather it is a steely gray. She intended it
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
World War I had a deep, profound impact on Edith Wharton and America, as well as the rest of the world. The difference: Wharton chose to examine this profundity while America sought oblivion in the Roaring Twenties. The country capitalized on progress, moving ahead, and getting beyond all memory of the war. Generally, a new novel from Wharton could be paired nicely with this mentality because although her works were laden with satire, this satire was aimed at the past. She called them backward glances; they were biting explorations of the Old New York elite in all their excessive grandeur. This is what the thousands of Wharton fans were expecting when they purchased her 1927 novel Twilight Sleep, which rose to best seller status immediately following its publication. However, what they received was ruthless Wharton satire aimed at the present. Elizabeth Ammons, author of Edith Wharton's Argument with America, tells us that Wharton's novels about post-war life consistently emphasize the seriousness of life and the disastrous consequences of trying to evade pain and suffering and responsibility (172). The reading public of the 1920's wanted novels that fit with their current mentality. They wanted their novels to offer an escape, which is what many look for in a bestseller; they wanted a change of time and place, especially if any use of satire was employed. For this reason, those who bought Twilight Sleep because it was an Edith Wharton novel were left unsatisfied. Wharton's novel unforgivingly criticizes precisely this desire for avoidance and search for the superficial. The criticism hit a little too close to home for readers in the late '20s and was therefore unappreciated. Edith Wharton was a highly publicized author in her time. Advertisements for her novels abound in Publishers Weekly. These advertisements for her novels capitalize on her name and the title of the work--the content of the novel is not mentioned. This explains how easy it was for a novel like Twilight Sleep to be highly criticized after rising to bestseller status. A common advertisement for the novel states, Twilight Sleep by Edith Wharton is showing increasing signs that it will outsell every previous novel by Mrs. Wharton (Publishers Weekly Reel 72). This ad reveals nothing about the actual content of the novel. People bought the book because Wharton wrote it, not because of what Wharton wrote about in Twilight Sleep. This same practice occurs often with bestsellers today. We hear about the "new Grisham novel" and devote Grisham fans, of which there are many, flock to Barnes and Nobles to get their copy. Although they may not have heard anything about the subject matter of the novel, they just assume the book will be about the wrongly accused or some aspect of the American judicial system. If this was not the case it would be too late--they've already bought the book and their purchase has already been listed under "total copies sold". Imagine if Danielle Steele's latest novel was devoid of all sex, perhaps in advocacy of lesbianism. Her fans would be devastated. This was the case with Twilight Sleep. Edith Wharton's pre-war novels focused on the plight of upper class women growing up in the society in which she did. Wharton herself was basically forced into a marriage of social status with Edward Robbins Teddy Wharton in 1885 (Wright 303). The marriage ended in 1889 at a time when divorce was still quite a scandal. In her novels about Old New York Wharton sympathized with women characters undergoing the same pressures to marry as she was made to endure during her young adult years. However, Edith Wharton seemed to lack all sympathy for the women of New York in the 1920s. As Elizabeth Ammons says, the war recast the world (184). Wharton threw a scornful glance towards Jazz Age America. She lost all sense of pity for the elite woman after the introduction of the flapper. The flapper, also called "jazz-baby," a "baby doll," or a "cupie doll," was the perfect mix of sex and immaturity. These figures capitalized on the childlike nature of women who were so dependent on their men they even called them "daddy" (Ammons 160). What angered Wharton most was that flappers were thought of as the representation of the free, liberated woman. Wharton felt this couldn't be future from the truth. She believed that the flapper was just another human doll, another little girl-woman (Ammons 187). Wharton's main argument with the Roaring Twenties was its attempt to make light of everything. Just as the idea of the flapper tried to pass infancy and the exploitation of female sexuality off as liberating, the Twenties attempted to make everything one big game. Club life and parties and drugs abounded, and responsibility was avoided at all costs. This life was 'liberating' in the sense that it allowed you to leave your troubles and responsibilities at the door. Ammons tells us that in her later works Wharton insisted that life was not a game. The cultural problem her later works attack is not really that women lack freedom...but that most of them, along with the rest of society have been liberated into a world of meaningless, childish activity (173) Wharton was perhaps so hard on the Jazz Age because her view of America was severely damaged by our policy of isolationism in World War I. At the time of the war Edith had been living in France for over fifteen years, yet at the beginning of the war she was still very patriotic (Ammons 172). Isolationism, however, disgusted her and made her ashamed to be an American. She reportedly told her friend Sara Norton, I...am humiliated to the soul at being what is now known as an 'American.' All that I thought American in a true sense is gone, and I can see nothing but vain-glory, crassness, and total ignorance--which of course is the core of the whole evil (Lewis 424). So, at the time Wharton was writing Twilight Sleep she was truly sickened by the state of affairs in America; her only motive for using America as the subject would be to criticize its society. Pauline Manford, one of Twilight Sleep's main characters, is the embodiment of everything Wharton disliked about the Twenties. She is a flapper come-of-age, who keeps herself constantly occupied so that she can completely avoid her problems. Even her children and husband, who live in the same house she does, must have an appointment if they wish to see her. Her schedule for one morning contains more than most people's do for an entire week.
7.30Mental uplift. 7.45 Breakfast. 8. Psycho-analysis. 8.15 See cook. 8.30 Silent Meditation. 8.45 Facial Massage. 9. Man with Persian miniatures. 9.15 Correspondence. 9.30 Manicure. 9.45 Eurythmic exercises. 10. Hair waved. 10.15 Sit for bust. 10.30 Receive Mother's Day deputation. 11. Dancing lesson. 11.30 Birth control committee at Mrs.--
Basically, Pauline Manford leads the most superficial life Wharton could possibly imagine. At one point in the novel, Pauline forgets what day and time it is and accidentally gives her speech for the Birth Control committee to the National Mother's Day Association. When she recognizes her mistake, she saves herself by negating everything she had previously said. Wharton includes this passage to insist that Pauline Manford has no true convictions; she belongs to theses groups for soley social purposes (Ammons 164). Her whole life is one big facade. Lev Raphael, in his novel Edith Wharton's Prisoners of Shame, deems Pauline's life frantic activity and huge expense creating the illusion of seamlessness (147). While everything appears perfect on the outside, there is no true substance to any aspect of Pauline's existence. All of her familial relationships are farces. Her children get squeezed in between hair waves and hip reducing exercises and she and her husband have virtually no relationship at all; he has become completely bored with Pauline's compulsiveness. She even stoops so low as to use her ex-husband's neice as a social tool by using the Italian Marchesa as an excuse to throw a party, since everyone enjoys the foreigner's exotic luster (20). As Raphael puts it, Pauline uses the Marchesa as a social drawing card and resource at her dinner parties (143). She uses everything possible as a social drawing card and a means to divert every bit of her attention from her real responsibilities as a wife and mother. While Pauline meditates and sits for busts, her husband Dexter is having an affair with Pauline's flapper daughter-in-law Lita. Lita, who exhibits all of what is disturbing in the flapper craze, has become quickly bored of her new husband Jim and their new baby. Meanwhile, Pauline's daughter Nona and her cousin Stan have fallen in love, but Stan's wife won't give him a divorce. Since Nona cannot be scandalously involved with a married man, Stan turns to an affair with a married woman whose already scarred reputation leaves her nothing to lose. Stan's wife eventually pleads with Nona to save her husband from his current mistress and promises she'll divorce him. Throughout the novel it appears that nothing is sacred to these people, least of all the marriage bond. This also serves to make Pauline's situation even more ludicrous, because she tries so hard to make everything appear perfect and while things are falling apart all around her. Wharton seems to suggest that this self-centered mentality is not a new phenomenon, but a result of the selfishness of the past. Geoffrey Walton, author of Edith Wharton: A Critical Interpretation says Twilight Sleep is pervaded by a sort of logical conclusion of Old New York's genteel avoidance of unpleasantness (Raphael 146). The history of vanity, selfishness, and superficiality among the elite of Old New York manifested itself in the Manford family and the killing New York life (Wharton 10) of Twilight Sleep. So, in this way Wharton not only criticizes the present state of affairs in America, but she also mocks their habit of looking back on the good ol'days and their interest in her previous novels which do so. She seems to insist that there are no good old days that were not bent on producing a completely superficial society. She calls for a total overhaul of our past and present social structure; she suggests we need a new code of ethics or code of honor (Papke 165). The citizens of America in 1927, however, did not wish to be bothered with Wharton's convictions about the evils of their society. 1927 saw the height of invention and exploration and scientific and mechanical progress (Hackett). In that year alone Lindbergh made his famous flight, Ford produced the first Model A, the Holland tunnel was built under the Hudson River, and the stock market was booming. Flappers were living it up with their "daddys" and excess was in. The future looked bright and no one wanted to dwell on the present or the past. Wharton's satirical social commentary was like throwing a stick into America's speeding tire. Everyone wanted to get past the war and towards the future. No one wanted some writer to expose their problems, especially not Edith Wharton who hadn't even lived in New York for over fifteen years. While everyone else was looking ahead, Wharton was examining the present and its past origins while she had, according to many, lost her authority to speak for Americans. While social satire put many in the 1920s on the defense, it seems that today we enjoy a little ribbing. Perhaps since the Jazz Age we have realized how hopelessly dysfunctional a great deal of our society is and therefore we don't get too upset when an author exposes this fact. There are some authors that write and successfully sell only books that are satires of the present. Bret Easton Ellis, for instance, writes devastating novels about the superficiality of the American upper class and most of them turn out to be bestsellers. His 1985 novel Less Than Zero, which focuses on a college-age male who has everything yet wastes it all on cocaine, was a national bestseller and later made into a movie starring Robert Downey Jr.. Another good example is Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, which highlights the skewed values of the way too rich in modern society, which was a highly revered New York Times bestseller in 1987 and was also reproduced in film. It seems that in modern America it's lucrative to be jaded. Modern readers certainly seem to have more of a stomach for social criticism than readers in the 1920s. The flappers and daddies were rushing towards the future, trying to escape memories of the war, and didn't need Edith Wharton getting in their way. They wanted a novel that let them forget that there was a past and a war. Naturally, when Wharton did nothing but critique this very attitude in Twilight Sleep her devoted fans weren't entirely enthused. They were expecting a satire of the good old days, and instead got a satire of today. Edith Wharton was revolutionary in her views on women and divorce, and also ahead of her time in thinking that there would be a lasting audience for such criticism. If Twilight Sleep were published today, we can speculate that it might have a more lasting popularity.
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