3/29/21: Edith Wharton, The Sense of Harmony (1998) and The Age of Innocence (1993) — The Elite and Beautiful Order of the Truth #poetry

3/29/21: Edith Wharton, The Sense of Harmony (1998) and The Age of Innocence (1993) — The Elite and Beautiful Order of the Truth #poetry

Exquisite written and spoken words, research, images and music

A merger of art and scholarship

Fact gathering, critical thinking and imagination

An aristocracy of soul, society, intelligence, values and talent

Wharton, the writer leads the orchestra, first among equals

film directors, art directors, actors, musicians serve at Edith Wharton’s pleasure

Her words are read aloud and accompanied by everything else

Edith Wharton was born to many elites

Elite in social status

Elite in intellect

Elite in courage and other attributes of high character

Elite in friends, lovers, influences, mentors and colleagues (Influenced by Nathaniel Hawthorne, mentored by Henry James)

Elite in talent and imagination

World War I hero recognized by the government of France at her death

Author still widely published (she died in 1937)

Landscape architect whose writing about gardens and the still breathing gardens that she designed are still studied

Edith Wharton fulfilled her enormous potential …

Shared her protean gifts …

Social orders rise and fall

but natural orders stay the same

Sometimes aristocracies are true things

that organize and maintain the world

Sometimes aristocracies are false and must be overthrown

Edith Wharton honored her class and betrayed it

Sometimes in the same pen stroke

Her loyalty was always to the truth

She had exceeding ability to find the truth

and exceeding ability to describe it …

Martin Scorsese reached out across decades and classes

The bard of the New York Mafia

and the street Gangs of New York,

knew that Edith Wharton also understood the violence of tribalism in New York City

and they formed a perfect collaboration across the vale of life and death

Art is special, elite (of course) and surprising

Surfaces are only windows to artists

Immaculate windows

that they open in order to leap to new depths

Art doesn’t soar, it descends

A great rendering of outer space,


brings us down into ourselves

Daniel Day Lewis is so elegant on the surfaces of his character in The Age Of Innocence

and so rough and violent on the surfaces in Scorsese’s Gangs of New York

yet from opposite starting points arrives at a common ground of us all

Great artists are astronauts of inner space

A clear view to every level …

Scorsese steps aside in The Age of Innocence

Every directorial choice serves Edith Wharton

He used excerpts from the novel’s text as narration

He did not want to lose the interiority of the characters on the page

He wanted the movie to represent the novel

Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence is an extraordinary film adaption of a great work of literature

Scorsese and Wharton do their work with great responsibility

They want the viewers to know how things are, so that the viewers can make changes to their lives if necessary …

The elements of Wharton and Scorsese’s inspired refined and disciplined, clear and accurate renderings of the truth

mined from their perceptions in congruence with their personal experience and feelings:

the beautiful architecture and art

the tyrannical social norms

the impulses to compassion and love

the exquisite language

the feminine sensibility honored by man and woman alike

and the savagery, the cruel violence

A Sistine Chapel of modern storytelling

New York is all creation

All human possibility and self-destructiveness is cataloged ,,,

The purpose of all of this elegance and sophistication is not ultimately aesthetic

It might be easy for some to be distracted by all of this good taste

and believe that the taste is an end in itself

It is not

The human being in gestation is under constant pressure

Wharton and Scorsese are free people

Each born with many related but somewhat different advantages

but still

humanity is something to be earned

The world must be understood

and is constantly issuing new iterations of its mysteries

The great novelist, and filmmaker are tasked with showing us the world with more accomplished eyes than our own

We are tasked with paying attention

Hilary Clinton loved this book and movie

That poor woman whose very personhood was obstructed and forged by social pressure

found instruction and solace

in this story, this tragedy of manners …

The true purposes of art are most often ignored even when the object of art is celebrated

Edith Wharton was a practical person

She fashioned gardens

real gardens

and was a heroine of the French Red Cross

She taught Martin Scorsese whose Little Italy upbringing

was in the same city as Edith Wharton’s birth to genteel privilege

and intrigued me, a suburban kid from upstate

Henry James wisely told Edith Wharton to write about New York

not because she knew it

but because we are all given a world to explore

a specific experience from which we can touch the ground of being

Sometimes I feel homeless

but with Edith Wharton and Martin Scorsese

I feel as if I’ve come home.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

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