Edith Wharton (née Edith Newbold Jones, 1862–1937) was born into one of New York City’s most prominent and connected families. Her childhood was spent in Europe as well as New York, and she was privately tutored. Her mother would not allow her to read any novels until she was married, so she spent her time pouring through her father’s study reading anything else she could find.
Wharton’s first published book was The Decoration of Houses (1897), an interior design manual based on her observations of Italian decorating styles. She published her first novel, The Valley of Decision (1902), at the age of forty, and quickly followed it up with her first bestseller, The House of Mirth (1905). Her most famous novel, The Age of Innocence (1920), won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Travel was her passion, and she would go on long driving excursions with her husband, and, later, with friends (her most famous driving companion was fellow author Henry James, with whom she shared a deep, lifelong friendship). After divorcing her husband, Teddy Wharton, in 1913, she spent her later years in Europe. She is buried at Cimetière des Gonards in Versailles, France.