Monday, April 6, 2009

Whar Stories

Whar Stories
Student Sees Author Edith Wharton and Associates

--From "The Ghostly Register" by Arthur Myers, published 1986

[The Mount is] a neo-Georgian mansion built between 1900 and 1902 by Edith Wharton, one of America's great literary figures, as a country retreat in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts. In 1978, a very high-powered acting troupe called Shakespeare & Company moved into The Mount. [Following is an account by one of its tenants,] Andrea Haring, an actress and voice teacher.

"It was in the winter, about 1979. We had had a meeting, and a lot of feelings had come up, and people were really excited and disturbed. I went up to Edith Wharton's writing room because a couple of people were having a discussion in my bedroom. There was an extra mattress in Edith Wharton's room, and I thought I'd just lie down till they were done. I stoked up the wood stove in the room so that it would have stayed warm until about noon the next day. This was around midnight. I slept till about four in the morning. Then I drifted awake because it was very cold in the room. My eyes were still closed, but I was awake, and I sensed there was someone in the room. I opened my eyes and saw three figures in the room, and where the room had been bare of furniture there was now a small divan and a desk with a chair. I thought I must be dreaming, but I sort of pinched myself and slapped myself, and I thought, No, I'm awake; I must be seeing ghosts.

"One was Edith Wharton, whom I recognized because I'd been reading her biography. I could see the details in her dress and in her face and the way her hair was done, even though it was dark outside. She was kind of half seated, half lying on this divan. At this little desk was a man who was writing. I could see the muttonchops and his face and his outfit. I didn't recognize him, but he appeared to be gesturing to Edith. Although I couldn't hear any sound, they appeared to be talking to each other. He would stop and make a gesture like, 'Oh, yes' or 'Aha,' and then he'd start writing again. It almost appeared as though she were dictating to him. It was interesting because this was her writing room. And there was a third figure who was standing with his arms folded, and I recognized him as Teddy Wharton, her husband, whom she eventually divorced. He was standing there with his arms crossed, looking at the two of them. I thought to myself, I wonder if I can leave. The minute that thought crossed my mind, all three of them turned and looked at me. I looked from one to the other. I have no reason for why I did this, but for some reason I just kind of smiled at them and nodded my head, kind of like, 'Hi, I'm here. I see you, and I guess you see me.' Edith Wharton gave me a kind of short, dignified nod. Teddy Wharton gave me a kind of brusque acknowledgment, with a nod. But I felt that that was his way, not that he was malevolent towards me or anything. And the guy at the desk, whom I didn't recognize, beamed at me and nodded his head quite vigorously. And then they all turned back to what they had been doing.

"I felt absolutely free to go at that point, which I did. As I closed the door, I still saw them there. I left the room and went across the hallway to my proper bedroom and found that the girl who was supposed to have slept in there where the ghosts were was in my bed. So I went back to the other room. I didn't feel scared. Whereas the room had been freezing, freezing cold, it was now warm. The stove had been going the whole time, but I had woken up because the room was so freezing. The feeling that I got from it was that past, present, and future were all happening at the same time, that for some reason time as we know it was irrelevant. That somehow I was a part of their time and they were a part of my time.

"The next day I told a friend of mine in the company who had been doing a tremendous amount of research on Edith Wharton. She had this wonderful book that had pictures of all sorts of people who had been friends of Edith Wharton's. My friend thought maybe the man I didn't recognize was Henry James, because it was known that he was there a lot. So I looked through the book and identified the man from his picture. It turned out to be a guy who they suspected was Edith Wharton's lover and who had also helped her in a secretarial way in some of her works. The details of Edith Wharton's dress, which I had never seen before, I later saw in this book."

No comments:

Post a Comment