I wrote this biographical essay just recently, and would like some unbiased feedback if possible. Thanks
Picture a young 15 year old girl, dressed in the highest fashion of the late 1800s, sitting at a rosewood desk and writing on a crisp sheet of paper. Once covered in graceful script, it's set aside in a stack of identical leaves. This could be how Edith Wharton appeared while working on her first novella, published when she was fifteen, which launched her into a passionate career of writing, lasting literally until her death. Many things influenced the unique and well known style of her writing: her childhood and family's high position in society, her marriage, and the disastrous events following that union.
 In 1862, Edith Wharton was born to parents George Frederic and Lucretia Jones: the wealthy descendants of Dutch and English colonists.  “The Edith Jones’ belonged to the small, most fashionable society of New York, which lived on inherited wealth and were interrelated.” Says Eleanor Dwight, author of Edith Wharton: An Extraordinary Life: An Illustrated Biography.  Surprisingly independent for her age, she published her first novella at 15, revealing that she was a very bright and talented young author.  This commenced her lifelong career.  Although she was part of such a prominent and wealthy family, in her literary works, she treats upper society with a satiric wit and irony which belies a deeper disdain of her environment.  In reading her novels and short stories, a conflict between society’s laws and the heart’s desires is made increasingly clear; and perhaps her sole purpose in writing was to reveal this conflict, since it was so strongly exemplified by her own life.
At 23, Edith married Edward Robbins Wharton: a man of similar background to herself though they had, “Scarcely anything in common apart from a zest for travel, a love of motor cars and a fondness for little dogs” says Ruth Bernard Yeazell, proffessor of literature at Yale University. While their marriage was already an unhappy one, Edward started spending money on younger women, which took a definite toll on Edith’s mental health. ”The conflict she felt between the accepted role of society matron and that of a professional writer also caused her much anxiety, no doubt contributing to the depression for which she was treated in the 1890’s.” —Eleanor Dwight.  When she was 45, she had an affair with a journalist: Morton Fullerton, with whom she apparently found the intellectual compatibility that was missing in her marriage. Inevitably, she divorced Edward Wharton after she had a nervous breakdown in 1913; she called the marriage her “Greatest mistake”.Moving to France after her marriage ended -- initially for her health -- , Edith had an opportunity to assist in relief efforts for the war, and in 1916 was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in recognition of her commitment to the displaced. After her escape to Europe, she continued to write about a novel per year, and I cannot help but wonder if this was in itself a form of escape from her own private life, the majority of which she was able to conceal, but which was also later to be revealed as quite disorderly.
 Evidently, Edith greatly loved Paris.  “The tranquil majesty of the architectural lines, the wonderful blurred winter lights, the long lines of lamps garlanding the quays -- je l’ai dans mon sang [it is in my blood!],” is a quote from her, praising the beauty of Paris.  During the last years of her life she occupied two houses in France: Pauvillon Colombe in the summers, an elegant, if quaint, house in the countryside; and Chateau Sainte-Claire at Hyeres in the winters. Notably, Edith was the first female to win the esteemed Pulitzer Prize for Literature, which she accomplished in 1921 for her novel: The Age of Innocence.  In 1923, she also received an honorary degree from Yale University.  While she still traveled often, Edith became more and more attached to the gardens at her two homes, both designed by herself; in fact, she even wrote books on the subjects of landscaping and architecture, both for which she showed herself to be quite clever at.  Edith wrote until her death, which occurred in 1937; even on her deathbed, writing and dropping the sheets by her bed to be collected later.
Though she may have entertained a certain disdain for upper society in her written works, she was friend and confidante to many of her literary contemporaries, and spent her entire life among the riches of upper society. This, however, cause her many mental and physical problems; evidenced by her nervous breakdown, and being sent frequently to the country for the sake of her health. Managing to keep her private life hidden from most, was certainly a great feat, and one must wonder at how difficult it must have been: an act that today would be considered a trifle, was in her time a scandal worthy of repulsion from any contact with the privileged upper class. Though, of course, these are not the things which made her famous, they certainly provide insight to the depth of feeling behind the glossy veneer of irony that is a defining trait of her work, which has made a great impact on, and contribution to, the long tradition of great American literature.