Edith Wharton wrote over 40 books in her lifetime and became renowned for rejecting 19th-century domestic expectations for women. Every year, more than 52,000 visitors flock to The Mount, the home she built in Lenox in 1901. They come to tour the house, where she wrote “The House of Mirth” and “Ethan Frome,” ramble the grounds and gardens, and attend talks by authors and speakers and even free jazz concerts on site.
Just when the historical site was gearing up for its springtime opening this year, though, COVID-19 hit and forced programming into the virtual sphere.
Kicking off the calendar of spring events is the organization’s longstanding True Conversations series, which this year will occur via Zoom. Hosted by author Heidi Pitlor, the series features writers talking about their latest releases and their writing lives. The series kicks off May 31 with Jessica Shattuck (“The Hazards of Good Breeding”) discussing what it means to be a fiction writer. Other authors on the schedule include Anna Soloman (“The Book of V.”) on June 14, Lily King (“Writers & Lovers”) on July 19, and Curtis Sittenfeld (“Rodham”) on Aug. 24.
While the 113-acre grounds remain open for visitors to explore as they safely socially distance, The Mount has upped its online presence, offering virtual tours and new digital content. Though its summer lecture program and poetry reading have been postponed indefinitely, the estate is hosting Discourse & Progress chats with authors, moderated by journalist Julie Scelfo (“The Women Who Made New York”) and will soon implement a virtual bird-watching tour of the grounds in partnership with Mass Audubon Society.
The Mount’s executive director Susan Wissler said that the transition to online programming has allowed the organization to expand its reach. “We are now no longer inhibited by our geographical location or our space limitation,” Wissler said. “We can host a much larger audience of those who are located both near and far.” Visit edithwharton.org.