EXCEPTIONALLY RARE PRE-PUBLICATION COPY OF THE FRUIT OF THE TREE, INSCRIBED BY EDITH WARTON IN THE YEAR OF PUBLICATION TO HER CLOSE FRIEND AND FELLOW NOVELIST ROBERT GRANT
WHARTON, Edith. The Fruit of the Tree. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907. Small octavo, original red cloth, uncut. Housed in a custom cloth clamshell box. $8500.
Rare pre-publication copy of Wharton's classic novel about the tragic results of unregulated industry and the need for labor reform, inscribed to Wharton's close friend and fellow author in the year of publication: "Robert Grant from Edith Wharton. Oct. 1907."
In this novel, Wharton examines such controversial topics as euthanasia, treatment of factory workers, divorce, and drug addiction. It's "an interesting and rewarding book in many ways—especially in its depiction of the heroine, Justine Brent, and her marriage to a weak man" (Modern American Women Writers, 389). This pre-publication copy was produced without the frontispiece, list of illustrations, and illustration attribution on the title page, but contains one of the three first edition illustrations and has a gilt top edge. First printing, first (American) issue, in publisher's binding B, no priority given. Without scarce original dust jacket. Garrison A14.I.a1. This copy was inscribed to (and bears the armorial bookplate of) Robert Grant, a bestselling author and Boston-area jurist. Grant wrote works including Jack Hall, or, The School Days of an American Boy, Unleavened Bread, and The Chippendales. Grant's writing frequently touched on social satire, marriage, and divorce—undoubtedly areas of interest for Wharton. In fact, Wharton was a fan of Unleavened Bread and wrote Grant an enthusiastic letter remarking that she had "come across so many good things that I am impatient to express my admiration of them." Wharton's memoir, A Backward Glance, mentions the work as a predecessor to the work of Theodore Dreiser and Sinclair Lewis. Critics of Wharton's work have noticed the book's influence on Custom of the Country, particularly its social-climbing protagonist, Undine Spragg. However, Wharton knew Grant well before he was a famous author. Robert Grant and Wharton's husband, Teddy, were classmates as young boys and again at Harvard. Grant distinguished himself from Teddy Wharton's other friends by also developing a friendship with his strikingly intelligent wife. The Grants visited the Whartons in New York, in Lenox at the Mount, and in France. Wharton and Grant's association stretched to their book production, as they shared Scribner's as a publisher and traded books. At the time this book was published, Wharton sent Grant The Fruit of the Tree; Grant sent Wharton The Chippendales in return. Letters documents the rather odd circumstances surrounding the presentation of the book. Wharton told Grant that she had received advance copies and inscribed some of them to her friends. Unfortunately, a guest at The Mount walked off with Grant's copy and so Wharton sent him another. Grant eventually read the novel and offered a long analysis of it. Later, Grant became involved with Wharton's charity project for Belgian World War I refugees, The Book of the Homeless, contributing to it. Grant also assisted Wharton personally, offering Edith sympathy as her marriage was falling apart. Upon Wharton's death in 1937, Robert Grant wrote a memorial of her for the Academy of Arts and Letters.
Interior generally fine, tiny hole to rear spine joint, and mild toning to spine. A nearly fine copy, with most exceptional provenance.