EESE 8/2003


A writer is dependent on his milieu:
The Romancer Disinherited, Or:
The Subversive Muse - E. Wharton's 'Souls Belated' (1899)

Helmut Schwarztrauber (Erfurt)

  I. "A deceptively simple story"
II. A pretty complicated romance
1. "Silence"
2. "The thing"
2.2 Lydia's fears
2.3 The artist and his muse, or: The implicit role expectation
3. The romancer and "the world" - The Ideal and the Real
4. The romancer, the woman and the world
5. "The world" as rival to the muse
6. "Not the right milieu after all" - or: "Not the right writer"
III. A deceptive ending
1. Silent agreement to marriage?
2. Who is the writer - who is the muse?
Works Cited
I. "A deceptively simple story"

E. Wharton's tale "Souls Belated" (1899) is indeed "a deceptively simple story, elegant and spare," as Cynthia Griffin Wolff, characterizes it in her introduction to the little volume of "Four Stories by American Women",1 being not only chronologically the last in a series of short fictional texts by Rebecca Harding Davis, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Sarah Orne Jewett, but marking the climactic imago within the evolution of female mastery of short fiction after the Civil War, paradigmatically represented by C. G. Wolff's selection. The main reason for choosing "Souls Belated" for her collection seems to be the subject of the tale, presenting "with surgical precision [...] the complexity of the lovers' dilemma",2 lovers, who intellectually question and reject the validity of the sexually repressive norms of society and yet re-affirm them, because they have inescapably internalized them. This is quite adequately told against E. Wharton's own hereditary background, "the world of 'Old New York'" during the last decades of 19th-century America, a "complex and profoundly imperfect social system" with its "heavy 'Victorian' morality" in which "divorce was deemed shameful" in general, although "a divorced man was a curiosity, perhaps," but "a divorced woman was a pariah."3 For C. G. Wolff the ultimate question that is raised by "this tantalizingly unresolved narrative is to what extent we all unwittingly affirm the very prohibitions from which we seem to suffer."4

The plot of the story - a social intrigue two lovers get trapped in because of their illicit love affair - seems to support such an interpretation.

Lydia Tillotson, married to a rich member of New York upper-class society, has become bored with her domestic life in a mansion in Fifth Avenue and its social previleges like "having a front pew in church and a parterre box at the opera" [208].5 She has left her husband being romantically in love with Gannett, an intellectual artist of the writing line. Both are now wandering about in Europe, fleeing the stiff regulations and the tedious regularity of the social life of New York and enjoying their passionate relationship free from all conventions - "like the flight of the outlaws: through Sicily, Dalmatia, Transylvania and Southern Italy" [214]. On their way up from the South of Italy to the Swiss Mountains Lydia has received the documents of divorce from New York at a hotel in Bologna. Now on the train past Milan they both silently meditate on the new situation, after which Gannett suggests marriage, a proposal that seems to rather spoil their happy flight, because it hurts Lydia's ideal of independence. Planning to stay overnight in a "fashionable Anglo-American hotel" "on their way to a lofty village among the glaciers of Monte Rosa" [214] in Switzerland they decide to stay, both obviously "seeking sanctuary" [216] from the unsolved problems between them. The residents of the hotel, where they have registered as Mr. and Mrs. Gannett, are mainly American nouveaux riches and English aristocrats socially dominated by Lady Susan with whom the "Gannetts" become quite friendly. Far less respected is a rather loud couple, Mr. and Mrs. Linton, who drink champagne with every meal but are pretty enigmatic otherwise and therefore provoke enough gossip to be socially ignored by Lady Susan's "family." One afternoon Mrs. Linton approaches Lydia and surprises her by outing their real identity, being in truth Mrs. Cope and Lord Travenna, and by asking Lydia to inform her what he had possibly told Mr. Gannett the night before; for she as a married, soon-to-be-divorced woman is suspicious about Lord Travenna's slackening interest in marriage, being influenced to the negative by his aristocratic family who try "to get him away from her before she can get her divorce" [221]. Lydia of course rejects any such spying services, but Mrs. Linton, alias Cope, having rightly judged from the very beginning that herself and Lydia "were both in the same box" [222], straightforwardly blackmails Lydia by threatening to make the true nature of Mr. and Mrs. Gannett's relationship public if Lydia will not "help" her. That same evening Lydia, still shocked, tells Gannett about the affair. Gannett calls Mrs. Cope a "beast," but then he tries to calm Lydia with the news that he had watched Mrs. Cope receive "a big official-looking envelope" [224] from the postman - obviously the expected letter of divorce; and not even two hours later he had seen both Mrs. Cope and Lord Travenna promptly leave the place by the lake steamboat. So for Gannett "it's all over now" [225], whereas to Lydia "it's only just beginning" [225], because for her it has become a matter of moral principle. Despite her unconventionality she has to admit that the newly gained respectability within the hotel society had still meant something for her and to live on there with a lie would be impossible. When Gannett proposes to leave the hotel for Paris in order to get married there, she considers that just another form of deception after all they had had together and she decides to leave Gannett for sure because "their life was 'impossible'" [229]. When the following morning he watches her going down to the wharf he makes no attempt to hinder her from going aboard the steamboat; but halfway up the gangplank to the deck she turns round. The boat leaves without her and she walks slowly back to the hotel, while Gannett "mechanically, without knowing what he did, [...] began looking out the trains to Paris." [231]

The story indeed appears to deal with the very urgent question of the conventional role expectation of the sexes within a repressive society. Though if we fully agree with Wolff's general description of the contemporary social situation that women had certainly more to suffer than men under the conventional repression, E. Wharton's treatment of the problem in "Souls Belated" does not really focus on that specific differentiation. Wolff and other critics appear to see the author's primary motivation to be mainly concerned with the principal opposition between the "lovers" drowned in a "noyade of passion" [230] and a rigid society, an antinomy that, it is true, complicates the struggle for personal freedom for the lover as well as for the beloved. So the general message of the story might be something like this: Love is the only fundamental dependence you cannot escape, and if you want to live and enjoy your passionate love you will have to compromise and acknowledge the conventions of your social environment and accept social confinements and the limitations of marriage - or live the life of an outcast. R. W. B. Lewis quite adequately sums the issue up: "'Souls Belated' was the first of Edith Wharton stories to employ conspicuously the image [...] of the prison cell as life's characteristic setting."6

This essay assumes that "Souls Belated," beyond questioning the moral implications of society's repressive gender rules, gains its specific relevance by its poetological and metacultural import: in disrupting the principally masculine tradition of literary conventions and cultural environment it becomes a paradigmatic text of female literary self-criticism not only for Wharton's personal development in theoretical aesthetics but also within the American history of aesthetic discourse.

II. A pretty complicated romance
1. "Silence"

When Lydia and Gannett are on their way through Northern Italy, far off from their familiar social environment, they are brooding away in "silence": "he feared to speak as much as she did" [206]. It is a silence that is well distinguished from simply meaning "that they had nothing to say" [206]. On the contrary: silence in this case is an intimate form of speechless communication, as it well might happen between lovers in critical phases of their relationship. They fear to discuss openly a problem that has become taboo between them, because to make it open it might jeopardize their relationship - an important motif in E. Wharton's work, it seems: one might only think of the constant and almost unbearable silence used as a structural pattern of Ethan Frome.7 Silence in that work is the expression of a taboo that refers to the unspeakable, the possible scandal and catastrophe of Ethan's marriage, while at the same time it "covers" the mental activities of Ethan and Zeena, who both ruminate on his adulterous deviations for their respective strategies: Ethan to realise his dream of love and Zeena to destroy exactly that possibility.

2. "The thing"

What is repressed and individually reflected on in silence between the lovers in "Souls Belated" is given a euphemistic name: "the thing" [206] seems to be something threatening like a Jamesian "Beast in the jungle" looming and lurking, ready to jump and make the people concerned epiphanically aware "of the unspoken" and its consequences, of the deeply rooted and unescapable "reality"8 of their existences. The unspoken "thing" in "Souls Belated," actually referring to the document of divorce that arrives for Lydia just as they leave the hotel at Bologna, is now hidden and packed in her dressing bag in the rack of the compartment overhead, hanging above them like a sword of Damocles:

[...] he feared to speak as much as she did.[...] If they avoided a question it was obviously, unconcealably because the question was disagreeable. [...] Their silence [...] might simply mean that they had nothing to say; [...] Lydia had learned to distinguish between real and factitious silences; and under Gannett's she now detected a hum of speech to which her own thoughts made breathless answer.
How could it be otherwise, with that thing between them. [...] The thing was there, in her dressing bag, symbolically suspended over her head and his. [206]

What would objectively seem to be the final solution of their problem caused by the circumstantial obstacle to their love - Lydia's unfortunate marriage to Tillotson - does not happily give way to their freedom of emotions and love fulfillment. Quite the contrary: it opens a fundamental problem between them that is now "covered" and at the same time referred to by their mutual silence. And it is because of their communicative sensitivity that they "detect a hum of speech" by mutually reflecting the logic of each other's situation and projecting it onto the horizon of their new freedom from society's legal regulations and for their love and a life together in free love.

The idea of personal freedom had obviously been the basic agreement of their mutual understanding and their love from the very beginning. Lydia, being unhappily married, sticks to her lover despite the social pressure and is consistent enough to accept the divorce as the only chance to live up to what life has offered and resolutely to go where her emotions and her reason tell her to. Gannett, the writer, who has never been married, is ostensively disinclined to any conventional beds of Procrustes in matters of sexual behaviour. He is, it seems, the archetypal artist: a deviant bohemian, absolutely unbound, classless and single, anti-conventional, an anti-social critic, the existential epitome of independent and self-reliant individualism.

So their social identity as a lovers has so far been a living declaration of personal and individual independence. They openly and deliberately proclaim their unconventional life within and against society and its imposed gender roles: "Our being together," says Lydia, summarizing their mutual agreement, "is a protest against the sacrifice of the individual to the family." [213]

This freedom from all familial conventions, which society "sanctifies" in the double sense of the word - by legitimizing them through religious or secular legal rites and by punishing all violators - , seems surely to be accomplished by "that thing," which is the document of divorce Lydia is now carrying with her on their willfully illicit parody of a honeymoon through Italy.

But why is that very document about to spoil their trip and threaten their relationship instead of fulfilling it? Here the problem differs in two ways from any thinkable situation that two average lovers might find themselves in: Lydia, on the one hand, is a woman of great emotional and intellectual sensitivity and, on the other, she is the highly perceptive partner of an artist. This situation adds another dimension to the judicially established fact of Lydia's divorce, which makes them not only fully aware and ready for the freedom from all repressive legalization of their sexual relationship but opens the crucial question occupied by their fear: what should it be they are now free for?

2.2 Lydia's fears

If the logic of their passionate love, which has undergone all the trouble to provoke Lydia's divorce, implies that they both finally have gained their freedom in order to live on together and live their love in freedom, Lydia's self-reflexive sensibility enables her to discover the ambivalence of her new freedom; for it is only attained by new future dependences:

Nothing mattered, in those first days of supreme deliverance, but the fact that she was free; and not so much (she had begun to be aware) that freedom had released her fromTillotson as that it had given her to Gannett. This discovery had not been agreeable to her self-esteem. [209]

Lydia's fears are twofold: firstly, she is afraid of giving Gannett the feeling that he would have to marry her now in order to chivalrously compensate for the damage of her social reputation as a divorced woman:

She had put herself in a position where Gannett "owed" her something; where, as a gentleman, he was bound to "stand the damage." [209]
And secondly:
Her sensitiveness on this point was aggravated by another fear, the fear of unwillingly involving Gannett in the trammels of her dependence. To look upon him as the instrument of her liberation; to resist in herself the least tendency of a wifely taking possession of his future; had seemed to Lydia the one way of maintaining the dignity of their relation. [209]

Transmitted by the interior perspective of an empathetic authorial narrator, Lydia's first reflexions on her possible role as wife to her lover, which would rehabilitate her social self, make it quite clear that she wouldn't be able to marry Gannett. And if he claimed or only proposed marriage, she would be even less able to comply and stay on with him. But he is not expected to do that if he remains consistent with the primary agreement on their relationship being a "protest against the sacrifice of the individual to the family."

The hypersensitive woman obviously follows her only ideal, that of her love being solely concerned for both her own and her lover's independence, quite consistently it seems, because personal freedom is their pre-conceived idea that has united them in the first place against all hostile conventions.

2.3 The artist and his muse, or: The implicit role expectation

The personal problem between them, which arises from their new freedom and which is covered up by their mutual silence, is that their concerns about the open future are different; for the roles that are implicitly assigned to them in their relationship are not symmetrical, and of that they had not been fully aware at the beginning.

Gannett is not just the purely loving and self-conscious individual that she is, he is also a writer; and as such he is not just typified by the image of the artist in order to ascertain the dramatic idea of his function as the absolute bohemian non-conformist, for whom free love might be an expression of his deviant life style within a story that deals with individualistic love versus a repressive bourgeois society. Gannett is a practising novelist with high aspirations and as such he implicitly expects his lover to follow a convention that is not so much a generally honored social idea as a conceit of the cultural and literary tradition, namely, the role of the sympathetic, the artist's inspirational and subserviant muse. And so from Gannett's perspective their relationship has never been designed as a symmetrical but rather as a complementary one dominated by the artist's interests.

Gannett's expectations and fears, however, have never yet been expressed explicitly and are now covered up by his own silence, because he must feel the unreasonability of his demand, their agreement on mutual freedom taken for granted; and his fear to openly confront Lydia with his problem lies behind the question that is also asked by the narrator, Lydia - and the reader:

What could he be thinking of? Why should he be afraid to speak? Or was it her answer that he dreaded? [210]

Gannett's asymmetrical role expectation is clearly revealed, though, when he eventually turns to her "with a smile" [210] and breaks the silence by suggesting that they settle down instead of going on travelling. With this he deviates from their hitherto unquestioned mutual understanding and therefore catches her by surprise: "I thought you agreed with me that it's pleasanter to drift?" [211] And so Gannett confesses his personal concern, when he answers:

"It's been pleasant, certainly; but I suppose I shall have to get at my work again some day. You know I haven't written a line since-all this time," he hastily amended. [211]

Here he confronts her with his role expectation imbedded in the implicit reproach of having prevented him from writing by sidetracking him into making these passionate flights, which now appear to him aberrant deviations from the proper errand of an aspiring young writer.

The truth of their relationship is that Gannett's ideal, unlike Lydia's, is not necessarily the fulfillment of their love relationship; his design is primarily to follow his mission as a writer. The sensitive woman in love consistently follows her concept of a relationship only for love's sake and so at once agrees enthusiastically:

She flamed with sympathy and self-reproach. "Oh, if you mean that-if you want to write-of course we must settle down. How stupid of me not to have thought of it sooner! Where shall we go? Where do you think you could work best [...] [211]

Having rejected the familial role convention of mother and wife, Lydia 's reaction is still consistent with the part that had not only been assigned to her but which she had as a matter of course accepted from the very beginning as part of their silent mutual agreement: that she would naturally find her "vocation" in devoting herself to his mission in the subservient role of the freely loving muse:

Gannett, before they met, had made himself known as a successful writer of short stories and of a novel. [...] the reviewers called him "promising," and Lydia now accused herself of having too long interfered with the fulfilment of his promise. There was a special irony in the fact, since his passionate assurances that only the stimulus of her companionship could bring out his latent faculty had almost given the dignity of a "vocation" to her course. [215 f.]

Lydia, in having accepted Gannett's over-all motivation as the writing artist, is willing to understand his implied reproach. And because she has a feeling of guilt and failure about being indirectly reminded of her own "vocation" she is now ready to resume and fulfill it. In leaving her bourgeois husband for her romantic love with a promising novelist, Lydia has obviously internalized the traditional American cultural and literary convention of the artist as romancer so far that she has unhesitatingly subjected herself in real life to its implied role expectation: the male artist is supposed to be the solely rightful author of a romance and as a man he is also the dominant hero of the romance. And the woman he is involved with is meant to be the inspirational and loving muse to the romancer and his recipient and well-disposed audience or reader.9

3. The romancer and "the world" - The Ideal and the Real

Lydia's obviously harmless question, "Where shall we go? Where do you think you could work best [...]" [211], shows that she has dedicated herself to her role without completely understanding the part "the world" plays in the mind of that same romancer, the role of "the world," which is that very social environment ruled by those conventions they both had just rejected in deciding to live freely without them. And because Lydia has not understood the principal relationship between the romancer and the world, the argument that follows her question heightens her insecurity about her own function in that kind of menage à trois between the writing artist, his muse, and the world, particularly when she will have to realise that not the relationship with her but the "contact with the world" has aroused "his first desire to write" [216].

When Lydia wonders about his sudden change of mind to get settled in "a villa in these parts" of Italy instead of travelling on, and reminds him of his having once said that his "best work had been done in a crowd-in big cities. Why should you shut yourself up in a desert?" [211], he defends himself with his personal maxim, a rather conservative declaration of artistic independence in more modern terms.

"A writer ought not to be dependent on his milieu; it's a mistake to humor oneself in that way." [211]

Gannett, the writer, proclaims his existential and, at the same time, the mimetic relation of the artist to "the world" in terms of the discourse that characterizes the new aesthetic paradigm of the age. In speaking about "the world" as "milieu" Gannett uses one of the central terms of aesthetic realism and naturalism obviously without agreeing with its philosophy. For the term "milieu" within the realist discourse actually implies the concept of the historical and social environment as one of the principal determinants of man's - including the artist's - consciousness and existence.10

The traditional role expectation of the 19th-century artist as romancer toward "the world" is ambivalent. As the epitome of individualistic non-conformism the American romancer has usually seen himself as deviant and antinomian to society, the social world he lived in and that served as sujet to his antinomian writing.11 The principal opposition between the Ideal and the Real has always been projected analogically onto the opposition between the artist's subjective ego and the objective non-ego, between the romancer and his potential subject matter, between the spiritual - transcendent or transcendental - foundation of his lucid imagination and the shadowy and opaque material property of his historical and social environment. Nature - as opposed to Civilization - has been the mythical kingdom of his longing spirit and the idealistic projection of his imagination. The artist's problem has always been that the basic opposition is just a projection of his own contradictory existence as a dual being tragically split in spirit and body, on the one hand striving mentally for the infinite and for immortality, while on the other hand belonging physically to the finite, and as such being forced to suffer from limitation and doomed to die. And so there is that ambiguous attitude towards the Real, the finite world of the hackneyed everyday life, toward society and history: mentally the artist is aloof and estranged from it, and he temporarily tries to escape into Nature's wilderness, but back in the real world of society he could become the most solitary pilgrim walking among "men." Still, society remains his real existential habitat to return to and finally to live in, as a dependent being that needs to be loved and recognized and always longs for a real home, the social world serving not only as the subject matter and critical issue of his writing, but at the same time as the living echo of his literary aspiration and as the only objective witness of his fame.12 The American romancer has been aware of his dialectically ambivalent, his Faustian existence between his idealistic independence and social estrangement from "the world" as social milieu, despite his contingent condition and his desire for still belonging to "the world." His freedom and poetic licenses, and his dependences and drawbacks toward "the world" had been examined throughout the cultural and literary history of America, even before Romantic Transcendendalism made the dichotomy between the Ideal and the Real the aesthetic issue of "the Reflective or Philosophical age"13 and the transformation and synthesis of the opposition the aesthetic quest of the artist.

Gannett, in finally breaking his silence and discussing his problem of not having "written a line since" with Lydia, betrays himself as exactly that ambivalent romancer who shares all the idealism of his forerunners in viewing "the world" with a categorical claim of personal independence and at the same time by compromising that independence in his desire to be in that world without being influenced by it.

When Gannett proclaims the writer's independence from "his milieu" he formulates a restorative poetological position against the aesthetic mainstream of contemporary realism with its radical escalation in deterministic naturalism:14 an aesthetic idealism that principally denies personal or existential involvement for the writer's mimetic activity. That conservative position had all along carried its epistemological fallacy to a dead end in radical transcendentalism with its concept of fiction as a purely subjective and circular truth value, based on the inversibililty of the opposition between the Ideal and the Real. Poe had paradigmatically summarized these self-referential fictional aesthetics with his formula of "truth as pretended fiction",15 an ironic inversion even of the illusionist concept of fiction as pretended truth. And Hawthorne, after having established a transcendental fictional utopia on the historical Real, had begun to ironise the epistemological illusionism of idealism16 only to defend it despite his perfect awareness of its aesthetic alternative in psychological realism.17

It is clear that the non-conformist individualism which is proclaimed by both Lydia and Gannett as the agreed-upon basis of their relationship does not contradict the aesthetic and mimetic position of the writer who follows his cultural stereotype. But his repetitive lamentation, "I haven't written a line since," marks his professional failure - which Lydia is implicitly blamed for - , the failure to build up a creative relationship to "the world" as the potential material for his mimetic imagination.

Gannett's non-conformist individualism nevertheless might well contradict the lovers' idea of freedom between themselves. Lydia as a loving woman and expected muse is not sure about the artist's ambivalent concept of "freedom" towards society, because she doesn't draw the line between the artist and the man, between the author and the hero of the romance, whereas for Gannett, the idealist, the difference is fundamental, and the artist to him is more important than the man within the hierarchy of values that is connected with his ambivalent self-esteem. So for her as well as for the reader the question is: How does Gannett see his beloved non-ego, his inspirational muse in relation to "the world"?

4. The romancer, the woman and the world

If Gannett expectedly follows the cultural stereotype of the American artist, the categorial leading principle of his relationship to "the world" should symbolically correspond with his relationship to Lydia because the romancer's world, his non-ego, is traditionally typified in terms of the sexual alterity, the image of the woman; to his mind the Ideal relates to the Real as male to female. Whenever the world is spiritualised by a poetic imagination on transcendent or transcendental foundations, the relationship towards woman mirrors this situation: the proclamatory independence from reality that is transformed by the imagination into an ideal world18 would generate a holy, spiritual and completely unsensual image of the woman. But the idea of a personal involvement of the artist with reality would correspond to the image of the woman being the sensual seductress, who would entangle him in more worldly dependences. So the oppositional stereotypes of the "fair" and the "dark lady," the female saint being the object of the aspirations of the male soul and the whore being the object of the passions of the male body - are reappearing patterns in American fiction19 as the symbolic representations of the fundamental oppositions of the artist's view of the world, expressed by modifications of archetypal Eve, the life-giving blessing aspect of the female and Lilith, its vampiristic and demonic side:20 Eve embodies good Anima, visualising the pure, the innocent, the purely inspirational and creative, the personified projection of the "female" functions of the male psyche that are free from voluptuous sensuality, a type of woman men usually might think of marrying - if they don't just adore their spiritual beauty from a distance21 - in order to change them into the archetypal mother. And the other type of woman, who not only demands emotional and sexual response as an emissary of the Real,22 self-consciously claims the role of the artist herself, always suspected if not fled from in horror by the idealistic romancer23 and exorcised by projecting the flames of hell onto to their subversive flair of erotic attraction, consciously rejected and subconsciously desired. The dual symbolism of the saint and the whore reflects man's schizoid psychic split between the spiritual aspirations of his transcendent soul or transcendental reason and the sensual desires of his body and emotions. What appears to be a stereotype of American literature and culture is deeply rooted in the archetypal structure of any patriarchal society.24

If these oppositional stereotypes also represent the principal modes of the male artist's conceptions of his relationship to "the world," the idealistic romancer will always imaginatively transform the Real into the Ideal through "Eve," while "Lilith" is rejected, and a realistic writer would never imagine the world through the figurative medium of the ephemeral and spiritual female saint that embodies the Ideal; he at least would have to compromise her purity and question her ideal state.25

So when in "Souls Belated" the writer Gannett blames Lydia for his "having not written a line since" he implicitly sees her in the stereotypical role of the distractingly seductive Lilith. And Lydia is not completely aware of that. Her diffuse mental situation between playing the part of the devotional and loving muse and her jealousy of "the world" reflects Gannett's own ambivalence to the world - and to his lover. That marks the actual crisis of their relationship and of his own situation as a practising artist.

How then do the lovers handle their crisis? Would she as veritable Anima-Eve inspire his imaginative creativity to produce an idealistic romance against the Real, "the world," that is, the "milieu" of which the romancer has declared himself "independent"? Or will Gannett try to see her as part of "the world"? Will he then reject or transform a passionate Lilith who would demonically subvert his romantic idealism? Or would she be able to even inspire him or confirm for him the real state of "the world" with them both as a living part of it?

Gannett seems to suggest the only possible compromise for the idealistic romancer: In order to establish and to affirm his independence from the Real, from "the world," from society and at the same time preserve the good Anima-Eve image of his muse he would have to propose marriage. And that is exactly what he does, although he does it not so much because he really believes in Lydia's female purity - which in a given "noyade of passion" is scarcely possible - but because he quite pragmatically believes he could have his peace with society regarding their illicit love and then dedicate himself quietly to his mission as artist and writer. And so his declaration of his artistic independence from his "milieu" is promptly followed by a very ambivalent proposal to her:

[...] and I thought that just at first you might prefer to be-"
She faced him. "To be what?"
"Well-quiet. I mean-"
"What do you mean by 'at first'?" she interrupted.
He paused again. "I mean after we are married." [211]

This expectation "to be quiet after marriage" of course arouses Lydia's immediate suspicion, because it suggests two things: placating a hostile society by conformity through marriage, and "acquiescence" after marriage; in other words, Gannett asks for Lydia's civil obedience toward society and her personal obedience to him as a man and artist.

Lydia's brusque rejection follows her awareness "that he had made the inconceivable, the unpardonable mistake of anticipating her acquiescence" [211], that "the thing," "that hateful paper" in the end had had its fatal effect, namely, "to spoil everything between us!" [212], and that the freedom it promised has turned into its opposite: Lydia feels entangled in a snare of dependences; and of course she rebels against Gannett's implicit identification of her with the Eve stereotype, that is supposed to "quiet" her intellectual independence - and her passion. Gannett, whose position is still complying with his concept of freedom, of course doesn't seem to understand Lydia:

"To spoil everything between us! What on earth do you mean? Aren't you glad to be free?"
"I was free before." [212]

Lydia sees Gannett's proposal as a betrayal of their mutual agreement on preserving their personal freedom. If Gannett's pragmatic compromise might maintain his artistic independence from "the world," from the "milieu," to her it would mean the loss of their personal freedom and of their moral integritiy in relation to the world:

"[...] It may be necessary that the world should be ruled by conventions-but if we believed in them, why did we break through them? And if we don't believe in them, is it honest to take advantage of the protection they afford?" [213]

Gannett finishes the argument with the epigrammatic platitude of the conformist - "Life is made up of compromises" [213] - pragmatically claiming the necessity of a "modus vivendi":

"One may believe in them [conventions] or not; but as long as they do rule the world it is only by taking advantage of their protection that one can find a modus vivendi." [213]

Gannett's compromise is of course not the expression of an aesthetic or literary realism but serves to pragmatically save his idealism, which would be expressed by writing about the Real, about "the world," using society as his sujet, independent from and not in any way determined by it as environmental milieu.

The problem is twofold: firstly, Gannett's compromise actually corrupts the very same idealism that it tries to save. And secondly, the logic of Gannett's existential position only reproduces the basic contradiction of the idealist position regarding art and aesthetics. It implies a new separation of the man from the artist: there is the man, who lives the social life of his class with its daily rites, its parties and social gatherings, with its formal invitations and conversations, and who is always asked for vital commitment; and there is the novelist, who participates in all that only insofar as it is necessary for his observant role as a writer, and so has to keep himself "independent of his milieu."

Now the question suggests itself: what will Gannett under these circumstances actually write about? If we follow the logic of Gannett's idealistic concept of the romancer that is metafictionally inscribed in the love story of these "belated souls," Gannett's fiction would presumably be about anything but himself as a vital part of that world. And in dragging his muse into the very same existential position he would certainly not write anything about her. And he problably would never write about themselves, their love and their personal problems, even if the crisis of their relationship was caused by "the world" as their "milieu." For exactly this situation is examined by the ongoing story.

5. "The world" as rival to the muse

When in accordance with their mutual agreement the splendid "isolation" from society "at first, had deepened the flavor of their happiness" [214], Gannett the artist begins to need "the world" for a fictional sujet the more he neglects his writing. And so they meet "the world," ironically in that synecdochic "queer little microcosm" [215] of the hotel, where "they had meant to stay for a night only, on their way to a lofty village among the glaciers of Monte Rosa." [214] "The world" is one "of the fashionable Anglo-American hotels" [214], being the annual summer residence of mainly well-to-do members of the British Empire - mostly "soft-voiced old ladies in Shetland shawls" [215], where the guests register as Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So - a horrifying notion to Lydia, while Gannett looks at the situation "with the vivid preoccupied stare of the novelist on the trail of a 'subject'." [215] After a talk with the hotel chaplain, he well expects, "there might be some good things to work up here." [215] His artistic imagination and creativity are indeed stimulated by that "queer little microcosm," as he confesses quite frankly to Lydia:

"After being out of things so long one's first impressions are bound to be tremendously vivid, you know. I see a dozen threads already that one might follow-" [215]

They decide to stay, following Lydia's immediate suggestion so that he should have his chance to settle and start writing again. For Gannett's remarks have intensified Lydia's feelings of having failed:

Lydia now accused herself of having too long interfered with the fulfillment of his promise. [...] there had been moments when she had felt unable to assume, before posterity, the responsibility of thwarting his career. And, after all, he had not written a line since they had been together: his first desire to write had come from renewed contact with the world! Was it all a mistake then? [216]

Lydia's first reaction is that she promptly suspects the role of "the world." She is confused, irritated and even jealous in treating "the world" as if it was a female rival that has stimulated her lover to write again, a function that Lydia, being the artist's muse, had of course been claiming as her very own rightful task. And so she questions not only her inspirational abilities but the whole of their relationship: "Was it all a mistake then?" [216] In short, Lydia falls prey to the intellectual fallacy of believing that in falling in love with the alleged independently self-reliant individual, the embodiment of anti-bourgeous, anti-conventional non-conformism, she would do anything but follow a convention again. But this is exactly what she does: she subjects herself to the conventional type of the literary romancer, who has always been suspected of subversion26 in the history of a puritan society, but at the same time has been tolerated and promoted as being part of the national quest for cultural identity to help establishing the dream of an American nation by realising the utopian design of an American literature: the conceit of "The Great American Novel" is another masculine cultural myth, which Walt Whitman was not the first to proclaim. When Hawthorne, more than 55 years before the publication of "Souls Belated", invited "Master Genius" to "A Select Party",27 "for whom the country is looking anxiously into the mist of time, as destined to fulfil the great mission of creating an American literature [...], [...] our first great original work",28 he invoked and restated the myth of the continuous collective literary quest.29 And his often quoted verdict of "the ink-stained Amazons" and "a d-d mob of scribbling women"30 unequivocally confirmed the culturally dominant assignment to men of the quest for the Great American Literature. E. Wharton has herself promoted the myth by rediscussing the issue of "The Great American Novel",31 and she structurally connects its historical and literary progress with the motive for travel, with "the wandering or the expatriate American."32

So Lydia feels that she cannot deny Gannett the writer's calling, his ordeal to confront the "world" according to his idealistic identity as romancer, who is on his ambitious quest for literary genius even on their deviant "honeymoon". And Lydia knows that the confrontation with the world would be the crucial test for him as writer and for her as his muse. And that is why the only alternative she has is either to support him in following his design or to forsake her love. And so she obeys her assigned role and exhorts him:

"[...] You must begin tomorrow!" she cried, hiding a tremor under the laugh with which she added, "I wonder if there's any ink in the inkstand?"

Lydia has now understood his position towards "the world" and to her. Their implicit agreement is extended and transformed. She is the writer's only muse, and "the world" as "milieu" is supposed to serve as their subject matter, with them being allegedly independent of it. And so the question that follows is twofold.

Firstly, would the "the world" keep to "her" role and actually present herself to the writer just as an appropriate subject matter, with the artist and his muse remaining the transcendental and independent observers, or would the world instead be the environmental force of a realistic milieu and vitally oppose the romancer's maxim?

Secondly, what after all would Gannett, who had been called a "promising" writer by "the reviewers" [215], make of "the world" in order to fulfill his promise by pursuing his aspirations as the coming literary genius of the age?

6. "Not the right milieu after all" - or: "Not the right writer"

"The world" turns out to be a real frouw werlde,33 being a female-dominated social reality that mercilessly drags everyone who enters it into its net of libelling intrigues, proving to both Gannett and Lydia that the separation of the man from the artist is not possible. Ironically, the arrival of the divorce document that Mrs. Cope alias Mrs. Linton hopefully expects, because it would make her "Lady Travenna within a week" [225], saves Lydia and Gannett from being socially destroyed, but the analogy between the cases, on which Mrs. Cope had based her blackmailing of Lydia, suggests the twofold message: you cannot escape social dependences, especially if you programmatically emphasise your independence as an artist. "The world" is in fact that realistic kind of inescapable "milieu."

Chapter IV, being the fourth act of the fictional drama, finds both of them in a crucial situation regarding their future, similar to that on the train in Northern Italy with "the thing" on the rack, only that they now have reached a silence deeper than the one before. The unspeakable "thing between them," the letter of divorce, seems to have silently turned its destructive power against the lovers themselves:

She was surprised to find how, in the last months, she had lost the habit of introspection. Since their coming to the Hotel Bellosguardo she and Gannett had tacitly avoided themselves and each other. [222]

With him the situation seems even more detrimental when she meets him alone in the sitting-room, breaking the silence for the last conversation:

Gannett was sitting on the window ledge smoking a cigarette. Cigarettes were now his chief resource: he had not written a line during the two months they had spent at the Hotel Bellosguardo. In that respect, it had turned out not to be the right milieu after all. [222]

So both their personal failures seem to be complete: she has "lost the habit of introspection" and he has still "not written a line."

Is his artistic inactivity really the world's fault? The irony of the reflecting narrator and implied author is quite obvious. From the romancer's perspective his failure must be due to the milieu he didn't want to be dependent on. In truth the milieu refutes his idealistic theory about "the world." And when Gannett believes that with Mrs. Cope's solution to her problem their own critical situation might be solved too, saying, "well, it's all over now" [225], he, of course, is mistaken, and when Lydia retorts: "Not for me. It's only just beginning" [225], she seems to be the one to see the deeper import of their dilemma:

"Do you know, I begin to see what marriage is for. It's to keep people away from each other. Sometimes I think that two people who love each other can be saved from madness only by the things that come between them-children, duties, visits, bores, relations-the things that protect married people from each other. We've been too close together-that has been our sin. We've seen the nakedness of each other's souls." [227]

If marriage is the solution for "people," it cannot possibly be the solution for those who have conceived their relationship as "a protest against the sacrifice of the individual to the family" [213]. Here the story turns metafictionally against itself as a romance whose heroes are not just "people" but the romancer and his muse. It becomes clear from the implicit logic of Lydia's theory of marriage for "people" that the non-conformist artist and his beloved muse, who wish to be saved from madness, also need something to "protect" them "from each other," especially after they "have seen the nakedness of each other's souls." And if it cannot be marriage it is also clear that what they need is what they have always needed, and that is exactly what they now seem to have lost, because the romancer wanted to write about "the world" without acknowledging his dependence on "his milieu." They have lost what would have made up the specific creativity of their artist-muse relationship, namely, to be an inspirational synthesis of her "habit of introspection" and his "ability to write," generating what should consequently be called introspective writing about their relationship to "the world."

So the story itself fills the big void, which is left open by the romancer Gannett, by telling exactly what the romancer hasn't as yet written "a line about": the introspective story about the romancer and his muse with both being dependent on their milieu. That story couldn't be written by such an aesthetically "belated soul" as the idealistic romancer; it could not have been written by the man. But the story was written by a highly introspective woman and told by her highly empathetic authorial narrator. And while the highly introspective Lydia and the reader have realised the reasons for Gannett's failure as literary romancer, he himself stays quite consistent with his mental position and provokes the dramatic climax of the story at the end of Chapter IV, when Gannett, in reacting to Lydia's theory of marriage for "people," suggests going to Paris in order "to be married" [227]. He apparently does not see the fundamental problem of his failure as a writer of a romance, whereas for Lydia now it is definitely clear that of course "marriage won't help" but "my leaving you" [228]. The consequence is his defeat also as the hero of the romance. So the self-referential logic of the tale seems to deconstruct the romancer's masculine idealism in order to postulate the aesthetic alternative of an introspective committment to the Real.

III. A deceptive ending
1. Silent agreement to marriage?

Nevertheless, when the story with its anticlimactic Chapter V comes to its end, it surprisingly seems to preserve its conventional conception as a romance with a somewhat silent happy ending, since it suggests a second chance for the couple. It appears as if the story followed and confirmed the design of a romance of which Gannnett would not only re-establish himself as the hero, but as the author as well, after having successfully performed the role of the agent provocateur in risking the loss of Lydia rather than really trying to win her back. When Lydia leaves the hotel the following morning Gannett gives his betrayal the pathetic appearance of moral and emotive responsibility: the sensible man offers pity for the irrational woman in having allegedly been mistaken about her capacity for rational behaviour so that the only chance to save her - and to make her come back into her own "Latude" prison of female irrationality - would be to let her go:

An immense pity for Lydia filled Gannett's soul. Her seeming intellectual independence had blinded him for a time to the feminine cast of her mind. He had never thought of her as a woman who wept and clung: there was a lucidity in her intuitions that made them appear to be the result of reasoning. Now he saw the cruelty he had committed in detaching her from the normal conditions of life; he felt, too, the insight with which she had hit upon the real cause of their suffering. Their life was "impossible," as she had said-and its worst penalty was that it had made any other life impossible for them. Even had his love lessened, he was bound to her now by a hundred ties of pity and self-reproach; and she, poor child, must turn back to him as Latude returned to his cell. [229]

With this morality in mind Gannett escapes his personal responsibility and at the same time rescues his idealism by transforming what had been designed as a utopian romance into its melodramatic mode, of which he could still be the hero and the actual "author":

He had spoken last night of his rights: what were they? At the last issue, he and she were two separate beings, not made one by the miracle of common forbearances, duties, abnegations, but bound together in a noyade of passion that left them resisting yet clinging as they went down. [230]

These rationalisations that reaffirm his concept of romance apparently go hand in hand with the mental transformation of the loving woman into fatalistic Lilith that drags man down, and in that case following the archetype of the drowning and completing the stereotype of the melodrama.34 So Lydia, in leaving Gannett, does not seem to be the "right woman" to him as the world is "not the right milieu," but the pathetic principles of pity and necessity at least open the possibility for Gannett to sanctify his relationship with the woman and save the one with the world and, at the same time, to preserve the conception of the idealist romance, albeit in its melodramatic mode.

The last statement of the tale seems to justify the man's view and his estimation of female irrationality. Lydia turns back after all, and Gannett, watching her, "mechanically, without knowing what he did, he began looking out the trains to Paris." [231] Gannett as a matter of course assumes Lydia would now accept his proposal to get married there. Critics who interpret that ending as a mutual surrender to marriage consistently follow "the alleged theme of imprisonment",35 though they also share Gannett's (male) view - and the possible fallacy of his expectation. For the actual ending does not say anything explicit about Lydia's motivations for coming back. So the ending is at least fully open from her perspective. Quite certain, however, is the irony implied in Gannett's "triumph," his seemingly prevalent male mental consistency is disrupted by the fact that his insights do not make him the literary author of those insights. This ironic view, which is shared by the actual author of the tale, by Edith Wharton and her empathetic narrative reflector of Lydia's introspective meditations, subverts the writer's analytical reflexions on the womanly irrationality of his muse and his pathetic pity for the loving woman as inadequate male arrogance. Following Lydia's argument about marriage the reader would certainly not expect her to come back in order to get married in Paris. But she might see a second chance to approach "the world" as "their milieu" more sincerely now and in a cultural environment that would conceivably be the ideal milieu of the artist. While Gannett could well believe that Lydia in returning from the wharf will come back to him as Eve, to be "acquiescent and quiet" after being married, she might in truth have identified with Lilith, the passionate and "introspective" woman who still loves the man, but who might herself want to be the artist and the writer.36 And then she would perhaps write about what from the perspective of Paris would appear the immediate past, which is exactly the narrative subject matter of the tale "Souls Belated." So the vacant space of the open ending points at the mental genesis of the introspective story about "belated related souls," which refutes the male writer's Declaration of Independence from his milieu by denying him the capacity and licence to write the tale. The open ending of the story thus disproves the principal modes of transcendental romance being structurally based on the cultural stereotype of the artist and his muse: that utopian romance ideal which had been optimistically designed by Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables and sceptically inverted by his Blithedale Romance, being the self-ironic melodrama of its own failure.

The indeterminacy of the open ending of "Souls Belated" is certainly due to what has been repeatedly called E. Wharton's ambiguous "lurking feminism".37. For the metafictional logic of "Souls Belated" postulates the introspective mind as represented by Lydia, which fills the void left by the male romancer, who doesn't get a chance to write the story because he is programmatically incapable of genuine committment to the woman and to the world, and is therefore unable to write about even the personal and aesthetic dilemma of his non-committment. The ending seems to eventually displace and replace the man only to install the woman as the artist proper, who obviously has the potential that might transform a kind of literature that shows itself inimical to love and social life. Lydia, the introspective and loving woman, acknowledging her dependences on the milieu and her lover, eventually returns despite having decided to leave Gannett.

If Gannett had listened to his introspective muse Lydia, who never wanted to separate the man from artist, he could indeed have written the story about "Belated Souls," following the "belated porter" [205], who had jumped on the departing train at Bologna station only just in time: Gannett the late romancer has belatedly jumped on the train without recognizing the signs of the new age, whereas Lydia/Wharton, who had joined the romancer in a "noyade of passion," has finally realised that they were trapped by a convention they hadn't recognized at first: the convention of the independent idealist artist - apparently an appropriate sujet for the introspective female writer on her quest for personal and artistic identity. Lydia, using the journey through Italy as a quest for her female identity, takes the role of Anima to Edith Wharton.38. Even if she had failed to inspire the male writer, she still inspired - as persona auctoris - the author of the tale about those "belated related souls."

2. Who is the writer - who is the muse?

The refutation of the romancer's doctrine, which is the poetological subject of the story, at the same time serves as the implicit theory behind the tale, which is written by a woman writer, by Edith Wharton, who might think as Lydia does. In her Backward Glance (1934) she actually describes the man who in her own words had been "the love of all my life."39"

During all his working years, frequently interrupted by months of serious illness, he had managed to find time to read my manuscripts and send me long letters of criticism and encouragement; but from the time when he came to Paris, where I was then living, he was able to follow my work more closely, and his reading of each chapter as it was written, and the listening to his comments as he read, gave fresh life to my writing.
Another joy was the discovering of the newest and most worth while books, and the talking them over together. He was a good linguist, and one of the most insatiable readers I have ever known; [...] But best of all [...] was his reading of poetry; a reading wholly different from Henry James's, a thing apart, and unforgettable, more reticent, less emphatic, yet equally sensitive and moving.
I cannot picture what the life of the spirit would have been without him. He found me when my mind and soul were hungry and thirsty, and he fed them until our last hour together. It is such comradeships, made of seeing and dreaming, and thinking and laughing together, that make one feel that for those who have shared them there can be no parting.40

Walter Berry, the man of law, is presented by E. Wharton as the ideal type of male muse to the female artist: inspirational and spiritual motivator, devoted and encouraging reader and congenial critic with a poetic sensitivity only to be compared with, yet different from, the idol - Henry James. Allegedly, "a large photograph of him [Berry] adorned her boudoir mantelpiece, placed alongside a portrait of Teddy."41 It is known that E. Wharton divorced her husband Teddy in 1913, but she never married the man who "came to Paris" in order to "give fresh life to her writing" and who had been "the love of all my life."

It seems to be quite clear that the role of the subservient muse to any man or male artist would necessarily be a tragic position for the potential - as Lydia - or the actual female artist in love - as Edith Wharton. In Wharton's story "The Muse's Tragedy"42 the woman in the assigned "role" of the muse to a renowned poet rejects that role of the "unvoiced resource that provides inspiration" and disrupts the stereotipically silent role of the muse by reclaiming her voice in the shift of the narrative perspective from an omniscient authorial narrator to the authenticity of the first-person voice of her own letter.43

But you cannot escape your love as you cannot escape your milieu. The only way of "escaping madness" in that situation obviously is to regain "the habit of introspection" and to express it in writing. And that seems to be the implied message of "Souls Belated." "Souls Belated" not only subverts the moral censorship and social prison of a patriarchal puritan society for a "more flexible, dynamic social order",44 but also undermines the aesthetic censorship of a tradition of literature and theoretical criticism that defines itself as principally masculine and consequently tends to "exclude female authors" from the canon of American fiction.45 The introspective realism of Edith Wharton is established as a female conception, "belatedly" attacking the speculative idealism of the late and "belated" 19th-century romance, which had been less a "literary form than a cultural condition"46 and as such a cultural male construct that at best allows women the role of the inspirational muse. That traditional role is now declared to be definitely replaced, and the role relationship between male romancer and female muse is meant to be inverted. Once conceived, the notion of the inverted gender roles develops its own logic for Edith Wharton's ongoing self-reflexive process of artistic individuation. It allows reflecting the male alterity beyond mere satirical criticism in order to deconstruct the conventional role of the male artist as the own possible identity, rather than to simply claim the artist role by presenting female models. For the otherness is primarily of the mind and not necessarily of the body. Quite consistently, E. Wharton almost exclusively used male protagonists for her metafictional portraits of the artist.47

"Souls Belated" thus not only proclaims aesthetic realism to be a specifically female discourse in deconstructing the male paradigm of idealistic fiction; as a metafictional story it also makes use of a form of text-internal criticism that does justice to E. Wharton's sceptical reservations about purely theoretical - that is predominantly male - criticism48 in expressing her desire to find a one-voice discourse for the writer and the critic about "the technique of a work of art and its informing spirit",49 "hovering indecisively between these two candidates in trying to settle upon a primary originating agent of both imaginative and critical labor."50 And so "Souls Belated" foreshadows a more comprehensive fictional quest for the existential and aesthetic identity of the female writer, which is resumed only late in life and completed by E. Wharton's artist novel Hudson River Bracketed (1929) with its sequel The Gods Arrive (1932). This "bildungsroman" and "kunstlerroman",51 which marks the deceptive open ending of the history of her own self-reflexive artistic individuation, leaves us with the question, whether she uses another male novelist, Vance Weston, in order to "satirize the state of arts as governed by men",52 or whether in the disguise of a male writer's quest she approaches "a mother image good enough to be the foundation of her artistic self".53 Or does she eventually follow the Catholic type of Holy Mary, Virgin Mother, forming "an uneasy alliance" of "gender, Catholicism, and literary talent"?54 Alternative - or rather synthesis, mental synthesis of obedient Eve and seductive Lilith, synthesis of subservient muse and emancipated artist, androgynous or gender-free union of male and female?

Works Cited

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1 Cynthia Griffin Wolff, "Introduction" to Four Stories by American Women: Rebecca Harding Davis, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sarah Orne Jewett, Edith Wharton, ed. C. G. Wolff (1990), xxv. Originally published in Wharton's first collection of eight stories, The Greater Inclination (1899), "Souls Belated" is said to be "one of the best stories in it," and "one of her three or four finest stories" altogether [cf. R.W.B. Lewis in his Edith Wharton: A Biography (1999), 87, 81].

2 "Four Stories," xxv.

3 "Four Stories," xxiv.

4 "Four Stories," xxv/xxxvi.

5 "Souls Belated" (1899), Four Stories by American Women, ed. C. G. Wolff (Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1990), 203-231; quotations will be taken from this text (page number in brackets).

6 So says R.W.B. Lewis in his Edith Wharton (1999), 81. M. Schriber had similarly emphasised the restrictive function of social conventions in "Convention in the Fiction of Edith Wharton" (1983); J. Dyman classifies "Souls Belated" together with "The Fulness of Life," "The Lamp of Psyche," "The Valley of Childish Things and Other Emblems," and "The Twilight of the Gods" on the grounds that they deal "with the lack of fulfullment in marriage, the disillusionment of women with men they loved, and the pain of triangular relationships" [Lurking Feminism (1996), 26]; C. J. Singley in her ideologically critical approach to Edith Wharton: Matters of Mind and Spirit (1998) has Lydia even "follow in the footsteps of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter," being subjected to "restrictive Judeo-Christian traditions" [14]; E. E. Fracasso in her study on Edith's Wharton's Prisoners of Consciousness (1994) systematically follows "the theme of imprisonment" in order to show that it "was fully intergrated with her artistic techniques" [8]. One wonders, however, why she does not even find "Souls Belated" worth mentioning, although the tale would certainly correspond to at least the first four of Fracasso's five categories: a) "individuals trapped by love and marriage," b) "men and women imprisoned by the dictates of society," c) "human beings victimized by the demands of art and morality," and d) persons paralyzed by fear of the supernatural" [8f. and the respective chapters 2-5 of the study].

7 There are more than 60 explicit uses of the word "silence" or synonymous expressions in Ethan Frome.

8 James, "The Beast in the Jungle," Tales of Henry James, ed. Ch. Wegelin (1984), 300.

9 Hawthorne's literary artist stories and novels paradigmatically proclaim the exclusively masculine authorship and the respective male artist-female muse/reader role relationship: The House of the Seven Gables, "The Vision of the Fountain," "The Antique Ring," "Alice Doane's Appeal," "Main-Street," a. o.; cf. H. Schwarztrauber, Fiktion der Fiktion: Begründung und Bewahrung des Erzählens durch theoretische Selbstreflexion im Werk N. Hawthornes und E. A. Poes (2000), 109 ff.

10 Cf. Hyppolite Taine's theory of milieu as essential determinant for man in general and the artist in particular (cf. his Philosophie de l'art [1865]) and his introduction to Historie de la litterature anglaise [1863]) becomes an important part in Darwinism, which influences Zola's paradigmatic concept of naturalism in which man is determined by race, milieu, and moment. Cf. D. Pizer, ed., The Cambridge Companion to American Realism and Naturalism: Howells to London (1999), esp. 21-73.

11 On the "deviant" and "defiant romancer" as sociological model of non-conformist and antinomian individualism cf. M. D. Bell, The Development of American Romance (1980), 29ff.

12 Cf. Hawthornes "Devil in Manuscript" presents the paradigm: the artist burns his manuscripts, because they have failed to to give him recognition and fame, completing a symbolic suicide as story-teller; but by setting them on fire in a big blast he ironically gets all the public attention he had hitherto missed.

13 As Emerson called the time of the American Renaissance in his "The American Scholar" [Selections from Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. S. E. Whicher (1960), 77].

14 Cf. L. J. Budd, "The American Background," The Cambridge Companion to American Realism and Naturalism: Howells to London, ed. D. Pizer (1999), 21-46.

15 Cf. Poe's programmatic formula of "truth as pretended fiction," taken as the leading principle for his metafictional Arthur Gordon Pym, is of basic validity for his theory of his transcendental "tale proper," being the immediate literary expression of the narrator's self-reflexive ego. Cf. H. Schwarztrauber, Fiktion der Fiktion (2000), 388-422.

16 Cf. House of Seven Gables as idealist paradigm of a historical romance, and Blithedale Romance, which deals with the failure of romance as an epistemologically relevant medium of describing reality. Cf. H. Schwarztrauber, Fiktion der Fiktion (2000), 294-353.

17 Cf. The Marble Faun, which metafictionally describes the realistic alternative to transcendent idealism.Cf. H. Schwarztrauber, Fiktion der Fiktion (2000), 354-384.

18 "Romance" as product of imaginative transformation, transfiguration and transcription of the Real into the Ideal - based on the Platonist idea of participation and on the spiritual typology of Puritanism - has been the theoretical concept of American fiction from its outset. Cf. H. Schwarztrauber, Fiktion der Fiktion (2000), 61-74.

19 M. S. Schriber, Gender and the Writer's Imagination: From Cooper to Wharton American Women (1987), identifies the stereotypes of the "fair" and the "black lady" from Brown, Cooper, Hawthorne to Howells, James, and E. Wharton.

20 The demonic "nightjar" of Isaiah, 34,15, is the archetype for the literary image of the female vampire (R. Berger and I. Stephan eds., Weiblichkeit und Tod in der Literatur (1987), esp. the contribution by S. Volkmann, "'Gierig saugt sie seines Mundes Flammen.' Anmerkungen zum Funktionswandel des weiblichen Vampirs in der Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts" (155-176). E. Neumann, Grosse Mutter: Eine Phänomenologie der weiblichen Gestaltungen des Unbewußten (10. Aufl., 1994), 146, 147 ff.

21 As Hawthorne's Miles Coverdale adores Priscilla (Blithedale Romance) and Kenyon loves Hilda (Marble Faun).

22 Cf. Hawthorne's Hester Prynne (Scarlet Letter), Zenobia (Blithedale Romance) or Miriam (Marble Faun). In Poe's tales the opposition is inversely discussed, as the dark-haired passionately intellectual and ephemeral woman carries the meaning of pure poetic ecstacy and of the absolute, whereas the fair-haired woman appears as the embodiment of the finite, which is the principle category of the prose tale; paradigmatic the female oppositions Ligeia-Rowena ("Ligeia") and Eleonora-Ermengarde ("Eleonora").

23 Zenobia in Hawthorne's Blithedale Romance - usually seen as literary type of Margaret Fuller - abhors Miles Coverdale, the romancer, having her own emancipated artistic claim.

24 E. Neumann emphasises that within every patriarchal culture "the male" specifically identifies with "the consciousness" whereas "the unconscious," from which "the conscious" develops within human and individual history, is identified with "the female" [E. Neumann, Grosse Mutter (1994), 147]. One of the most impressive deconstructions of the schizoid structure of male psychology within a patriarchal (American) society is Getrude Stein's "Melanchtha" in Three Lives, with Melanchtha analysing her lover Jeff Campbell; cf. H. Schwarztrauber, "'Caring for the careless,' Or: Rearranging a Literary Masquerade - Gertrude Stein's 'Four Lives'," EESE 6/2001.

25 Henry James is the first to make the innocent questionable and thereby disrupts the stereotypes with his female characters Maggie and Charlotte in the Golden Bowl; cf. Schriber, Gender (1987), 139 ff.

26 The hostile discrimination of imagination and fictional art is a significant feature of American puritan society between the 17th and the pre-romantic area of the 19th century; romances and romancers like Brown, Irving, Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville are seen as evil "defiance" of social conventions; cf. M. D. Bell, The Development of American Romance (1980), esp. Part I, "To Out With the Romance," 3 ff.; "The Artist as Villain," 45ff., "Forbidden Fancies," 65 ff.; s. also W. Charvat, The Origins of American Critical Thought, 1810-1835 (1961), esp. "The Basic Critical Principles of the Period," 7 ff.

27 N. Hawthorne, "A Select Party" (1844), Tales and Sketches, ed. R. H. Pearce (1982), 945-58.

28 "A Select Party", 952.

29 It is actually not "Whitman's nationalististic, epic pretensions" that "anticipate the popular myth of 'The Great American Novel'," as S. G. Kellman, Self-Begetting Novel (1980), 117, says; the myth of "G. A. N." defines the development of American Literature, that is accopanied by "the obsessive question of an American novel" from the very beginning [cf. S. Perosa, American Theories of the Novel: 1793-1903 (1983), xi].

30 The first quotation is from "Mrs. Hutchinson" (1830), where Hawthorne describes his role expectation of "the gentle sex" [Tales and Sketches, ed. Pearce (1974), 18]; the second is from a letter to his publisher Ticknor, cited by F. L. Pattee, The Feminine Fifties (1940), 110; B. T. Spencer, The Quest for Nationality: An American Literary Campaign (1957), 216; C. Bode, "The Scibbling Women: The Domestic Novel Rules the 'Fifties'," The Anatomy of American Popular Culture: 1840-1861 (1959), 169-187; C. Wolff, "Introduction" to Four Stories (1990), xii; R. Gunzenhäuser, Horror at Home (1993), 35; esp. N. Baym, "Rewriting the Scribbling Women," Legacy 2, 2 (1985), 3-12.

31 Cf. E. Wharton, "The Great American Novel" (1927), The Uncollected Critical Writings, ed. F. Wegener (1996), 151-59.

32 Cf. Wharton, "The Great American Novel", 157.

33 "Woman world": A predominantly German image in medieval art and literature with the woman as allegorical personification of the worldly temptations and aberrations [cf. H. Sachs et. al., eds., Erklärendes Wörterbuch zur Christlichen Kunst (1983), 137, 139 f.]. This Babylonian type of the world coincides with the archetypal image of the world as the ambivalent "Great Mother" to the human consciousness, which in opposition to the unconscious is characterized as male (in man and woman); cf. E. Neumann, Ursprungsgeschichte des Bewußtseins (1949), 43ff. s. also E. Neumann, Grosse Mutter (10. Aufl., 1994), 147].

34 Hawthorne's Blithedale Romance ends with the stereotype of the floating dead beauty, who has committed suicide out of revenge for the rigid idealism of the artist, who rejects Lilith, the passionate woman and potential writer Zenobia for Eve, the innocent and harmless Priscilla, who represents the ephemerally spiritual female ideal.

35 E. E. Fracasso, Edith's Wharton's Prisoners of Consciousness (1994), 8. Lewis marks the representative paradigm by summarising his note on "Souls Belated": "at the end they are preparing to make their re-entrance, as man and wife, into the social order they had violated" [Lewis, Edith Wharton (1999), 87].

36 E. Wharton after her divorce "decided to live permanently in Europe, buying a property outside of Paris, leasing another in southern France, and never again returning to the United States after 1924" [M. S. Schriber, Writing Home: American Women Abroad (1997), 171].

37 Cf. D. Worby, "The Ambiguity of Edith Wharton's 'Lurking Feminism'" (1982), 88, where she discusses Blake Nevius's formula he had found in his Edith Wharton: A Study of Her Fiction (1953) for E. Wharton's feminist ambivalence; s. also J. Dyman, The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton (1996), 178.

38 For E. Wharton the meaning of travel as artistic quest for identity is obvious: M. Bell characterizes E. Wharton's taste for travel as "a ruling passion" of her life [Edith Wharton and Henry James (1965), 45]; M. S. Schriber in her study of travel accounts by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Constance Fenimore Woolson, and Edith Wharton, sees the relevance of American women's "writing of travel-as-culture" in its constituting "a concise history of the interaction between women's travel writing and the institutions of literature" [Schriber, Writing Home: American Women Abroad: 1830-1920 (1997), 172].

39 Quoted from E. Wharton's "Daily Diary," 11 Oct. 1927, after S. Benstock, No Gifts from Chance (1994), 49.

40 E. Wharton, Backward Glance (1987), 118/119.

41 Benstock, No Gifts from Chance (1994), 50.

42 "Written in 1898 in Paris, this was the first of her three stories [besides 'Souls Belated' and the novella 'Touchstone'] about literary love affairs" [cf. S. Benstock, No Gifts from Chance (1994), 113] and published together with the others in The Greater Inclinations (1899).

43 Cf. A. Levy, The Culture and Commerce of the American Short Story (1993), who focusses on the "economic implications that underpin" "the artistic stereotyping of women," namely, "that the entity that is supposed to provide unvoiced inspiration for the artist develops its own voice, and ceases to speak through the intermediary" [71].

44 M. B. McDowell, "Edith Wharton's Feminism," 538.

45 Cf. N. Baym, "Melodramas of Beset Manhood: How Theories of American Fiction Exclude Women Authors" (1981); s. also R. Gunzenhäuser's feminist survey of the concept of the American novel as "romance" in her Horror at Home: Genre, Gender und das Gothic Sublime (1963), 25-44.

46 Cf. R. H. Brodhead, The School of Hawthorne (2nd ed., 1989), 82.

47 The only explicit female artist and novelist character is Margaret Aubyn in "The Touchstone" (1900); Wharton, obviously "realizing that women novelists were ignored by the culture, purposely did not assign her own gender to an artist, choosing instead to satirize the state of the arts as governed by men" [Schriber, Gender (1987), 179].

48 Considering theoretical criticism a principally male-role function, "Wharton evidently thought very little of her own efforts in critical writing"; so The Writing of Fiction (1924) eventually remained "Wharton's only full-length work of literary criticism" [Wegener, "'Enthusiasm Guided by Acumen': E. Wharton as Critical Writer," Uncollected Critical Writings (1996), 15, 42].

49 E. Wharton, The Writing of Fiction, 86.

50 F. Wegener, "E. Wharton as Critical Writer," 30.

51 The traditionally German generic terms are used by G. C. Erlich, The Sexual Education of Edith Wharton (1992), 149 ff.

52 Cf. Schriber, Gender, 179.

53 Cf. Erlich, Sexual Education, 149/50.

54 Cf. C. J. Singley, Edith Wharton: Matters of Mind and Spirit (1998), 191, 208.