Edith Wharton on Ageing

American novelist, Edith Wharton, born on 24 January 1862, was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1921 for her novel “The Age of Innocence”

In 1934, when she was seventy-two, she published her autobiography “A Backward Glance”. [I’ll be seventy-two tomorrow as well.]
These are the introductory words:


Years ago, I said to myself: “There’s no such thing as old age; there is only sorrow.”

I have learned with the passing of time that this, though true, is not the whole truth. The other producer of old age is habit: the deathly process of doing the same thing in the same way at the same hour day after day, first from carelessness, then from inclination, at last from cowardice or inertia. Luckily the inconsequent life is not the only alternative; for caprice is as ruinous as routine. Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive.
In spite of illness, in spite even of the arch-enemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.
Another advantage (equally accidental) is that I do not remember long to be angry. I seldom forget a bruise to the soul–who does? But life puts a quick balm on it, and it is recorded in a book I seldom open…

La scrittrice americana Edith Wharton, nata il 24 gennaio 1862, è stata la prima donna a vincere il Premio Pulitzer per la letteratura nel 1921 per il suo romanzo “The Age of Innocence” (L’età dell’innocenza)

Nel 1934, quando aveva settantadue anni, pubblicò la sua autobiografia “A Backward Glance” (Uno sguardo indietro). [Anch’io compirò settantadue anni domani.]

Queste le parole introduttive:


Anni fa mi dicevo: “Non esiste la vecchiaia, c’è solo il dolore”.

Ho imparato con il passare del tempo che questo, anche se vero, non è tutta la verità. L’altro fattore che genera vecchiaia è l’abitudine: il processo micidiale di fare la stessa cosa, nello stesso modo, alla stessa ora, giorno dopo giorno, prima per trascuratezza, poi per inclinazione e infine per codardia o inerzia. Per fortuna la vita insignificante non è l’unica alternativa; perché il capriccio è pericoloso come la routine. L’abitudine è necessaria; quello che si deve combattere senza sosta, se si vuole rimanere vivi, è l’abitudine di avere abitudini, di trasformare un sentiero in un solco.
Nonostante la malattia, nonostante anche l’ arcinemico dolore, si può rimanere in vita ben oltre la solita data di disintegrazione, se non si ha paura del cambiamento, se si possiede una curiosità intellettuale insaziabile , se si è interessati alle grandi cose e si è felici per quelle piccole
Un altro vantaggio (altrettanto accidentale) è che non ricordo a lungo di essere arrabbiata. Raramente dimentico una ferita all’anima: chi lo fa? Ma la vita ci spalma sopra un veloce balsamo e la registra in un libro che apro di rado…

Image: ‘The New Yorker’ 13 February 2012 – Photograph from Estate of Edith Wharton / Beinecke Library, Yale University
(“My little dog – a heartbeat at my feet”/ “La mia cagnolina- un battito di cuore ai miei piedi”)

58 thoughts on “Edith Wharton on Ageing

  1. I loved reading this, we could all take lessons from Edith Wharton. How not to stay angry for long, I could do to learn that lesson for sure! But this particular sentence struck a chord in me, ‘in spite of illness, in spite even of the arch-enemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.’
    I am sitting here smiling at this because I see your personality all the way through this sentence dear Luisa!
    I subscribe to the thought that age is just a number, our lives cannot be measured by how many years we have lived, it should be measured by what we have experienced and what we have yet to achieve.
    My son is 31, but the amount of life he has packed into those 31 years is the equivalent of someone twice his age. He strives to surpass the low expectations placed upon him by society because he is disabled and show them he is more than a sum total of his broken pieces.That drive to succeed against the odds has resulted in a phenomenal display of trophies, awards, and accolades that never fails to take my breath away! Would that I had half his energy and drive! I walk happily in his shadow. I’m a Proud Mama! 😁
    This was a lovely thought provoking post Luisa, thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 9 people

  2. She was a wise woman. Although Covid has made it tough to not get stuck in a rut, we have to keep trying new things. We may have to grow old, but we do not have to grow up. Stay well Luisa and have a Happy Birthday tomorrow. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So interesting story Edith Wharton on ageing 🌷🙏♥️ we have a determination and willpower mind means
    any old age also we can publish our writings confidently , this story the great woman’s wisdom we nicely
    can understand 🌷🙏♥️😊thank you for sharing dear and lovely wishes 👍🏻💕👏


      1. Ahahah fortissima!!! Gli auguri te li faccio domani però perchè il farli prima potrebbe portare male almeno, così si dice e a scanso di equivici, voglio attenermi a questa “teoria” 😊

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  4. Good morning Luisa happy greetings from America Upstate New York freezing cold rain ice snow unbelievable wins lightning and thunder even everything is getting thrown out us right now highly abnormal sunshine but thank you for this post on Edith always enjoyed her writings as a Young Bride I practically lived in the public library we have here to beautiful library at least it was when I was a young bride right across the street from the college and we were lucky enough to have an apartment just down the street and one of the gorgeous Brownstones my first taste of luxury 16 ft ceilings with gargoyles and chandeliers three car garage hardwood floors and so many other things for $90 in American money a month with heat and hot water and stones in yard and a back porch and a dining room and a mirror from the floor to almost the ceiling with a sick heavy Italian made marble bench in front of it wow that was a lot that was wonderful was so sorry what it had to come to an end we had lawyers row Batman two blocks of nothing but architectural Center and lawyers row all attorneys in magnificent Brownstone townhouses that are very very old lot of history here but getting back to the library I learned about you just she was pretty fascinating lady and you brought it all back to my memory as you always do thank you and someone said tomorrow is your birthday I didn’t know that happy birthday to you I’m singing happy birthday to you happy birthday my darling Luisa have a great afternoon and lovely evening and may tomorrow be magnificent

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am very fond of her books and I must say i do love her take on…not just ageing here really but life. The not holding a grudge and actually the fact that any ‘age’ it is just a number, whether that number is 40, 50, 60 or plus plus. it is how we continue to live our lives that matter.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Happy Birthday tomorrow, Dear Luisa. I love what Edith Wharton has to say and am close enough to that age to connect with what she is saying. Great choice for today! And you picked an auspicious time to share it.


  7. It is tomorrow now chez vous, Luisa, even if it is not yet tomorrow chez moi and so Happy Birthday and many more to come! With health, no bad habits and a continuing flow of wisdom from you to us!


  8. concordo. Con gli anni escono gli acciacchi ma lo spirito deve rimanere giovane. Visto che ti leggo con un giorno di ritardo ti faccio tanti auguri! La vecchiaia può essere bella ma noi siamo sempre giovani.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Solo…. buon compleanno passato e con il ❤cara Luisa, espressione di quanto poco conti l’ eta anagrafica rispetto al vissuto e alla vivacità del (tuo) pensiero.
    Abbraccio forte 🌼🌹🌻

    Liked by 1 person

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