I have drunk of the wine of life at last

Edith Wharton (date unknown)
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division 

In 1907, fourteen years before she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton was introduced to Morton Fullerton, a journalist with whom she would embark on a passionate affair. It was months after that first encounter, in October, that she began to write The Life Apart (L’âme close), a diary that would sporadically chart just eight months of their blossoming romance at a time when she was longing for companionship, her marriage increasingly strained. In May of 1908, with her husband at home in Massachusetts, Wharton and Fullerton spent time together in Paris; the following entry was penned just as their French tryst was drawing to a close. Their clandestine affair continued, lasting two years in total. Wharton divorced her husband in 1913.

The Diary Entry

May 21st.

My two months, my incredible two months, are almost over! … I have drunk of the wine of life at last, I have known the thing best worth knowing, I have been warmed through & through, never to grow quite cold again till the end….

Oh, Life, Life, how I give thanks to you for this! How right I was to trust you, to know that my day would come, & to be too proud, & too confident of my fate, to take for a moment any lesser gift, any smaller happiness than this that you had in store for me!

How often I used to say to myself: “No one can love life as I do, love the beauty & the splendour & the ardour, & find words for them as I can, without having a share in them some day”—I mean the dear intimate share that one guessed at, always, beyond & behind their universal thrill!—And the day came—the day has been—& I have poured into it all my stored-up joy of living, all my sense of the beauty & mystery of the world, every impression of joy & loveliness, in sight or sound or touch, that I ever figured to myself in all the lovely days when I used to weave such sensations into a veil of colour to hide the great blank behind…..

Further Reading

As far as I can tell, Edith Wharton’s “Love Diary,” as it is more commonly known, has only been reprinted in full once: in 1994, in the 66th volume of American Literature, a literary journal published by Duke University Press. You can find the article here (purchase required).

The original diary is held at Lilly Library, Indiana University.

Diary entry reprinted by kind permission of Watkins/Loomis and the Estate of Edith Wharton.

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