Edith Wharton: Woman, Writer and Pilgrim

Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, Praza do Obradoiro s/n
  • Edith Wharton: Woman, Writer and Pilgrim

Edith Wharton, one of the most famous writers of the early 20th century, winner of the Pulitzer award in 1921 for her novel A idade da Inocencia which was released on the big screen in 1993 by Martin Scorsese and she was also the first woman to be acclaimed as Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Yale –among other important merits. She travelled to Compostela twice in the 1920’s walking the Way of St. James in the Xacobeo year.

This is shown in the research that Patricia Fra López, professor in Literature studies, carried out carefully. The research was published in the book Edith Wharton. Back to Compostela, a facsimile edition that collects the journey of a pioneer woman who was ahead of her time.

Born in the United States, Edith Wharton spent several years of her childhood in Europe until she emigrated definitely to France, travelling around many countries of the old continent as for example Italy, England, Germany or Greece and even the Northern part of Africa. This was the reason why she could speak several languages like French, German and Italian as well as English. She was definitely a passionate traveller in a time when the Way of St. James was a big challenge full of adversities, especially for a woman whose guide was a book of another erudite writer and Spanish arts teacher, Georgina King (The Way of St. James).

The first time that this famous writer travelled to our country was in 1925. It was in that year when the author recorded her pilgrimage to the “glorious sanctuary of Compostela” through Spain with Walter Berry in her travel diary. It was exactly on September 15th when she arrived to the Cathedral and finished her spiritual quest. The view of the Maestro Mateo’s porch had a strong and emotional impact on her, which led her to write Santiago. Aleluya! Jubileo! Lhassa! La otra noche vi la eternidad.

According to professor Fra López in Back Compostela, some years later Edith Wharton came back to the capital by car and she recorded this in a incomplete essay that she wrote around 1930, a very advisable lecture that you can find in that edition.

This work represents a great source of information that helps to know more about the Way of St. James in the 1920’s through the eyes of an eminent traveller of that time and also to know more about the experience and relation that one of the most rewarded writers of our recent history had to Santiago de Compostela; the city that, according to her own words, seems to be at the end of the western world.