Sunday, May 13, 2012

When the Going was Good

Edith Wharton's classical adventure:
A cruise through the Aegean was scheduled for the end of March [1926], something Edith had been dreaming about for a long time.  Her previous Aegean trip ... in 1885, had been, she said, "the crowning wonder of my life and yet how ignorant I was."  Recalling the expense of the adventure, she calculated that a cruise of half the length would now cost one-third more, about twenty-eight thousand dollars, and of this shed was prepared to put up more than half.

She had chartered the Osprey, a 360 ton steam yacht from England, carrying five "master cabins" and two cabins for servants. ...

The cruise lasted for ten idyllic weeks--an experience, Edith told [art critic Bernard] Berenson, that belonged "to a quite other-dimensional world."  The Osprey passed through the Strait of Messina and crossed the Ionian Sea to Cephalonia and Zacynthus.  There were late evenings on deck under the stars, afternoons of sun and sea spray, explorations of island coasts, and bumpy drives through the hills.  The yacht turned northward and sailed along the Gulf of Cornith.  At Delphi they lunched on a ham-and-veal pie prepared by their accomplished cook, consuming it under trees of hoar olives, just below the Castalian Spring.  From Itea they could see snow far away on the slopes of Mount Parnassus.  Years later Edith would vividly recall gazing up at that spectacle and saying to herself, "Old girl, this is one of the pinnacles."
--RWB Lewis, Edith Wharton 469 (1993).

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