cover image Fast and Loose; And, the Buccaneers

Fast and Loose; And, the Buccaneers

Edith Wharton. University of Virginia Press, $49.5 (514pp) ISBN 978-0-8139-1482-4

As the alpha and omega of a brilliant literary career, the two works gathered here are of interest chiefly to scholars. Fast and Loose , Wharton's first full-length work, was composed in 1876-77 when she was only 14, and, although its thematic concern with social standing and individual happiness anticipates the novels of her maturity, its plotting and characterization clearly reveal the hand of a juvenile. The boldest and most original section, in fact, is outside the work itself. Her own harshest (and truest) critic, Wharton appended three ``reviews,'' one of which reads: ``Is not the author very, very like a sick-sentimental school-girl who has begun her work with a fierce and bloody resolve to make it as bad as certain popular fiction & has ended with a blush, & a general erasure of all the naughty words which her modest vocabulary could furnish?'' By contrast, The Buccaneers , left unfinished at Wharton's death in 1937, manifests a consummate artistry. (See Fiction Forecasts, June 28, for a review of Viking's Buccaneers as completed by Marion Mainwaring.) Included here is a facsimile of the version published by Wharton's literary executor in 1938; although Winner's textual notes are purely academic (e.g., ``That Eglinton girl had'' in one manuscript reads as ``That Eglinton girl there'' in another), her edition valiantly preserves the manuscript as a work-in-progress. Winner edited The Letters of Henry Adams. (Oct.)