(LENOX, Mass.) – Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes paid tribute to the influence of Edith Wharton on his creative process, attributing the success of the critically acclaimed TV series to Wharton’s “tolerance and … humor,” at a gala event at the Harvard Club in Boston, at which Fellowes was feted by The Mount, on Saturday, November 3, 2012. Fellowes was presented with the 2012 Edith Wharton Lifetime Achievement Award by fellow member of the British House of Lords, Christopher Tugendhat at the event honoring the writer, director, novelist, and actor. The gala, which raised $200,000 for the nonprofit cultural center, was organized by members of The Mount’s Boston Committee, chaired by Barbara R. de Marneffe.
Fellowes’s remarks on accepting the 2012 Edith Wharton Lifetime Achievement Award included how he came to Wharton as a young man, when he read and fell in love with The House of Mirth. He then went on to review his career concluding with his amazement and delight at the success of Downton Abbey (season three will premiere in the U.S. on January 6, 2013).
In closing, Fellowes said of his Downton Abbey characters, he suspects the reason for the success of the series is that he is “kind to them in their weakness, kind to them…in the error of their ways.” He concluded by saying that if he has achieved this, “it is a lesson I learned directly from Edith Wharton, from her tolerance and her humor, even as she brings out the rod. I consider myself most fortunate to have made her acquaintance.”
Prior to the awards ceremony, there was a live auction, Great Houses, Great Escapes, which included getaway packages to Nantucket, Paris, and Beaver Creek, Colorado, as well as an opportunity to host a private dinner party at The Mount. The most popular item of the evening was a stay in the English countryside with a personal tour of Highclere Castle (of Downton Abbey fame) with Julian and Emma Fellowes. This once-in-a-lifetime experience sold twice, for $25,000 each.
In addition to the getaways, the evening included an appeal from The Mount’s executive director Susan Wissler to raise funds for a key restoration project: winterizing The Mount’s historic Stable. The addition of heat and amenities to the Stable will bring the property closer to becoming a year-round destination. This fund-a-need auction raised over $75,000, including $25,000 from a long-standing Berkshire supporter.
“The evening was an incredible success,” said Susan Wissler. “The welcome we received by the Boston community and their generosity was remarkable. We have so many people to thank for this incredible night — the Boston Committee, the Fellowes, Lord Tugendhat, our supporters. We are blessed to have such great friends.”
Lord Fellowes’s stateside visit started in the Berkshires with a tour of The Mount, the Lenox estate Wharton built as a writer’s retreat. Fellowes is a fan of Wharton’s work and cites her as his favorite American writer.
The Mount’s Edith Wharton Achievement Awards
Since 1996, The Mount has been honoring individuals who are masters in their fields. Past recipients include Martin Scorsese, Eudora Welty, Alice Munro, Brooke Astor, Kati Marton, and Anne Cox Chambers. This year, The Mount was honored to present Julian Fellowes with the 2012 Edith Wharton Lifetime Achievement Award for his extraordinary accomplishments.
The Mount is both a historic site and a cultural destination inspired by the passions and achievements of Edith Wharton. Designed and built by Edith Wharton in 1902, the house embodies the principles outlined in her influential book, The Decoration of Houses (1897). The property includes three acres of formal gardens designed by Wharton, who was also an authority on European landscape design, surrounded by extensive woodlands.
The ten years Wharton spent at The Mount changed her forever, both as an artist and as a person. For Wharton, it was a period of self-discovery, growth, creativity, and validation, as well as agitation, in the most intimate areas of her life. While at The Mount, Wharton wrote both Ethan Frome and The House of Mirth.