Wharton Letter Bolsters Suicide Theory

Heroine Lily Bart overdosed deliberately, note implies
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Nov 21, 2007 5:47 PM CST

(Newser) – A recently-discovered letter by Edith Wharton provides new evidence in The House of Mirth's lingering literary mystery, suggesting that heroine Lily Bart does, in fact, intend to kill herself at the book's end, the New York Times reports. Though the ambiguous text has led many to believe she died of an accidental overdose, Wharton's letter states that a fictional "friend of mine has made up her mind to commit suicide."

The letter, which sought a physician's advice "on the best way of disposing of her," was found stuck in a first edition of the novel. Critics disagree on its implications: One biographer found it likely that Wharton thought her character would commit suicide, but "by the time she came to the ending, she changed her mind."