Edith Wharton won the 1920 Pulitzer Prize for her world-renowned novel The Age of Innocence, making her the very first woman to receive this prestigious award. For three years (almost in a row), the author was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. You probably know this already. Even if you didn’t, you could always discover such literary facts from a quick, Internet-based exploration. BUT, there is one thing the world-wide web may not divulge the moment you click Search: Wharton was the proud owner of a… baby rattle that’s now worth a cool $16,500.
AbeBooks – an online marketplace for new, used, out-of-print, and rare books – has this exact rattle in their possession. According to the item’s description, it’s not your average baby rattle – it can also be used as a whistle and a teething device.
Upon the rattle’s metallic surface, one lucky buyer will find three symbols: the letter “L” (which signifies the year 1860), a Lion Passant (which means that it’s sterling silver), and an anchor (one that represents the industrial city of Birmingham). In addition to these secret code-like emblems, the name “EDITH” is engraved on the whistle’s lip (so that one will never forget the rattle’s lineage).
For decoration, the item contains three silver bells and a piece of coral. Why coral, you ask? Well, this material was used for teething and it also doubled as a magical charm of some sort. Who knew? Along with this purchase, the Wharton fan/baby rattle fan/collector of expensive objects will also receive a clamshell box that’s cloaked in black cloth and lined with purple velvet. It has a label on its spine that’s made of black leather and stamped with gold leaf. (It may be just us, but doesn’t “gold leaf” sound like it’s a synonym for “fancy”?) It turns out that Edith gave this one-of-a-kind rattle to her friend’s only child on the day of her 1920 christening.
The recipient: Leon Belugou, Wharton’s closest French friend. This friendship definitely came in handy because Leon was impressively talented when it came to handling awkward situations. That would explain why the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist reached out to him when she wanted to divorce Edward (Teddy) Wharton.
Interestingly enough, Leon’s diplomacy inspired Edith to write a certain character in The Age of Innocence. There’s a man – Count and Countess Olenska’s secretary – who assists the Countess when she attains a divorce later on in life. Sound familiar? Lucky for us, Belugou was incredibly grateful for his friendship with Wharton and, as a result, he held on to everything she ever gave him. That means that this baby rattle came directly from the Belugou family and could now be all yours.
OK, so it costs $16,500. On the plus side, the shipping’s only $5.00 if you live in the United States. And they have a 30-day return policy – just in case you decide that Edith Wharton’s baby rattle/teething device/whistle trifecta isn’t for you.
[Images via Twitter]