Books: Public Triumph, Private Pain THE LETTERS OF EDITH WHARTON Edited by R.W.B. Lewis and Nancy Lewis; Scribner's; 654 pages; $29.95

On Nov. 27, 1909, a famous American author temporarily staying in Paris wrote a note to the local correspondent for the Times of London: "Cher ami -- Can you arrange, some day next week -- before Wednesday -- to bring, or send, me such fragments of correspondence as still exist?" The writer continues, "In one sense, as I told you, I am indifferent to the fate of this literature. In another sense, my love of order makes me resent the way in which inanimate things survive their uses!" Edith Wharton, then 47, was referring to her love letters in the possession...

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