The first new biography of America's foremost woman of letters in twenty years, No Gifts from Chance presents an Edith Wharton for our times. Far from the emotionally withdrawn and neurasthenic victim of earlier portraits, she is revealed here as an ambitious, disciplined, and self-determined woman who fashioned life to her own desires. Drawing on government records, legal and medical documents, and recently opened collections of Wharton's letters, Shari Benstocks biography offers new information on what have been called the key mysteries of her life: the question of her paternity, her troubled relations with her mother and older brothers, her marriage to manic-depressive Teddy Wharton, and her extramarital affair with Morton Fullerton. No Gifts from Chance also examines long-ignored facets of Wharton's life - her complex and often calculating relationships with publishers, her internationally acclaimed charitable work during World War I, and the poignant story of her ultimate financial distress that contributed to her death, a story told here for the first time. At the center of this biography is Wharton's writing life. No Gifts from Chance charts her immense literary productivity (some forty-seven books, including The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth, and Ethan Frome), tracking her writing processes from notebook entries through editorial revisions and examining the critical reception of her narrative fiction, poetry, travel writing, literary and cultural criticism, and memoir. Here, too, is a rare glimpse of the intricate relationship between the writer's public reputation and her private life, from her lonely literary apprenticeship in late-Victorian America to her emergence asa literary figure in Edwardian England and Belle Epoque Paris, when she developed enduring friendships with Henry James and Bernard Berenson, to her Age of Acclaim as America's most respected writer during the postwar jazz age. A magisterial Edith Wharton dominates these pages: astute and tough-minded in business, passionate and sexually confident in love, audacious and prolific in her art, principled and courageous in her life. This is the story of an artist who had no role models in a society that feared creative and independent women, but who triumphantly defied convention and made herself into America's first great and most beloved woman novelist.