In The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton depicts the glittering salons of Gilded Age New York with precision and wit, even as she movingly portrays the obstacles that impeded women's choices at the turn of the century.
The beautiful, much-desired Lily Bart has been raised to be one of the perfect wives of the wealthy upper class, but her spark of character and independent drive prevents her from becoming one of the many women who will succeed in those circles. Though her desire for a comfortable life means that she cannot marry for love without money, her resistance to the rules of the social elite endangers her many marriage proposals. As Lily spirals down into debt and dishonor, her story takes on the resonance of classic tragedy. One of Wharton's most bracing and nuanced portraits of the life of women in a hostile, highly ordered world, The House of Mirth exposes the truths about American high society that its denizens most wished to deny. With an introduction by Pamela Knights.
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
About the Author
Edith Newbold Jones was born January 24, 1862, into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses." The youngest of three children, Edith spent her early years touring Europe with her parents and, upon the family's return to the United States, enjoyed a privileged childhood in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. Edith's creativity and talent soon became obvious: By the age of eighteen she had written a novella, (as well as witty reviews of it) and published poetry in the Atlantic Monthly. After a failed engagement, Edith married a wealthy sportsman, Edward Wharton. Despite similar backgrounds and a shared taste for travel, the marriage was not a success. Many of Wharton's novels chronicle unhappy marriages, in which the demands of love and vocation often conflict with the expectations of society.
Upon the publication of The House of Mirth in 1905, Wharton became an instant celebrity, and the the book was an instant bestseller, with 80,000 copies ordered from Scribner's six weeks after its release. Ethan Frome appeared six years later, solidifying Wharton's reputation as an important novelist.
Often in the company of her close friend, Henry James, Wharton mingled with some of the most famous writers and artists of the day, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Andre Gide, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau, and Jack London.
Wharton had a great fondness for dogs, and owned several throughout her life.
Knights-Lecturer in English and American Literature at Durham University
“A tragedy of our modern life, in which the relentlessness of what men used to call Fate and esteem…. is as vividly set forth as ever it was by Aeschylus or Shakespeare.”
—The New York Times
“Uniquely authentic among American novels of manners.”
“Brilliant….[Lily Bart] is a grand tragic heroine, fit to take center stage with Manon or Emma Bovary, Gwendolen Harleth or Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Anna Karenina or Isabel Archer.”