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First published in , The House of Mirth shocked the New York society it so deftly chronicles, portraying the moral, social and economic restraints on a woman who dared to claim the privileges of marriage without assuming the responsibilitiesLily Bart, beautiful, witty and sophisticated, is accepted by old money and courted by the growing tribe of nouveaux riches But as she nears thirty, her foothold becomes precarious a poor girl with expensive tastes, she needs a husband to preserve her social standing, and to maintain her in the luxury she has come to expect Whilst many have sought her, something fastidiousness or integrity prevents her from making a suitable match


10 thoughts on “The House of Mirth

  1. Jim Fonseca Jim Fonseca says:

    There s actually little mirth in this story I read this after enjoying the author s Ethan Frome and realizing again what a good writer Edith Wharton is Lily Bart belong to the jet set of the early 1900 s She hangs out in New York mansions, Newport and the Riviera As did the author Lily was from a wealthy family that spent down its fortune and then her parents died Now she s looking for a husband with money She had some opportunities to marry earlier but she finds she s waited a bit lo There s actually little mirth in this story I read this after enjoying the author s Ethan Frome and realizing again what a good writer Edith Wharton is Lily Bart belong to the jet set of the early 1900 s She hangs out in New York mansions, Newport and the Riviera As did the author Lily was from a wealthy family that spent down its fortune and then her parents died Now she s looking for a husband with money She had some opportunities to marry earlier but she finds she s waited a bit long she s 29 now and has to consider pompous, milksop 40 year old mama s boys, and even someone who might ultimately decide to do her the honor of boring her for life Another is a portentous little ass Without a mother she doesn t have anyone to play the field for her and line up men behind the scenes Her income is barely enough to keep up with her clothing budget and card playing money She lives with various aunts for periods of time I m amazed at how much she and all these these folks talk about their money and money problems in casual conversation She s very prim and proper in her relationships with men but she loses her reputation through no fault of her own She feels that however unfounded the charges against her, she must be to blame for their having been made Her aunt dies and her money problems and her reputation problems force her to drop out of high society She takes a seamstress job and lives in a boarding house, cementing her fate view spoiler Her reputation goes downhill when first she s seen coming out of an unmarried man s house where she went for tea not knowing the maid wasn t in Then she makes the mistake of asking a friend s husband to invest 300 for her in the stock market He magically turns it into 10,000 basically giving her the money and then he spreads the story when he drinks He tries to use this to pressure her into a relationship, tricking her into coming to his home when his wife is not here She s seen coming out of the house Then she is deliberately and falsely accused of having an affair with another husband by a supposedly good friend who invites her on a yacht cruise to the Riviera The woman did this just so she could cover her own infidelities to her husband Lily falls in love with one of the men and he s in love with her but her reputation scares him off She becomes addicted to a powerful sleeping drug hide spoiler There s excellent writing and witty comments As her father aged and was ill, he got to the point where It seemed to tire him to rest Of one of the matrons she couldn t bear new people when she hadn t discovered them herself She was accustomed, in the way of happiness, to such scant light as shone through the cracks of other people s lives like many unpunctual persons, Mrs Gormer disliked to be kept waiting A great story and it kept my attention all the way through Thanks to Heather, Dan and Joshie for encouraging me to readof Edith Wharton in their comments on my review of Ethan Frome Top photo New York Fifth Avenue mansions of the early 1900 s Newport, RI Seaview Terrace mansion.The author 1862 1937 from edithwharton.org


  2. Glenn Sumi Glenn Sumi says:

    Poor, lovely Lily BartHer tragic storywill break your heartShe runs in the best circles Wears the right clothesAnd flirts with rich menBut everyone knowsThat she needs to marrySomeone and fast At 29 her looks won t lastShe s ringing up debtsBorrowing from menAnd displeasing their wivesNot to mention her friend Lawrence Selden, a lawyer but not very rich It s Gilded Age New York And life s a bitch If you re not old money Like the Trenors, DorsetsAnd that odd Percy GryceThe most you can do is Poor, lovely Lily BartHer tragic storywill break your heartShe runs in the best circles Wears the right clothesAnd flirts with rich menBut everyone knowsThat she needs to marrySomeone and fast At 29 her looks won t lastShe s ringing up debtsBorrowing from menAnd displeasing their wivesNot to mention her friend Lawrence Selden, a lawyer but not very rich It s Gilded Age New York And life s a bitch If you re not old money Like the Trenors, DorsetsAnd that odd Percy GryceThe most you can do is play very nice Like Sam Rosedale, the BrysThe Gormers and such,Who buy their way in i.e., never go dutch Just remember this cliqueWho summer in Newport and vacate in FranceCan shut you out of the social danceWhich brings me back to Lily BartWho s clearly not as smart as she seemsStepping right into a terrible schemeAnd refusing to clear her nameOr go along with the game Even though, in the end, it causes her shame Does she have a choice A tragic flaw Or is her inaction the point of it all Is her refusal to play her hand A critique of women s rolesIn a world ruled by Man And what of that endingThat seems out of place I won t give a spoiler that d be a disgrace But melodrama and tears crop up near the endWhen Lily appearsTo want for a friendHer author, Ms Wharton, knew this world well It looked like heavenBut was nasty as hellIt s a fine portrait of Old New York But please don t forget another great workAn even better one, writtenSome 16 years hence Full of wisdom, passion, sensibility and sense The title You guessed it The Age Of Innocence


  3. Samadrita Samadrita says:

    On occasions like this, I rue the absence of atragedyshelf or some variation of the same because meremelancholiaseems too modest, too equivocal a word to convey the kind of heartbreak Lily Bart s story inflicted on me.It is, perhaps, apposite that I came to this with my mind still fresh from Anita Desai s stirring homage to a resolutely single, unsung fictional heroine who holds together a disintegrating family, unacknowledged, misunderstood, left behind and forgotten Clear Light of Day On occasions like this, I rue the absence of atragedyshelf or some variation of the same because meremelancholiaseems too modest, too equivocal a word to convey the kind of heartbreak Lily Bart s story inflicted on me.It is, perhaps, apposite that I came to this with my mind still fresh from Anita Desai s stirring homage to a resolutely single, unsung fictional heroine who holds together a disintegrating family, unacknowledged, misunderstood, left behind and forgotten Clear Light of Day Because Desai s Bim and Wharton s Lily are both flawed figures who manage to stand erect, weathering storms of hostile circumstances that whittle down their will to live and sense of self worth Even when the vicissitudes of fate leave them psychologically battered and dying inside, they manage to maintain their slippery grip on ideals that cost them dearly And how many tragedies can we think of, in which the female protagonist s tragic status is not a mere matter of simple victimization at the hands of patriarchal figures of authority but is, instead, locked in a complex configuration of missed chances, reluctance to surrender self esteem in exchange for societal approval and an unsympathetic social milieu She was realizing for the first time that a woman s dignity may costto keep up than her carriage and that the maintenance of a moral attribute should be dependent on dollars and cents, made the world appear asordid place than she had conceived it. Lily Barton s ill fated fall from grace is not just the tragedy of a woman of insufficient means restricted to using her beauty as currency It is representative of a greater human predicament Unlike Desai s ornately crafted family drama taking place amidst the squalor of an Old Delhi neighborhood, Lily s tale comes swathed in layers of exquisite riches The shimmer of expensive china, the buzz of vacuous conversations conducted in affected accents, the ring of self assured laughter spilling forth from the made up faces of social butterflies and the dispassionate flirtations between social aspirants and calculating husband hunters provide a glittering backdrop to her spiralling descent into the realms of penury and obscurity But this outward show of grandeur and exuberance stands in stark contrast to the bleakness of Lily s inner world the site of a perennial conflict between necessity and moral rectitude which Wharton limns with stunning precision and empathy Lily s bitter ending hits home not because she is a woman forced to choose between a marriage of convenience and complete annihilation but because that tragedy is one of her own making, a fatal repercussion of her last defiant refusal to play by the rules of society If she slipped she recovered her footing, and it was only afterward that she was aware of having recovered it each time on a slightly lower level. Why Edith Wharton does not share the same pedestal of authorial eminence with figures like Fitzgerald, I don t understand Both The Great Gatsby andThe House of Mirthindict the soulless heart of a blindly hedonistic social order and yet Wharton seems to be often viewed simply as a woman s writer As if to write from the female perspective and use female bondings and rivalry as tools of social critique automatically qualify as criteria for exclusion of a work from greater recognition She had fallen, she had gone under, and true to the ideal of their race, they were awed only by success by the gross tangible image of material achievement. To hell with the canon then Gatsby s tragedy transpires as a result of his naivete and callow optimism Lily s ultimate end is an act of conscious self abnegation and implicit resistance to the value judgment systems which govern the world she inhabits It should be obvious which story s razor sharpness cut me to the bone


  4. Jason Jason says:

    Lily Bart, the protagonist of Edith Wharton s stunning first novel, is introduced to the reader as a young woman traveling within high society While her blood and wealth may place her on the fringe of that society, her pale beauty as it is continuously characterized throughout the novel elevates her within its ranks Lily is marriage material And within Manhattan s high society at the turn of the century, women are meant to marry and in order to marry women are meant to maintain a reputat Lily Bart, the protagonist of Edith Wharton s stunning first novel, is introduced to the reader as a young woman traveling within high society While her blood and wealth may place her on the fringe of that society, her pale beauty as it is continuously characterized throughout the novel elevates her within its ranks Lily is marriage material And within Manhattan s high society at the turn of the century, women are meant to marry and in order to marry women are meant to maintain a reputation of pale innocence indeed, they must.Lily hesitates to question these two fundamental rules that bind her, save on rare occasion in conversation with Lawrence Selden, the man it seems she would marry if the choice were hers, and who stands far enough outside Lily s circle to critique that circle from an apparent distance Selden, however, presents Lily with several problems First, Selden himself is hardly able to separate himself from the rules of Manhattan society, even if he so desired to or so imagined the independence of his perspective Second, Selden serves as preacher, counselor, and sounding post to Lily with respect to the pitfalls of high society, but while Selden s efforts to take high society off its pedestal strike a chord with Lily, and indeed echo many of her own thoughts, Selden never presents Lily with a viable alternative to the only circle and the only set of rules she knows.The final problem that first emerges from the relationship between Lily Bart and Lawrence Selden is the crux of the novel and the launching point for several shrewd insights Wharton compellingly places within the American cultural dialog, as extant within the novel Lily couldn t marry Selden if the choice were hers And, perhaps ironically, she likely would not, in any case, as Selden lacks the most essential thing men in high society bring to a marriage money Like any fully painted character in a great work of fiction, Lily Bart is a woman of substantial intellectual and emotional force Indeed, given the degree the reader is aware of the goings on inside Lily Bart s head, it can be surprising to step back and remember the novel s narrated in the third person.Lily, viewed in isolation, isthan situated to grab control of her life if that control were hers to grab But because she does not live in isolation, control is not hers Her will is usurped at almost every turn by the societal forces around her which among other things make her will all but moot While an argument could be made that Lily has a knack for making choices that reflect upon her poorly, she is defined nonetheless, and far , by the perceptions of those around her than by any sense of self she seeks to, or by happenstance does, affirmatively present to the world And in light of the rules that constrain her, her reputation never in her hands spirals downward as the novel progresses, most often, again, via external rather than internal forces Absent her reputation intact, that Lily is meant to marry becomes meaningless Her purpose and place within Manhattan s high society slip from her hands as, trying at least to retain her dignity, she chooses not to act on her own behalf when the opportunities are before her and otherwise, and perhaps always, lacks the choice to act on her own behalf as a byproduct of her social milieu.The House of Mirth is remarkably tragic At times, it feels as though too much is going wrong for Lily Bart a little too often But the totality of the narrative, and Wharton s prose, combat what may be the novel s single shortcoming Wharton s novel surfaces from many contexts Two are telling, or at least were to me upon reading The House of Mirth First, Lily Bart retains her outer beauty throughout the greater part of the novel, despite her internal struggle to maintain a grip in the face of near free fall Her inner world, as she feels it, and as others perceive it, becomes dark as her pale beauty persists Sadly, her inner life is all but wholly divorced from her outer reality Thus, in Lily Bart s unfortunate transformation within the novel the saliency of maintaining superficial appearances is brought to the thematic forefront A theme present in both The House of Mirth and Oscar Wilde s The Picture of Dorian Gray cast differently, but not without similarities Second, The House of Mirth shines a bright light of reality upon Transcendentalism At minimum, Wharton illustrates that self determination and self reliance are one thing when you re living in a cabin in the woods, growing beans, and contemplating existence during solitary sojourns around Walden Pond, but quite another in the company of others particularly a circle of others fixated upon a set of s or,strictly, rules Reaching further, perhaps, Wharton exposes a stark line between the wherewithal of men and women in American society to go Thoreau In other words, The House of Mirth may temper Transcendentalism by portraying the profound influence of the company one keeps on reaching into oneself and, beneath that, the harsh reality of being a woman within that company.The House of Mirth is one of the greatest American novels of the 20th century


  5. Henry Avila Henry Avila says:

    Lily Bart, born poor but from a blue blood family, grew up privileged, well her mother pretended they had wealth, always telling her hard working husband, she will not live like a pig He succumbs to an early grave, broke, at the turn of the century 20th , that is, the mother spends money, they haven t got, going to Europe, buying expensive clothes, jewelry, furniture, all for the sake of appearances, their friends, in High Society are very well to do Since childhood, Lily is told one thing Lily Bart, born poor but from a blue blood family, grew up privileged, well her mother pretended they had wealth, always telling her hard working husband, she will not live like a pig He succumbs to an early grave, broke, at the turn of the century 20th , that is, the mother spends money, they haven t got, going to Europe, buying expensive clothes, jewelry, furniture, all for the sake of appearances, their friends, in High Society are very well to do Since childhood, Lily is told one thing, never trained for anything else, her object in life, marry a rich man, restore the family honor, love doesn t matter, the only important concern, Gold When her mother dies too, in poverty, discouraged, Lily is alone at the age of 19 Aunt Peniston, affluent, widowed sister, of Lily s father, surprisingly takes her in, she keeps mostly to herself, aloof, will not help Miss Bart, pay bills, Lily has a meager income , and her niece continues in New York society, with her friends, buying extravagant dresses, gambling at cards, bridge, a maid employed, visiting the houses of people, who live lavishly, in their own little world Mrs.Trenor, her best friend is always inviting her to stay and enjoy the good life, with the snobs, at her mansion Lily is glad to get out of her Aunt Julia s, boring, dowdy home Her bills go unpaid, Lily must marry soon, but is too fastidious, for her own good, meeting the very shy millionaire Percy Gryce, dull, tongue tied, his only interest in life , collecting old books That is when his pulse beats faster But Lily loves Lawrence Selden, a fascinating man, they have interesting conversations together, she feels good being able to speak honestly, but he is just another struggling lawyer, a working man, who travels in high places and lives in a modest apartment His cousin Gerty Farish, is one of the few real friends, Lily has, and she also loves Lawrence, helping the poor, becomes her life s work And Gerty even takes, Miss Bart to see them and she gives some precious money, to their welfare, Lily feels happy, doing so The skittish, straight laced Mr Gryce, gets cold feet, hearing about Miss Bart s gambling debts, what would mother think Selden is also uncomfortable with Lily s reputation, undeserved, the crowd likes to gossip She has another even less desirable candidate, Simon Rosedale, on the way to becoming the richest man in town, trying to enter the exclusive group, rather uncouth but is improving He wants to marry the gorgeous woman, what a prize to show off to his new friendsLily Bart, doesn t like him and needs to find someone quickly, at 29, her days of floating around the honeycomb are rapidly ending, she has to taste the honey and become the Queen But Lily is asked to go on a Mediterranean yacht cruise, by Mrs.Dorset, months of pleasure, no worries, everything free, forget all her troubles, what will she do


  6. Paul Bryant Paul Bryant says:

    What a piece of artIs our Lily BartSurrounded by men who don t need much urgin Yet Lily is a 29 year old virginShe s a part of a truly disgusting society the filthy rich of New York, 1905 all they do is party till five in the morning and have discreet affairs and play bridge for money and get waited on hand and foot snap your fingers once for a Faberge egg on toast, twice for a new hat made of ptarmigan feathers and rush off to Monaco and gamble and party and have affairs and snap their fi What a piece of artIs our Lily BartSurrounded by men who don t need much urgin Yet Lily is a 29 year old virginShe s a part of a truly disgusting society the filthy rich of New York, 1905 all they do is party till five in the morning and have discreet affairs and play bridge for money and get waited on hand and foot snap your fingers once for a Faberge egg on toast, twice for a new hat made of ptarmigan feathers and rush off to Monaco and gamble and party and have affairs and snap their fingers for a new hat made of tigers eyelashes and oversee charitable foundations to help the limbless and get huffy if the gold plates of leftover anteater brains aren t cleared away quick enough.First they all love Lily Bart because she s tall and lovely and says the right thing to everybody But clearly she hasn t said enough of the right things or she d already have been married to a millionaire Something holds her back from making such an obvious move this leaves her in a position where she becomes a convenient woman to take the blame when there is some blame shifting to be done, so she ends up stumbling around like a wounded okapi and the pack turns on her or really just shoves her to the side and moves on Edith skewers the appalling attitudes of the rich Judy knew it must be horrid for poor Lily to have to stop to consider whether she could afford real lace on her petticoats, and not to have a motor car and a steam yacht at her orders but the daily friction of unpaid bills, the daily nibble of small temptations to expenditures, were trials as far out of her experience as the domestic problems of the charwoman.Here s a great comment on one miserable attitude to the rich Such flashes of joy as Lily moved in would have blinded Miss Farish, who was accustomed, in the way of happiness, to such scant light as shone through the cracks of other people s lives.I know that Edith Wharton came from the top of the top families of Old New York, the ones who can t remember how they came to be so rich, but reading this you might think she was a Marxist because the only possible reaction to her detailed description of this nasty collection of human parasites is to support violent revolution Burn down their houses and off to Madame Guillotine for the lot of them Let the tumbrils roll What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave diggers Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains They have a world to win No, I don t think that was our Edie s intention, but reading the House of Mirth could surely nudge a person towards the overthrow of capitalism.THE EDITH WHARTON STYLEIt can be convoluted Okay, it s ALWAYS convoluted Also, the meanings of some words have changed The word intercourse for instance Hitherto he had found, in her presence and her talk, the aesthetic amusement which a reflective man is apt to seek in desultory intercourse with pretty women.Please don t waterboard this Wharton named EdieWhose mind being so sharp whose eyes being so beadyMake it tough for a reader depressingly needyWhose eyes are so blurry brain so weedyWe are daunted by sentences subtle and serpentine As un user friendly as a Trump supporting porcupineThese days we like novels to be important but easyAnd sleazy and cheesy and breezy, not queasyI will give a couple of examples 1 Ah, lucky girls who grow up in the shelter of a mother s love a mother who knows how to contrive opportunities without conceding favours, how to take advantage of propinquity without allowing appetite to be dulled by habit 2Brilliant young ladies, a little blinded by their own effulgence, are apt to forget that the modest satellite drowned in their light is still performing its own revolutions and generating heat at its own rate.3Lily walked on unconscious of her surroundings She was still treading the buoyant ether which emanates from the high moments of life 4And here is a description of a young mother returning from work to her baby Having passionately celebrated her reunion with her offspring, and excused herself in cryptic language for the lateness of her return, Nettie restored the baby to the cribThis is crazy overwriting and there are 300 pages of it Can be excruciating at times Can make you want to overthrow Edith Wharton violently But on the whole, pretty good stuff But gloomy Did I mention that It s so gloomy you will need a Leonard Cohen album handy to listen to at the end in order to decompress Suggested song First we take Manhattan obvious Ain t no mirth in the house of mirth


  7. Fabian Fabian says:

    The House of Mirth just might be to The Age of Innocence what Tom Sawyer is to Huck Finn that is, only but a stepping stone towards aprofound greatness although why I used that Twain analogy is a mystery even to me I find that brand of American Lit a bit overrated Age of Innocence is stupendous utterly amazing On the other hand, The House of Mirth describes the downward spiral of one, Miss Lily Bart, misunderstood by her social set, her particular New York niche Her sto The House of Mirth just might be to The Age of Innocence what Tom Sawyer is to Huck Finn that is, only but a stepping stone towards aprofound greatness although why I used that Twain analogy is a mystery even to me I find that brand of American Lit a bit overrated Age of Innocence is stupendous utterly amazing On the other hand, The House of Mirth describes the downward spiral of one, Miss Lily Bart, misunderstood by her social set, her particular New York niche Her story is a tragedy as deep as Jude the Obscure s her plight is both melancholic devastating New York has always been a perfect place in which to achieve some sort of victimhood Another attribute the story is severely overwritten I say attribute because that is precisely Mrs Wharton s style you read beautiful sentences, many, to realize that all she really wanted to portray was a character sitting down on his ass, or she tries to show particular psyches without themodern, less roundabout, most efficient manner of, say, Virginia Woolf alas, if Mrs Wharton had continued to write well into the 30 s we may have seen a different,radical literary style The novel is trapped between novelty modernity antiquity a European America Sure, this is an amazing study of turn of the century American society, invaluable, one which seems as foreign as it seems familiar I was not as impressed with this one as her Pulitzer darling man, I DO LOVE Age of Innocence , where the mood is less frigid less tragic, but the theme pretty much stays the same mainly, that society is very unforgiving, that half the trouble in life is caused by pretending there isn t any


  8. Dolors Dolors says:

    Edith Wharton sets the New York social stage of the early twentieth century for a succession of short scenes that glitter with glossy superficiality Lightning, backdrops and lush costumes are put on display to create a natural effect in this tableaux vivant of a novel, where Lily Bart stands out as the most stunning living painting ever She is the leading actress of this theatrical narrative, a delicate flower bred for exhibition and ornament whose beauty shines with the precise effortless gra Edith Wharton sets the New York social stage of the early twentieth century for a succession of short scenes that glitter with glossy superficiality Lightning, backdrops and lush costumes are put on display to create a natural effect in this tableaux vivant of a novel, where Lily Bart stands out as the most stunning living painting ever She is the leading actress of this theatrical narrative, a delicate flower bred for exhibition and ornament whose beauty shines with the precise effortless grace and charm that will enable her to achieve her goals Being an orphaned, single woman of twenty nine with frugal tastes Lily knows that in the gilded cage in which she blossoms and withers the only path to success is to become a saleable commodity that some wealthy gentleman will buy into marriage.It s easy to find fault in Lily s dignified composure Wharton treats her tragic heroine harshly She is vain, snobbish, selfish and as shallow as the stage of artificiality where she acts She covets money and social position above gentleness and compassion, her ruthless anti sentimentalism is reflected in the hard glaze of her chiselled, porcelain mask of complacency that in turn conceals her contempt for the parasitic life in which she has imprisoned herself But how much does the financial imperatives of this society in which wealth and not morality determines status influence in the making of stereotyped females grown up for mere decorationShe was so evidently the victim of the civilization which had produced her, that the links of her bracelet seemed like manacles chaining her to her fate p.8 I keep asking myself Is Lily a helpless victim or a hypocrite culprit Guilty of presumptuousness or driven by desperation The boundaries dividing the discrepant selves that coexist in Lily are as blurry as the thin line that separates fact from magic illusion.I keep asking myself Who am I to judge Lily when I feel my life to be an ongoing sequence of scenarios where I play the roles my varied audience expects from me She is as trapped as I am Lily s broken wings don t allow her to escape from the social jungle that made her what she is, yet she craves for freedom and happiness while she keeps missing golden opportunities that present themselves in the form of eligible bachelors and running under obligations of generous cheques that are spent mindlessly on the card table And below the glittering surface of Lily s existence, a terrible sense of waste festers into growing despair She loves, but denies herself.She smiles, but bleeds inwardly.She wants to be saved, but sticks stubbornly to her idea of success.Mr Selden offers Lily a place in his republic where freedom and success are both possibleFreedom Freedom from worries From everything from money, from poverty, from easy and anxiety, from all material accidents To keep a kind of republic of spirit that s what I call success p.78 But Lily has no spiritual or actual home of her own, like Woolf urged women to some years later, and she clings feebly to the surface of her existence where she is swirled around by the turbulences of the social corset that asphyxiates her.Loneliness, poverty and isolation are the true protagonists of Lily s desired House where there is no Mirth Lily s frivolity is in fact a result of a deluded childishness that splits her troubled being in two halves, the false one in perpetual display on the perfidious stage of society and the real one that radiates with emotional expressiveness in the last chapters of the novel when the mask of appearances is finally dropped and the bright, tragic realism filters through the cracks of Wharton s cardboard language.I don t judge I sympathize I grieve But I can t help but wonder how much of Lily s story reflects Wharton s professional career and the inherent conflict between her eagerness for popularity and the necessity to exorcize her own frustrations as a female writer in a sparkling scenario as facetious as her characters Hence my four stars saving the lacking one to pay homage to the fallen star in this House, which is ironically full of Mourning


  9. Duane Duane says:

    I have read almost all of Edith Wharton s writing I have the highest regard for her work She was overshadowed by Fitzgerald and Hemingway in her day but even so she won the Pulitzer prize in 1921 for her novel The Age of Innocence The House of Mirth was one of her early novels and my favorite, although I like all of her novels.Lily Bart, the protagonist in The House of Mirth, is such a captivating and tragic figure that she has stayed in my mind for years Of course, creating great characters I have read almost all of Edith Wharton s writing I have the highest regard for her work She was overshadowed by Fitzgerald and Hemingway in her day but even so she won the Pulitzer prize in 1921 for her novel The Age of Innocence The House of Mirth was one of her early novels and my favorite, although I like all of her novels.Lily Bart, the protagonist in The House of Mirth, is such a captivating and tragic figure that she has stayed in my mind for years Of course, creating great characters was one of Wharton s wonderful gifts.For those readers that have not discovered Edith Wharton, give her a try The House of Mirth would be perfect to start with


  10. Joe Valdez Joe Valdez says:

    Reading Edith Wharton s second novel The House of Mirth was like being kidnapped by Barbary pirates and held for ransom for ten fortnights not a comfort, but an adventure Published in 1905, this tale of Miss Lily Bart a young woman held prisoner by New York high society for her grace and beauty until her dependence on wealthy patrons makes her vulnerable to their whims carried me off against my will and held me with jeweled prose, breathless detail to character and droll wit Wharton s m Reading Edith Wharton s second novel The House of Mirth was like being kidnapped by Barbary pirates and held for ransom for ten fortnights not a comfort, but an adventure Published in 1905, this tale of Miss Lily Bart a young woman held prisoner by New York high society for her grace and beauty until her dependence on wealthy patrons makes her vulnerable to their whims carried me off against my will and held me with jeweled prose, breathless detail to character and droll wit Wharton s milieu was alien to me and her writing often so intricate that I wanted to run home to John Steinbeck, but now that the experience is over, find myself changed by it.Book I begins in a nation with places to go and people to see, or Grand Central Station to be exact Bachelor attorney Lawrence Selden returns to New York from the country and spots twenty nine year old socialite Lily Bart at the station, waiting alone Thrilled to find herself unattended no , Lily makes the impulsive decision to join Selden for tea in his apartment on Madison Avenue Lily is orphaned and lives with her wealthy aunt Mrs Peniston Though she is expected to inherit a great deal of money from her aunt, Lily is not paid an allowance, which places her at the service of whichever patron of high society offers to sponsor her.While marriage would present her with financial security, Lily bonds with Selden over a shared antipathy toward a life of routine She finds ways to sabotage her social encounters with eligible bachelors Unlike Selden, Lily has no vocation which to support her independent whims Exiting Selden s building, Lily has a chance encounter with Simon Rosedale, a social climber who makes it his business to know everything about everyone Lily is repulsed by the man and thinks up a quick lie to explain her presence in the neighborhood alone, but immediately regrets her decision to rebuff Rosedale s offer to accompany her to her train Why must a girl pay so dearly for her least escape from routine Why could one never do a natural thing without having to screen it behind a structure of artifice She had yielded to a passing impulse in going to Lawrence Selden s rooms, and it was so seldom that she could allow herself the luxury of an impulse This one, at any rate, was going to cost her ratherthan she could afford She was vexed to see that, in spite of so many years of vigilance, she had blundered twice within five minutes That stupid story about her dressmaker was bad enough it would have been so simple to tell Rosedale that she had been taking tea with Selden The mere statement of the fact would have rendered it innocuous.Lily arrives at Bellomont, where Mrs Judy Trenor has invited Lily to spend a weekend among high society over bridge games that drag into the night Mrs Trenor offers to help the girl secure an engagement to Percy Bryce, a bachelor whom Lily is bored by the moment she catches him in her web She finds herself elated by the arrival of Selden and incurs the wrath of Bertha Dorset, a married woman who has designs on the bachelor Over a long Sunday walk and respite in a meadow, Selden expresses his willingness to marry Lily, while offering his distaste for her crass materialism Bertha Dorset sinks Lily s chances with her backup Percy Bryce by spreading rumors of a gambling problem.Dispatched to pick up Mrs Trenor s husband from the train station, Lily finds herself obsessed upon by Gus Trenor, who offers to invest money for Lily in the stock market at no risk Trenor earns Lily ten thousand dollars, which she discovers was actually a gift from the married man Lily spends Trenor s money and ignores his overtures for greater intimacy Lily s carefree ways make enemies with her own sex as well Her cousin Grace Stepney retaliates against Lily for being excluded from their aunt s dinner party list by whispering to Mrs Peniston that the heir to her fortune has been gambling, living extravagantly and carrying on as the kept woman of Gus Trenor Lily finds new benefactors in Mr and Mrs Wellington Bry, nouveau riche socialites who sponsor an exhibit of fashionable young women modeling historic dress Lily s costume wags tongues, including Selden s He reveals his feelings for Lily but is rebuffed for his unwillingness to offer anything but love Lily is lured to the Trenors apartment, where Gus Trenor corners Lily and demands that she reciprocate his financial generosity with affection Seeking to settle her debts and recapture her independence, Lily struggles with opaque feelings for Selden against cash on the table a marriage proposal from Simon Rosedale Even through the dark tumult of her thoughts, the clink of Mr Rosedale s millions had a faintly seductive note Oh, for enough of them to cancel her one miserable debt But the man behind them grew increasingly repugnant in the light of Selden s expected coming The contrast was too grotesque she could scarcely suppress the smile it provoked She decided that directness would be best.Lily s plans to snare a husband hit a snag with she learns through the society pages that Selden has sailed overseas on business Book II picks up in Monte Carlo three months later, where Lily has joined the Dorsets for a cruise of the Mediterranean Invited by Judy Dorset to distract her husband George while Mrs Dorset dallies with a would be poet named Ned Silverton, Lily again crosses Judy Dorset by refusing to cover for Judy s hanky panky with Ned George Dorset has reached the end of his tether with his wife and summons an American attorney in Nice to explore options for a divorce This reunites Lily with Selden just as Judy Dorset sets out to destroy Lily once and for all.Though unexpressed in her novel, Wikipedia told me that Wharton s title is taken from the Old Testament and the Book of Ecclesiastes The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth Wharton s ability to craft jeweled sentences and draw scenes like a cartographer designing a treasure map is peerless In particular, her chapters are adorned with gorgeous first sentences.Book I Chapter I Selden paused in surprise In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart.Book I Chapter III Bridge at Bellomont usually lasted till the small hours and when Lily went to bed that night she had played too long for her own good.Book I Chapter XV When Lily woke she had the bed to herself, and the winter light was in the room.At other times, the turn of the century prose was so beautiful that it lured me into maze and the longer it went on, lost me A chill of fear passed over Miss Bart a sense of remembered treachery that was like the gleam of a knife in the dusk, But compassion, in a moment, got the better of her instinctive recoil What was this outpouring of senseless bitterness but the tracked creature s attempt to cloud the medium through which it was fleeing It was on Lily s lips to exclaim You poor soul, don t double and turn come straight back to me, and we ll find a way out But the words died under the impenetrable insolence of Bertha s smile Lily sat silent, taking the brunt of it quietly, letting it spend itself on her to the last drop of its accumulated falseness then, without a word, she rose and went down to her cabin.Wait, what Throughout The House of Mirth I found my eyes glancing over paragraphs like this and having to circle back to them again, like Craftsman homes on a dark, unfamiliar lane without the benefit of well lit street numbers I was often as lost Wharton also tells the reader what her characters are thinking and why they re thinking what they re thinking Social mechanization doesn t reveal itself very well in action or dialogue, only inner monologue That s why it s a mechanization Without careful attention though, the progression of the story is often obscured in a fog of politics and social manners In spite of its obtuseness, The House of Mirth builds in power by illustrating the corner a single woman like Miss Lily Bart paints herself into, ill equipped to earn her keep as anythingthan an ornament to high society The straits that the main character finds herself in during a market readjustment to her worth is as harrowing as that encountered by the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath In addition to Wharton s opulent wordcraft, which at its best is like death by chocolate, her climax is quietly powerful and has haunted me since I reached the finish line of this magnum opus