The House of Mirth
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The House of Mirth (1905), by Edith Wharton, is the story of Lily Bart, a well-born, but penniless woman of the high society of New York City, who was raised and educated to become wife to a rich man, a hothouse flower for conspicuous consumption. As an unmarried woman with gambling debts and an uncertain future, Lily is destroyed by the society who created her. Written in the style of a novel of manners, The House of Mirth was the fourth novel by Edith Wharton (1862–1937), which tells the story of Lily Bart against the background of the high-society of upper class New York City of the 1890s; as a genre novel, The House of Mirth (1905) is an example of American literary naturalism.
could never be hers, she contributed a note of easy elegance more valuable to Mattie Gormer than the louder passages of the band. Sam Gormer and his special cronies stood indeed a little in awe of her; but Mattie’s following, headed by Paul Morpeth, made her feel that they prized her for the very qualities they most conspicuously lacked. If Morpeth, whose social indolence was as great as his artistic activity, had abandoned himself to the easy current of the Gormer existence, where the minor
words had sufficed to make him see how little this view was really his, and how impossible it was for him to live quietly with the thought of Lily Bart. To hear that she was in need of help—even such vague help as he could offer—was to be at once repossessed by that thought; and by the time he reached the street he had sufficiently convinced himself of the urgency of his cousin’s appeal to turn his steps directly toward Lily’s hotel. There his zeal met a check in unforeseen news that Miss Bart
sister is going to have a baby—as if that were anything to having a house-party! I’m sure I shall get most horribly mixed up and there will be some awful rows. When I was down at Tuxedo I asked a lot of people for next week, and I’ve mislaid the list and can’t remember who is coming. And this week is going to be a horrid failure too—and Gwen Van Osburgh will go back and tell her mother how bored people were. I didn’t mean to ask the Wetheralls—that was a blunder of Gus’s. They disapprove of Carry
takes him up.” Lily hesitated a moment. The first part of her companion’s discourse had started an interesting train of thought, which was rudely interrupted by the mention of Mr. Rosedale’s name. She uttered a faint protest. “But you know Jack did try to take him about, and he was impossible.” “Oh, hang it—because he’s fat and shiny, and has a shoppy manner! Well, all I can say is that the people who are clever enough to be civil to him now will make a mighty good thing of it. A few years
generous invitations, don’t really care what happens to her. Taking a cigarette to smoke and several others to keep in reserve, she mentions losing Dillworth, a prospective husband, and questions Selden about the fine points of Americana, which she’ll use to entice Percy Gryce. As she studies herself in the mirror, Selden anticipates the woodland setting of the tableau vivant, emphasizes her sexy figure, and compares her to a dryad. He notices “the long slope of her slender sides, which gave a