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House of Mirth

Edith Wharton

Book Overview: 

The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton, is a novel about New York socialite Lily Bart attempting to secure a husband and a place in rich society. It is one of the first novels of manners in American literature, and one of the first to openly explore how American Victorian society offered little social mobility for women. (Summary from Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Lily's interest. Everything about him accorded with the fastidious element in her taste, even to the light irony with which he surveyed what seemed to her most sacred. She admired him most of all, perhaps, for being able to convey as distinct a sense of superiority as the richest man she had ever met.

It was the unconscious prolongation of this thought which led her to say presently, with a laugh: "I have broken two engagements for you today. How many have you broken for me?"

"None," said Selden calmly. "My only engagement at Bellomont was with you."

She glanced down at him, faintly smiling.

"Did you really come to Bellomont to see me?"

"Of course I did."

Her look deepened meditatively. "Why?" she murmured, with an accent which took all tinge of coquetry from the question.

"Because you're such a wonderful spectacle: I always like to see what you are doing."

"How do. . . Read More

Community Reviews

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) elevate

Poor, lovely Lily Bart
Her tragic story
will break your heart

She runs in the best circles
Wears the right clothes
And flirts with rich men

But everyone knows
That she needs to marry
Someone – and fast!

At 29 her looks won’t last
She’s ringing up debts
Borrowing from men

And displeasing their wives
Not to menti

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, al

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

On occasions like this, I rue the absence of a 'tragedy' shelf or some variation of the same because mere 'melancholia' seems 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

“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 a more profound 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

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

What a piece of art
Is our Lily Bart
Surrounded by men who don’t need much urgin’
Yet Lily is a 29 year old virgin

She’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 wa

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

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 hav

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