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The Touchstone

Edith Wharton

Book Overview: 

Stephen Glennard's career is falling apart and he desperately needs money so that he may marry his beautiful fiancee. He happens upon an advertisement in a London magazine promising the prospect of financial gain. Glennard was once pursued by Margaret Aubyn, a famous and recently deceased author, and he still has her passionate love letters to him. Glennard removes his name from the letters and sells them, making him a fortune and building a marriage based on the betrayal of another. (Summary by Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .," she began, in the tone that seemed always rather to record a fact than to offer a reflection on it.

He answered with a discouraged gesture. "What was the use? We couldn't have talked."

"Not as well as here," she assented; adding, after a meditative pause, "As you didn't come I talked to Aunt Virginia instead."

"Ah!" he returned, the fact being hardly striking enough to detach him from the contemplation of her hands, which had fallen, as was their wont, into an attitude full of plastic possibilities. One felt them to be hands that, moving only to some purpose, were capable of intervals of serene inaction.

"We had a long talk," Miss Trent went on; and she waited again before adding, with the increased absence of stress that marked her graver communications, "Aunt Virginia wants me to go abroad with her."

Glennard looked up with a start. "Abroad? When?"

"Now—next month. To be gone two years."

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Community Reviews

We live in our own souls as in an unmapped region, a few acres of which we have cleared for our habitation; while of the nature of those nearest us we know but the boundaries that march with ours.

In order to be able to marry the woman he loves, our protagonist Stephen Glennard anonymously sells the

Having read all of Willa Cather's novels, our Litsy group searched for a new subject, and came up with Edith Wharton. Our plan is to begin reading her published novels and novellas in the order they appear. The Touchstone was her first novella, published in 1900 when the eventually very prolific Wha

The Touchstone is another singular work from Edith Wharton where conscience unveils a seemingly ordinary marriage as a performance. But the underlying disturbance in this union of supposed prosperity is volumes of intimate letters of one famous writer, Mrs Aubyn, published posthumously. In these let

Edith Wharton read #1

Published in 1900, The Touchstone is a novella that takes readers to the city that Wharton would most enjoy setting her tales-New York City. As always Wharton puts the lives and morals of upper class on display.

To give up things in order to marry the woman one loves is eas

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Having read a few works by Edith Wharton, I’ve become familiar with her beautifully articulated style. Still, I was nonetheless impressed by just how accomplished The Touchstone is considering that it is Wharton’s first published novella.
The story revolves around Step

In 1900 New York, a wannabe so-called gentleman named Glennard secretly sells off a collection of letters he received from a now dead, now famous authoress. The public reaction is to despise the man who would sell these letters but also of fascination of their content. Glennard is initially happy be

Only her second published work, The Touchstone shows all the promise that Edith Wharton would later realize in her longer novels and short-stories. The central character, Stephen Glennard, sells for publication the private letters of a former, deceased lover, who had become a famous writer, so that

I vacillated between three or four stars for this novella and opted for three simply because the story didn’t stay with me after I had finished the book, thought the writing did. It was Edith Wharton’s first published novella, her second published book (her first being a short story collection).


What is it with Edith Wharton and "unromantic" love? In The Age of Innocence we see love thwarted and denied; in Ethan Fromme, misguided and perverted; in Summer, disgraced and hardened. In The Touchstone, the theme of love continues to be unidealistic. It is betrayed and exposed, even sold.


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