Sep 4, 2002

I've cried many times at the movies, but I've never cried reading a book. Until now. It was in my hotel in Aix while reading the final chapters of Edith Wharton's THE HOUSE OF MIRTH.

In the late 1880's, Edith married Edward Wharton. Not for love but for social convention. Too bad because being alone does not necessarily make one lonely but sometimes matrimony does. So Edith filled the void with imagination. Good at description, she learned how to decorate houses and how to write books. And in doing so, gave birth to Lily Bart. Lily lived in New york. Her father, once rich, died and left her penniless and thus at the mercy of a spinster aunt. Lily's only chance at having security was that of marrying for money. Lily was beautifula and witty and so she was invited to parties. Like those of Bertha's. Bertha was having an affair and, when she didn't come home one night, her husband George, asked for a divorce. But Bertha said that she wasn't guilty of anything. To the contrary, it was her husband who'd been having an affair with Lily. Of course this wasn't true but the story made the rounds. Not only was Lily ostracized by High Society, she was also disinherited by her aunt. Because people prefer to believe the worse.

Poverty is not pleasant. Lily died, of an overdose of chloral, alone and poor in a sleezy boarding house.
In an environment based on appearance, only one's ability to be superficial counts.
In Lily's time having money was not enough. You had to show others that you had it, too. Thus the thrill of spectacular effects such as tableaux vivants, living pictures. Scenes were taken from well-known paintings and participants thus fitted themselves into scenographic backgrounds to imitate paintings. People thus imitated paintings that imitated life.
Posing is possible for those who can stay still.
Edith Wharton (1862-1937) --In her long career, which stretched over forty years and included the publication of more than forty books, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) portrayed a fascinating segment of the American experience. --The House of Mirth won an award --The Mount, house and garden designed by edith wharton--Edith Wharton:Her Work and World--Edith had met and fallen in love with Morton Fullerton and had been sexually awakened as a 46 year old woman --Duty, Desire, and Pastoral Vocation--Major themes in Wharton's work include the effects of class on both behavior and consciousness --"In New York I was thought a failure because I was too intelligent to be fashionable and in Boston I was a failure because I was too fashionable to be intelligent." --Edith Wharton--Edith Wharton in conjunction with other important American female writers.--The Edith Wharton Society --Domestic Goddess --Wharton’s preference for Europe surfaces in Lily Bart--Wharton's central subjects were the conflict between social and individual fulfillment, repressed sexuality, and the manners of old families and the 'nouveau riche'--In a day when women were to look at and nothing more, they weren't intelligent, they were fashionable--No Laughing Matter: The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton--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.


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