The Custom of the Country
, 1998 - Fiction
- 439 pages
With the publication of this controversial novel, Edith Wharton leveled her most biting critique at the limitations that her society placed upon the ambitious woman.
The Custom of the Country--which Harold Bloom, among others, considers her strongest achievement--takes its name from Fletcher and Massinger's Jacobean play about a medieval custom in which the feudal lord had a right to use the body of any common woman in his domain, either for his own pleasure or for money by prostituting her on her wedding night. In Wharton's American revision, it is the woman herself who ruthlessly sells herself to whatever man she believes can provide her with the success she desires. Undine Spragg is a magnificent antiheroine, viciously and precisely rendered by the author.
With photographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn and drawings by Charles Dana Gibson, this Collector's Edition evokes the atmosphere of nineteenth-century New York. It also brings us closer to the author herself, with letters in her hand and other archival traces of her life from the special collections of The New York Public Library.