The Age of Innocence (1920)

Front Cover
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009 - 234 pages
Purchase of this book includes free trial access to www.million-books.com where you can read more than a million books for free. This is an OCR edition with typos. Excerpt from book: m IT invariably happened in the same way. Mrs. Julius Beaufort, on the night of her annual ball, never failed to appear at the Opera; indeed, she always gave her ball on an Opera night in order to emphasise her complete superiority to household cares, and her possession of a staff of servants competent to organise every detail of the entertainment in her absence. The Beauforts' house was one of the few in New York that possessed a ball-room (it antedated even Mrs. Manson Mingott's and the Headly Chiverses); and at a time when it was beginning to be thought "provincial" to put a "crash" over the drawing-room floor and move the furniture upstairs, the possession of a ballroom that was used for no other purpose, and left for three-hun- dred-and-sixty-four days of the year to shuttered darkness, with its gilt chairs stacked in a corner and its chandelier in a bag; this undoubted superiority was felt to compensate for whatever was regrettable in the Beaufort past. Mrs. Archer, who was fond of coining her social philosophy into axioms, had once said: "We all have our pet common people?" and though the phrase was a daring one, its truth was secretly admitted in many an exclusive bosom. But the Beauforts were not exactly common; some people said they were even worse. Mrs. Beaufort belonged indeed to one of America's most honoured families; she had been the lovely Regina Dallas (of the South Carolina branch), a penniless beauty introduced to New York society by her cousin, the imprudent Medora Manson, who was always doing the wrong thing from the right motive. When one was related to the Mansons and the Rushworths one had a "droit de citi" (as Mr. Sillerton Jackson, who had frequented the Tuileries, called it) in New York society; but did one not forfeit it in marrying Julius ...

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
3
4 stars
1
3 stars
2
2 stars
0
1 star
0

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - librisissimo - LibraryThing

Substance: Slow-moving train-wreck for fickle fiancÚ. Style: Lush and lovely to look at, but slow (probably stays too close to the novel, which I have not read). Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - MoniqueReads - LibraryThing

After reading The Age of Innocence I can understand why it is considered a classic. The writing is excellent. It is elegant. But since this book was written of 80 years ago, it makes it harder to read ... Read full review

About the author (2009)

Edith Wharton was a woman of extreme contrasts; brought up to be a leisured aristocrat, she was also dedicated to her career as a writer. She wrote novels of manners about the old New York society from which she came, but her attitude was consistently critical. Her irony and her satiric touches, as well as her insight into human character, continue to appeal to readers today. As a child, Wharton found refuge from the demands of her mother's social world in her father's library and in making up stories. Her marriage at age 23 to Edward ("Teddy") Wharton seemed to confirm her place in the conventional role of wealthy society woman, but she became increasingly dissatisfied with the "mundanities" of her marriage and turned to writing, which drew her into an intellectual community and strengthened her sense of self. After publishing two collections of short stories, The Greater Inclination (1899) and Crucial Instances (1901), she wrote her first novel, The Valley of Decision (1902), a long, historical romance set in eighteenth-century Italy. Her next work, the immensely popular The House of Mirth (1905), was a scathing criticism of her own "frivolous" New York society and its capacity to destroy her heroine, the beautiful Lily Bart. As Wharton became more established as a successful writer, Teddy's mental health declined and their marriage deteriorated. In 1907 she left America altogether and settled in Paris, where she wrote some of her most memorable stories of harsh New England rural life---Ethan Frome (1911) and Summer (1917)---as well as The Reef (1912), which is set in France. All describe characters forced to make moral choices in which the rights of individuals are pitted against their responsibilities to others. She also completed her most biting satire, The Custom of the Country (1913), the story of Undine Spragg's climb, marriage by marriage, from a midwestern town to New York to a French chateau. During World War I, Wharton dedicated herself to the war effort and was honored by the French government for her work with Belgian refugees. After the war, the world Wharton had known was gone. Even her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Age of Innocence (1920), a story set in old New York, could not recapture the former time. Although the new age welcomed her---Wharton was both a critical and popular success, honored by Yale University and elected to The National Institute of Arts and Letters---her later novels show her struggling to come to terms with a new era. In The Writing of Fiction (1925), Wharton acknowledged her debt to her friend Henry James, whose writings share with hers the descriptions of fine distinctions within a social class and the individual's burdens of making proper moral decisions. R.W.B. Lewis's biography of Wharton, published in 1975, along with a wealth of new biographical material, inspired an extensive reevaluation of Wharton. Feminist readings and reactions to them have focused renewed attention on her as a woman and as an artist. Although many of her books have recently been reprinted, there is still no complete collected edition of her work.

Bibliographic information