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A handful of Wharton's standards get the "Everyman's Library" upgrade. These are more expensive than paperback alternatives but still reasonably priced, and the hardcover quality is worth the extra bucks if you can afford it.
"There is no woman in American literature as fascinating as the doomed Madame Olenska. . . . Traditionally, Henry James has always been placed slightly higher up the slope of Parnassus than Edith Wharton. But now that the prejudice against the female writer is on the wane, they look to be exactly what they are: giants, equals, the tutelary and benign gods of our American literature."—Gore Vidal
"Will writers ever recover that peculiar blend of security and alertness which characterizes Mrs. Wharton and her tradition?"—E. M. Forster
NEWLAND ARCHER, during this brief episode, had been thrown into a strange state of embarrassment. It was annoying that the box which was thus attracting the undivided attention of masculine New York should be that in which his betrothed was seated between her mother and aunt; and for a moment he could not identify the lady in the Empire dress, nor imagine why her presence created such excitement among the initiated. Then light dawned on him, and with it came a momentary rush of indignation. No, indeed; no one would have thought the Mingotts would have tried it on!
From the Paperback edition.
Editor's Introduction by Carol J. Singley A Note on the Text I. The Age of Innocence II. Background Readings Questions of Culture Thomas Bender, from "The Metropolitan Gentry: Culture against Politics" George Sanyayana, from "The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy" Walt Whitman, from "Democratic Vistas" Calvin Tomkins, from "Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of the Metropolitan Museum of Art" Ida Van Gastel, "The Location and Decoration of Houses in The Age of Innocence" Marriage and Divorce Steven Mintz and Susan Kellogg, from Domestic Revolutions J. Foote Bingham, from "For the Wedding Night" Travel and Sport Donald Ross and James J. Schramer, from the Introduction to American Travel Writers, 1850-1915 Henry James, from "Americans Abroad" Henry James, from "Newport" William J. Baker, from "The Lawn Set" III. Other Writings by Edith Wharton Writing The Age of Innocence The Ways of Old New York The Childishness of American Women "The Valley of Childish Things" Winning the Pulitizer Prize IV. Critical Readings Alan Price, from "The Composition of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence" Elizabeth Ammons, from "Cool Diana and the Blood-Red Muse: Edith Wharton on Innocence and Art" Judith P. Saunders, from "Becoming the Mask: Edith Wharton's Ingenues" Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, from "Angel of Devastation: Edith Wharton on the Arts of the Enslaved" Katherine Joslin, from "The Age of Innocence and the Bohemian Peril" James W. Tuttleton, from "Edith Wharton: The Archeological Motive" Nancy Bentley, from "'Hunting for the Real': Wharton and the Science of Manners" Linda W. Wagner, from "A Note on Wharton's Use of Faust" Gary H. Lindberg, from "The Mind in Chains: Public Plots and Personal Fables" Donald Pizer, from "American Naturalism in Its 'Perfected' State: The Age of Innocence and An American Tragedy Ian Christie, from "The Scorsese Interview: On Filming The Age of Innocence" Gore Vidal, "Of Writers and Class: In Praise of Edith Wharton"
On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.
Though there was already talk of the election, in remote metropolitan distances "above the Forties," of a new Opera House which should compete in costliness and splendour with those of the great European capitals, the world of fashion was still content to reassemble every winter in the shabby red and gold boxes of the sociable old Academy. Conservatives cherished it for being small and inconvenient, and thus keeping out the "new people" whom New York was beginning to dread and yet be drawn to; and the sentimental clung to it for its historic associations, and the musical for its excellent acoustics, always so problematic a quality in halls built for the hearing of music.
It was Madame Nilsson's first appearance that winter, and what the daily press had already learned to describe as "an exceptionally brilliant audience" had gathered to hear her, transported through the slippery, snowy streets in private broughams, in the spacious family landau, or in the humbler but more convenient "Brown coupé." To come to the Opera in a Brown coupé was almost as honourable a way of arriving as in one's own carriage; and departure by the same means had the immense advantage of enabling one (with a playful allusion to democratic principles) to scramble into the first Brown conveyance in the line, instead of waiting till the cold-and-gin congested nose of one's own coachman gleamed under the portico of the Academy. It was one of the great livery-stableman's most masterly intuitions to have discovered that Americans want to get away from amusement even more quickly than they want to get to it.
When Newland Archer opened the door at the back of the club box the curtain had just gone up on the garden scene. There was no reason why the young man should not have come earlier, for he had dined at seven, alone with his mother and sister, and had lingered afterward over a cigar in the Gothic library with glazed black-walnut book-cases and finial-topped chairs which was the only room in the house where Mrs. Archer allowed smoking. But, in the first place, New York was a metropolis, and perfectly aware that in metropolises it was "not the thing" to arrive early at the Opera; and what was or was not "the thing" played a part as important in Newland Archer's New York as the inscrutable totem terrors that had ruled the destinies of his forefathers thousands of years ago.
The second reason for his delay was a personal one. He had dawdled over his cigar because he was at heart a dilettante, and thinking over a pleasure to come often gave him a subtler satisfaction than its realisation. This was especially the case when the pleasure was a delicate one, as his pleasures mostly were; and on this occasion the moment he looked forward to was so rare and exquisite in quality that -- well, if he had timed his arrival in accord with the prima donna's stage-manager he could not have entered the Academy at a more significant moment than just as she was singing: "He loves me -- he loves me not -- he loves me! --" and sprinkling the falling daisy petals with notes as clear as dew.
She sang, of course, "M'ama!" and not "he loves me," since an unalterable and unquestioned law of the musical world required that the German text of French operas sung by Swedish artists should be translated into Italian for the clearer understanding of English-speaking audiences. This seemed as natural to Newland Archer as all the other conventions on which his life was moulded: such as the duty of using two silver-backed brushes with his monogram in blue enamel to part his hair, and of never appearing in society without a flower (preferably a gardenia) in his buttonhole.
"M'ama...non m'ama..." the prima donna sang, and "M'ama", with a final burst of love triumphant, as she pressed the dishevelled daisy to her lips and lifted her large eyes to the sophisticated countenance of the little brown Faust-Capoul, who was vainly trying, in a tight purple velvet doublet and plumed cap, to look as pure and true as his artless victim.
Newland Archer, leaning against the wall at the back of the club box, turned his eyes from the stage and scanned the opposite side of the house. Directly facing him was the box of old Mrs. Manson Mingott, whose monstrous obesity had long since made it impossible for her to attend the Opera, but who was always represented on fashionable nights by some of the younger members of the family. On this occasion, the front of the box was filled by her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Lovell Mingott, and her daughter, Mrs. Welland; and slightly withdrawn behind these brocaded matrons sat a young girl in white with eyes ecstatically fixed on the stagelovers. As Madame Nilsson's "M'ama!" thrilled out above the silent house (the boxes always stopped talking during the Daisy Song) a warm pink mounted to the girl's cheek, mantled her brow to the roots of her fair braids, and suffused the young slope of her breast to the line where it met a modest tulle tucker fastened with a single gardenia. She dropped her eyes to the immense bouquet of lilies-of the-valley on her knee, and Newland Archer saw her white-gloved finger-tips touch the flowers softly. He drew a breath of satisfied vanity and his eyes returned to the stage.
No expense had been spared on the setting, which was acknowledged to be very beautiful even by people who shared his acquaintance with the Opera houses of Paris and Vienna. The foreground, to the footlights, was covered with emerald green cloth. In the middle distance symmetrical mounds of woolly green moss bounded by croquet hoops formed the base of shrubs shaped like orange-trees but studded with large pink and red roses. Gigantic pansies, considerably larger than the roses, and closely resembling the floral pen-wipers made by female parishioners for fashionable clergymen, sprang from the moss beneath the rose-trees; and here and there a daisy grafted on a rose-branch flowered with a luxuriance prophetic of Mr. Luther Burbank's far-off prodigies.
In the centre of this enchanted garden Madame Nilsson, in white cashmere slashed with pale blue satin, a reticule dangling from a blue girdle, and large yellow braids carefully disposed on each side of her muslin chemisette, listened with downcast eyes to M. Capoul's impassioned wooing, and affected a guileless incomprehension of his designs whenever, by word or glance, he persuasively indicated the ground floor window of the neat brick villa projecting obliquely from the right wing.
"The darling!" thought Newland Archer, his glance flitting back to the young girl with the lilies-of-the-valley. "She doesn't even guess what it's all about?And he contemplated her absorbed young face with a thrill of possessorship in which pride in his own masculine initiation was mingled with a tender reverence for her abysmal purity. "We'll read Faust together...by the Italian lakes..." he thought, somewhat hazily confusing the scene of his projected honeymoon with the masterpieces of literature which it would be his manly privilege to reveal to his bride. It was only that afternoon that May Welland had let him guess that she "cared" (New York's consecrated phrase of maiden avowal), and already his imagination, leaping ahead of the engagement ring, the betrothal kiss and the march from Lohengrin, pictured her at his side in some scene of old European witchery.
He did not in the least wish the future Mrs. Newland Archer to be a simpleton. He meant her (thanks to his enlightening companionship) to develop a social tact and readiness of wit enabling her to hold her own with the most popular married women of the "younger set," in which it was the recognised custom to attract masculine homage while playfully discouraging it. If he had probed to the bottom of his vanity (as he sometimes nearly did) he would have found there the wish that his wife should be as worldly-wise and as eager to please as the married lady whose charms had held his fancy through two mildly agitated years; without, of course, any hint of the frailty which had so nearly marred that unhappy being's life, and had disarranged his own plans for a whole winter.
How this miracle of fire and ice was to be created, and to sustain itself in a harsh world, he had never taken the time to think out; but he was content to hold his view without analysing it, since he knew it was that of all the carefully-brushed, white-waistcoated, buttonhole-flowered gentlemen who succeeded each other in the club box, exchanged friendly greetings with him, and turned their opera-glasses critically on the circle of ladies who were the product of the system. In matters intellectual and artistic Newland Archer felt himself distinctly the superior of these chosen specimens of old New York gentility; he had probably read more, thought more, and even seen a good deal more of the world, than any other man of the number. Singly they betrayed their inferiority; but grouped together they represented "New York," and the habit of masculine solidarity made him accept their doctrine on all the issues called moral. He instinctively felt that in this respect it would be troublesome -- and also rather bad form -- to strike out for himself.
"Well -- upon my soul!" exclaimed Lawrence Lefferts, turning his opera-glass abruptly away from the stage. Lawrence Lefferts was, on the whole, the foremost authority on "form" in New York. He had probably devoted more time than any one else to the study of this intricate and fascinating question; but study alone could not account for his complete and easy competence. One had only to look at him, from the slant of his bald forehead and the curve of his beautiful fair moustache to the long patent-leather feet at the other end of his lean and elegant person, to feel that the knowledge of "form" must be congenital in any one who knew how to wear such good clothes so carelessly and carry such height with so much lounging grace. As a young admirer had once said of him: "If anybody can tell a fellow just when to wear a black tie with evening clothes and when not to, it's Larry Lefferts." And on the question of pumps versus patent-leather "Oxfords" his authority had never been disputed.
"My God!" he said; and silently handed his glass to old Sillerton Jackson.
Newland Archer, following Lefferts's glance, saw with surprise that his exclamation had been occasioned by the entry of a new figure into old Mrs. Mingott's box. It was that of a slim young woman, a little less tall than May Welland, with brown hair growing in close curls about her temples and held in place by a narrow band of diamonds. The suggestion of this headdress, which gave her what was then called a "Josephine look," was carried out in the cut of the dark blue velvet gown rather theatrically caught up under her bosom by a girdle with a large old-fashioned clasp. The wearer of this unusual dress, who seemed quite unconscious of the attention it was attracting, stood a moment in the centre of the box, discussing with Mrs. Welland the propriety of taking the latter's place in the front right-hand corner; then she yielded with a slight smile, and seated herself in line with Mrs. Welland's sister-in-law, Mrs. Lovell Mingott, who was installed in the opposite corner.
Mr. Sillerton Jackson had returned the opera-glass to Lawrence Lefferts. The whole of the club turned instinctively, waiting to hear what the old man had to say; for old Mr. Jackson was as great an authority on"family" as Lawrence Lefferts was on "form." He knew all the ramifications of New York's cousinships; and could not only elucidate such complicated questions as that of the connection between the Mingotts (through the Thorleys) with the Dallases of South Carolina, and that of the relationship of the elder branch of Philadelphia Thorleys to the Albany Chiverses (on no account to be confused with the Manson Chiverses of University Place), but could also enumerate the leading characteristics of each family: as, for instance, the fabulous stinginess of the younger lines of Leffertses (the Long Island ones); or the fatal tendency of the Rushworths to make foolish matches; or the insanity recurring in every second generation of the Albany Chiverses, with whom their New York cousins had always refused to intermarry -- with the disastrous exception of poor Medora Manson, who, as everybody knew...but then her mother was a Rushworth.
In addition to this forest of family trees, Mr. Sillerton Jackson carried between his narrow hollow temples, and under his soft thatch of silver hair, a register of most of the scandals and mysteries that had smouldered under the unruffled surface of New York society within the last fifty years. So far indeed did his information extend, and so acutely retentive was his memory, that he was supposed to be the only man who could have told you who Julius Beaufort, the banker, really was, and what had become of handsome Bob Spicer, old Mrs. Manson Mingott's father, who had disappeared so mysteriously (with a large sum of trust money) less than a year after his marriage, on the very day that a beautiful Spanish dancer who had been delighting thronged audiences in the old Opera house on the Battery had taken ship for Cuba. But these mysteries, and many others, were closely locked in Mr. Jackson's breast; for not only did his keen sense of honour forbid his repeating anything privately imparted, but he was fully aware that his reputation for discretion increased his opportunities of finding out what he wanted to know.
The club box, therefore, waited in visible suspense while Mr. Sillerton Jackson handed back Lawrence Lefferts's opera-glass. For a moment he silently scrutinised the attentive group out of his filmy blue eyes overhung by old veined lids; then he gave his moustache a thoughtful twist, and said simply: "I didn't think the Mingotts would have tried it on."
Copyright © Copyright 1920 by D. Appleton and Company
Copyright renewed 1948 by William R. Tyler
Posted August 1, 2011
This was beautifully written, drew you into that time period, old New York, and made you feel the cultural and social pressures of that time. I love how this was seen through the guy's perspective, how Newland had to choose between what he wanted versus what was expected of him. The subtley of gestures and what was not said revealed more, expressed the underlying messages and meanings. The realism of these characters and their situation like May and Newland's conversation at the end, brilliantly represent an age in our history. For all these reasons, I think this book is wonderful. Pride and Prejudice does not compare, though probably more entertaining, but not as well written or multi-layered. This book takes the cake!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 5, 2011
This is a wonderful story and a classic however this free copy was terrible many many words spelled incorrectly and symbols added inappropriately made for very difficult reading try to find another copyWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 18, 2011
Posted December 26, 2010
Posted December 6, 2010
Typical of Google Books, this scanned text is full of uncorrected Optical Character Recognition errors. Get a better free one or plump $1 for something readable.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 30, 2010
Posted September 1, 2006
Very good book in my opinon. I had to read it for English class this summer and at first was wary. The beginning was a little slow, and I had to look up many of the vocabulary used. But overall, I really liked this story. My heart broke that they couldnt be together. I used they could have, but that wasnt the way it was back then I guess. I recommnd this to people who love a good romance read, even if the ending was a tad disapointing...Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 30, 2002
This was an outstanding novel. I would recommend everyone to read it. The way Edith wrote this novel makes you feel just as you are a part of the story line yourself. You learn how important it is to go with what your heart tells you to and don't do what society wants you to. Newland Archer learned that the hard way he did as the New York society wanted him to and not as he wanted to. He had a great life he thought until he met the woman that changed it forever. Ellen made his life more complicated than he ever thought it could be. She was a unique individual and thats what made Newland fall in love with her. Although he was to marry May , Ellens cousin. The heartbreak this story has in it is very sad and frustrating because you aren't able to tell them what to do. You just have to sit there and read about it, but you won't want to put the book down for wondering what Newland and Ellens next move will be. Poor May was so worried about what society thought that she wouldn't even admit Newland and Ellens love for each other. May was so stubborn not to realize what was going on right before her eyes. The ending of this book was the worst part about it. It doesn't happen like you would expect it to. In all it was a wonderful novel and I would read it over and over again if I could.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 13, 2002
I've read this book a while back already- but I can say, I've been looking for simular books now ever since. The vivid writing, the overall performance Warton presents is so outstanding that I wish I had a million of copies to give away with my recommendations! I also have to include, since I read this book at the age of 18 and saw a previous opinion: I think adolescents can handle it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 7, 2002
'The Age of Innocence' is a book that should never be given to adolescents to read. Why disillusion them so young? Only those of us who have been trapped by convention, duty, peer pressure and financial circumstances could ever fully appreciate the bittersweet conflict in Ms. Wharton¿s book. This novel asks the question, 'Is it an easier fate to live in blissful delusion as May does rather than the torment of knowing that you are deluded but powerless to do anything against it as Newland does? Unfortunately, life, for those of us who have lived it, is rarely one of choices although every endeavour is made to make us believe it is. As the character Shirley Valentine once said in the movie of the same name, 'We don¿t do what we want. We do what we have to and pretend it is what we want.' In truth, most of us are Newland Archer. Stuck between the world which we know and that which we can see flickering just beyond the stale conversations and trite responses. How galling! How cliché! How true.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 20, 2001
Edith Wharton's novel, The Age of Innocence, depicts late 19th century New York society. The novel is rich with cultural and historical references to the confining society of the 1870's. Wharton portrays the reality of this historical time: soical standing is of the utmost importance. A person's happiness is disregarded if it interferes with the well being of society. Wharton manifests this theme through the love affair between Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska. The couple cannot be together because of the social standards. Wharton's writing takes you there; you will truly feel the passion and excitement between the two lovers, as well as their anguish upon their ironic and harsh seperation. The movie, although true to Wharton's story, cannot capture the beauty of her words. An excellent novel for any reader.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 15, 2001
This was a very sad story. Newland, Ellen and May were all basically good people. Even though I felt sorriest for Newland, I also felt sad for Ellen and May. Ellen couldn't have the man that she loved and May got stuck with a man that she was hers physically but not emotionally. Each character eventually got what he/she wanted but not in the way that they expected. May got Newland in the end but he really didn't love her. Ellen got financial freedom from the Count but not Newland. Newland, who needed to feel 'cared for and safe' as much as Ellen, got a life with May that was safe and in which he was cared for, but he didn't get the woman that he loved. The ending broke my heart.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 25, 2001
The Age of Innocence by: Edith Wharton, is set in old New York, in the early seventies. Newland Archer, a young man whose life consists of formal dances held in ballrooms, and brandy after dinner, is getting married. This is how life is for Newland before he gets married to May Welland. However, things change when a mysterious woman, Countess Ellen Olenska, returns from a long absence and meets Newland Archer. Newland¿s life is never the same after he meets this mystery woman. As the story progresses, Newland must make sacrifices for what is important in life, and consider the consequences. Throughout the story, passions of the heart are pouring through the pages. Edith Wharton creates the universal truth: that love never dies. A powerful novel about love and what you can and can¿t have in life. Edith Wharton uses dialogue to depict the universal truth. The characters are truly revealed when they are talking. Not only does the reader feel as if they are inside of the book, readers felt like they knew the characters. The feeling is so real, that the reader can easily relate, because of the use of dialogue. What they say and how they say reveal the characters. The characters¿ feelings of: passion, jealousy, happiness, and sadness. Edith Wharton conveys the true meaning of innocence: purity.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 16, 2001
when i got hold of the novel, i thought it was just one of those that would really bore you to tears but i guess i was wrong. the theme was rather simple and the message was relayed with the subtlest effort. the reader is not lead into believing about fairytales and happy ending instead it gives us a peek of reality and the fact that it really bites.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 30, 2001
This story is a great one indeed. I read it willingly, and that does say alot! The romance plot is not exaggerated, really. Most of these novels that I read I expect to be mushy and not cool at all, but this is an exception. It had well-rounded characters (which I like), and a strong central character. All in all, I recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 11, 1999
i suppose highschool students speak best for other highschool students, but doesn't it hurt when they slam the books we love. it makes me wonder why we bother the poor kids with literature. they don't need it, and, probably, they'd be better off without it. they'd at least be better off discovering these books on their own when they're ready for them. i didn't like them when i was in highschool either. fortunately, i went to a bad highschool where all we had to read was what was in the text book. i, a 26 yr. old guy, first read the age of innocence a few months ago. i have often heard of people crying over novels. this is the only novel that has ever made me cry. i actually reviewed this book a couple days ago, but found i had more to say. hopefully this will be the only one to get posted, but i doubt it. i'm sorry if they both appeared.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 8, 1999
Posted June 10, 2011
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Posted May 30, 2011
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Posted April 5, 2010
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