The Glimpses of the Moonby Edith Wharton
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Set in the posh milieu that Wharton knew so intimately, The Glimpses of the Moon is a sweeping portrait of a couple caught up in the trappings of privilege-and driven by a reckless, all-consuming ambition....
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It rose for them -- their honey-moon -- over the waters of a lake so famed as the scene of romantic raptures that they were rather proud of not having been afraid to choose it as the setting of their own.
"It required a total lack of humour, or as great a gift for it as ours, to risk the experiment," Susy Lansing opined, as they hung over the inevitable marble balustrade and watched their tutelary orb roll its magic carpet across the waters to their feet.
"Yes -- or the loan of Strefford's villa," her husband emended, glancing upward through the branches at a long low patch of paleness to which the moonlight was beginning to give the form of a white house-front.
"Oh, come -- when we'd five to choose from. At least if you count the Chicago flat."
"So we had -- you wonder!" He laid his hand on hers, and his touch renewed the sense of marvelling exultation which the deliberate survey of their adventure always roused in her....It was characteristic that she merely added, in her steady laughing tone: "Or, not counting the flat -- for I hate to brag -- just consider the others: Violet Melrose's place at Versailles, your aunt's villa at Monte Carlo -- and a moor!"
She was conscious of throwing in the moor tentatively, and yet with a somewhat exaggerated emphasis, as if to make sure that he shouldn't accuse her of slurring it over. But he seemed to have no desire to do so. "Poor old Fred!" he merely remarked; and she breathed out carelessly: "Oh, well --"
His hand still lay on hers, and for a long interval, while they stood silent in the enveloping loveliness of the night, she was aware only of the warm current running from palmto palm, as the moonlight below them drew its line of magic from shore to shore.
Nick Lansing spoke at last. "Versailles in May would have been impossible: all our Paris crowd would have run us down within twenty-four hours. And Monte Carlo is ruled out because it's exactly the kind of place everybody expected us to go. So -- with all respect to you -- it wasn't much of a mental strain to decide on Como."
His wife instantly challenged this belittling of her capacity. "It took a good deal of argument to convince you that we could face the ridicule of Como!"
"Well, I should have preferred something in a lower key; at least I thought I should till we got here. Now I see that this place is idiotic unless one is perfectly happy; and that then it's -- as good as any other."
She sighed out a blissful assent. "And I must say that Streffy has done things to a turn. Even the cigars -- who do you suppose gave him those cigars?" She added thoughtfully: "You'll miss them when we have to go."
"Oh, I say, don't let's talk to-night about going. Aren't we outside of time and space...? Smell that guinea-a-bottle stuff over there: what is it? Stephanotis?"
"Y-yes....I suppose so. Or gardenias....Oh, the fire-flies! Look...there, against that splash of moonlight on the water. Apples of silver in a net-work of gold...."They leaned together, one flesh from shoulder to finger-tips, their eyes held by the snared glitter of the ripples.
"I could bear," Lansing remarked, "even a nightingale at this moment...."
A faint gurgle shook the magnolias behind them, and a long liquid whisper answered it from the thicket of laurel above their heads.
"It's a little late in the year for them: they're ending just as we begin."
Susy laughed. "I hope when our turn comes we shall say good-bye to each other as sweetly."
It was in her husband's mind to answer: "They're not saying good-bye, but only settling down to family cares." But as this did not happen to be in his plan, or in Susy's, he merely echoed her laugh and pressed her closer.
The spring night drew them into its deepening embrace. The ripples of the lake had gradually widened and faded into a silken smoothness, and high above the mountains the moon was turning from gold to white in a sky powdered with vanishing stars. Across the lake the lights of a little town went out, one after another, and the distant shore became a floating blackness. A breeze that rose and sank brushed their faces with the scents of the garden; once it blew out over the water a great white moth like a drifting magnolia petal. The nightingales had paused and the trickle of the fountain behind the house grew suddenly insistent.
When Susy spoke it was in a voice languid with visions. "I have been thinking," she said, "that we ought to be able to make it last at least a year longer."
Her husband received the remark without any sign of surprise or disapprobation; his answer showed that he not only understood her, but had been inwardly following the same train of thought.
"You mean," he enquired after a pause, "without counting your grandmother's pearls?"
"Yes -- without the pearls."
He pondered a while, and then rejoined in a tender whisper: "Tell me again just how."
"Let's sit down, then. No, I like the cushions best."
He stretched himself in a long willow chair, and she curled up on a heap of boat-cushions and leaned her head against his knee. Just above her, when she lifted her lids, she saw bits of moon-flooded sky incrusted like silver in a sharp black patterning of plane-boughs. All about them breathed of peace and beauty and stability, and her happiness was so acute that it was almost a relief to remember the stormy background of bills and borrowing against which its frail structure had been reared. "People with a balance can't be as happy as all this," Susy mused, letting the moonlight filter through her lazy lashes.
People with a balance had always been Susy Branch's bugbear; they were still, and more dangerously, to be Susy Lansing's. She detested them, detested them doubly, as the natural enemies of mankind and as the people one always had to put one's self out for. The greater part of her life having been passed among them, she knew nearly all that there was to know about them, and judged them with the contemptuous lucidity of nearly twenty years of dependence. But at the present moment her animosity was diminished not only by the softening effect of love but by the fact that she had got out of those very people more -- yes, ever so much more -- than she and Nick, in their hours of most reckless planning, had ever dared to hope for.
"After all, we owe them this.!" she mused.
Her husband, lost in the drowsy beatitude of the hour, had not repeated his question; but she was still on the trail of the thought he had started. A year -- yes, she was sure now that with a little management they could have a whole year of it! "It" was their marriage, their being together, and away from bores and bothers, in a comradeship of which both of them had long ago guessed the immediate pleasure, but she at least had never imagined the deeper harmony.
It was at one of their earliest meetings -- at one of the heterogeneous dinners that the Fred Gillows tried to think "literary" -- that the young man who chanced to sit next to her, and of whom it was vaguely rumoured that he had "written," had presented himself to her imagination as the sort of luxury to which Susy Branch, heiress, might conceivably have treated herself as a crowning folly. Susy Branch, pauper, was fond of picturing how this fancied double would employ her millions: it was one of her chief grievances against her rich friends that they disposed of theirs so unimaginatively.
"I'd rather have a husband like that than a steamyacht!" she had thought at the end of her talk with the young man who had written, and as to whom it had at once been clear to her that nothing his pen had produced, or might hereafter set down, would put him in a position to offer his wife anything more costly than a row-boat.
"His wife --! As if he could ever have one! For he's not the kind to marry for a yacht either." In spite o
Meet the Author
American novelist Edith Wharton (1862 - 1937) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of books and short stories. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1927, 1928 and 1930. Wharton used her insider's view of the privileged classes and matched it with her wit to write humorous novels with psychological insight. She was well acquainted with literary and public figures, including Theodore Roosevelt.
Her book The Age of Innocence (1920) won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature, making her the first woman to win the award. Her novels are often characterized by dramatic irony. Wharton was born into an upper-class family, and often portrays New York's elite set in a wry, critical light.
Her other novels include The House of Mirth and Summer.
- Date of Birth:
- January 24, 1862
- Date of Death:
- August 11, 1937
- Place of Birth:
- New York, New York
- Place of Death:
- Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France
- Educated privately in New York and Europe
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I read House of Mirth by Edith Wharton and liked it so much that I sought out another book by the same author. Glimpses of the Moon has a similar theme as House of Mirth - a central character craving a wealthy lifestyle but lacking the means to achieve it. However, this topic is treated with a lighter touch in Glimpses of the Moon than in House of Mirth. A subtle humor comes through in Glimpses of the Moon that is absent in House of Mirth. Susy Lansing, the central character, has a more positive outlook than Lily Bart in House of Mirth. Unlike Lily who is overwhelmed by her desires and the inability to achieve them, Susy is strong enough to look beyond her circumstances and discover what truly matters in life. The book kept me interested from beginning to end, because up until the last paragraph I did not know how it was going to turn out. It was a delight to read, and I recommend it highly. I love the novels of Edith Wharton and other classic women authors from the 19th and early 20th century because they are able to convey human desire, emotion and sensuality without the gratuitous sex that is unfortunately so central in most modern romance fiction.
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