House of Mirth (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together ...
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The House of Mirth (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

 

Edith Wharton’s dark view of society, the somber economics of marriage, and the powerlessness of the unwedded woman in the 1870s emerge dramatically in the tragic novel The House of Mirth. Faced with an array of wealthy suitors, New York socialite Lily Bart falls in love with lawyer Lawrence Selden, whose lack of money spoils their chances for happiness together. Dubious business deals and accusations of liaisons with a married man diminish Lily’s social status, and as she makes one bad choice after another, she learns how venal and brutally unforgiving the upper crust of New York can be.

One of America’s finest novels of manners, The House of Mirth is a beautifully written and ultimately tragic account of the human capacity for cruelty.

Jeffrey Meyers, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, has published forty-three books, including biographies of Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Wilson, Robert Frost, D. H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, and George Orwell.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593081041
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 10/1/2003
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 4.13 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Meyers, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, has published forty-three books, including biographies of Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Wilson, Robert Frost, D. H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, and George Orwell.

Biography

Edith Newbold Jones was born January 24, 1862, into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses." The youngest of three children, Edith spent her early years touring Europe with her parents and, upon the family's return to the United States, enjoyed a privileged childhood in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. Edith's creativity and talent soon became obvious: By the age of eighteen she had written a novella, (as well as witty reviews of it) and published poetry in the Atlantic Monthly.

After a failed engagement, Edith married a wealthy sportsman, Edward Wharton. Despite similar backgrounds and a shared taste for travel, the marriage was not a success. Many of Wharton's novels chronicle unhappy marriages, in which the demands of love and vocation often conflict with the expectations of society. Wharton's first major novel, The House of Mirth, published in 1905, enjoyed considerable Literary Success. Ethan Frome appeared six years later, solidifying Wharton's reputation as an important novelist. Often in the company of her close friend, Henry James, Wharton mingled with some of the most famous writers and artists of the day, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, André Gide, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau, and Jack London.

In 1913 Edith divorced Edward. She lived mostly in France for the remainder of her life. When World War I broke out, she organized hostels for refugees, worked as a fund-raiser, and wrote for American publications from battlefield frontlines. She was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her courage and distinguished work.

The Age of Innocence, a novel about New York in the 1870s, earned Wharton the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921 -- the first time the award had been bestowed upon a woman. Wharton traveled throughout Europe to encourage young authors. She also continued to write, lying in her bed every morning, as she had always done, dropping each newly penned page on the floor to be collected and arranged when she was finished. Wharton suffered a stroke and died on August 11, 1937. She is buried in the American Cemetery in Versailles, France.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Age of Innocence.

Good To Know

Upon the publication of The House of Mirth in 1905, Wharton became an instant celebrity, and the the book was an instant bestseller, with 80,000 copies ordered from Scribner's six weeks after its release.

Wharton had a great fondness for dogs, and owned several throughout her life.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Edith Newbold Jones Wharton (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 24, 1862
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      August 11, 1937
    2. Place of Death:
      Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France

Read an Excerpt

From Jeffrey Meyers’s Introduction to The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

The House of Mirth, conventional in form but still very readable and perceptive about the social roles of modern women, appeared almost a century ago, in 1905. That year, Japan’s defeat of Russia led to the first Russian Revolution, the formation of workers’ Soviets, and the mutiny on the battleship Potemkin. In 1905 Einstein proposed his First Theory of Relativity and Freud published his Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex. There were also new currents of modernism in art, music, and literature. John Singer Sargent painted The Marlborough Family, Henri Rousseau The Hungry Lion, and Henri Matisse La Joie de vivre. Franz Léhar composed The Merry Widow, Claude Debussy La Mer, and Richard Strauss Salome. G. B. Shaw brought out Major Barbara, H. G. Wells Kipps, and E. M. Forster Where Angels Fear to Tread. There was considerable unrest in the United States as well as in Russia, and as the historian John Higham noted, "It was a time of mass strikes, widening social chasms, unstable prices, and a degree of economic hardship unfamiliar in earlier American history.

Edith Wharton was intimately acquainted with the ruling class, with people who had money and property, wealth and power. As Louis Auchincloss observed: "She knew their history and their origins, their prejudices and ideals, the source of their money and how they spent their summers.” She seemed to hate the society she belonged to, and described it with pervasive irony and sharp wit. Her philistine and hypocritical characters are spoiled and selfish, idle and self-indulgent, hedonistic and materialistic; their social hierarchy, through which Lily Bart makes her tragic descent, is as rigid as the Army or the Church. In a society rife with financial scandal and sexual intrigue, anything is allowed as long as the transgressors are wealthy and maintain a respectable façade. The "vulture” Carry Fisher, who’s twice been divorced and receives money from Gus Trenor, has powerful protectors and is invited everywhere. The fierce and vindictive Bertha Dorset has flagrantly indiscreet affairs with Selden and Silverton but, ironically protected by her victim Lily Bart, manages to maintain both her reputation and her marriage.

In her revealing introduction to the 1936 reprint of The House of Mirth, Wharton explained her choice of subject and suggested her major theme: "When I wrote The House of Mirth I held, without knowing it, two trumps in my hand. One was the fact that New York society in the nineties was a field as yet unexploited by an novelist who had grown up in that little hot-house of traditions and conventions; and the other, that as yet these traditions and conventions were unassailed, and tacitly regarded as unassailable.” She admitted that she "wrote about totally insignificant people, and 'dated’ them by an elaborate stage-setting of manners, furniture and costume.” Such people, she said, "always rest on an underpinning of wasted human possibilities,” and their sadly vulnerable victim was "the tame and blameless Lily Bart.” Ironically listing Lily’s misdemeanors, Wharton described her as "a young girl of their world who rouged, smoked, ran into debt, borrowed money, gambled and—crowning horror!—went home with a bachelor friend to take tea in his flat!”

Wharton’s caustic novel, piercing the secure stockade of convention, alarmed and disturbed the rulers of New York. In a letter of November 11, 1905, a month after the book appeared, Wharton defended her work. She said that the American upper classes lacked the sense of social responsibility, the noblesse oblige still maintained by their aristocratic counterparts in Europe: "I must protest, & emphatically, against the suggestion that I have 'stripped’ New York society. New York society is still amply clad, & the little corner of its garment that I lifted was meant to show only that little atrophied organ—the group of idle & dull people . . . [whose] sudden possession of money has come without inherited obligations, or any traditional sense of solidarity between the classes.”

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 41 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2013

    This Nook version isn't readable

    I love the novel, but pages of it are pure gibberish.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 9, 2011

    Frustrating

    This edition was unreadable with the gibberish that marred every page.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2011

    Not Recommended

    This book has garbled words throughout. It is illegible and should not be offered even as a free e-book. Doesn't someone proof read these books? I spent a great deal of time with nook technicians via the phone and then at a Barnes and Noble Store trying to determine if it was the Nook or the book! I learned it was the book, and that you may especially get these illegible books when they are free. I only gave it one star because it would not be submitted without a rating. I really shouldn't give it any stars because I couldn't read it! Not nice!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2006

    A Spark of Genius

    Brilliant character development of Ms. Lily Bart. I love how Wharton gives her readers an omnipotent view of the battle between good and evil that precedes each character's words and actions. It just shows how truly discerning and insightful she is. The protagonist's heroic adherence to her morals will really make you question the strenght of your own character. The ending depressed me, but I still think it the appropriate outcome. This book is a real classic!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012

    Boring

    I liked the movie but not the book,so slow.

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  • Posted April 5, 2011

    Some errors in editing

    Sometimes, there were paragraph breaks in the middle of words at the end of lines, or closing quotes would be moved to the beginning of the next paragraph. Readable, but annoying. I figure I paid for superior editing, and this didn't measure up.

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  • Posted February 4, 2011

    Use your Nook to catch up on classics, starting with this one!

    The House of Mirth is a brilliantly constructed novel, with emotional tugs that will stick with you. Although some might find it a little dated in subject matter (social mores in the very early 20th century in New York), it does impart a fascinating picture of that place and time among the rich (and wealthy want to bes). Thoroughly readable and enjoyable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2000

    A sentimental, sad, and enjoyable story

    The House of Mirth is an excellent portrayal of life in moneyed old New York families, which had their own code of social and ethical conduct. The main character, Lily Bart, is at times likable, at times pitiable as a victim of the times, and at times frustrating in her lack of foresight about her financial ruin. I had read The Age of Innocence before this book, and enjoyed it very much. The House of Mirth touches somewhat seriously on social issues such as women's working conditions, but is largely concerned with one woman's descent into financial and social ruin, in the eyes of herself and her rich relatives and friends. The writing is so engrossing that one feels Lily Bart is a real victim, and occasionally I had to put down the book and remind myself that to have to work for a living is not the worst thing in the world. However, this is a testimony to the power of Edith Wharton's writing--she does such a tremendous job portraying the snobbery of the times in that sect of society. One of the things that kept me from giving this book 5 stars--the continual references to 'the nature of his race' when describing a Jewish investor. Perhaps those references, sadly, reflect the attitude of the society Edith Wharton described and was herself part of.

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