The Age of Innocence: A Norton Critical Edition / Edition 1

The Age of Innocence: A Norton Critical Edition / Edition 1

Pub. Date:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Pub. Date:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
The Age of Innocence: A Norton Critical Edition / Edition 1

The Age of Innocence: A Norton Critical Edition / Edition 1

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The text of Wharton’s richly allusive Pulitzer Prize–winning 1921 novel of desire and its implications in Old New York has been rigorously annotated by a prominent Wharton scholar.

"Contexts" constructs the historical foundation for this very historical novel. Many documents are included on the "New York Four Hundred," elite social gatherings, archery (the sport for upper-crust daughters), as well as Wharton’s manuscript outlines, letters, and related writings.

"Criticism" collects eleven American and British contemporary reviews and nine major essays on The Age of Innocence, including a groundbreaking piece on the two film adaptations of the novel.

“A Chronology and Selected Bibliography” are also included.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393967944
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 12/20/2002
Series: Norton Critical Editions Series
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 506,124
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

About The Author
Edith Wharton was born Edith Jones on January 24, 1862, to a wealthy New York City family. Best known for her novels, Wharton’s illustrious literary career also included poetry, short stories, design books, and travelogues. She gained widespread recognition with the 1905 publication of The House of Mirth, a darkly comic portrait of New York aristocracy. In 1921, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel The Age of Innocence (1920), becoming the fi rst woman to claim it. Wharton moved to France in 1913, where she remained until her death. In addition to her many literary accolades, Wharton was awarded a French Legion of Honor medal for her humanitarian efforts during World War I. Edith Wharton died on August 11, 1937.

Candance Waid is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she teaches American literature with a focus on race and regional cultures. She is the author of Edith Wharton’s Letters from the Underworld: Fictions of Women and Writing and is the editor of Wharton’s novels, short stories, and autobiography. She previously taught at Yale University and at the Sorbonne.

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

Read an Excerpt

Book One

Chapter One

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 erection, 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 it 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 snow streets in private broughams, in the spacious family landau, or in the humbler but more convenient "Brown coupe"' To come to the Opera in a Brown coupe 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-lstableman's most masterly intuitions to have discovered thatAmericans 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 bookcases 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 tocome 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, "Mama!" 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.

"Mama . . . non mama the prima donna sang, and "Mama!", 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 niece, 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.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

The Text of The Age of Innocence:

Backgrounds and Contexts

To Rutger B. Jewett, January 5, 1920
To Bernard Berenson, December 12, 1920
To Sinclair Lewis, August 6, 1921
To Mary Cadwalader Jones, April 11, 1927
To Mary Cadwalader Jones, February 17, 1921

Candace Waid * [Biographical Note on Edith Wharton]
Edith Wharton * A Little Girl’s New York
Edith Wharton * From A Backward Glance
[The Background]
[Little Girl]
R.W.B. Lewis * From Edith Wharton: A Biography
[Entry into Society]
[A Broken Engagement]
[Marriage and Sexual Ignorance]

Literary Sources
Honoré de Balzac * From Contes drôlatiques
• Innocence
• The Danger of Being Too Innocent

Edith Wharton * The Valley of Childish Things, and Other Emblems
Edith Wharton * The New Frenchwoman

Time and Money: Economic Contexts and the Shifting Narratives of Ethnic Power
The Source for the Beaufort Scandal
The Panic: Excitement in Wall Street * New York Times, September 19, 1873
The Financial Crisis: More Failures Yesterday * New York Times, September 20, 1873
Panics * The Nation, September 25, 1873

The Business of Society: Contemporary Commentary on the New York Aristocracy
"Secrets of Ball Giving": A Chat with Ward McAllister
Recipes for Roman Punch
M.E.W. Sherwood * From Manners and Social Usages
• How He Came to be a Famous Ball Organizer—Reminiscences of Cotillion Dinners
• Beginning His Experiment at Newport
• Objects of the Patriarch’s Society
• Duplicate Invitations Presented
• Society’s Limits Narrowing
• Famous Dinners of Recent Years
• The Etiquette of Balls
• Fashionable Dancing
• On Serving Roman Punch

Francis W. Crowninshield * From Manners for the Metropolis: An Entrance Key to the
Fantastic Life of the 400
Mrs. Burton Harrison * The Myth of the Four Hundred

Leisure: High and Low
James Maurice Thompson * The Long Bow
W. Gurney Benham * [The Living Waxworks]
Kate Greenaway * From Language of Flowers
John H. Young * The Language of Flowers
Divorce and Marriage in New York * The New York Tribune, October 7, 1883


Katharine Perry * Were the Seventies Sinless?
William Lyon Phelps * As Mrs. Wharton Sees Us
Henry Seidel Canby * Our America
Carl Van Doren * An Elder America
R. D. Townshend * The Book Table: Devoted to Books and Their Makers, Novels Not
for a Day
Mrs. Wharton’s Novel of Old New York
Vernon L. Parrington, Jr. * Our Literary Aristocrat
The Age of Innocence
The Innocence of New York
Katherine Mansfield * Family Portraits
Frederick Watson * The Assurance of Art

Julia Ehrhardt * "The Read These Pages Is to Live Again": The Historical Accuracy of
The Age of Innocence
Jennifer Rae Greeson * Wharton’s Manuscript Outlines for The Age of Innocence: Three Versions
Cynthia Griffin Wolff * The Age of Innocence as Bildungsroman
Elizabeth Ammons * Cool Diana and the Blood-Red Muse: Edith Wharton on Innocence and Art
Nancy Bentley * [Realism, Relativism, and the Discipline of Manners]
Anne MacMaster * Wharton, Race, and The Age of Innocence: Three Historical
Dale M. Bauer * [Whiteness and the Power of Darkness in The Age of Innocence]
Brian T. Edwards * The Well-Built Wall of Culture: Old New York and Its Harems
Brigitte Peuker * Scorsese’s Age of Innocence: Adaptation and Intermediality

Edith Wharton: A Chronology

Selected Bibliography

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