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    Before, During, After

    Richard Bausch 9780307266262

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The Age of Innocence

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Edith Wharton, a prolific writer best known as a novelist of manners whose fiction exposed the rigid mores of aristocratic society in a world that has all but vanished, was born Edith Newbold Jones in New York City on January 24, 1862. Both her parents belonged to long-established, socially prominent New York families. Her mother was the former Lucretia Stevens Rhinelander, and her father was George Frederic Jones. (It is said that the expression 'keeping up with the Joneses' referred to them.) She was privately educated at home and in Europe by governesses and tutors. 'I used to say that I had been taught only two things in my childhood: the modern languages and good manners, ' she recalled in the compelling memoir A Backward Glance (1934). 'Now that I have lived to see both those branches of culture dispensed with, I perceive that there are worse systems of education.' Her first publication was Verses (1878), a book of poems privately printed in Newport when she was sixteen. In later life she brought out two other volumes of poetry, Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse (1909) and Twelve Poems (1926), but her verse never succeeded in conveying the emotion of her prose.

In 1885 Edith Jones married Bostonian Edward Robbins Wharton, whom Henry James dubbed 'cerebrally compromised Teddy, ' and over the next decade the couple explored Europe while maintaining residences in New York and Newport. Wharton eventually turned to writing for a measure of fulfillment as she grew dissatisfied with the roles of wife and society matron. In collaboration with architect Ogden Codman she published The Decoration of Houses (1897), an influential work on architecture and interior design. Several of her early stories appeared in Scribner's Magazine. Three collections, The Greater Inclination (1899), Crucial Instances ( 1901), and The Descent of Man and Other Stories (1904), display an innate mastery of the short story, which she envisioned as 'a shaft driven straight into the heart of human experience.' Two novellas, The Touchstone (1900) and Sanctuary (1903), reveal a talent for psychological realism. Wharton's passion for Italy inspired a first novel, The Valley of Decision (1902 ), as well as Italian Villas and Their Gardens (1904) and Italian Backgrounds (1905), a series of travel sketches. Her subsequent volumes of travel writing include A Motor-Flight Through France (1908) and In Morocco (1920).

The publication of The House of Mirth in 1905 marked Edith Wharton's coming of age as a writer. An immediate bestseller, this brilliant chronicle of upper-class New York society helped secure her reputation as America's foremost woman of letters. By then Wharton was living at 'The Mount, ' a grand home she had built in Lenox, Massachusetts. Over the next years she wrote Madame de Treymes (1907), a novella of Jamesian inspiration about young innocents abroad; The Fruit of the Tree (1907), a novel of social reform; The Hermit and the Wild Woman and Other Stories (1908); and Tales of Men and Ghosts (1910), a collection of supernatural thrillers. Then in rapid succession Wharton produced three of her greatest novels: Ethan Frome (1911), a tragedy of relinquished passion set against the austere New England countryside; The Reef (1912), a richly nuanced story of

Synopsis:

Edith Wharton, a prolific writer best known as a novelist of manners whose fiction exposed the rigid mores of aristocratic society in a world that has all but vanished, was born Edith Newbold Jones in New York City on January 24, 1862. Both her parents be

Synopsis:

Newland Archer saw little to envy in the marriages of his friends, yet he prided himself that in May Welland he had found the companion of his needs--tender and impressionable, with equal purity of mind and manners. The engagement was announced discreetly, but all of New York society was soon privy to this most perfect match, a union of families and circumstances cemented by affection.

Enter Countess Olenska, a woman of quick wit sharpened by experience, not afraid to flout convention and determined to find freedom in divorce. Against his judgment, Newland is drawn to the socially ostracized Ellen Olenska, who opens his eyes and has the power to make him feel. He knows that in sweet-tempered May, he can expect stability and the steadying comfort of duty. But what new worlds could he discover with Ellen? Written with elegance and wry precision, Edith Wharton's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece is a tragic love story and a powerful homily about the perils of a perfect marriage.

Commentary by William Lyon Phelps and E. M. Forster

About the Author

Edith Wharton, a prolific writer best known as a novelist of manners whose fiction exposed the rigid mores of aristocratic society in a world that has all but vanished, was born Edith Newbold Jones in New York City on January 24, 1862. Both her parents belonged to long-established, socially prominent New York families. Her mother was the former Lucretia Stevens Rhinelander, and her father was George Frederic Jones. (It is said that the expression 'keeping up with the Joneses' referred to them.) She was privately educated at home and in Europe by governesses and tutors. 'I used to say that I had been taught only two things in my childhood: the modern languages and good manners,' she recalled in the compelling memoir A Backward Glance (1934). 'Now that I have lived to see both those branches of culture dispensed with, I perceive that there are worse systems of education.' Her first publication was Verses (1878), a book of poems privately printed in Newport when she was sixteen. In later life she brought out two other volumes of poetry, Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse (1909) and Twelve Poems (1926), but her verse never succeeded in conveying the emotion of her prose.

In 1885 Edith Jones married Bostonian Edward Robbins Wharton, whom Henry James dubbed 'cerebrally compromised Teddy,' and over the next decade the couple explored Europe while maintaining residences in New York and Newport. Wharton eventually turned to writing for a measure of fulfillment as she grew dissatisfied with the roles of wife and society matron. In collaboration with architect Ogden Codman she published The Decoration of Houses (1897), an influential work on architecture and interior design. Several of her early stories appeared in Scribner's Magazine. Three collections, The Greater Inclination (1899), Crucial Instances ( 1901), and The Descent of Man and Other Stories (1904), display an innate mastery of the short story, which she envisioned as 'a shaft driven straight into the heart of human experience.' Two novellas, The Touchstone (1900) and Sanctuary (1903), reveal a talent for psychological realism. Wharton's passion for Italy inspired a first novel, The Valley of Decision (1902 ), as well as Italian Villas and Their Gardens (1904) and Italian Backgrounds (1905), a series of travel sketches. Her subsequent volumes of travel writing include A Motor-Flight Through France (1908) and In Morocco (1920).

The publication of The House of Mirth in 1905 marked Edith Wharton's coming of age as a writer. An immediate bestseller, this brilliant chronicle of upper-class New York society helped secure her reputation as America's foremost woman of letters. By then Wharton was living at 'The Mount,' a grand home she had built in Lenox, Massachusetts. Over the next years she wrote Madame de Treymes (1907), a novella of Jamesian inspiration about young innocents abroad; The Fruit of the Tree (1907), a novel of social reform; The Hermit and the Wild Woman and Other Stories (1908); and Tales of Men and Ghosts (1910), a collection of supernatural thrillers. Then in rapid succession Wharton produced three of her greatest novels: Ethan Frome (1911), a tragedy of relinquished passion set against the austere New England countryside; The Reef (1912), a richly nuanced story of unrequited love hailed by Henry James as 'a triumph of method'; and The Custom of the Country (1913), a fierce indictment of the materialism that ruled America in the so-called Gilded Age.

By the time Wharton divorced her husband in 1913 she had settled permanently in France. With the outbreak of World War I she became active in relief work and reported on life at the front in articles for Scribner's Magazine, later collected in Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort (1915). In 1916 she was decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honor for her services. During the war years Wharton also wrote Xingu and Other Stories (1916); Summer (1917), a companion piece to Ethan Frome; and The Marne (1918), a poignant novel of World War I. French Ways and Their Meaning, a collection of essays in praise of her adopted countrymen, came out in 1919.

Wharton was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence (1920), a masterful portrait of desire and betrayal set in the New York of her youth. Her other acclaimed books of this period include Old New York (1924), a quartet of linked novellas that endure as a social history of the city from the 1840s to the 1870s, and The Writing of Fiction (1925), a compilation of essays. But critics agree that novels such as The Glimpses of the Moon (1922), A Son at the Front (1923), The Mother's Recompense (1925), Twilight Sleep (1927), and The Children, (1928) signaled a decline in the quality of Wharton's work.

Wharton was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1930 and remained highly productive during her final years. Continuing to pursue her lifelong passions for travel, gardening, and interior design, she completed Hudson River Bracketed (1929) and The Gods Arrive (1932), two interrelated novels that analyze the personality and life of a writer. In addition she turned out five more volumes of short stories: Here and Beyond (1926), Certain People (1930), Human Nature (1933), The World Over (1936), and Ghosts (1937). Edith Wharton died of a stroke at her villa near Paris on August 11, 1937, and was buried at the Cimetiere des Gonards in Versailles. The Buccaneers, a novel unfinished at the time of her death, appeared posthumously in 1938.

'At best, there are only three or four American novelists who can be thought of as 'major' and Edith Wharton is one,' judged Gore Vidal. 'Despite her reputation as being a stuffy grande dame, she had always been the most direct and masculine (old sense of the word, naturally) of writers; far more so than her somewhat fussy and hesitant friend Henry James. Spades got called spades in Edith Wharton's novels. . . . 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.'

'Many other writers have attempted to delineate the New York society of old brownstone and new wealth,' noted Wharton biographer Louis Auchincloss, 'but the reason that Edith Wharton succeeded where almost all of them failed is that, in addition to her great gifts as an artist, her lucidity, her wit, her style, she had a tight grasp of just what this society was made up of. She understood that it was arbitrary, capricious, and inconsistent; she was aware that it did not hesitate to abolish its standards while most loudly proclaiming them. She knew when money could open doors and when it couldn't, when lineage would serve and when it would be merely sneered at. She knew that compromises could be counted on, but that they were rarely made while still considered compromises. She knew her men and women of property, recently or anciently acquired, how they decorated their houses and where they spent their summers. She realized, in short, that the social game was played without rules, and this made her one of the few novelists before Proust who could describe it with profundity. . . . The society of which she wrote was an integral part of the American dream--the American myth--the American illusion.'

Product Details

ISBN:
9780679642077
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Subject:
Non-Classifiable
Introduction:
Auchincloss, Louis
Author:
Wharton, Edith
Author:
Edith Wharton
Subject:
Classics
Subject:
Married people
Subject:
Upper class
Subject:
American fiction (fictional works by one auth
Subject:
Fiction-Classics
Subject:
Fiction : Classics
Subject:
Fiction : General
Subject:
American fiction (fictional works by one author)
Subject:
Marriage -- New York (State) -- New York -- Fiction.
Subject:
New York
Subject:
Man-woman relationships
Subject:
Love stories
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
main_subject
Subject:
all_subjects
Edition Description:
Modern Library
Publication Date:
1999
Binding:
ELECTRONIC
Language:
English
Pages:
304

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Family Life
Fiction and Poetry » Romance » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

The Age of Innocence
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Product details 304 pages Random House Publishing Group - English 9780679642077 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Edith Wharton, a prolific writer best known as a novelist of manners whose fiction exposed the rigid mores of aristocratic society in a world that has all but vanished, was born Edith Newbold Jones in New York City on January 24, 1862. Both her parents be
"Synopsis" by , Newland Archer saw little to envy in the marriages of his friends, yet he prided himself that in May Welland he had found the companion of his needs--tender and impressionable, with equal purity of mind and manners. The engagement was announced discreetly, but all of New York society was soon privy to this most perfect match, a union of families and circumstances cemented by affection.

Enter Countess Olenska, a woman of quick wit sharpened by experience, not afraid to flout convention and determined to find freedom in divorce. Against his judgment, Newland is drawn to the socially ostracized Ellen Olenska, who opens his eyes and has the power to make him feel. He knows that in sweet-tempered May, he can expect stability and the steadying comfort of duty. But what new worlds could he discover with Ellen? Written with elegance and wry precision, Edith Wharton's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece is a tragic love story and a powerful homily about the perils of a perfect marriage.

Commentary by William Lyon Phelps and E. M. Forster

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