Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth

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Edith Wharton had written only one other full-length novel when she began

The House of Mirth

in 1904. Her first work,

The Valley of Decision

(1902), had been a historical novel set in eighteenth-century Italy. Characterised by meticulous, almost obsessively replete local detail, it had been admired but not warmly received, except by Henry James, who immediately wrote what became a famous letter to Wharton urging her to abandon remote subjects and “do New York”.

Her setting for the bestselling story was the high society of her contemporary New York. Lily Bart, nearly thirty, a celebrated society beauty who has never succeeded in attaching the sort of rich man she needs to marry in order to maintain her accustomed style of life, is encountered, typically transient, between trains at

2854 words

Citation: Preston, Claire. "The House of Mirth". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 09 October 2002 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=524, accessed 25 July 2024.]

524 The House of Mirth 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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