Commonplace: House of Mirth (Edith Wharton)

The ocean stirsthe heart, inspiresthe imagination& brings eternaljoy to the soul (1)

Edith Wharton has been on my radar for a while, and my friend Marci finally convinced me to pick up House of Mirth in May. It is the story of Lily, a woman who was raised to fit into “high society” but who lacks the money to actually keep up that lifestyle. Wharton’s style reminds me a lot of Jane Austen, but House of Mirth is set in late 1800s New York rather than England.

Every time I start trying to write about House of Mirth, I keep running out of words that mean beautiful and well-worded, so I think the best thing I can do is just show you. I’ve selected a few of my favorite quotes from House of Mirth, so I hope you enjoy!


“Miss Van Osburgh was a large girl with flat surfaces and no highlights: Jack Stepney had once said she was as reliable as roast mutton. His own taste was in the line of less solid and more highly-seasoned diet; but hunger makes any fare palatable, and Mr. Stepney had been reduced to a crust.”


A few good thoughts on ‘high society’: “It’s just the other way with most shows–the audience may be under the illusion, but the actors know that real life is on the other side of the footlights. The people who take society as an escape from work are putting it to proper use; but when it becomes the thing worked for it distorts all the relations of life.”


“It is less mortifying to believe one’s self unpopular than insignificant, and vanity prefers to assume that indifference is a latent form of unfriendliness.”


“One of the surprises of her unoccupied state was the discovery that time, when it is left to itself and no definite demands are made on it, cannot be trusted to move at any recognized pace. Usually it loiters; but just when one has come to count upon its slowness, it may suddenly break into a wild irrational gallop.”


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