The House of Mirth
|The House of Mirth|
The House of Mirth, Penguin Books, 1993
|Publisher||Charles Scribner's Sons|
|Publication date||October 14, 1905|
The House of Mirth (1905) is a novel by Edith Wharton. First published in 1905, the novel is Wharton's first important work of fiction. It sold 140,000 copies between October and the end of December, and added to Wharton's existing fortune. The House of Mirth was written while Edith Wharton lived at The Mount, her home in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Although The House of Mirth is written in the style of a novel of manners, set against the backdrop of the 1890s New York aristocracy, it is considered American literary naturalism. Wharton places her tragic heroine, Lily Bart, in a society that she describes as a "hot-house of traditions and conventions."[page needed]
The title derives from Ecclesiastes 7:4: The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. The manuscript had originally been titled "A Moment's Ornament", a reference to Wordsworth's poem 'She was a Phantom of Delight.'  Wharton's working title for the book was "The year of the Rose."
The House of Mirth tells the story of Lily Bart, a woman who is torn between her desire for luxurious living and a relationship based on mutual respect and love. She sabotages all her possible chances for a wealthy marriage, loses the esteem of her social circle, and dies young, poor, and alone.
Lily is initially of good social standing and rejects several offers of advantageous marriage. Lily's social standing erodes when her friend Judy Trenor's husband Gus gives Lily a large sum of money. Lily innocently accepts the money, believing that it is the return on investments he supposedly made for her. The rumors of this transaction, and of her mysterious visit to Gus in his city residence crack her social standing further.
To escape the rumors and gossip, she accepts an invitation from Bertha Dorset to join her and her husband, George, on a cruise of Europe aboard their yacht the Sabrina. Unfortunately, while aboard the yacht, Bertha accuses Lily of adultery with George in order to shift societal attention from Bertha's own infidelity with poet Ned Silverton. The ensuing scandal ruins Lily, leading her friends to abandon her and her Aunt Peniston to disinherit her.
Lily descends the social strata, working as a personal secretary until Bertha sabotages her position by turning her employers against her. Lily then takes a job as social secretary for a disreputable woman, but resigns after an associate of hers, Lawrence Selden, comes to rescue her from complete infamy. She then works in a millinery, but produces poorly and is let go at the end of the season. Simon Rosedale, the Jewish suitor who had proposed marriage to her when she was higher on the social scale tries to rescue her, but she is unwilling to meet his terms: to use love letters she bought which prove the affair Bertha Dorset and Selden had years earlier. Lily refrains for sake of Selden's reputation, and secretly burns the letters when she visits Selden for one last time. Eventually Lily receives her $10,000 inheritance, which she uses to pay her debt to Trenor. Lily dies from an overdose, possibly accidental, of the sleeping draught to which she had become addicted. Hours later Selden comes to propose to her, but finds she has died. Only then is he able to be close to her in a way he never was able to when she was living and admit his true love for her.
The book received an enthusiastic review in the New York Times upon its original publication, which called it "a novel of remarkable power," and which read in part "Its varied elements are harmoniously blended, and the discriminating reader who has completed the whole story in a protracted sitting or two must rise from it with the conviction that there are no parts of it which do not properly and essentially belong to the whole. Its descriptive passages have verity and charm, it has the saving grace of humor, its multitude of personages, as we have said, all have the semblance of life."
There followed months of letters to the Times, arguing over the book. Some readers were enthusiastic fans, while others felt that the book unfairly impugned the city's social elite.
Film and theater adaptations 
The House of Mirth has been adapted several times into other media:
- 1906 stage adaptation written by Edith Wharton and Clyde Fitch.
- 1918 silent film adaptation, The House of Mirth (La Maison du Brouillard) directed by French film director Albert Capellani, starring Katherine Harris Barrymore as Lily Bart. This silent film is considered to be a lost film.
- 1956 The House of Mirth. Directed by John Drew Barrymore. Matinee Theatre: Season 2, Episode 56.(aired 4 Dec. 1956)
- 1981 The House of Mirth ( dir. Adrian Hall ) PBS, TV movie
- 2000 film adaptation, The House of Mirth, directed by Terence Davies, starring Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart.
- Meyers 2004.
- Lewis, RWB (1984), "Introduction", The House of Mirth, Bantam Books (published 1986)
- "New York Society Held Up to Scorn in Three New Books," New York Times, October 15, 1905
- Letter to the editor of the New York Times Saturday Review of Books, March 3, 1906
- "The House of Mirth: The Play of the Novel, Dramatized by Edith Wharton and Clyde Fitch, 1906; edited, with an introd., notes, and appendixes by Glenn Loney", Catalogue, Australia: National Library.
- The House of Mirth: The Play of the Novel, Dramatized by Edith Wharton and Clyde Fitch, 1906; edited, with an introd., notes, and appendixes by Glenn Loney, Open library.
- Marshall, Scott (15 Jan. 2009), "Edith Wharton on Film and Television: A History and Filmography" (PDF), Edith Wharton Review (Washington State University): 15–25.
- Meyers, Jeffrey (2004), Introduction in Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. Barnes & Noble. ISBN 1-59308-153-7.
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