“FATE, FURIES, LIGHT, DARKNESS”: FIRST EDITION OF WHARTON’S THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, 1905
WHARTON, Edith. The House of Mirth. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905. Octavo, original red cloth, top edge gilt, uncut and partially unopened. $1200.
First American edition of the novel that brought Wharton an international reputation, a splendid copy.
"The House of Mirth, crucial in Wharton's career, establishes many of her major themes and motifs. In its careful structure and symbolism, it reveals how much she had learned about her craft. Its imagery, concerned with fate, Furies, light, darkness, beauty, Darwinian nature, economic determinism, a social realm in transition, and, above all, a circumscribed role for women, points to themes she would employ throughout her career" (Lowe, Modern American Women Writers, 389). Henry James viewed the novel as "'altogether a superior thing'; more important, the 1905 novel, a popular and critical success, marked Wharton's debut as a talented and perceptive critic of American manners. The House of Mirth, with its strong naturalist overtones, chronicles the final years of Lily Bart, a young woman without parents or fortune, who must 'barter' her beauty for an advantageous marriage. Her fine moral sensitivity, however, repeatedly gets in the way of social and practical expedience… With this novel Wharton recognized, as she would note in her 1934 autobiography, A Backward Glance, that her true subject was the society of old New York and 'its power of debasing people and ideals" (ANB). Published simultaneously with the first English edition. Illustrated with eight plates by A.B. Wenzell. Without extremely scarce dust jacket. First edition, first printing issued with two blank leaves at rear, or with two rear leaves of advertisements (this copy): no priority established. Garrison A12.I.a1. Owner signature.
A fine copy.