Monday, January 16, 2012


Edith Wharton in The Age of Innocence

© Appleton, NY
Ah, good conversation — there's nothing like it, is there? The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.

I shan't be lonely now. I WAS lonely; I WAS afraid. But the emptiness and the darkness are gone; when I turn back into myself now I'm like a child going at night into a room where there's always a light.

An unalterable and unquestioned law of the musical world required that the German text of French operas sung by Swedish artists should be translated into Italian for the clearer understanding of English-speaking audiences.

He simply felt that if he could carry away the vision of the spot of earth she walked on, and the way the sky and sea enclosed it, the rest of the world might seem less empty.

...he arrived late at the office, perceived that his doing so made no difference whatever to any one, and was filled with sudden exasperation at the elaborate futility of his life.

What's the use? You gave me my first glimpse of a real life, and at the same moment you asked me to go on with a sham one. It's beyond human enduring — that's all.

It seems stupid to have discovered America only to make it into a copy of another country... Do you suppose Christopher Columbus would have taken all that trouble just to go to the Opera with the Selfridge Merrys?

We can't behave like people in novels, though, can we?

You'll find earlier literary wisdom here:

Jean-Paul Sartre

Daniel Defoe

Thomas Hardy


  1. My favorite Wharton is HOUSE OF MIRTH. Lily Bart made quite an impression on the 20 year old me.

  2. I've read some of her work, but not this.

  3. Patti, I have THE HOUSE OF MIRTH but I haven't read it yet.

  4. Charles, I read this one sometime back though I'm not familiar with her other works.

  5. I read this one but I found it very slow going!

  6. If you have not yet seen it, the movie version of this is really beautiful. I read this book about two years ago and loved it.

  7. Mystica, it is quite slow, I agree, but I quite liked the characterisation of Countess Ellen Olenska and Newland Archer.

  8. Mel, no, I haven't seen the movie version of this book and will certainly look out for it.

  9. when I turn back into myself now I'm like a child going at night into a room where there's always a light.

    This is unutterably beautiful.

    And thanks for sharing all of them. What a great writer.

  10. HKatz, you're welcome! There are so many beautiful lines in Wharton's books that you don't which ones to choose.