ISBN-10:
0393967948
ISBN-13:
9780393967944
Pub. Date:
12/28/2002
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
The Age of Innocence: A Norton Critical Edition / Edition 1

The Age of Innocence: A Norton Critical Edition / Edition 1

by Edith Wharton, Candace Waid
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Overview

The text of Wharton’s richly allusive Pulitzer Prize–winning 1921 novel of desire and its implications in Old New York has been rigorously annotated by a prominent Wharton scholar.


"Contexts" constructs the historical foundation for this very historical novel. Many documents are included on the "New York Four Hundred," elite social gatherings, archery (the sport for upper-crust daughters), as well as Wharton’s manuscript outlines, letters, and related writings.


"Criticism" collects eleven American and British contemporary reviews and nine major essays on The Age of Innocence, including a groundbreaking piece on the two film adaptations of the novel.


“A Chronology and Selected Bibliography” are also included.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393967944
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 12/28/2002
Series: Norton Critical Editions Series
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 478,628
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer and designer Edith Wharton (1862-1937) is the author of The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, The Decoration of Houses, and many other books.

Candance Waid is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she teaches American literature with a focus on race and regional cultures. She is the author of Edith Wharton’s Letters from the Underworld: Fictions of Women and Writing and is the editor of Wharton’s novels, short stories, and autobiography. She previously taught at Yale University and at the Sorbonne.

Date of Birth:

January 24, 1862

Date of Death:

August 11, 1937

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France

Education:

Educated privately in New York and Europe

Read an Excerpt

Book One

Chapter One

On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.

Though there was already talk of the erection, in remote metropolitan distances "above the Forties," of a new Opera House which should compete in costliness and splendour with those of the great European capitals, the world of fashion was still content to reassemble every winter in the shabby red and gold boxes of the sociable old Academy. Conservatives cherished it for being small and inconvenient, and thus keeping out the it new people" whom New York was beginning to dread and yet be drawn to; and the sentimental clung to it for its historic associations, and the musical for its excellent acoustics, always so problematic a quality in halls built for the hearing of music.

It was Madame Nilsson's first appearance that winter, and what the daily press had already learned to describe as "an exceptionally brilliant audience " had gathered to hear her, transported through the slippery snow streets in private broughams, in the spacious family landau, or in the humbler but more convenient "Brown coupe"' To come to the Opera in a Brown coupe was almost as honourable a way of arriving as in one 's own carriage; and departure by the same means had the immense advantage of enabling one (with a playful allusion to democratic principles) to scramble into the first Brown conveyance in the line, instead of waiting till the cold and—gin congested nose of one's own coachman gleamed under the portico of the Academy. It was one of the great livery-lstableman's most masterly intuitions to have discovered thatAmericans want to get away from amusement even more quickly than they want to get to it.

When Newland Archer opened the door at the back of the club box the curtain had just gone up on the garden scene. There was no reason why the young man should not have come earlier, for he had dined at seven, alone with his mother and sister, and had lingered afterward over a cigar in the Gothic library with glazed black-walnut bookcases and finial-topped chairs which was the only room in the house where Mrs. Archer allowed smoking. But, in the first place, New York was a metropolis, and perfectly aware that in metropolises it was "not the thing" to arrive early at the opera; and what was or was not "the thing" played a part as important in Newland Archer's New York as the inscrutable totem terrors that had ruled the destinies of his forefathers thousands of years ago.

The second reason for his delay was a personal one. He had dawdled over his cigar because he was at heart a dilettante, and thinking over a pleasure tocome often gave him a subtler satisfaction than its realisation. This was especially the case when the pleasure was a delicate one, as his pleasures mostly were; and on this occasion the moment he looked forward to was so rare and exquisite in quality that-well, if he had timed his arrival in accord with the prima donna's stage-manager he could not have entered the Academy at a more significant moment than just as she was singing: "He loves me-he loves me not-he loves me!" and sprinkling the falling daisy petals with notes as clear as dew.

She sang, of course, "Mama!" and not "he loves me," since 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. This seemed as natural to Newland Archer as all the other conventions on which his life was moulded: such as the duty of using two silver-backed brushes with his monogram in blue enamel to part his hair, and of never appearing in society without a flower (preferably a gardenia) in his buttonhole.

"Mama . . . non mama the prima donna sang, and "Mama!", with a final burst of love triumphant, as she pressed the dishevelled daisy to her lips and lifted her large eyes to the sophisticated countenance of the little brown Faust-Capoul, who was vainly trying, in a tight purple velvet doublet and plumed cap, to look as pure and true as his artless victim.

Newland Archer, leaning against the wall at the back of the club box, turned his eyes from the stage and scanned the opposite side of the house. Directly facing him was the box of old Mrs. Manson Mingott, whose monstrous obesity had long since made it impossible for her to attend the Opera, but who was always represented on fashionable nights by some of the younger members of the family. On this occasion, the front of the box was filled by her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Lovell Mingott, and her niece, Mrs. Welland; and slightly withdrawn behind these brocaded matrons sat a young girl in white with eyes ecstatically fixed on the stagelovers. As Madame Nilsson's "M'ama!" thrilled out above the silent house (the boxes always stopped talking during the Daisy Song) a warm pink mounted to the girl's cheek, mantled her brow to the roots of her fair braids, and suffused the young slope of her breast to the line where it met a modest tulle tucker fastened with a single gardenia. She dropped her eyes to the immense bouquet of lilies of-the-valley on her knee, and Newland Archer saw her white-gloved finger-tips touch the flowers softly. He drew a breath of satisfied vanity and his eyes returned to the stage.

No expense had been spared on the setting, which was acknowledged to be very beautiful even by people who shared his acquaintance with the Opera houses of Paris and Vienna. The foreground, to the footlights, was covered with emerald green cloth.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction

The Text of The Age of Innocence:

Backgrounds and Contexts

LETTERS
To Rutger B. Jewett, January 5, 1920
To Bernard Berenson, December 12, 1920
To Sinclair Lewis, August 6, 1921
To Mary Cadwalader Jones, April 11, 1927
To Mary Cadwalader Jones, February 17, 1921

AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND BIOGRAPHY
Candace Waid * [Biographical Note on Edith Wharton]
Edith Wharton * A Little Girl’s New York
Edith Wharton * From A Backward Glance
[The Background]
[Little Girl]
R.W.B. Lewis * From Edith Wharton: A Biography
[Entry into Society]
[A Broken Engagement]
[Marriage and Sexual Ignorance]

SOURCES
Literary Sources
Honoré de Balzac * From Contes drôlatiques
• Innocence
• The Danger of Being Too Innocent

Edith Wharton * The Valley of Childish Things, and Other Emblems
Edith Wharton * The New Frenchwoman

Time and Money: Economic Contexts and the Shifting Narratives of Ethnic Power
The Source for the Beaufort Scandal
The Panic: Excitement in Wall Street * New York Times, September 19, 1873
The Financial Crisis: More Failures Yesterday * New York Times, September 20, 1873
Panics * The Nation, September 25, 1873

The Business of Society: Contemporary Commentary on the New York Aristocracy
"Secrets of Ball Giving": A Chat with Ward McAllister
Recipes for Roman Punch
M.E.W. Sherwood * From Manners and Social Usages
• How He Came to be a Famous Ball Organizer—Reminiscences of Cotillion Dinners
• Beginning His Experiment at Newport
• Objects of the Patriarch’s Society
• Duplicate Invitations Presented
• Society’s Limits Narrowing
• Famous Dinners of Recent Years
• The Etiquette of Balls
• Fashionable Dancing
• On Serving Roman Punch

Francis W. Crowninshield * From Manners for the Metropolis: An Entrance Key to the
Fantastic Life of the 400
Mrs. Burton Harrison * The Myth of the Four Hundred

Leisure: High and Low
James Maurice Thompson * The Long Bow
W. Gurney Benham * [The Living Waxworks]
Kate Greenaway * From Language of Flowers
John H. Young * The Language of Flowers
Divorce and Marriage in New York * The New York Tribune, October 7, 1883

Criticism

REVIEWS: AMERICAN AND BRITISH
Katharine Perry * Were the Seventies Sinless?
William Lyon Phelps * As Mrs. Wharton Sees Us
Henry Seidel Canby * Our America
Carl Van Doren * An Elder America
R. D. Townshend * The Book Table: Devoted to Books and Their Makers, Novels Not
for a Day
Mrs. Wharton’s Novel of Old New York
Vernon L. Parrington, Jr. * Our Literary Aristocrat
The Age of Innocence
The Innocence of New York
Katherine Mansfield * Family Portraits
Frederick Watson * The Assurance of Art

MODERN CRITICISM
Julia Ehrhardt * "The Read These Pages Is to Live Again": The Historical Accuracy of
The Age of Innocence
Jennifer Rae Greeson * Wharton’s Manuscript Outlines for The Age of Innocence: Three Versions
Cynthia Griffin Wolff * The Age of Innocence as Bildungsroman
Elizabeth Ammons * Cool Diana and the Blood-Red Muse: Edith Wharton on Innocence and Art
Nancy Bentley * [Realism, Relativism, and the Discipline of Manners]
Anne MacMaster * Wharton, Race, and The Age of Innocence: Three Historical
Contexts
Dale M. Bauer * [Whiteness and the Power of Darkness in The Age of Innocence]
Brian T. Edwards * The Well-Built Wall of Culture: Old New York and Its Harems
Brigitte Peuker * Scorsese’s Age of Innocence: Adaptation and Intermediality

Edith Wharton: A Chronology

Selected Bibliography

Customer Reviews

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The Age of Innocence (Enriched Classics Series) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
stevetempo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found the Age of Innocence to be an incredibly beautiful book. It has been a long time since I've read anything so masterfully written. It is a book that resonated with me on many levels and won't be forgotten very easily. The characters are wonderfully portrayed. It is a story of a romance that struggles against the norms and unwritten rules of the upper-class of NYC in the 1870's. More fundamentally though the book is also about the constraining/bounded environments/communities/affiliations that we all operate within. How some of us strive to breakout or go against the grain of these realms and take the associated risks. It is a novel of breaking free and seeking something more meaningful and deeper. It has my highest recommendation!
dw0rd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Seeing this title as a Playaway audio book at my library finally convinced me to read(?) it. I also downloaded a print(?) version from Gutenburg.org for "backup." I knew I liked the story from seeing movie versions. I wanted to learn more about why, in the final scene, Newland doesn't go upstairs to see Ellen. It was a different era and society, for sure, but was he exacting some sort of revenge on Ellen? On himself? Just being a jerk? Being senile? Stupid? Honorable? To me, it's a fascinating situation. Don't we all anguish over going to class reunions? Don't we wonder about meeting an old lover? On purpose? By accident? Well, I've skipped the class reunions and I'd probably do a "Newland Archer" for the same reasons, namely, laziness, poor memory, and too much else to do. Angie: Ethan Fromme, Age of Innocence, and House of Mirth!
edecklund on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Seeing this title as a Playaway audio book at my library finally convinced me to read(?) it. I also downloaded a print(?) version from Gutenburg.org for "backup." I knew I liked the story from seeing movie versions. I wanted to learn more about why, in the final scene, Newland doesn't go upstairs to see Ellen. It was a different era and society, for sure, but was he exacting some sort of revenge on Ellen? On himself? Just being a jerk? Being senile? Stupid? Honorable? To me, it's a fascinating situation. Don't we all anguish over going to class reunions? Don't we wonder about meeting an old lover? On purpose? By accident? Well, I've skipped the class reunions and I'd probably do a "Newland Archer" for the same reasons, namely, laziness, poor memory, and too much else to do. Angie: Ethan Fromme, Age of Innocence, and House of Mirth!
dickcraig on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Book Club selection. Great book and discussion. I had heard so much about this book and thought I might not like it, but it surprised me.
drmarymccormack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story!! So well written that you feel the character's pain and love. I love this book.
arelenriel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I first read this book in my Women's Literature class in college. I have loved it ever since. I like Wharton's social commentary on the upper class in the United States during the Gilded Age. She is also magnificent when it comes to describing the New York City of the 1890's
MoniqueReads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After reading The Age of Innocence I can understand why it is considered a classic. The writing is excellent. It is elegant. But since this book was written of 80 years ago, it makes it harder to read. In fact it was slow going. It wasn't that Wharton used words unfamiliar to me but the style made me slow down and absorb what was being written and going on.I am going to say that this is a character based novel. While not as in depth John Steinbeck's East of Eden, the characters (mainly Archer and Olenska) take center stage. I would love to say that I really felt in touch with the characters and that I loved them but I was rather indifferent to them. Maybe because this is a story about old New York society and it's inhabitants and I just couldn't wait. But Wharton does put a lot of emphasis of making sure the reader knows and understands the characters and there actions.The plot of the books was familiar but excellently done. Basically it is a story about "forbidden love" and the chooses people make in their lives and how those chooses affect them later. I am not going to give the story way but I did enjoy getting to take a glimpse into the varies rules of old New York and how they dictates ones actions and decisions.Pros: Writing, Characters, Plot, HistoryCons: Slow readOverall Recommendation:I want to give this novel a great write up but I don't know how to express who much I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed it more for the writing than anything else. For you want to read a well written story than this is it. But if you are looking for action or drama, than skip it.
klarusu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a masterful work by Wharton, set in the upper echelons of New York society in the 1870s. It deals with the lives of Newland Archer, his young bride May and her cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska, against a backdrop of the shallow and exclusive high society that constrained them at the time, surrounded by a wealth of characters who define the world they live in.It is impossible to read this book with anything other than modern eyes. From a female perspective in the 21st century, Newland comes across throughout as weak and patronising with his desire to tenaciously cling to the ideal of a "woman's innoncence" and his position as the worldly man who can educate them. May, his young wife, appears both irritating and frustrating. She is manipulative via her innocent assumptions and unbending will on matters of social conformation. By rights, the reader's sympathy should lie with her, but instead one finds that it is Newland Archer for whom you are rooting, willing him to break free. To a modern reader, Countess Olenska is the character with whom sympathy lies. Her independent mind and spirit fights against constraint by the society that she has returned to as a refuge. It is not until Newland forces her to be aware of it, that she adapts her behaviour at all. Ironic that it should be the case when the rest of the story unfolds.I loved this book when I read it a decade ago and on this re-read I was waiting to understand why I had remembered it as such a classic. As I reached the final third, I realised that this is where it shines. The subtext behind the actions of Newland, May and Ellen and the words unspoken carry such weight that it is suffused with tension and sensuality. Throughout there is the idea that to this society, women were almost sacrificial in the face of scandal. The ultimate irony is that despite Newland's consideration of himself as worldly, his need to educate May, in fact he is as innocent as she in his desire to "get away" with Ellen "into a world where ..... categories do not exist". It is Ellen that is realistic. The idea that May had "spent her poetry and romance on their short courting" whilst Newland remains blameless in his eyes and cannot see that he is as responsible and changed as she. The culmination of the farewell meal for Ellen when Archer finally loses his innocence, his moment of realisation of what has been thought of him by society, what has been observed and supposed, is as painful a description of disillusionment as any I have read. Throughout this book there are moments when you dislike May intensely as she seems controlling and manipulative (irrationally, as she is the victim and has done nothing wrong). However, there are moments, such as after the leaving party for Ellen, when she deserves, and Wharton moves us to give her, sympathy.The book is finally resolved by a poignant and brilliant ending where Newland is shown for what he really is: a man as devoted to convention in his way as any other of his time, a man who cherishes his ideals more than the reality of life when it comes to the final reckoning.A brilliant and restrained book, a real classic!
jddunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this rather desultorily in high school, and didn't think much of it. I still didn't greatly enjoy the bulk of it... I'm just not generally very fond of period pieces about high-society interiors, unless they're of Russian provenance. What did get me this time around is the craft... just how tightly-written it is, and how well-rendered emotions and relationships and the small gestures which serve as their currency are. And the ending was right in a torturous sort of way... not what you're rooting for as the biased reader, but ultimately true to the story and the characters.
jkrejci on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a fantastic book, worthy of its status as a classic. Erudite without being arch, poignant without being mushy, Wharton is an enormously talented writer who combines a dry sense of humor with terrific psychological insight and social commentary.
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risuena More than 1 year ago
This was beautifully written, drew you into that time period, old New York, and made you feel the cultural and social pressures of that time. I love how this was seen through the guy's perspective, how Newland had to choose between what he wanted versus what was expected of him. The subtley of gestures and what was not said revealed more, expressed the underlying messages and meanings. The realism of these characters and their situation like May and Newland's conversation at the end, brilliantly represent an age in our history. For all these reasons, I think this book is wonderful. Pride and Prejudice does not compare, though probably more entertaining, but not as well written or multi-layered. This book takes the cake!
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Lisa Wolfe More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful story and a classic however this free copy was terrible many many words spelled incorrectly and symbols added inappropriately made for very difficult reading try to find another copy
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Amy Sanner More than 1 year ago
its rare to find a nook table of contents with links to each chapter. i likey