Six Women Novelists by Merryn Williams (auth.)

By Merryn Williams (auth.)

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Her parents, George Jones and Lucretia Rhinelander, belonged to the 'old' New York families which had been settled in America for nearly three centuries and had been prominent in public life (a great-grandfather had fought in the War of Independence). Most of their money came from real estate and, as one of Edith's friends was later to say, 'her life and its structure stood fast on a solid plinth of "private means'" Y In the 1930s she looked back nostalgically on the world of her youth. Between the point of view of my Huguenot great-greatgrandfather ...

Edith Wharton had little experience of children, and was thought not to like them, yet it is surprising how often she uses the figure of the child to judge adults' morality. ) Lily's last conscious thought is of this child, who makes her aware of the need for a 'real relation to life': She herself had grown up without anyone spot of earth being dearer to her than another: there was no centre of early pieties, of grave endearing traditions, to which her heart could revert .... All the men and women she knew were like atoms whirling away from each other in some wild centrifugal dance: her first glimpse of the continuity of life had come to her that evening in Nettie Struther's kitchen.

15) Men and women know very little about each other's lives, like the wife in the ghost story 'Afterward' who simply is not aware that her husband's business methods have caused a death. As clearly as Olive Schreiner, Edith saw that the rich women whom she moved among were 'sex-parasites'. 34 She got the idea for this novel when she was wondering whether it was possible to write anything about New York smart society which would be worth reading: There is was before me, in all its flatness and futility, asking to be dealth with as the theme most to my hand, since I had been steeped in it from infancy ....

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