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50 Works of Edith Wharton

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Souls Belated

Story type: Literature

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Their railway carriage had been full when the train left Bologna; but at the first station beyond Milan their only remaining companion—a courtly person who ate garlic out of a carpetbag—had left his crumb-strewn seat with a bow. Lydia’s eye regretfully followed the shiny broadcloth of his retreating back till it lost itself in the […]

Roman Fever

Story type: Literature

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I From the table at which they had been lunching two American ladies of ripe but well-cared-for middle age moved across the lofty terrace of the Roman restaurant and, leaning on its parapet, looked first at each other, and then down on the outspread glories of the Palatine and the Forum, with the same expression […]

The Other Two

Story type: Literature

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I Waythorne, on the drawing-room hearth, waited for his wife to come down to dinner. It was their first night under his own roof, and he was surprised at his thrill of boyish agitation. He was not so old, to be sure—his glass gave him little more than the five-and-thirty years to which his wife […]

The Dilettante

Story type: Literature

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IT was on an impulse hardly needing the arguments he found himself advancing in its favor, that Thursdale, on his way to the club, turned as usual into Mrs. Vervain’s street. The “as usual” was his own qualification of the act; a convenient way of bridging the interval–in days and other sequences–that lay between this […]

The Twilight Of The God

Story type: Literature

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I A Newport drawing-room. Tapestries, flowers, bric-a-brac. Through the windows, a geranium-edged lawn, the cliffs and the sea. Isabel Warland sits reading. Lucius Warland enters in flannels and a yachting-cap. Isabel. Back already? Warland. The wind dropped–it turned into a drifting race. Langham took me off the yacht on his launch. What time is it? […]

The Portrait

Story type: Literature

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It was at Mrs. Mellish’s, one Sunday afternoon last spring. We were talking over George Lillo’s portraits–a collection of them was being shown at Durand-Ruel’s–and a pretty woman had emphatically declared:– “Nothing on earth would induce me to sit to him!” There was a chorus of interrogations. “Oh, because–he makes people look so horrid; the […]

A Coward

Story type: Literature

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“My daughter Irene,” said Mrs. Carstyle (she made it rhyme with tureen), “has had no social advantages; but if Mr. Carstyle had chosen–” she paused significantly and looked at the shabby sofa on the opposite side of the fire-place as though it had been Mr. Carstyle. Vibart was glad that it was not. Mrs. Carstyle […]

The Pelican

Story type: Literature

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She was very pretty when I first knew her, with the sweet straight nose and short upper lip of the cameo-brooch divinity, humanized by a dimple that flowered in her cheek whenever anything was said possessing the outward attributes of humor without its intrinsic quality. For the dear lady was providentially deficient in humor: the […]

The Muse’s Tragedy

Story type: Literature

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Danyers afterwards liked to fancy that he had recognized Mrs. Anerton at once; but that, of course, was absurd, since he had seen no portrait of her–she affected a strict anonymity, refusing even her photograph to the most privileged–and from Mrs. Memorall, whom he revered and cultivated as her friend, he had extracted but the […]

A Journey

Story type: Literature

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As she lay in her berth, staring at the shadows overhead, the rush of the wheels was in her brain, driving her deeper and deeper into circles of wakeful lucidity. The sleeping-car had sunk into its night-silence. Through the wet window-pane she watched the sudden lights, the long stretches of hurrying blackness. Now and then […]

Coming Home

Story type: Literature

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I The young men of our American Relief Corps are beginning to come back from the front with stories. There was no time to pick them up during the first months–the whole business was too wild and grim. The horror has not decreased, but nerves and sight are beginning to be disciplined to it. In […]

Autres Temps…

Story type: Literature

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I Mrs. Lidcote, as the huge menacing mass of New York defined itself far off across the waters, shrank back into her corner of the deck and sat listening with a kind of unreasoning terror to the steady onward drive of the screws. She had set out on the voyage quietly enough,–in what she called […]

The Long Run

Story type: Literature

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I It was last winter, after a twelve years’ absence from New York, that I saw again, at one of the Jim Cumnors’ dinners, my old friend Halston Merrick. The Cumnors’ house is one of the few where, even after such a lapse of time, one can be sure of finding familiar faces and picking […]

The Triumph Of Night

Story type: Literature

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I It was clear that the sleigh from Weymore had not come; and the shivering young traveller from Boston, who had counted on jumping into it when he left the train at Northridge Junction, found himself standing alone on the open platform, exposed to the full assault of night-fall and winter. The blast that swept […]

WHAT strange presentiment, O Mother, liesOn thy waste brow and sadly-folded lips,Forefeeling the Light’s terrible eclipseOn Calvary, as if love made thee wise,And thou couldst read in those dear infant eyesThe sorrow that beneath their smiling sleeps,And guess what bitter tears a mother weepsWhen the cross darkens her unclouded skies? Sad Lady, if some mother, […]

ILARIA, thou that wert so fair and dearThat death would fain disown thee, grief made wiseWith prophecy thy husband’s widowed eyesAnd bade him call the master’s art to rearThy perfect image on the sculptured bier,With dreaming lids, hands laid in peaceful guiseBeneath the breast that seems to fall and rise,And lips that at love’s call […]

The Sonnet

Story type: Poetry

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PURE form, that like some chalice of old timeContain’st the liquid of the poet’s thoughtWithin thy curving hollow, gem-enwroughtWith interwoven traceries of rhyme,While o’er thy brim the bubbling fancies climb,What thing am I, that undismayed have soughtTo pour my verse with trembling hand untaughtInto a shape so small yet so sublime?Because perfection haunts the hearts […]

Two Backgrounds

Story type: Poetry

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I. LA VIERGE AU DONATEUR. HERE by the ample river’s argent sweep,Bosomed in tilth and vintage to her walls,A tower-crowned Cybele in armored sleepThe city lies, fat plenty in her halls,With calm, parochial spires that hold in feeThe friendly gables clustered at their base,And, equipoised o’er tower and market-place,The Gothic minster’s winged immensity;And in that […]

Chartres

Story type: Poetry

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I. IMMENSE, august, like some Titanic bloom,The mighty choir unfolds its lithic core,Petalled with panes of azure, gules and or,Splendidly lambent in the Gothic gloom,And stamened with keen flamelets that illumeThe pale high-altar. On the prayer-worn floor,By surging worshippers thick-thronged of yore,A few brown crones, familiars of the tomb,The stranded driftwood of Faith’s ebbing sea–For […]

LIFE, like a marble block, is given to all,A blank, inchoate mass of years and days,Whence one with ardent chisel swift essaysSome shape of strength or symmetry to call;One shatters it in bits to mend a wall;One in a craftier hand the chisel lays,And one, to wake the mirth in Lesbia’s gaze,Carves it apace in […]

An Autumn Sunset

Story type: Poetry

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I LEAGUERED in fireThe wild black promontories of the coast extendTheir savage silhouettes;The sun in universal carnage sets,And, halting higher,The motionless storm-clouds mass their sullen threats,Like an advancing mob in sword-points penned,That, balked, yet stands at bay.Mid-zenith hangs the fascinated dayIn wind-lustrated hollows crystalline,A wan valkyrie whose wide pinions shineAcross the ensanguined ruins of the […]

Afterward

Story type: Literature

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I “Oh, there IS one, of course, but you’ll never know it.” The assertion, laughingly flung out six months earlier in a bright June garden, came back to Mary Boyne with a sharp perception of its latent significance as she stood, in the December dusk, waiting for the lamps to be brought into the library. […]

The Fulness of Life

Story type: Literature

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I. For hours she had lain in a kind of gentle torpor, not unlike that sweet lassitude which masters one in the hush of a midsummer noon, when the heat seems to have silenced the very birds and insects, and, lying sunk in the tasselled meadow-grasses, one looks up through a level roofing of maple-leaves […]

Xingu

Story type: Literature

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Mrs. Ballinger is one of the ladies who pursue Culture in bands, as though it were dangerous to meet alone. To this end she had founded the Lunch Club, an association composed of herself and several other indomitable huntresses of erudition. The Lunch Club, after three or four winters of lunching and debate, had acquired […]

The Verdict

Story type: Literature

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I had always thought Jack Gisburn rather a cheap genius–though a good fellow enough–so it was no great surprise to me to hear that, in the height of his glory, he had dropped his painting, married a rich widow, and established himself in a villa on the Riviera. (Though I rather thought it would have […]

Kerfol

Story type: Literature

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I “You ought to buy it,” said my host; “it’s just the place for a solitary-minded devil like you. And it would be rather worth while to own the most romantic house in Brittany. The present people are dead broke, and it’s going for a song–you ought to buy it.” It was not with the […]

Mrs. Manstey’s View

Story type: Literature

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The view from Mrs. Manstey’s window was not a striking one, but to her at least it was full of interest and beauty. Mrs. Manstey occupied the back room on the third floor of a New York boarding- house, in a street where the ash-barrels lingered late on the sidewalk and the gaps in the […]

The Bolted Door

Story type: Literature

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Hubert Granice, pacing the length of his pleasant lamp-lit library, paused to compare his watch with the clock on the chimney-piece. Three minutes to eight. In exactly three minutes Mr. Peter Ascham, of the eminent legal firm of Ascham and Pettilow, would have his punctual hand on the door-bell of the flat. It was a […]

I “Above all,” the letter ended, “don’t leave Siena without seeing Doctor Lombard’s Leonardo. Lombard is a queer old Englishman, a mystic or a madman (if the two are not synonymous), and a devout student of the Italian Renaissance. He has lived for years in Italy, exploring its remotest corners, and has lately picked up […]

I THE Hermit lived in a cave in the hollow of a hill. Below him was a glen, with a stream in a coppice of oaks and alders, and on the farther side of the valley, half a day’s journey distant, another hill, steep and bristling, which raised aloft a little walled town with Ghibelline […]

The Best Man

Story type: Literature

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I DUSK had fallen, and the circle of light shed by the lamp of Governor Mornway’s writing-table just rescued from the surrounding dimness his own imposing bulk, thrown back in a deep chair in the lounging attitude habitual to him at that hour. When the Governor of Midsylvania rested he rested completely. Five minutes earlier […]

The Pot-Boiler

Story type: Literature

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I The studio faced north, looking out over a dismal reach of roofs and chimneys, and rusty fire-escapes hung with heterogeneous garments. A crust of dirty snow covered the level surfaces, and a December sky with more snow in it lowered over them. The room was bare and gaunt, with blotched walls and a stained […]

The Pretext

Story type: Literature

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I MRS. RANSOM, when the front door had closed on her visitor, passed with a spring from the drawing-room to the narrow hall, and thence up the narrow stairs to her bedroom. Though slender, and still light of foot, she did not always move so quickly: hitherto, in her life, there had not been much […]

In Trust

Story type: Literature

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IN the good days, just after we all left college, Ned Halidon and I used to listen, laughing and smoking, while Paul Ambrose set forth his plans. They were immense, these plans, involving, as it sometimes seemed, the ultimate aesthetic redemption of the whole human race; and provisionally restoring the sense of beauty to those […]

The Rembrandt

Story type: Literature

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“You’re so artistic,” my cousin Eleanor Copt began. Of all Eleanor’s exordiums it is the one I most dread. When she tells me I’m so clever I know this is merely the preamble to inviting me to meet the last literary obscurity of the moment: a trial to be evaded or endured, as circumstances dictate; […]

The Last Asset

Story type: Literature

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I “THE devil!” Paul Garnett exclaimed as he re-read his note; and the dry old gentleman who was at the moment his only neighbour in the quiet restaurant they both frequented, remarked with a smile: “You don’t seem particularly annoyed at meeting him.” Garnett returned the smile. “I don’t know why I apostrophized him, for […]

"Copy": A Dialogue

Story type: Literature

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Mrs. Ambrose Dale–forty, slender, still young–sits in her drawing-room at the tea-table. The winter twilight is falling, a lamp has been lit, there is a fire on the hearth, and the room is pleasantly dim and flower-scented. Books are scattered everywhere–mostly with autograph inscriptions “From the Author”–and a large portrait of Mrs. Dale, at her […]

The Recovery

Story type: Literature

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To the visiting stranger Hillbridge’s first question was, “Have you seen Keniston’s things?” Keniston took precedence of the colonial State House, the Gilbert Stuart Washington and the Ethnological Museum; nay, he ran neck and neck with the President of the University, a prehistoric relic who had known Emerson, and who was still sent about the […]

The Angel at the Grave

Story type: Literature

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The House stood a few yards back from the elm-shaded village street, in that semi-publicity sometimes cited as a democratic protest against old-world standards of domestic exclusiveness. This candid exposure to the public eye is more probably a result of the gregariousness which, in the New England bosom, oddly coexists with a shrinking from direct […]

The Duchess at Prayer

Story type: Literature

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Have you ever questioned the long shuttered front of an old Italian house, that motionless mask, smooth, mute, equivocal as the face of a priest behind which buzz the secrets of the confessional? Other houses declare the activities they shelter; they are the clear expressive cuticle of a life flowing close to the surface; but […]

The Moving Finger

Story type: Literature

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The news of Mrs. Grancy’s death came to me with the shock of an immense blunder–one of fate’s most irretrievable acts of vandalism. It was as though all sorts of renovating forces had been checked by the clogging of that one wheel. Not that Mrs. Grancy contributed any perceptible momentum to the social machine: her […]

The Confessional

Story type: Literature

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When I was a young man I thought a great deal of local color. At that time it was still a pigment of recent discovery, and supposed to have a peculiarly stimulating effect on the mental eye. As an aid to the imagination its value was perhaps overrated; but as an object of pursuit to […]

The Daunt Diana

Story type: Literature

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I “WHAT’S become of the Daunt Diana? You mean to say you never heard the sequel?” Ringham Finney threw himself back into his chair with the smile of the collector who has a good thing to show. He knew he had a good listener, at any rate. I don’t think much of Ringham’s snuff-boxes, but […]

His Father’s Son

Story type: Literature

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I AFTER his wife’s death Mason Grew took the momentous step of selling out his business and moving from Wingfield, Connecticut, to Brooklyn. For years he had secretly nursed the hope of such a change, but had never dared to suggest it to Mrs. Grew, a woman of immutable habits. Mr. Grew himself was attached […]

Madame de Treymes

Story type: Literature

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I John Durham, while he waited for Madame de Malrive to draw on her gloves, stood in the hotel doorway looking out across the Rue de Rivoli at the afternoon brightness of the Tuileries gardens. His European visits were infrequent enough to have kept unimpaired the freshness of his eye, and he was always struck […]

Touchstone

Story type: Literature

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The Touchstone I Professor Joslin, who, as our readers are doubtless aware, is engaged in writing the life of Mrs. Aubyn, asks us to state that he will be greatly indebted to any of the famous novelist’s friends who will furnish him with information concerning the period previous to her coming to England. Mrs. Aubyn […]

The Blond Beast

Story type: Literature

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I IT had been almost too easy–that was young Millner’s first feeling, as he stood again on the Spence door-step, the great moment of his interview behind him, and Fifth Avenue rolling its grimy Pactolus at his feet. Halting there in the winter light, with the clang of the ponderous vestibule doors in his ears, […]

The Eyes

Story type: Literature

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I WE had been put in the mood for ghosts, that evening, after an excellent dinner at our old friend Culwin’s, by a tale of Fred Murchard’s–the narrative of a strange personal visitation. Seen through the haze of our cigars, and by the drowsy gleam of a coal fire, Culwin’s library, with its oak walls […]

The Legend

Story type: Literature

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I ARTHUR BERNALD could never afterward recall just when the first conjecture flashed on him: oddly enough, there was no record of it in the agitated jottings of his diary. But, as it seemed to him in retrospect, he had always felt that the queer man at the Wades’ must be John Pellerin, if only […]

Full Circle

Story type: Literature

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I GEOFFREY BETTON woke rather late–so late that the winter sunlight sliding across his warm red carpet struck his eyes as he turned on the pillow. Strett, the valet, had been in, drawn the bath in the adjoining dressing-room, placed the crystal and silver cigarette-box at his side, put a match to the fire, and […]