Author(s): Edith Wharton
This title includes three beloved novels by Edith Wharton, in a couture-inspired Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition designed by a fashion illustrator for Alexander McQueen. This edition celebrates the 150th anniversary of Edith Wharton's birth in 2012. "The House of Mirth": Nineteen year old Lily Bart is in need of a rich husband to safeguard her place in the social elite. Unwilling to marry without both love and money, Lily becomes vulnerable to gossip. Wharton charts the course of Lily's life, providing a wider picture of a society in transition; a changing New York where old manners, morals and family attitudes are being replaced by the view that an individual is an expendable commodity. "The Custom of the Country": Mr and Mrs Spragg are hoping to forge an entree into society and arrange a suitably ambitious match for their only daughter. Wharton's story of Undine Spragg affords us a detailed glimpse of the interior decor of upper-class America and its nouveau riche. Through a heroine who is as vain and spoiled as she is fascinating, Wharton conveys a vision of social behaviour that is both informed and disenchanted. "The Age of Innocence": When the Countess Ellen Olenska flees Europe and her brutish husband, her rebellious independence stirs the educated sensitivity of Newland Archer, already engaged to the Countess' cousin May Welland. As the drama unfolds, Edith Wharton's sharp ironic wit and Jamesian mastery of form create a disturbingly accurate picture of men and women caught in a society that denies humanity while desperately defending "civilisation".
Edith Wharton was born Edith Newbold Jones in New York in 1862. A member of a distinguished New York family, she married Edward Robbins Wharton, but divorced him in 1913. From 1910 until her death, she made her home in France. In 1915 the French government gave her the cross of the Legion of Honour for her guidance and charity during the First World War. Wharton won outstanding success with The House of Mirth. During her life she published more than forty volumes: novels, stories, verse, essays, travel books and memoirs.