The House of Mirth

The House of Mirth (La casa de la alegría) es una novela de Edith Wharton y cuenta la historia de Lily Bart, una empobrecida mujer que pertenecía a la alta sociedad de Nueva York. The House of Mirth fue publicada en 1905.
Selden paused in surprise. In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart.
It was a Monday in early September, and he was returning to his work from a hurried dip into the country; but what was Miss Bart doing in town at that season? If she had appeared to be catching a train, he might have inferred that he had come on her in the act of transition between one and another of the country-houses which disputed her presence after the close of the Newport season; but her aimless air perplexed him. She stood apart from the crowd, letting it float by her to the platform or the street, and wearing an air of irresolution which might, as he deduced, be the mask of a very definite purpose. It struck him at once that she was waiting for someone, but he hardly knew why the idea arrested him. There was nothing new about Lily Bart, yet he could never see her without a faint movement of interest: it was characteristic of her that she always roused speculation, that her simplest acts seemed the result of far-reaching intentions.
An impulse of curiosity made him turn out of his direct line to the door, and stroll past her. He knew that if she did not wish to be seen she would contrive to elude him; and it amused him to think of putting her skill to the test.
"Mr. Selden—what good luck!"

She came forward smiling, eager almost, in her resolve to intercept him. One or two persons, in brushing past them, lingered to look; for Miss Bart was a figure to arrest even the suburban traveller rushing to his last train.
Selden had never seen her more radiant. Her vivid head, relieved against the grey colors of the crowd, made her more conspicuous than in a ball-room, and under her dark hat and veil she regained the girlish smoothness, the purity of color, that she was beginning to lose after eleven years of late hours and indefatigable dancing. Was it really eleven years, Selden found himself wondering, and had she indeed reached the nine-and-twentieth birthday with which her rivals credited her?
"What luck!" she repeated. "How nice of you to come to my rescue!"
He responded joyfully that to do so was his mission in life, and asked what form the rescue was to take.
"Oh, almost any—even to sitting on a bench and talking to me. One sits out a cotillion—why not sit out a train? It isn't a bit hotter here than in Mrs. Van Osburgh's conservatory—and some of the women are not a bit uglier." She broke off, laughing, to explain that she had come up to town from Tuxedo, on her way to the Gus Trenors' at Bellomont, and had missed the three-fifteen train to Rhinebeck. "And there isn't another till half-past five." She consulted the little jewelled watch among her laces. "Just two hours to wait. And I don't know what to do with myself. My maid came up this morning to do some shopping for me, and was to go on to Bellomont at one o'clock, and my aunt's house is closed, and I don't know a soul in town." She glanced sadly about the station. "It IS hotter than Mrs. Van Osburgh's, after all. If you can spare the time, do take me somewhere for a breath of air."
He declared himself entirely at her disposal: the adventure struck him as diverting. As a spectator, he had always enjoyed Lily Bart; and his course lay so far out of her orbit that it amused him to be drawn for a moment into the sudden intimacy which her proposal implied.
"Shall we go over to Sherry's for a cup of tea?"
She smiled assentingly, and then made a slight expression.
"So many people come up to town on a Monday—one is sure to meet a lot of bores. I'm as old as the hills, of course, and it ought not to make any difference; but if I'M old enough, you're not," she objected gaily. "I'm dying for tea—but isn't there a quieter place?"
He answered her smile, which rested on him vividly. Her discretions interested him almost as much as her imprudences: he was so sure that both were part of the same carefully-elaborated plan. In judging Miss Bart, he had always made use of the "argument from design."
"The resources of New York are rather meagre," he said; "but I'll find a hansom first, and then we'll invent something." He led her through the mass of returning holiday-makers, past pale-faced girls in ridiculous hats, and flat-chested women struggling with paper bundles and palm-leaf fans. Was it possible that she belonged to the same race? The greyness, the crudity of this average section of womanhood made him feel how highly specialized she was.
A rapid shower had cooled the air, and clouds still hung refreshingly over the moist street.
"How delicious! Let us walk a little," she said as they emerged from the station.
They turned into Madison Avenue and began to stroll northward. As she moved beside him, with her long light step, Selden was conscious of taking a luxurious pleasure in her nearness: in the modelling of her little ear, the crisp upward wave of her hair—was it ever so slightly brightened by art?—and the thick planting of her straight black lashes. Everything about her was at once vigorous and exquisite, at once strong and fine. He had a confused sense that she must have cost a great deal to make, that a great many dull and ugly people must, in some mysterious way, have been sacrificed to produce her. He was aware that the qualities distinguishing her from the herd of her sex were chiefly external: as though a fine glaze of beauty and fastidiousness had been applied to vulgar clay. Yet the analogy left him unsatisfied, for a coarse texture will not take a high finish; and was it not possible that the material was fine, but that circumstance had fashioned it into a futile shape?
As he reached this point in his speculations the sun came out, and her lifted parasol cut off his enjoyment. A moment or two later she paused with a sigh… (Paragraphs from The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton, in easier English. )
Hansom, 1877

Vocabulario
Hansom: carro tirado por un caballo con un techo fijo. El conductor se sentaba a una altura exterior en la parte de atrás. Fue diseñado en 1834 por Joseph Hansom, arquitecto de Nueva York. Los pasajeros podían dar sus órdenes al conductor a través de una trampa cerca del techo.
La obra
The House of Mirth fue serializada en Scribner´s Magazine, comenzando en enero de 1905. Atrajo a lectores tanto entre las amas de casa como entre los hombres de negocios. Charles Scribner le escribió a la autora en noviembre de 1905 que la novela mostraba “el mayor porcentaje de ventas que cualquier otro libro publicado por Scribner”. Los derechos de autor se valuaron en más de medio millón de dólares en dinero actual. El éxito comercial y de la crítica de The House of Mirth apuntaló la reputación de Wharton con una gran novelista.
Artículos relacionados
La casa de la alegría (en preparación)

... -¡Dios mio! ¡Estoy tan acalorada y sedienta! ¡Qué odioso lugar es Nueva York! –se quejó mirando desesperadamente hacia la calle.
-Otras ciudades se ponen sus mejores ropas en el verano, pero Nueva York parece conformarse con mangas de camisas.
Sus ojos se posaron en una de las calles laterales y dijo: -Alguien ha tenido la humanidad de plantar unos cuantos árboles allí. Vamos debajo de las sombras.
-Me alegro que mi calle sea de su aprobación –dijo Selden mientras doblaban la esquina.
-¿Su calle? ¿Usted vive aquí?...

Etham Frome

Recursos
The House of Mirth, para leer la obra en internet.
The House of Mirth, scene from the movie adaptation of the classic novel by Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (2000) where Lily Bart (Gillian Anderson) and Lawrence Selden (Eric Stoltz) kiss and obliquely profess their forbidden love for each other.