The House of Mirth
by Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth Characters
Meet the Cast
Miss Lily Bart
Who is Lily Bart?Lily Bart is 29 when House of Mirth begins. She's beautiful – in a show-stopping kind of way – and she, and everyone around her, knows it. On top of her looks, Lily has...
Mr. Lawrence Selden
A Detached SpectatorIn The House of Mirth, Selden stands out for his dispassionate air toward society and money. He's a member of the social elite…but he doesn't really care. Basically, he's...
Mr. Simon Rosedale
The most interesting thing about Rosedale is the way Lily's vision of him – and accordingly our own vision – changes throughout the novel. Start at the beginning, when Lily encounters S...
Miss Gerty Farish
We were all ready to describe Gerty to you in heartbreaking detail, but then we remembered that Wharton does a much better job. Here you go:Miss Gertrude Farish, in fact, typified the mediocre and...
Mrs. Carry Fisher
"Small, fiery, and dramatic," this "striking divorcee" is one of the most interesting characters in House of Mirth. She combines Selden's killer perspective with Lily's love of the high life. She k...
Mrs. Bertha Dorset
"For always getting what she wants in the long run, commend me to a nasty woman." Mrs. Bertha Dorset is living proof of this statement. Throughout the novel we watch her have an affair, witness evi...
Mr. George Dorset
George Dorset is the quintessential House of Mirth husband. He makes a lot of money, he doesn't say much, and his wife has him completely under her thumb. As Mrs. Trenor says, "The poor creature ca...
Mrs. Julia Peniston
Lily's rich aunt who takes her in after her parents die. Julia is an old-fashioned woman and easily scandalized.
Miss Grace Stepney
Mrs. Peniston's niece and Lily's cousin. Grace is an example of what pride ultimately costs Lily; by not cultivating a relationship with Grace, Lily leaves herself open to attack. It is Grace who b...
"Where Mrs. Trenor leads, all the world follows." This woman is at the top of society's elite.
Gus Trenor is "red and massive." The physical disgust Lily feels towards this man is heightened by his sense of ownership over her after she gets him to speculate on the market on her behalf.
She and her husband are more socialites in Mrs. Trenor's circle.
Another mostly-silent husband in the crowd at Bellomont.
Mrs. Hudson Bart
Mrs. Hudson Bart, Lily's mother, had a great skill for living beyond her means. Treated her husband as a cash cow and ignored him when he was no longer able to support her extravagant tastes.
Lily's "neutral-tinted" father. Ended up "ruined" (or bankrupt), and was physically destroyed by the stresses of his work (and, in all likelihood, being married to Lily's mother).
Mr. Percy Gryce
Lily's main candidate for marriage when the novel begins. Percy is super-rich and incredibly boring.
Percy's mother, "a monumental woman with the voice of a pulpit orator and a mind preoccupied with the iniquities of her servants."
Mr. Jefferson Gryce
Mr. Jefferson Gryce is the owner of the famous Gryce Americana collection. He's Percy's uncle who left Percy his books and his millions.
"The New Heir to the Gryce Millions"
It seems that Percy and Evie have a son by the end of the novel, and this is how Wharton refers to the child.
Mrs. Maria Van Osburgh
The matriarch of this large family. She and Mrs. Trenor are engaged in a sort of territorial social war when the novel begins. She's famous for her parties, which are known as "the Van Osburgh crus...
Miss Gwen Van Osburgh
Gwen is one of Maria Van Osburgh's daughters. She is involved in a romance with Jack Stepney when the novel begins and marries him towards the beginning of Book I. (It is at this wedding that Lily...
Miss Evie Van Osburgh
Evie is the youngest of Maria Van Osburgh's three daughters. Much to Lily's dismay, Evie marries Percy Gryce. They have a son together by the end of the novel.
The other Van Osburgh daughter
The oldest of Maria's three daughters is not named. All we know is that she married Herbert Melson, the only man Lily was ever in love with at the time the novel begins.
Mr. Bertie Van Osburgh
Maria's only son, and her youngest child. Bertie is at Harvard for first half of the novel, but enters to the social scene in Book II. He's friends with Ned Silverton, who many worry is a bad influ...
Mrs. Alice Wetherall
Another married socialite. She has her hooks in Lucius the same way Mrs. Fisher did with Ned Silverton at the novel's start. Mrs. Wetherall and her husband are apparently rather boring.
Another quiet socialite husband.
Mr. Ned Van Alstyne
Lily's father's cousin. Rumor has it Lily borrowed money from him (before the novel's start), which is bad for her reputation and doesn't help her case in the Gus Trenor rumors. Ned is with Selden...
Mrs. Van Alstyne
Ned's wife. She takes part in the living portraits party at the Brys'.
Miss Molly Van Alstyne
Molly is the Alstynes' daughter. Mrs. Peniston says that Molly reminds her of herself as a young girl.
Mr. Ned Silverton
Ned is "a charming fair boy." He's is a young scholar who lives off wealthy, married women in exchange for his amusing company and, occasionally, other attentions as well. When the novel begins, Ne...
Like Ned, Lucius is a single young man living off a rich married woman. He is considered the property of Alice Wetherall.
Miss Kate Corby
"The comic woman of the company." Kate is introduced as another young, single woman at the dinner party at Bellomont with Selden, Lily, and Percy. Lily later sees her mingling with people lower dow...
Miss Hilda Trenor and Miss Muriel Trenor
These two young women may be the Trenors' children, though it's not clear. They attend church with Percy Gryce on the fateful morning when Lily skips out.
Mr. Jack Stepney
Lily's cousin, and a bachelor when the novel begins. He becomes engaged to Gwen Van Osburgh while staying at Bellomont, and it is at their wedding that Lily discovers Percy's engagement to Evie. Li...
The Duchess of Beltshire
The Big Kahuna social currency in Monte Carlo. Everyone wants to be seen with her. The Duchess takes a liking to Lily, but Lily fails to keep people like Mrs. Dorset included in her company –...
Lady Cressida Raith
The sister to the Duchess of Beltshire. She is in New York at the novel's beginning, and part of the territorial social battle between Maria Van Osburgh and Mrs. Trenor.
Lord Hubert Dacey
Lord Dacey is another wasted marriage opportunity for Lily, some time in the past (that is, before the novel begins). This is hinted at during Book II, where he takes part in the social scene in Mo...
Mr. Dabham is a gossip who writes "Society Notes for the Riviera." He hangs out with the social elite in Monte Carlo trying to get dirt for his paper. He publicizes the fact that Lily and George Do...
A rich man that Lily had the chance to marry when she first arrived in the social scene. Dillworth's mother didn't like Lily and had her son sent off to India to prevent the marriage.
Mr. Herbert Melson
Herbert Melson is the only man Lily has ever been in love with (before Selden). He married the oldest Van Osburgh daughter before the novel begins.
Mrs. Louisa Bry
Mrs. Bry is "a lady of obscure origins and indomitable social ambitions." She throws the party in the Adirondacks over Thanksgiving along with Carry Fisher's help. Her husband (#2 for her) is Welly...
Mr. Wellington Bry
Mr. Bry is more interesting than his wife. He's the only one of Lily's set that actually amuses the Duchess in Monte Carlo.
Mrs. Mattie Gormer
Another socialite trying to break into the elite crowd. Mrs. Fisher latches on to the Gormers after her break with the Brys in Monte Carlo, and Lily later joins their set after her break with Berth...
Mr. Sam Gormer
Another silent socialite husband.
An actress with a questionable reputation who hangs with the Gormers.
Mr. Paul Morpeth
The portrait-painter for the Brys party. Lily later encounters him in the Gormers' set.
Mrs. Norma Hatch
Mrs. Hatch is the woman for whom Lily is a social secretary in Book II. She is a divorcee who came from the West with a lot of money and is trying to break into the New York scene. Mrs. Hatch has a...
Mr. Melville Stancy
Mr. Stancy is a divorce lawyer. He's the common acquaintance between Mrs. Fisher and Mrs. Hatch.
Mrs. Trenor's secretary. Miss Pragg absent while Lily is staying at Bellomont, which is why Lily has to help Mrs. Trenor with letter-writing and other formalities.
The charwoman at the Benedick who later sells Bertha Dorset's letters to Lily.
Miss Jane Silverton
Ned's sister. She and her sister are screwed over by Ned's gambling debts, and Gerty tries to help the women by finding them employment.
Miss Annie Silverton
Ned's other sister.
Madam Regina owns the hat shop in which Lily works at the end of Book II.
Miss Haines is the forewoman at Madame Regina's and Lily's (disgruntled) boss.
Mrs. Nettie Struther
The woman Lily encounters at the end of the novel. She shows our protagonist that it's possible to be poor yet safe and happy.
Nettie Struther's husband.
The infant girl that Lily holds at the end of the novel.