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The House of Mirth

The House of Mirth


by Edith Wharton

Miss Lily Bart Timeline and Summary

  • Lily encounters Selden in the train station while she's on her way to Bellomont. She goes back to his place for tea, where they discuss her attempts to marry, his Americana, and his cousin Gerty Farish.
  • Lily bumps into Simon Rosedale as she leaves the Benedick and tells a lie to explain her presence there. She then refuses a ride to the train station from him. On the way in a cab, she berates herself for handling the situation so awkwardly.
  • On the train to Bellomont, Lily zeroes in on Percy Gryce and gets him started on the topic of his Americana. She is perturbed when they are interrupted by Bertha Dorset.
  • Lily loses a ton of money at bridge, goes back to her room alone, reminisces about her childhood and decides that she needs to marry Percy, even if he is extremely dull.
  • The next morning, Lily helps Mrs. Trenor write invitations to her party. They discuss Bertha and Selden, as well as Percy Gryce.
  • Lily works her charms and gets Percy right where she wants him. She's distraught when Selden shows up.
  • Lily skips out on church with Percy to steal Selden from Bertha. They go for a walk together, flirt, and discuss the gilded cage of society.
  • Lily loses Percy when Bertha retaliates on account of Selden. She's still in trouble financially, so she gets Gus Trenor to speculate on the stock market for her.
  • She starts receiving checks regularly from Gus, who expects certain attentions in return.
  • At Jack and Gwen's wedding, Lily is forced to play nice with Rosedale. She also finds out that Percy and Evie have gotten engaged.
  • Lily returns to her aunt's, where the charwoman Mrs. Haffen blackmails her with Bertha's letters. Lily purchases them and sets them aside for future use.
  • Lily bumps into Gerty Farish and makes a donation for her Girls Club charity.
  • She goes to the opera with Simon and Gus; Gus is getting more and more difficult to handle.
  • Grace and Lily get on bad terms, and Grace retaliates by telling Mrs. Peniston about her niece's activities.
  • Everyone attends the living portrait party, where Lily does a wonderful job of impersonating a mute and motionless beauty. Selden gets her alone and decides he wants to marry her.
  • The next day Lily gets a note from Selden and agrees to meet him the next afternoon. She also gets a note from Judy Trenor and agrees to meet her that night.
  • Lily goes to dinner with Mrs. Fisher and then to see Judy Trenor. Unfortunately, she finds herself alone with Gus, who tries to coerce her into sex to pay him back for the money he gave her.
  • Lily flees the premises and is spotted by Ned Van Alstyne and Selden on her way out. She runs to Gerty's place. Gerty takes her in and she spends the night there.
  • The next day, Lily is distraught to find that Selden stands her up. Instead, Rosedale stops by and proposes to her, but Lily turns him down.
  • She finds out that Selden left for Europe, and is invited along to the Caribbean with the Dorsets.
  • Cut to Book Two. In Europe, Lily is aboard the Sabrina with the Dorsets. She's been a big hit in Europe, particularly with the Duchess, who is the social Big Kahuna.
  • Carry hands Lily over the Brys before she leaves.
  • Lily tries to smooth things over between Bertha and George, only to find herself caught in the crossfire. Selden tries to get her out in time, but she doesn't listen and she finds herself thrown off the yacht.
  • Jack Stepney begrudgingly takes her in for the night.
  • Lily returns to America after her aunt's death, only to find that she has essentially been disinherited. She's been left only ten thousand dollars, which will take some time to come to her.
  • While out to lunch with Gerty, Lily is effectively snubbed by Judy Trenor. She realizes that she's been socially executed. She goes to Grace for an advance on the ten grand, which Grace refuses to give her.
  • Mrs. Fisher helps Lily out by setting her up with a family of second tier social standing, the Gormers.
  • George comes to Lily looking for salvation, but Lily refuses to help him end his marriage.
  • Lily tries to marry Simon Rosedale, but he's not interested unless she reconciles with Bertha by using the letters for blackmail.
  • Bertha sabotages Lily's relationship with the Gormers; Lily slides down to the role of social secretary to a woman of even lower social status, Mrs. Hatch.
  • Selden tries to rescue Lily from Mrs. Hatch, but Lily refuses to be helped.
  • Next thing we know, Lily is trying and failing to work as a milliner. She's also been taking chloral to help her sleep.
  • Lily bumps into Simon Rosedale and explains to him about what happened with Gus and her desire to pay back her debt. She refuses any help from him on two occasions.
  • Lily decides to use the letters to blackmail Bertha, but, on the way to the Dorsets', she stops by Selden's. Lily thanks him for everything he's ever told her, experiences another moral awakening, and chucks the letters into the fire.
  • On her way home, she is stopped by Nettie Struther and goes back to Nettie's place, where she taps into her maternal instinct.
  • Back at home, Lily finds that her inheritance check finally came. She makes out a check to Trenor, puts her finances in order, and heads to the chloral bottle. Lily overdoses and dies, though whether or not her death is intentional suicide is up for debate.