Study Guide

The House of Mirth Book 1, Chapter 10

By Edith Wharton

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Book 1, Chapter 10

  • Autumn continues, and Lily remains with Mrs. Peniston. She spends all the money she keeps getting from Gus, without any forethought or squirreling some away for a rainy day.
  • One day, while she is out shopping (of course), Lily runs into Gerty Farish. Gerty has just come from a meeting regarding her latest philanthropic cause, a Girls Club for working-class women.
  • Lily is touched by the thought of charity and gives a chunk of dough to Gerty for the cause. This makes her feel good about herself, which is why she did it.
  • Around this time, Lily receives an invitation to spend Thanksgiving in the Adirondacks, organized by Carry Fisher. The party is hosted by Mrs. Wellington Bry, "a lady of obscure origins and indomitable social ambitions." Her husband, known as Welly Bry, is a stock exchange guy and Louisa Bry's second match. She dumped the first because he was getting them nowhere. Now she has essentially hooked onto Carry Fisher, who spends Mrs. Bry's money in exchange for pulling her up the social ladder.
  • Mrs. Bry also admires Lily, which is some nice ego-stroking for our heroine. She attends the Thanksgiving festivities and returns home elated.
  • Unfortunately for her spirits, Mr. Rosedale stops by to visit her a few days after she comes back. Now, Lily suspects that he has something to do with her "good luck" on the stock market, so she has to tread carefully here.
  • Rosedale invites her to a seat in his opera box on opening night, adding that Carry Fisher and Gus Trenor will be there as well (and that Gus is pretty desperate to see Lily).
  • Lily finds this whole thing distasteful, but, when Rosedale mentions her recent "luck" on Wall Street, it pretty much drives the point home. She agrees to go.
  • On his way out, Rosedale congratulates himself for playing his cards just right. He knows he "took advantage of [Lily's] nervousness" regarding her relationship with Gus Trenor (and Gus's money).
  • Once alone, Lily fumes that Gus dared to tell Rosedale of their little financial arrangement. Still, she knows that Mrs. Trenor is going to break soon and finally introduce Rosedale to society at her arm, so Lily figures she might as well reap the benefits of being one of his early friends.
  • At the opera, Lily spends a few paragraphs basking in the glow of her own radiant beauty and the admiring gazes from those around her.
  • Of course, she doesn't realize that Gus's money paid for that radiant dress she's wearing.
  • But Gus does. And he's mad that he gets no greater privilege with Lily than all the other guys staring at her.
  • When the two of them are alone between acts, Gus asks Lily (somewhat gruffly) why it is that he never gets to see her anymore.
  • Lily is offended by his implication that she owes him, but she responds that he can visit her any time he likes at her aunt's.
  • That's not what he had in mind. He wants to be alone with her.
  • They continue to argue until George Dorset's arrival interrupts the discussion. Lily is relieved to see him; she's one of the few women who have taken the time to be nice to Mr. Dorset, and she feels that it will pay off.
  • Dorset chats with Lily for a bit and says that his wife wants him to invite her down to their place next Sunday, to help them deal with all of Ned Silverton's intellectual bores who will be in attendance. He mentions that Ned and Bertha have been getting very close lately.
  • Lily is ecstatic; if Mrs. Dorset wants her over for dinner, it must mean that she intends for them to be friends again. Lily feels no desire for revenge against Bertha – she just wants the malice between them to dissipate.

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