Study Guide

The House of Mirth Book 1, Chapter 8

By Edith Wharton

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Book 1, Chapter 8

  • Next thing we know, Lily's getting a thousand dollar check from Gus Trenor. Score.
  • Lily makes some payments to the dressmakers, shoemakers, etc. she owes, but doesn't stop herself from putting in some new orders, too.
  • Meanwhile, it's easy to keep Gus happy and on her side. All she has to do is laugh at his jokes and pretend his stories are entertaining. And Mrs. Trenor just figures Lily is paying her back for her kindnesses by being a good friend to her husband.
  • Lily assumes that Gus is still speculating on the stock market and that he just happens to keep winning with her money. She's sure that if he lost with it, he would tell her and she would pay him back.
  • Meanwhile, Jack Stepney is marrying Gwen Van Osburgh. Lily passes on being a bridesmaid, since she'd rather wait until she's the bride to take part in another wedding.
  • At the wedding ceremony, Lily spots Percy Gryce. Lily knows that she looks really good today, and she figures she can win him back sometime between the vows and the rice-throwing.
  • But, then, she spots Selden, too. She doesn't want to see him since he's a reminder of her big blunder back at Bellomont, when she lost the prospect of marrying Gryce.
  • Lily also sees Gerty Farish, whom she considers "dingy," particularly when she assesses her wardrobe. "It is almost as stupid to let your clothes betray that you know you are ugly as to have them proclaim that you think you are beautiful," Lily thinks.
  • Gerty is apparently unaware of Lily's disdain. She chatters on like they're old friends. Gerty is particularly excited because Selden escorted her to the wedding and invited her to have dinner with him afterwards. She says she told Selden he ought to marry a nice girl, but he responded that he didn't care for the nice girls, and the other kind didn't care for him.
  • Meanwhile, Lily checks out the bling at the wedding and feels as though it compliments "her own jewel-like rareness."
  • Gerty points out the massive diamond pendant which was a wedding gift for the bride from Simon Rosedale. And a big sapphire from Percy Gryce. (Salt in the wound. Ouch.)
  • Then, Gerty drops the bomb: Percy is all over Evie Van Osburgh these days. The real kicker is that the Van Osburghs are so wealthy that Evie doesn't need his money at all.
  • Lily is horrified. So, it's not the best moment for Gus to come up and put his hand on her as though they're best buds. This angers her even more, especially when he calls her "Lily" instead of "Miss Bart" and comments on how attractive she looks.
  • He also announces – loudly – that he has another check for her, which alarms Lily. (The loud part, not the check part. The check part is good.)
  • Lily again returns her thoughts to Percy. She decides to steal him back from Evie.
  • Except, while she is plotting, Gus is still standing there, disgruntled that Lily isn't paying more attention to him. He tells Lily to come see him at Bellomont that night, since Judy won't be around.
  • Lily says she can't; Trenor again expresses his frustration with her for not spending more time with him.
  • So, Trenor asks for another favor in return for all this dough he's been giving her: be nice to Simon Rosedale, since he's the guy supplying all these great tips on the stock market.
  • Lily agrees, and the two of them go looking for Rosedale. On the way, they bump into Selden, which makes Lily's heart go pitter-pat, or possibly all-aflutter. They haven't seen each other since that private walk at Bellomont.
  • They banter for a bit about Lily's fate in society, but Trenor soon drags Rosedale over and interrupts congenially. His "we're best buddies!" tone of voice ticks off Lily some more.
  • Lily knows it's time for her to start the charming Lily Bart act, but she has trouble performing in front of Selden. She gives Rosedale a look that says, "Do you seriously expect me to talk to you?"
  • Rosedale responds by casually mentioning Lily's dressmaker at the Benedick…
  • And that does the trick. Lily goes off for a little chat with Rosedale, knowing all the while that Selden must have picked up on what happened outside his flat in New York.
  • As the party draws to its conclusion, Lily realizes she hasn't been able to find Percy yet. Evie is also nowhere to be seen, which she takes to be a bad sign.
  • Finally, she bumps into Mrs. Van Osburgh, who is all flustered and excited. She tells Lily that Evie and Percy have just gotten engaged.

The House of Mirth Book 1, Chapter 8 Study Group

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