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Illustrations from the first edition of The House of Mirth
House of Mirth Cover--first edition
About the text

After a serial run in Scribner's Magazine from January through November 1905,  The House of Mirth was published on October 14, 1905, by Charles Scribner's Son's, with illustrations for both editions by A. B. Wenzell. 

According to Shari Benstock's No Gifts from Chance, "By October 28, two weeks after book publication, the first printing of forty thousand copies and a second printing of twenty thousand had sold out.  A third edition of twenty thousand more copies was, in the parlance of the publishing trade, 'almost exhausted,' Edith recorded in her diary on October 28: 'H. of M. bestselling book in New York.' . . . By year's end, 140,000 books had been printed, and in early 1906, the book climbed to the top of the bestseller list, surpassing Upton Sinclair's Jungle and its horrifying expose of the Chicago meat-packing industry" (150).

The title, as reviewers at the time noted, is taken from Ecclesiastes 7:4: "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."  Writing in August 1905 to William Crary Brownell at Scribner's, Wharton refused to let this quotation be used as the book's epigraph: "Even when I sank to the depth of letting the illustrations be put in the book--& oh, I wish I hadn't now!--I never contemplated a text on the title page. . . . I think the title explains itself amply as the tale progresses" (Letters, ed. R.W. B. Lewis and Nancy Lewis, 94).

The illustrations on the following pages have been scanned from the first edition. Each picture file ranges from 50-90k. in size, so it may take a minute to load. Click on the blue arrows to move forward or backward in viewing the pictures. 

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The House of Mirth in plain text format from Project Gutenberg
The House of Mirth in .pdf format at Penn State



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