The Age of Innocence ENDNOTES

1 (p. 8) “We’ll read Faust together ... by the Italian lakes ... ” he thought: Edith Wharton was acquainted not only with Gounod’s opera of the Faust legend but also with the epic poetic drama by Johann von Goethe (1749-1832) in which Faust, an aging intellectual, makes a contract with the devil, Mephistopheles, to procure immortality. Wharton knew German and copied passages by Goethe into her notebook (unpublished), translating some verses. Her use of the opera in The Age of Innocence not only reproduces the fashion of the day but provides a contrast between Faust’s contract and Newland’s honor and, at the end of the novel, his aging. In the opera, when Faust’s lover, Marguerite, becomes pregnant, he runs off. For Newland Archer, May’s announcement of the coming child seals his fate.

2 (p. 13) like her Imperial namesake, she had won her way to success by strength of will: This passage displays Catherine Mingott’s free spirit in her acquaintance with singers and dancers of note, with European nobility, and even with Catholics. Wharton allies her with Ellen Olenska, Medora Manson, Mrs. Struthers, Ned Winsett—characters in the novel who are not bound by convention. Like Catherine the Great (1729-1796), the powerful Empress with a flamboyant sexual nature, Catherine Mingott has been a patron of the arts, but she never shared in the Czarina’s sexual spirit. Throughout the novel, Wharton sets up opposing camps of those who are relatively free of social constraint and those who live strictly by the rules of old New York.

3 (p. 30) Mrs. Archer, who had long been a widow, lived with her son and daughter... Bulwer—who, however, was beginning to be thought old-fashioned): In this paragraph, Wharton describes the genteel taste of Archer’s family, always ordinary and safe. A Wardian case was a glass apparatus for raising plants; Good Words, an English periodical; Ouida’s novels, the popular works of Marie de la Ramée (1839-1908). The family’s preference for the historical novels of Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) over those of Charles Dickens and W. M. Thackeray reveals a humorless streak. Wharton read voraciously in English, French, German, and Italian. The literary references in the novel are carefully chosen to reflect the various characters. Newland is a gentleman reader who takes pleasure and refuge in his library. His reading list comes close to Wharton’s own in her reconstruction of the fashionable literature of the 1870s. At the outset of the novel, we learn that he does not admire Dickens or Thackeray, though her rendering of society brings to mind their comic vein, particularly Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. The difference between Wharton and Newland lies in his being tagged a dilettante, while throughout the novel she demonstrates with wit and brilliance the usefulness of her reading.

4 (p. 37) “Women should be free—as free as we are”: The question of women’s freedom runs throughout the novel. Here Newland’s exclamation is provoked by the “case of the Countess Olenska.” Ellen’s marriage to the Polish count was a complicated morganatic marriage. However, the ideal of freedom for women, like much of Newland Archer’s right thinking, remains rhetorical. According to Black’s Law Dictionary (1891), morganatic marriage is “a lawful and inseparable conjunction of a man of noble and illustrious birth, with a woman of inferior station, upon condition that neither the wife nor her children shall partake of the titles, arms or dignity of the husband, or succeed to his inheritance.... The marriage ceremony was regularly performed, the union was indisoluable.” (The article is signed “Wharton,” an amusing coincidence.)

5 (p. 42) who lived cheerfully and reminiscently among family portraits and Chippendale: Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) was an English furniture designer. Wharton’s use of decor and architecture of the era figures in her depiction of character. She was particularly attentive to architecture in her descriptions of old New York—to the brownstone rows, to the extravagance of the Beauforts’ mansion and Mrs. Mingott’s stone house uptown. With Ogden Codman, Jr., a Boston architect, she wrote The Decoration of Houses (1897), considered a classic book on interior design. Newland’s fears that May will adopt her mother’s fussy furnishings reflect Wharton’s own dislike of her mother’s overdressed rooms. Ellen Olenska’s house in the wrong part of town is casual and inviting, the van der Luyden’s colonial cottage spare and enchanting. All details of paintings and statues in the novel reveal character as well as class and are never mere decor.

6 (p. 71) She glanced at the writing-table ... opened a volume of the “Contes Drolatiques”: Newland is up-to-date as he reads the poetic drama of Algernon Swinburne (1837-1909). Contes Drolatigue is a collection of racy tales by the French writer Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850). Both works would be inappropriate reading for the innocent May.

7 (p. 85) Others had made the same attempt ... and some of the magazine editors and musical and literary critics: This paragraph and the one following mention celebrated performers and writers of the day. Edwin Booth (1833-1893) was the most famous tragic actor of the age. Washington Irving (1783-1859) would be the best-known American author.

8 (pp. 85-86) Newland Archer had been aware of these things ... to reach a stage of manners where they would naturally merge: This passage lists nineteenth-century writers of interest to Newland, including the French novelist Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870) and the English poets Robert Browning (1812-1889) and William Morris (1834-1896), who was also a designer and painter.

9 (p. 103) “You’re like the pictures on the walls of a deserted house: ‘The Portrait of a Gentleman. ’”: This is a reference to Henry James’s novel The Portrait of a Lady (1881). Literary critic R. W. B. Lewis points out that the portrait of Newland Archer in The Age of Innocence might be read as a tribute and reply to that novel.

10 (p. 112) “If only this new dodge for talking along a wire ... and the question of the telephone carried them safely back to the big house: Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876. Throughout the novel Wharton mentions inventions and technological advances: an early typewriter, a stylographic pen, the telephone (as here), and long distance—all as ways of tracking the passing years in the novel. Her characters’ attitude toward innovation reflects their closed- or open-mindedness. Their allusions to Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), the American poet who wrote tales of mystery, and to Jules Verne (1828-1905), the French writer of futuristic fantasy, are appropriate for their conversation on the new invention of the telephone.

11 (p. 114) That evening he unpacked his books ... as far outside the pale ofprobability as the visions of the night: This paragraph opens with reference to Newland’s reading of recently published works, among them a volume by Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), the English scientist and interpreter of Darwin, and the great novel Middlemarch, by George Eliot (1819-1880), as well as tales of the French writer Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897). The House of Life is a series of love poems by the English poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882).

12 (p. 210) a text from Jeremiah (chap. ii., verse 25) for his Thanksgiving sermon: The Bible text (Revised Standard Version) is: ”Keep your feet from going unshod / and your throat from thirst. / But you said, It is hopeless, / for I have loved strangers, / and after them I will go.“ Wharton is weaving in a verse on outsiders, foreigners or newly arrived people, which is misconstrued by Newland’s mother to mean fashionable trends.

13 (p. 219) Wall Street, the next day, had more reassuring reports of Beaufort’s situation: The panic of 1873 was, to put it simply, caused by the overextension of railroad bonds and a shrinking national economy. The failure of Jay Cooke, the financial expert who kept the Union afloat during the Civil War, begot other failures that would have an impact on the holdings of the privileged families of old New York. Beaufort brings to mind Jay Gould, the extravagant investor; unlike Gould, Beaufort did not buy devalued stocks to sustain the market. Taking up the insurance business was a comedown for Beaufort, who appears at the end of the novel to have been a survivor.

14 (p. 251) the queer wilderness of cast-iron and encaustic tiles known as the Metropolitan Museum: The current Metropolitan Museum ”in the Park“ was not built until 1880. Wharton is recalling the old museum at Fifty-third Street in Manhattan. The Wolfe collection is a collection of paintings given to the museum. Luigi Cesnola (1832-1904) was a collector of antiquities and the first director of the Metropolitan Museum.