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JUL
18
Edith Wharton on Rossetti's House of Life
Posted July 18th, 2014 @ 12:36 pm EST

An apt description of Rossetti's sonnet sequence came in 1920s from Edith Wharton in The Age of Innocence:

"That evening he [Newland Archer] unpacked his books from London. The box was full of things he had been waiting for impatiently; a new volume of Herbert Spencer, another collection of the prolific Alphonse Daudet's brilliant tales, and a novel called Middlemarch, as to which there had lately been interesting things said in the reviews. He had declined three dinner invitation in favor of this feast; but though he turned the pages with the sensuous joy of the book-lover, he did not know what he was reading, and one book after another dropped from his hand. Suddenly, among them, he lit on a small volume of verse which he had ordered because the name had attracted him: The House of Life. He took it up, and found himself plunged in an atmosphere unlike any he had ever breathed in books; so warm, so rich, and yet so ineffably tender, that it gave a new and haunting beauty to the most elementary of human passions. All through the night he pursued through those enchanted pages the vision of a woman who had the face of Ellen Olenska; but when he woke  the next morning, and looked out at the brownstone houses across the street, and thought of his desk in Mr. Letterblair's office, and the family pew in Grace Church, his hour in the park of Skytercliff became as far outside the pale of probability as the visions of the night." (Norton edition, p. 87)

Thank you to my cousin Anne Langendorfer for sending this along.

Image Credit: Original Dustcover, 1920, Bauman Rare Books.

Link: books.wwnorton.com


 
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