Edith Wharton Quotes (112 Quotes)


    I swear I only want to hear about you, to know what you've been doing. It's a hundred years since we've met-it may be another hundred before we meet again.


    She herself had grown up without any one spot of earth being dearer than another: there was no center of earth pieties, of grave endearing traditions, to which her heart could revert and from which it could draw strength for itself and tenderness for others.

    In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs.



    She was so evidently the victim of the civilization which had produced her, that the links of her bracelet seemed like manacles chaining her to her fate.


    He knelt by the bed and bent over her, draining their last moment to its lees; and in the silence there passed between them the word which made all clear.

    She was very near hating him now; yet the sound of his voice, the way the light fell on his thin, dark hair, the way he sat and moved and wore his clothes-she was conscious that even these trivial things were inwoven with her deepest life.

    They stood together in the gloom of the spruces, an empty world glimmering about them wide and gray under the stars


    Her whole being dilated in an atmosphere of luxury. It was the background she required, the only climate she could breathe in.

    The real alchemy consists in being able to turn gold back again into something else; and that's the secret that most of your friends have lost.




    There is someone I must say goodbye to. Oh, not you - we are sure to see each other again - but the Lily Bart you knew. I have kept her with me all this time, but now we are going to part, and I have brought her back to you - I am going to leave her here. When I go out presently she will not go with me. I shall like to think that she has stayed with you.


    Something he knew he had missed: the flower of life. But he thought of it now as a thing so unattainable and improbable that to have repined would have been like despairing because one had not drawn the first prize in a lottery.

    I was just a screw or cog in the great machine I called life, and when I dropped out of it I found I was of no use anywhere else.

    They belonged to that vast group of human automata who go through life without neglecting to perform a single one of the gestures executed by the surrounding puppets.

    Archer had always been inclined to think that chance and circumstance played a small part in shaping people's lots compared with their innate tendency to have things happen to them.

    The boy was not insensitive, he knew; but he had the facility and self-confidence that came of looking at fate not as a master but as an equal.

    It was before him again in its completeness--the choice in which she was content to rest: in the stupid costliness of the food and the showy dulness of the talk, in the freedom of speech which never arrived at wit and the freedom of act which never made for romance.

    Archer reddened to the temples but dared not move or speak: it was as if her words had been some rare butterfly that the least motion might drive off on startled wings, but that might gather a flock if it were left undisturbed.

    The difference is that these young people take it for granted that they're going to get whatever they want, and that we almost always took it for granted that we shouldn't. Only, I wonder-the thing one's so certain of in advance: can it ever make one's heart beat as wildly?

    It was too late for happiness - but not too late to be helped by the thought of what I had missed. That is all I haved lived on - don't take it from me now

    Archer was too intelligent to think that a young woman like Ellen Olenska would necessarily recoil from everything that reminded her of her past. She might believe herself wholly in revolt against it; but what had charmed her in it would still charm her even though it were against her will.


    Lily had no real intimacy with nature but she had a passion for the appropriate and could be keenly sensitive to a scene which was the fitting background of her own sensations.

    But after a moment a sense of waste and ruin overcame him. There they were, close together and safe and shut in; yet so chained to their separate destinies that they might as well been half the world apart.

    The taste of the usual was like cinders in his mouth, and there were moments when he felt as if he were being buried alive under his future.

    Little as she was addicted to solitude, there had come to be moments when it seemed a welcome escape from the empty noises of her life.


    The very good people did not convince me; I felt they'd never been tempted. But you knew; you understood; you felt the world outside tugging at one with all its golden hands - and you hated the things it asked of one; you hated happiness bought by disloyalty and cruelty and indifference. That was what I'd never known before - and it's better than anything I've known.

    Most timidities have such secret compensations and Miss Bart was discerning enough to know that the inner vanity is generally in proportion to the outer self depreciation.


    There were certain things that had to be done, and if done at all, done handsomely and thoroughly; and one of these, in the old New York code, was the tribal rally around a kinswoman about to be eliminated from the tribe.

    One of the surprises of her unoccupied state was the discovery that time, when it is left to itself and no definite demands are made on it, cannot be trusted to move at any recognized pace

    He bent and laid his lips on her hands, which were cold and lifeless. She drew them away, and he turned to the door, found his coat and hat under the faint gas-light of the hall, and plunged out into the winter night bursting with the belated eloquence of the inarticulate.


    Selden and Lily stood still, accepting the unreality of the scene as a part of their own dream-like sensations. It would not have surprised them to feel a summer breeze on their faces, or to see the lights among the boughs reduplicated in the arch of a starry sky. The strange solitude about them was no stranger than the sweetness of being alone in it together.

    He had known the love that is fed on caresses and feeds them; but this passion that was closer than his bones was not to be superficially satisfied.

    With a shiver of foreboding he saw his marriage becoming what most of the other marriages about him were: a dull association of material and social interests held together by ignorance on the one side and hypocrisy on the other.

    She felt a stealing sense of fatigue as she walked; the sparkle had died out of her, and the taste of life was stale on her lips. She hardly knew what she had been seeking, or why the failure to find it had so blotted the light from her sky: she was only aware of a vague sense of failure, of an inner isolation deeper than the loneliness about her.

    I couldn't have spoken like this yesterday, because when we've been apart, and I'm looking forward to seeing you, every thought is burnt up in a great flame. But then you come; and you're so much more than I remembered, and what I want of you is so much more than an hour or two every now and then, with wastes of thirsty waiting between, that I can sit perfectly still beside you, like this, with that other vision in my mind, just quietly trusting it to come true.


    She had been bored all afternoon by Percy Gryce... but she could not ignore him on the morrow, she must follow up her success, must submit to more boredom, must be ready with fresh compliances and adaptibilities, and all on the bare chance that he might ultimately decide to do her the honour of boring her for life.

    I shan't be lonely now. I was lonely; I was afraid. But the emptiness and the darkness are gone; when I turn back into myself now I'm like a child going at night into a room where there's always a light.

    Do you remember what you said to me once? That you could help me only by loving me? Well-you did love me for a moment; and it helped me. It has always helped me.


    More Edith Wharton Quotations (Based on Topics)


    Life - Time - Light - Money & Wealth - Mind - World - Sense & Perception - Thought & Thinking - Art - Winter - Marriage - Faces - Sadness - Vanity - Food - Family - Solitude - Youth - Imagination & Visualization - View All Edith Wharton Quotations

    More Edith Wharton Quotations (By Book Titles)


    - Ethan Frome
    - The Age of Innocence
    - The House of Mirth

    Related Authors


    Malcolm Gladwell - Virginia Woolf - Neale Donald Walsch - Hans Christian Andersen - H. G. Wells - Suze Orman - Salvatore Quasimodo - Lewis Carroll - Joseph Campbell - Jared Diamond


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