Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wordsmith defines wordsmith as: an expert in the use of words. Whenever I read Edith Wharton's The Age Of Innocence, I am once again delighted by her proficient use of words, her turn of language, her subtle use of well-placed descriptions that create a sharply vivid picture in the mind of the reader. In my opinion, she was a master wordsmith.

Let me share a few of my favorite passages with you.

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 gaslight of the hall, and plunged out into the winter night bursting with the belated eloquence of the inarticulate.

"Oh presently - let's run a race first: my feet are freezing to the ground," she cried; and gathering up the (red) cloak she fled away across the snow, the dog leaping about her with challenging barks. For a moment, Archer stood watching, his gaze delighted by the flash of the red meteor against the snow; then he started after her, and they met, panting and laughing, at a wicket that led into the park.

The white glitter of the trees filled the air with its own mysterious brightness, and as they walked on over the snow the ground seemed to sing under their feet.

He stared at her, groping in a blackness through which a single arrow of light tore its blinding way.

He had her in his arms, her face like a wet flower at his lips, and all their vain terrors shrivelling up like ghosts at sunrise. The one thing that astonished him now was that he should have stood for five minutes arguing with her across the width of the room, when just touching her made everything so simple.

He turned away with a sense of utter weariness. He felt as though he had been struggling for hours up the face of a steep precipice, and now, just as he had fought his way to the top, his hold had given way and he was pitching down headlong into darkness.

"Darling!" Archer said - and suddenly the same black abyss yawned before him and he felt himself sinking into it, deeper and deeper, while his voice rambled on smoothly and cheerfully. "Yes, of course I thought I'd lost the ring; no wedding would be complete if the poor devil of a bridegroom didn't go through that. But you did keep me waiting, you know! I had time to think of every horror that might possibly happen."

There was something about the luxury of the Welland house and the density of the Welland atmosphere, so charged with minute observances and exactions, that always stole into his system like a narcotic. The heavy carpets, the watchful servants, the perpetually reminding tick of the disciplined clocks, the perpetually renewed stack of cards and invitations on the hall table, the whole chain of tyrannical trifles binding one hour to the next, and each member of the household to all the others, made any less systematised and affluent existence seem unreal and precarious. But now it was the Welland house, and the life he was expected to lead in it, that had become unreal and irrelevant, and the brief scene on the shore, when he had stood irresolute, half-way down the bank, was as close to him as the blood in his veins.

All the beauty that had forsaken her face seemed to have taken refuge in the long pale fingers and faintly dimpled knuckles on his sleeve, and he said to himself: "If it were only to see her hand again I should have to follow her --."

--all passages taken from The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton


  1. Wow. Aren't these amazing? Thanks for sharing.

  2. These are some of what keeps me going back and reading that book over and over again. :)