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Roman Fever and Other Stories (original 1964; edition 1997)

by Edith Wharton

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414925,667 (4.09)53
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Title:Roman Fever and Other Stories
Authors:Edith Wharton
Info:Scribner (1997), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Short Stories

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Roman Fever and Other Stories by Edith Wharton (1964)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
The lead into the story sets an uneasy tone of distance between the two women. The author begins the story by showing us the two mothers sitting on a terrace of a roman restaurant. The distance is well represented in the text by the careful word choice, for example, in the lead the women “looked first at each other, and then down on the out spread glories of Palatine and the Form.” This looking at each other then looking out at the scene before them is the sort of thing that strangers or acquaintances would do. As the reader gets more into the story, the author again sets the distance between the two women, “perhaps we didn’t know much more about each other.” When Mrs. Ansley says this to Mrs. Slade, it conveys to the reader that Mrs. Ansley is hiding something from her companion. Again, the author shows us space between the two, “for a few moments the two ladies, who had been intimate since childhood, reflected on how little they knew each other.”


As the two women reflect, they both stereotype each other into neat little molds in their heads without ever scratching below the surface. Their friendship exists only on a superficial level. Mrs. Slade as described by Mrs. Ansley was beautiful and vibrant, full of life and excitement in her past; but in her present she is depressed and “full of failures and mistakes.” Mrs. Ansley by Mrs. Slades description is beautiful yet dull, in past and present, “Museum specimens of old New York.” Mrs. Slade spends a lot of time contemplating her past and present relations with Mrs. Ansley. She also spends a lot of time being jealous of Mrs. Ansley’s daughter because she is more exciting then her own daughter. We learn that the two women after getting married around the same time also lived in New York across the street from one another. The two women’s husbands also died around the same time. These superficial similarities seem to be all that their friendship is based upon: “The similarity of their lot had again drawn them together.” They had no real conversation flow between them, as you expect old friends to have. There are no specific memories of anything that the two of them did together in the past or present of the entire text. Another good example of how little they knew of each other: “So these two ladies visualized each other, each through the wrong end of her little telescope.” When you look through the wrong end of a telescope you see very little of the big picture.


The author’s focus is on the tone of uneasiness, which finally makes its full-blown entrance as the two women sit in silence on the terrace. Mrs. Slade, the longer she sits, seems to become more and more jealous of her companion. “She thought:” I must make one more effort not to hate her.” Yet in her attempt not to hate her, she cannot help but to hate Mrs. Ansley. She learns that Mrs. Ansley not only was in love with Delphin, but that she slept with him and had his child, Barbara. This proves to be the reason why Mrs. Ansley’s mother rushed her off to Florence to get married quickly to Horace only two months after her affair with Delphin.


The ending was not what I had readily expected, but the tone had been set for it from the lead into the story. This explains the uneasy feelings between the two women and the superficial friendship.
  TamaraJCollins | Mar 10, 2016 |
The lead into the story sets an uneasy tone of distance between the two women. The author begins the story by showing us the two mothers sitting on a terrace of a roman restaurant. The distance is well represented in the text by the careful word choice, for example, in the lead the women “looked first at each other, and then down on the out spread glories of Palatine and the Form.” This looking at each other then looking out at the scene before them is the sort of thing that strangers or acquaintances would do. As the reader gets more into the story, the author again sets the distance between the two women, “perhaps we didn’t know much more about each other.” When Mrs. Ansley says this to Mrs. Slade, it conveys to the reader that Mrs. Ansley is hiding something from her companion. Again, the author shows us space between the two, “for a few moments the two ladies, who had been intimate since childhood, reflected on how little they knew each other.”


As the two women reflect, they both stereotype each other into neat little molds in their heads without ever scratching below the surface. Their friendship exists only on a superficial level. Mrs. Slade as described by Mrs. Ansley was beautiful and vibrant, full of life and excitement in her past; but in her present she is depressed and “full of failures and mistakes.” Mrs. Ansley by Mrs. Slades description is beautiful yet dull, in past and present, “Museum specimens of old New York.” Mrs. Slade spends a lot of time contemplating her past and present relations with Mrs. Ansley. She also spends a lot of time being jealous of Mrs. Ansley’s daughter because she is more exciting then her own daughter. We learn that the two women after getting married around the same time also lived in New York across the street from one another. The two women’s husbands also died around the same time. These superficial similarities seem to be all that their friendship is based upon: “The similarity of their lot had again drawn them together.” They had no real conversation flow between them, as you expect old friends to have. There are no specific memories of anything that the two of them did together in the past or present of the entire text. Another good example of how little they knew of each other: “So these two ladies visualized each other, each through the wrong end of her little telescope.” When you look through the wrong end of a telescope you see very little of the big picture.


The author’s focus is on the tone of uneasiness, which finally makes its full-blown entrance as the two women sit in silence on the terrace. Mrs. Slade, the longer she sits, seems to become more and more jealous of her companion. “She thought:” I must make one more effort not to hate her.” Yet in her attempt not to hate her, she cannot help but to hate Mrs. Ansley. She learns that Mrs. Ansley not only was in love with Delphin, but that she slept with him and had his child, Barbara. This proves to be the reason why Mrs. Ansley’s mother rushed her off to Florence to get married quickly to Horace only two months after her affair with Delphin.


The ending was not what I had readily expected, but the tone had been set for it from the lead into the story. This explains the uneasy feelings between the two women and the superficial friendship.
  TamaraJCollins | Mar 10, 2016 |
This book was a wonderful smorgasbord of delicious tidbits. I'm a fan of Edith Wharton, but I loved this collection of her short stories even more than I do the novels of hers I've read. Every story was a gem, and sparkled and shown in its own way.

My favorites were the title story, Roman Fever, Xingu, and Autre Temps. The thread through several of the stories is societal mores - what are the boundaries, and what happens when those boundaries are crossed.

Xingu was a jab at social and intellectual pretentions, and was almost told like a joke with a punchline. I saw the punchline coming a mile off, but I didn't mind, because it was such a great ride to get there.

Anyone looking for an introduction to Edith Wharton could not do better than this. Neither could anyone looking for an outstanding short story collection.

I loved this, and have added it to my always-growing list of favorites. ( )
  bookwoman247 | Nov 19, 2011 |
Everything about Edith Wharton's work is stately, like an antique fainting couch in a museum, its frame hand-carved, its fabric delicately embroidered. But somehow, the stories are not stifling. Some are sly and humorous, like "Roman Fever" and "Xingu," which both make fools of people who think they know more than they do.

What I really love about Wharton, though—and The Age of Innocence, arguably her most famous work, is a great example of this, too—is the way she lays out her characters' conflicts quite transparently, all so readers can admire how inevitably people misunderstand and unwittingly abuse one another. You want to take her characters by the shoulders and translate for them.

I especially love how she dissects marriage, the roles that couples play for each other and how restrictive they can be. "Souls Belated" is an amazing story about how you build a new relationship out of an affair--if you flouted the convention of marriage once, do you just jump back into it? Do you invite the same people to your dinner parties and pretend things haven't changed? "The Other Two" is about a man trying to feel disaffected about doing business with his current wife's last husband. In a way it's all very old-fashioned, but it's also incredibly relatable.

Wharton also never fails to comment on the way people and habits evolve over time. In "Autres Temps..." ("Other Times...") a woman who left her husband twenty years ago, and regretted the social isolation that followed, overhears two young women talking. Through their conversation she discovers that in the ensuing decades, behavior has become so much freer that leaving one's husband for another man has become the thing to do:

"All of their friends seem to be divorced; some of them seem to announce their engagements before they get their decree. One of them—her name was Mabel—as far as I could make out, her husband found out that she meant to divorce him by noticing that she wore a new engagement ring."

The only legitimate criticism I've ever heard of Edith Wharton is that her work is exclusively rich and white. I once read a Marxist critic who complained that "the worker" wasn't present in Wharton's work, that the servants toiled behind the scenes. This is really not to be denied. (Well, I think one of the ladies in The House of Mirth works in a hat shop, but, you know.) Still, I don't find that a valid reason to discount the work she did. She had a narrow lens, sure. But can't we admire the depth of focus? ( )
2 vote ErinWolverton | Feb 22, 2011 |
This made me love Wharton all over again after a couple of disappointing novels. The standout here is "Xingu", which is a scathingly brilliant, utterly wonderful take-down of pretentious society matrons whose literary club is giving a luncheon for a famous author. I also especially liked "After Holbein", a rather creepy tale of two elderly socialites, and "The Angel at the Grave", about a woman who has devoted her whole life to the care of her dead grandfather's house, papers, and reputation. ( )
  gwyneira | Mar 25, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edith Whartonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
French, MarilynIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolff, Cynthia GriffinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Edith Wharton has often been seen as a sort of grande dame of American writing, as the wealthy aristocratic lady who supplemented her full social life by dipping into literature, and thus, as a gifted and lucky amateur. (Introduction)
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Book description
These elegant, finely-wrought stories by one of America's greatest writers are here published in Britain for the first time. Set in Italy, France and America they are powerful portraits of women who live in "the world of propriety" at the turn of the century. They tell of the emotions women feel: in love, in jealousy, when they long for children or seek independence - and when their passions lead them to overstep the bounds laid down by exacting conventions. We see, too, what happens to those strong enough to break the rules, but rarely strong enough to live forever outside the pale of the society that has banished them. First published in America in 1964, this collection of beautifully-crafted stories contains some of Edith Wharton's finest writing.

Contains the following stories:

Roman Fever
Xingu
The Other Two
Souls Belated
The Angels at the Grave
The Last Asset
After Holbein
Autres Temps...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0684829908, Paperback)

A side from her Pulitzer Prize-winning talent as a novel writer, Edith Wharton also distinguished herself as a short story writer, publishing more than seventy-two stories in ten volumes during her lifetime. The best of her short fiction is collected here in Roman Fever and Other Stories. From her picture of erotic love and illegitimacy in the title story to her exploration of the aftermath of divorce detailed in "Souls Belated" and "The Last Asset," Wharton shows her usual skill "in dissecting the elements of emotional subtleties, moral ambiguities, and the implications of social restrictions," as Cynthia Griffin Wolff writes in her introduction. Roman Fever and Other Stories is a surprisingly contemporary volume of stories by one of our most enduring writers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:35 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Contents:Roman Fever-Xingu-The other two-Souls belated- The Angelat the grave- The last asset- After Holbern- Autres temps

(summary from another edition)

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