The Price Of Mingling

In “The House of Mirth,” by Edith Wharton, Lily Bart tells Gerty Farish about the downside of hobnobbing with the rich.

You think we live on the rich, rather than with them: and so we do, in a sense—but it’s a privilege we have to pay for! We eat their dinners, and drink their wines, and smoke their cigarettes, and use their carriages, and their opera-boxes, and their private cars—yes, but there’s a tax to pay to every one of those luxuries.

The man pays it by big tips to the servants, by playing cards beyond his means, by flowers and presents—and—and—lots of other things that cost; the girl pays it by tips and cards too—oh, yes, I’ve had to take up bridge again—and by going to the best dressmakers, and having just the right dress for every occasion, and always keeping herself fresh and exquisite and amusing!


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