The House of Mirth follows the career and final downfall of Lily Bart, a society beauty in turn-of-the-century New York, whose financial security stands on very shaky ground. In a culture where money measures everything and morals are worn like fashionable garments, for appearances only, an essentially honest Lily is torn between offers of a loveless, financially secure marriage and one of love and relative poverty with the man she adores. By turns na ve, worldly and reckless, her vacillating nature pulls her first in one direction, then the other, in a downward spiral towards eventual tragedy. Edith Wharton was born into the same social milieu she so successfully satirised in her novels, and The House of Mirth's scathing and perceptive view of New York's financial elite did not make her any friends among the American beau monde. Following the book's publication (and its tremendous literary success), Wharton left the United States permanently and spent the rest of her days in Europe.