Update on sixth reading, and on my brilliant student telling me this book completely knocked him out, which I feel is a totally relevant, if not the most articulate, response to this book. Basically speaking, The Age of Innocence
is my GR six.
My currently favourite quote (and to my mind this is not a book about love):
As she stood there, in her long sealskin coat, her hands thrust in a small round muff, her veil drawn down like a transparent mask to the tip of her nose, and the bunch of violets he had brought her stirring with her quickly-taken breath, it seemed incredible that this pure harmony of line and colour should ever suffer the stupid law of change.
Also, this time, I found out something which was not obvious to me, since I'm not an American: one of the reasons why Ellen moved to, and stayed in, Washington D.C. - apart from being able to "meet more varieties of people and opinion" (ch. 24) - was because the city was planned by a French architect, Pierre Charles L'Enfant, and modelled after Paris, with Parisian-style boulevards and beautiful layout: (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-pierre-lenfant-and-washington-dc-39487784/?no-ist)
Fourth or fifth reading (I teach it), and still I find new things in it.
For example: this time, I noticed that the window scene is not isolated; there is a consistent theme of air, atmosphere (of purity and sin), and Archer opens windows in the carriage, when he returns with May from the opera with the intention of finally telling her the truth about Ellen. Also, the theme of blindness is supported not only by references to May's and Ellen's eyes, but also by constant references to vision, blurred edges, and instruments such as telescopes and caleidoscopes.
Update on reading of How to Be a Victorian
by Ruth Goodman, regarding May/ elegance/ constriction:
Sitting could be quite an art in some of these petticoats. Anything that stuck out predominantly at the back required a diagonal approach to chairs. Images of the fashionable lady of the 1870s show that she perched on the very front of the chair at an angle of approximately forty-five degrees, leaning slightly forward. It is a very elegant look,but also an eminently sensible one when wearing a bustle or a crinolette.(p.76)