The Age of Innocence HTML version

Chapter 5
The next evening old Mr. Sillerton Jackson came to dine with the Archers.
Mrs. Archer was a shy woman and shrank from society; but she liked to be well-
informed as to its doings. Her old friend Mr. Sillerton Jackson applied to the
investigation of his friends' affairs the patience of a collector and the science of a
naturalist; and his sister, Miss Sophy Jackson, who lived with him, and was
entertained by all the people who could not secure her much-sought-after
brother, brought home bits of minor gossip that filled out usefully the gaps in his
Therefore, whenever anything happened that Mrs. Archer wanted to know about,
she asked Mr. Jackson to dine; and as she honoured few people with her
invitations, and as she and her daughter Janey were an excellent audience, Mr.
Jackson usually came himself instead of sending his sister. If he could have
dictated all the conditions, he would have chosen the evenings when Newland
was out; not because the young man was uncongenial to him (the two got on
capitally at their club) but because the old anecdotist sometimes felt, on
Newland's part, a tendency to weigh his evidence that the ladies of the family
never showed.
Mr. Jackson, if perfection had been attainable on earth, would also have asked
that Mrs. Archer's food should be a little better. But then New York, as far back
as the mind of man could travel, had been divided into the two great fundamental
groups of the Mingotts and Mansons and all their clan, who cared about eating
and clothes and money, and the Archer-Newland- van-der-Luyden tribe, who
were devoted to travel, horticulture and the best fiction, and looked down on the
grosser forms of pleasure.
You couldn't have everything, after all. If you dined with the Lovell Mingotts you
got canvas-back and terrapin and vintage wines; at Adeline Archer's you could
talk about Alpine scenery and "The Marble Faun"; and luckily the Archer Madeira
had gone round the Cape. Therefore when a friendly summons came from Mrs.
Archer, Mr. Jackson, who was a true eclectic, would usually say to his sister: "I've
been a little gouty since my last dinner at the Lovell Mingotts'--it will do me good
to diet at Adeline's."
Mrs. Archer, who had long been a widow, lived with her son and daughter in
West Twenty-eighth Street. An upper floor was dedicated to Newland, and the
two women squeezed themselves into narrower quarters below. In an unclouded
harmony of tastes and interests they cultivated ferns in Wardian cases, made
macrame lace and wool embroidery on linen, collected American revolutionary
glazed ware, subscribed to "Good Words," and read Ouida's novels for the sake