Twilight Sleep

Edith Wharton

Mrs. Pauline Manford is a busy woman, as any upstanding New York society lady should be.

Parties, dinners, charity luncheons, balls, and strict exercise and beauty regimes fill her daily schedule to an exhausting degree. Her secretary can hardly keep up. To manage a modern household is to hold the family together, staying on trend with all things helpful, but her daughter has horrible taste in married men, her ex-husband is unwell, and her son is struggling to forge a career for himself while his postpartum wife refuses to settle down from lavish partying. Pauline can’t decide if she should bob her hair, redecorate, or get a face lift, and she surely doesn’t have time to notice her current husband’s wandering eye as anything other than harmless flirtations.

When a rakish Italian actor bound for Hollywood and a scandal with the local wellness guru threaten to tear her perfectly constructed life apart, Pauline moves on to new spiritually medicinal treatments, and the Manfords must navigate the fraught tensions that bind them together. Hopefully a vacation from NYC's ruthless grind to their quiet country house will deter any further worries. 

Twilight Sleep, named for the early anesthetic that predates epidural and induces memory loss, is Edith Wharton’s oft-forgotten novel of modern motherhood and the pressures that lead women to reconstruct or completely escape their lives. Sharp and humorous, it feels as relevant today as it did in the 1920s.

Smith & Taylor Classics is an imprint of Unnamed Press, combining Unnamed’s mission to uplift the unlikely and unexpected from around the world with editors Allison Miriam Smith and Brandon Taylor’s shared love of classic literature. S&T seeks to reintroduce titles that pushed the boundaries of their time, and whose themes continue to resonate today. Featuring both celebrated and lesser-known authors from the past, S&T’s list compliments the Unnamed list of bold contemporary voices. 

Rather than introductions, each edition will feature a conversation between two esteemed readers (established writers, critics, satirists, academics) debuting with imprint editors Allison and Brandon’s own discussion around the oft-overlooked classic by Edith Wharton, Twilight Sleep. In contrast to other classics lines, S&T’s approach will not be one of taste-making or “discovery”, but rather engagement— re-introducing books and their authors to the discourse at large and inviting contemporary voices active in the discourse to join us in the conversation. In recent years, readers have increasingly turned to classics and rediscovered titles both as an escape and as a means of making sense of a complex and fraught world. We believe classics are for everyone, and by revitalizing conver­sations around these novels we hope our readers find themselves in stories that might have otherwise been overlooked.