“The Daunt Diana” by Edith Wharton
Card picked: 3♦
Found at: Tales of Men and Ghosts
“WHAT’S become of the Daunt Diana? You mean to say you never heard the sequel?”
Ringham Finney threw himself back into his chair with the smile of the collector who has a good thing to show. He knew he had a good listener, at any rate.
I decided at the beginning of the year to add one of my Classics Club books to my Deal Me In list. Two birds with one stone! So, I’ll be reading through Edith Wharton’s Tales of Men and Ghosts throughout the year.
I wondered somewhat about the title of the story: “The Daunt Diana.” What is meant by daunt? It turns out that Daunt is a collector of art, and the Daunt Diana is a statue of the goddess Diana owned by Daunt. Strangely, the actual artist who carved the Diana is never named.
Finney tells our listener about Humphrey Neave, a man with tastes more expensive than his means. Neave is deeply envious of the kind of art collection that Daunt owns, one effortlessly obtained by a very rich man. As fate would have it, both Daunt’s and Neave’s fortunes change and Neave, haunted by the Diana, buys the entire collection. One would presume that Neave would now be a very happy man. Not so! There had been no hunting for his art, no wooing, and Neave is left unfulfilled. So, Neave sells off the collection piece-meal. And then goes about buying each piece back. But can he regain the sculpture which again haunts him, the crown jewel of the collection? Can he woo Diana back?
Finney has a very particular voice which makes this story quite enjoyable, even as I rolled my eyes and muttered, “Rich people…”
Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Which means of course I want to read some of her ghost stories.
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