Roman Fever is a short story by American writer Edith Wharton. It was first published in the magazine Liberty in 1934, and was later included in Wharton's last short-story collection, The World Over.
The protagonists are Grace Ansley and Alida Slade, two middle-aged American women who are visiting Rome with their daughters, Barbara Ansley and Jenny Slade. Mrs. Ansley and Mrs. Slade grew up in Manhattan, New York, and were friends from childhood. A romantic rivalry in their youth led Mrs. Slade to nurture feelings of jealousy and hatred against Mrs. Ansley. In the opening pages of the story, the two women compare their daughters and reflect on each other's lives. Eventually, Mrs. Slade reveals a secret about a letter written to Mrs. Ansley on an earlier visit to Rome, many years ago. The letter was purportedly from Mrs. Slade's fiancé, Delphin, inviting Mrs. Ansley to a rendezvous at the Colosseum. In fact, Mrs. Slade had written the letter, in an attempt to get Mrs. Ansley out of the way of the engagement by disappointing her with Delphin's absence (and, it is implied, to get Mrs. Ansley sick with Roman Fever). Mrs. Ansley is upset at this revelation, but reveals that she was not left alone at the Colosseum—she responded to the letter, and Delphin arrived to meet her. Mrs. Slade eventually states that Mrs. Ansley ought not feel sorry for her, because "I had [Delphin] for twenty-five years" while Mrs. Ansley had "nothing but a letter he didn't write." Mrs. Ansley responds, in the last sentence of the story, "I had Barbara." This implies that Barbara is an illegitimate child she had with Delphin.
1. ^ "Roman Fever by Edith Wharton". Literature Study Guides. eNotes.com, Inc. http://www.enotes.com/roman-fever/. Retrieved on 2007-11-18. 2. ^ Fogel, Henry (24 June 2008). "Donald Portnoy: WARD Roman Fever on ARSIS". Fanfare Magazine. http://www.fanfaremag.com/content/view/26456/10237/. Retrieved on 2008-08-14. Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Fever"
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2008
.......From the terrace of a Roman restaurant, two middle-aged women gaze down on the splendor of Rome and its ancient ruins. The narrator describes one of the women as small and pale and the other “fuller” and “higher in color.” On the stairway leading to a courtyard below, two young girls hasten off to an adventure. The women overhear one of them saying, “Well, come along, then, and let’s leave the young things to their knitting.” .......The pale woman, Mrs. Horace (Grace) Ansley, recognizes the voice as that of her daughter, Barbara. The other woman, Mrs. Delphin (Alida) Slade, says, “That’s what our daughters think of us.” .......Mrs. Ansley says the girls were really speaking of mothers in general, but then she withdraws from a handbag some red silk pierced with two knitting needles, confessing that she sometimes tires of doing nothing but looking at the sights. Alida laughs. .......It is late afternoon, long past the lunch hour, and the last of the other diners have moved on. But Alida suggests that they remain on the terrace to enjoy the view. They met at the restaurant in their youth, when both were younger than their daughters are now. Mrs. Slade asks the head waiter to grant them permission to linger on the terrace, providing him a gratuity, and he says they may stay as long as they like–perhaps to eat dinner later on under the moonlight. .......“Well, why not!” Mrs. Slade says. We might do worse. There's no knowing, I suppose, when the girls will be back. Do you even know back from where? I don't!" .......Mrs. Ansley says she thinks they are with Italian aviators they met at the embassy. The young men invited the girls to fly with them to Tarquinia for tea. .......When Alida Slade asks her companion whether she thinks the girls are sentimental, Grace says she hasn’t the slightest idea “what they are,” adding that “perhaps we don’t know...
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