Edith Wharton set aside the manuscript of A Son at the Front next to that of The Glimpses of the Moon, and after an interval came up with the scenario of still another novel. It bore the working title 'Old New York' and the scene was laid in 1875. The two main characters, Langdon Archer and Clementine Olenska, are both unhappily married. Falling in love, they 'go off secretly,' Edith explained, 'and meet in Florida where they spend a few mad weeks' before Langdon returns to his pretty, conventional wife in New York, and Clementine to an existence, separated from her brutish husband, in Paris.
To come to the Opera in a Brown coupe was almost as honourable a way of arriving as in one's own carriage, and departing by the same means had the immense advantage of enabling one ... to scramble into the first Brown conveyance in the line, instead of waiting till the cold-and-gin congested nose of one's own coachman gleamed under the portico of the Academy. It was one of the livery-stableman's most masterly intuitions that Americans want to get away from amusement even more quickly than they want to get to it.