The title of the novel, The House of Mirth (1905), is derived from the Christian Old Testament, from the Book of Ecclesiastes, 7th chapter, verse 4:
“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”—Ecclesiastes 7:4
Edith Wharton’s original title for the manuscript was A Moment's Ornament, which plainly stated the facts-of-life of the story of the socialite woman Lily Bart; and directly addressed the social limitations imposed upon her, as such, by the mores of the social class and social stratum to which she belonged by birth, education, and breeding.
The manuscript title, A Moment's Ornament, refers to the Romantic imagery of the first stanza of the poem “She was a Phantom of Delight” (1804), by William Wordsworth (1770–1850), which describes an ideal of beauty of the type that narrowly circumscribed the life of Lily Bart:
“She was a Phantom of delight / When first she gleam’d upon my sight; / A lovely Apparition, sent / To be a moment’s ornament: / Her eyes as stars of twilight fair; / Like twilight's, too, her dusky hair; / But all things else about her drawn / From May-time and the cheerful dawn; / A dancing shape, an image gay, / To haunt, to startle, and waylay.”—CLXXIV: She was a Phantom of Delight, first stanza (1804).