The Beautiful and Damned

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The Beautiful and Damned
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The first edition cover with the characters of Anthony and Gloria drawn to resemble F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald
Author F. Scott Fitzgerald
Country United States
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher Charles Scribner's Sons
Publication date
1922
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)

The Beautiful and Damned, first published by Scribner's in 1922, is F. Scott Fitzgerald's second novel. It portrays the Eastern elite during the Jazz Age, exploring New York café society.[1] As in Fitzgerald's other novels, the characters are complex, especially with respect to marriage and intimacy. The book is generally considered to be largely based on Fitzgerald's relationship with Zelda Fitzgerald.[1][2]

Plot summary[edit]

The Beautiful and Damned tells the story of Anthony Patch, a 1910s socialite and presumptive heir to a tycoon's fortune, his relationship with his wife, Gloria, his service in the army, and his alcoholism.[3][4]

Toward the end of the novel, Fitzgerald sums up his own plot somewhat himself, even referencing his own first novel, when a financially successful writer friend of Anthony's tells him: "You know these new novels make me tired. My God! Everywhere I go some silly girl asks me if I've read This Side of Paradise. Are our girls really like that? If it's true to life, which I don't believe, the next generation is going to the dogs. I'm sick of all this shoddy realism. I think there's a place for the romanticist in literature."[5][2]

Themes[edit]

The Beautiful and Damned is at once a morality tale, a meditation on love, money and decadence, and a social document. It concerns the characters' disproportionate appreciation of and focus upon their past, which tends to consume them in the present.[3] The theme of absorption in the past continues through much of Fitzgerald's later works, and to the final line of his The Great Gatsby: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past", which is now also inscribed on the Fitzgerald's shared tombstone in Maryland.[2]

The Fitzgerald's grave in Rockville, Maryland, inscribed with the final sentence of
The Great Gatsby

According to Fitzgerald critic James West, the novel is concerned with the question of vocation—what does one do with oneself when one has nothing to do? Fitzgerald presents Gloria as a woman whose vocation is nothing more than to catch a husband. After her marriage to Anthony, Gloria's sole vocation is to slide into indolence; her husband's sole vocation is to wait for his inheritance, during which time he slides into alcoholism.[6]

Publication history[edit]

Fitzgerald wrote The Beautiful and Damned quickly in the winter and spring of 1921-22, while Zelda was pregnant with their daughter,[1] following editorial suggestions from his friend Edmund Wilson and his editor Max Perkins.[2] Chapters of the book were first serialized in Metropolitan Magazine in late 1921, and in March 1922 the book was published. Based on the credible sales of his first book, This Side of Paradise, Scribner's prepared an initial print run of 20,000 copies and mounted an advertising campaign. It sold well enough to warrant additional print runs reaching 50,000 copies.[2]

Fitzgerald dedicated the novel to the Irish writer Shane Leslie, Jean Nathan, and Maxwell Perkins "in appreciation of much literary help and encouragement".[7] Originally called by Fitzgerald The Flight of the Rocket as a working-title, he had also divided it pre-publication into three major parts: "The Pleasant Absurdity of Things", "The Romantic Bitterness of Things", and "The Ironic Tragedy of Things".[2] As published in book form, it consists of three "books" of three chapters each:[7]

  • Book One
1. - Anthony Patch
2. - Portrait of a Siren
3. - The Connoisseur of Kisses
  • Book Two
1. - The Radiant Hour
2. - Symposium
3. - The Broken Lute
  • Book Three
1. - A Matter of Civilization
2. - A Matter of Aesthetics
3. - No Matter!


The first book deals with first meeting and courtship of a beautiful and spoiled couple, Anthony and Gloria; book two covers the first three years of their married life together; and the final book recounts Anthony's disinheritance, as the U.S. enters World War I, his time in the Army while Gloria remains home alone until his return, and the couple's rapid, final dissolution and ruin, "to the syncopated beat of the Jazz Age".[2]

To the very end, Anthony Patch remains nonplussed, Fitzgerald writing in the closing lines of the novel: "Only a few months before people had been urging him to give in, to submit to mediocrity.... But he had known that he was justified in his way of life---and he had stuck it out staunchly.... 'I showed them ... It was a hard fight, but I didn't give up and I came through!"[7][2]

Reception[edit]

Louise Field, writing in The New York Times, found the novel showed Fitzgerald to be talented, but labeled him too pessimistic. She said she hoped he "will some day acquire a less one-sided understanding".[8]

Adaptations[edit]

A film adaptation in 1922, directed by William A. Seiter, starred Kenneth Harlan as Anthony Patch, and Marie Prevost as Gloria.[9]

There is a German translation.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Milford, Nancy - Zelda: A Biography, Harper & Row, New York, 1970.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Bruccoli, Matthew J. - Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Carroll & Graf, New York, 1992.
  3. ^ a b Perosa, Sergio (1965). "The Beautiful and Damned". The Art of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. LCCN 65-11463. 
  4. ^ "The Beautiful and Damned". Amazon.com. 
  5. ^ Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Beautiful and Damned, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1922 - pg. 421.
  6. ^ James West - The Perfect Hour: The Romance of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ginevra King, Random House, New York, 2005, pg. 48-51.
  7. ^ a b c Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Beautiful and Damned, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1922.
  8. ^ Maunsell Field, Louise (March 5, 1922). "Latest Works of Fiction". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ Seiter, William. "The Beautiful and Damned (1922)". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ Winters, Marion (2004). "German Translations of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and Damned. A Corpus-based Study of Modal Particles as Features of Translators' Style". In Kemble, Ian. Using Corpora and Databases in Translation: Proceedings of the Conference Held on 14th November 2003 in Portsmouth. London: University of Portsmouth. pp. 71–89. ISBN 1861373651. 

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