Book 1, Chapter 1 Summary

The Beautiful and Damned cover image

Anthony Comstock Patch is twenty-five years old and full of the conviction of his own importance. His ancestral heritage descends from his grandfather, Adam Patch, who joined the Union army during the Civil War, left the war a major, and entered Wall Street. There he built a multimillion-dollar fortune but became a righteous reformer when his health began to fail. His son, Adam, was a man about town. He became a widower when his son, Anthony, was five years old, then he died six years later while touring Europe with Anthony. Through the deaths of his parents and soon his grandmother, Anthony acquires a spirit of melancholy that stays with him for the rest of his life.

Until the age of fourteen, Anthony’s favorite pastime is stamp collecting. For two years, he is tutored in Europe with the aim of attending Harvard as a way of “opening doors” to his destined future. In college, Anthony lives within himself, diving into books and flamboyant fashions. It is not until his senior year that he discovers that the other students view him as a romantic figure but a recluse. With this news, Anthony begins to socialize. He graduates when he is twenty years old.

After college, Anthony travels to Rome to study architecture and painting as well as music and poetry. Several of his Harvard classmates visit him as they journey through their own European tours. He returns to America when he is twenty-three to respond to his grandfather’s illness. He decides he must put off until his grandfather’s death any plans to live abroad permanently. He finds an apartment in New York and begins to settle down. His home is furnished richly and brightly. In his bathroom are hung photographs of four of the leading actresses of the day.

Anthony has the use of an English servant named Bounds each morning, who is taciturn and somewhat hostile. He visits his broker at least once a week to check on his income, which amounts to about seven thousand...

(The entire section is 616 words.)