THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
By F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
. . . Well this side of Paradise! . . .
There's little comfort in the wise.
- Rupert Brooke.
Experience is the name so many people
give to their mistakes.
- Oscar Wilde.
To SIGOURNEY FAY
BOOK ONE: The Romantic Egotist
1. AMORY, SON OF BEATRICE
2. SPIRES AND GARGOYLES
3. THE EGOTIST CONSIDERS
4. NARCISSUS OFF DUTY
[INTERLUDE: MAY, 1917-FEBRUARY, 1919. ]
BOOK TWO: The Education of a Personage
1. THE DEBUTANTE
2. EXPERIMENTS IN CONVALESCENCE
3. YOUNG IRONY
4. THE SUPERCILIOUS SACRIFICE
5. THE EGOTIST BECOMES A PERSONAGE
The Romantic Egotist
Amory, Son of Beatrice
Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray
inexpressible few, that made him worth while. His father, an ineffectual,
inarticulate man with a taste for Byron and a habit of drowsing over the
Encyclopedia Britannica, grew wealthy at thirty through the death of two
elder brothers, successful Chicago brokers, and in the first flush of
feeling that the world was his, went to Bar Harbor and met Beatrice
O'Hara. In consequence, Stephen Blaine handed down to posterity his
height of just under six feet and his tendency to waver at crucial
moments, these two abstractions appearing in his son Amory. For many
years he hovered in the background of his family's life, an unassertive
figure with a face half-obliterated by lifeless, silky hair, continually
occupied in "taking care" of his wife, continually harassed by the idea
that he didn't and couldn't understand her.
But Beatrice Blaine! There was a woman! Early pictures taken on her
father's estate at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, or in Rome at the Sacred Heart
Convent - an educational extravagance that in her youth was only for the
daughters of the exceptionally wealthy - showed the exquisite delicacy
of her features, the consummate art and simplicity of her clothes. A
brilliant education she had - her youth passed in renaissance glory,
she was versed in the latest gossip of the Older Roman Families; known by
name as a fabulously wealthy American girl to Cardinal Vitori and Queen
Margherita and more subtle celebrities that one must have had some
culture even to have heard of. She learned in England to prefer whiskey
and soda to wine, and her small talk was broadened in two senses during
a winter in Vienna. All in all Beatrice O'Hara absorbed the sort of
education that will be quite impossible ever again; a tutelage measured
by the number of things and people one could be contemptuous of and
charming about; a culture rich in all arts and traditions, barren of all
ideas, in the last of those days when the great gardener clipped the
inferior roses to produce one perfect bud.
In her less important moments she returned to America, met Stephen Blaine
and married him - this almost entirely because she was a little bit weary,
a little bit sad. Her only child was carried through a tiresome season
and brought into the world on a spring day in ninety-six.
When Amory was five he was already a delightful companion for her.
He was an auburn-haired boy, with great, handsome eyes which he would
grow up to in time, a facile imaginative mind and a taste for fancy
dress. From his fourth to his tenth year he did the country with his
mother in her father's private car, from Coronado, where his mother
became so bored that she had a nervous breakdown in a fashionable hotel,
down to Mexico City, where she took a mild, almost epidemic consumption.
This trouble pleased her, and later she made use of it as an intrinsic
part of her atmosphere - especially after several astounding bracers.
So, while more or less fortunate little rich boys were defying
governesses on the beach at Newport, or being spanked or tutored or read
to from "Do and Dare," or "Frank on the Mississippi," Amory was biting
acquiescent bell-boys in the Waldorf, outgrowing a natural repugnance to
chamber music and symphonies, and deriving a highly specialized education
from his mother.
"Yes, Beatrice." (Such a quaint name for his mother; she encouraged it.)
"Dear, don't _think_ of getting out of bed yet. I've always suspected
that early rising in early life makes one nervous. Clothilde is having
your breakfast brought up."
"I am feeling very old to-day, Amory," she would sigh, her face a rare
cameo of pathos, her voice exquisitely modulated, her hands as facile
as Bernhardt's. "My nerves are on edge - on edge. We must leave this
terrifying place to-morrow and go searching for sunshine."
Amory's penetrating green eyes would look out through tangled hair at his
mother. Even at this age he had no illusions about her.
"I want you to take a red-hot bath as hot as you can bear it, and just
relax your nerves. You can read in the tub if you wish."
She fed him sections of the "Fetes Galantes" before he was ten; at eleven
he could talk glibly, if rather reminiscently, of Brahms and Mozart and
Beethoven. One afternoon, when left alone in the hotel at Hot Springs,
he sampled his mother's apricot cordial, and as the taste pleased him,
he became quite tipsy. This was fun for a while, but he essayed a
cigarette in his exaltation, and succumbed to a vulgar, plebeian
reaction. Though this incident horrified Beatrice, it also secretly
amused her and became part of what in a later generation would have been
termed her "line."
"This son of mine," he heard her tell a room full of awestruck, admiring
women one day, "is entirely sophisticated and quite charming - but
delicate - we're all delicate; _here_, you know." Her hand was radiantly
outlined against her beautiful bosom; then sinking her voice to a whisper,
she told them of the apricot cordial. They rejoiced, for she was a brave
raconteuse, but many were the keys turned in sideboard locks that night
against the possible defection of little Bobby or Barbara. . . .
These domestic pilgrimages were invariably in state; two maids, the
private car, or Mr. Blaine when available, and very often a physician.
When Amory had the whooping-cough four disgusted specialists glared at
each other hunched around his bed; when he took scarlet fever the number
of attendants, including physicians and nurses, totalled fourteen.
However, blood being thicker than broth, he was pulled through.
The Blaines were attached to no city. They were the Blaines of Lake
Geneva; they had quite enough relatives to serve in place of friends,
and an enviable standing from Pasadena to Cape Cod. But Beatrice grew
more and more prone to like only new acquaintances, as there were certain
stories, such as the history of her constitution and its many amendments,
memories of her years abroad, that it was necessary for her to repeat
at regular intervals. Like Freudian dreams, they must be thrown off,
else they would sweep in and lay siege to her nerves. But Beatrice was
critical about American women, especially the floating population of
"They have accents, my dear," she told Amory, "not Southern accents or
Boston accents, not an accent attached to any locality, just an accent" -
she became dreamy. "They pick up old, moth-eaten London accents that
are down on their luck and have to be used by some one. They talk as
an English butler might after several years in a Chicago grand-opera
company." She became almost incoherent - "Suppose - time in every
Western woman's life - she feels her husband is prosperous enough for her
to have - accent - they try to impress _me_, my dear - "
Though she thought of her body as a mass of frailties, she considered her
soul quite as ill, and therefore important in her life. She had once
been a Catholic, but discovering that priests were infinitely more
attentive when she was in process of losing or regaining faith in Mother
Church, she maintained an enchantingly wavering attitude. Often she
deplored the bourgeois quality of the American Catholic clergy, and was
quite sure that had she lived in the shadow of the great Continental
cathedrals her soul would still be a thin flame on the mighty altar of
Rome. Still, next to doctors, priests were her favorite sport.
"Ah, Bishop Wiston," she would declare, "I do not want to talk of myself.
I can imagine the stream of hysterical women fluttering at your doors,
beseeching you to be simpatico" - then after an interlude filled by the
clergyman - "but my mood - is - oddly dissimilar."
Only to bishops and above did she divulge her clerical romance. When she
had first returned to her country there had been a pagan, Swinburnian
young man in Asheville, for whose passionate kisses and unsentimental
conversations she had taken a decided penchant - they had discussed
the matter pro and con with an intellectual romancing quite devoid of
sappiness. Eventually she had decided to marry for background, and the
young pagan from Asheville had gone through a spiritual crisis, joined
the Catholic Church, and was now - Monsignor Darcy.
"Indeed, Mrs. Blaine, he is still delightful company - quite the
cardinal's right-hand man."
"Amory will go to him one day, I know," breathed the beautiful lady,
"and Monsignor Dark will understand him as he understood me."
Amory became thirteen, rather tall and slender, and more than ever on to
his Celtic mother. He had tutored occasionally - the idea being that he
was to "keep up," at each place "taking up the work where he left off,"
yet as no tutor ever found the place he left off, his mind was still in
very good shape. What a few more years of this life would have made of
him is problematical. However, four hours out from land, Italy bound,
with Beatrice, his appendix burst, probably from too many meals in bed,
and after a series of frantic telegrams to Europe and America, to the
amazement of the passengers the great ship slowly wheeled around and
returned to New York to deposit Amory at the pier. You will admit that
if it was not life it was magnificent.
After the operation Beatrice had a nervous breakdown that bore a
suspicious resemblance to delirium tremens, and Amory was left in
Minneapolis, destined to spend the ensuing two years with his aunt
and uncle. There the crude, vulgar air of Western civilization first
catches him - in his underwear, so to speak.
* * * *
A KISS FOR AMORY
His lip curled when he read it.
"I am going to have a bobbing party," it said, "on Thursday,
December the seventeenth, at five o'clock, and I would like it
very much if you could come.
R.S.V.P. Myra St. Claire.
He had been two months in Minneapolis, and his chief struggle had been
the concealing from "the other guys at school" how particularly superior
he felt himself to be, yet this conviction was built upon shifting sands.
He had shown off one day in French class (he was in senior French class)
to the utter confusion of Mr. Reardon, whose accent Amory damned
contemptuously, and to the delight of the class. Mr. Reardon, who had
spent several weeks in Paris ten years before, took his revenge on the
verbs, whenever he had his book open. But another time Amory showed off
in history class, with quite disastrous results, for the boys there were
his own age, and they shrilled innuendoes at each other all the following
"Aw - I b'lieve, doncherknow, the Umuricun revolution was _lawgely_ an
affair of the middul _clawses_," or
"Washington came of very good blood - aw, quite good - I b'lieve."
Amory ingeniously tried to retrieve himself by blundering on purpose.
Two years before he had commenced a history of the United States which,
though it only got as far as the Colonial Wars, had been pronounced by
his mother completely enchanting.
His chief disadvantage lay in athletics, but as soon as he discovered
that it was the touchstone of power and popularity at school, he began
to make furious, persistent efforts to excel in the winter sports, and
with his ankles aching and bending in spite of his efforts, he skated
valiantly around the Lorelie rink every afternoon, wondering how soon he
would be able to carry a hockey-stick without getting it inexplicably
tangled in his skates.
The invitation to Miss Myra St. Claire's bobbing party spent the morning
in his coat pocket, where it had an intense physical affair with a dusty
piece of peanut brittle. During the afternoon he brought it to light
with a sigh, and after some consideration and a preliminary draft in the
back of Collar and Daniel's "First-Year Latin," composed an answer:
My dear Miss St. Claire:
Your truly charming envitation for the evening of next Thursday
evening was truly delightful to receive this morning. I will be
charm and inchanted indeed to present my compliments on next
* * * *
On Thursday, therefore, he walked pensively along the slippery,
shovel-scraped sidewalks, and came in sight of Myra's house, on the
half-hour after five, a lateness which he fancied his mother would
have favored. He waited on the door-step with his eyes nonchalantly
half-closed, and planned his entrance with precision. He would cross the
floor, not too hastily, to Mrs. St. Claire, and say with exactly the
"My _dear_ Mrs. St. Claire, I'm _frightfully_ sorry to be late, but my
maid" - he paused there and realized he would be quoting - "but my uncle
and I had to see a fella - Yes, I've met your enchanting daughter at
Then he would shake hands, using that slight, half-foreign bow, with all
the starchy little females, and nod to the fellas who would be standing
'round, paralyzed into rigid groups for mutual protection.
A butler (one of the three in Minneapolis) swung open the door. Amory
stepped inside and divested himself of cap and coat. He was mildly
surprised not to hear the shrill squawk of conversation from the next
room, and he decided it must be quite formal. He approved of that -
as he approved of the butler.
"Miss Myra," he said.
To his surprise the butler grinned horribly.
"Oh, yeah," he declared, "she's here." He was unaware that his failure
to be cockney was ruining his standing. Amory considered him coldly.
"But," continued the butler, his voice rising unnecessarily, "she's the
only one what _is_ here. The party's gone."
Amory gasped in sudden horror.
"She's been waitin' for Amory Blaine. That's you, ain't it? Her mother
says that if you showed up by five-thirty you two was to go after 'em in
Amory's despair was crystallized by the appearance of Myra herself,
bundled to the ears in a polo coat, her face plainly sulky, her voice
pleasant only with difficulty.
"'Lo, Myra." He had described the state of his vitality.
"Well - you _got_ here, _any_ways."
"Well - I'll tell you. I guess you don't know about the auto accident,"
Myra's eyes opened wide.
"Who was it to?"
"Well," he continued desperately, "uncle 'n aunt 'n I."
"Was any one _killed?_"
Amory paused and then nodded.
"Your uncle?" - alarm.
"Oh, no just a horse - a sorta gray horse."
At this point the Erse butler snickered.
"Probably killed the engine," he suggested. Amory would have put him on
the rack without a scruple.
"We'll go now," said Myra coolly. "You see, Amory, the bobs were ordered
for five and everybody was here, so we couldn't wait - "
"Well, I couldn't help it, could I?"
"So mama said for me to wait till ha'past five. We'll catch the bobs
before it gets to the Minnehaha Club, Amory."
Amory's shredded poise dropped from him. He pictured the happy party
jingling along snowy streets, the appearance of the limousine, the
horrible public descent of him and Myra before sixty reproachful eyes,
his apology - a real one this time. He sighed aloud.
"What?" inquired Myra.
"Nothing. I was just yawning. Are we going to _surely_ catch up with
'em before they get there?" He was encouraging a faint hope that they
might slip into the Minnehaha Club and meet the others there, be found