Bilphism- The Beautiful and Damned

Early on in reading The Beautiful and Damned, I came across the term Bilphist.
"Her name's Gloria.  Shes from home-Kansas City.  Her mother is a practising Bilphist, and her father's quite dull but a perfect gentleman."

And being the conscientious reader that I am, when I come across a word or phrase I am unfamiliar with, I head over to my handy-dandy computer and Google it.

Surprisingly, there is not much on Bilphism,  or maybe not surprising considering Fitzgerald made it up.  I am not sure I know why he made it up yet, maybe it becomes clearer as I read on.  Below is what I unearthed.  Now I should make note, I did not spend hours and hours doing research.  Nope, just a few minutes, maybe 10 at most.  If I find out more I will add that.

Bilphism (noun) source : The name used and coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his 1922 novel The Beautiful and the Damned, referring to a religious belief concerned with the reincarnation of the human soul.
" 'Oh, yes, but you see Bilphism isn’t a religion. It’s the science of all religions.' " —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned, 1922 

"Shakespeare was a Bilphist," she assured him through a fixed smile.
"Oh, yes! He was a Bilphist. It's been proved."
At this Dick would look a bit blank.
"If you've read 'Hamlet' you can't help but see."
"Well, he--he lived in a more credulous age--a more religious age."
But she demanded the whole loaf:
"Oh, yes, but you see Bilphism isn't a religion. It's the science of all religions." She smiled defiantly at him. This was the _bon mot_ of her
Taken from text of The Beautiful and Damned


  1. thanks so much for research...holidaying in Munich and having read B and D experienced same puzzle...now happily resolved so can go out into sunshine.....

  2. Thanks for providing the info - now I'm left wondering which fashionable pseudo-religion Fitzgerald was really mocking?

  3. Here is what I turned up:

    In 1922 Fitzgerald explained to Dr. Frank H. Vizetelly, editor of Funk and Wagnell’s Standard Dictionary: “Bilphism is a coinage of my own. It is a euphemism for Theosophy---- I wanted to take a crack at theosophy without hurting the feelings of a relative of mine. Several people have inquired about it. So I guess it will enter no dictionary.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald Collection Notes, No. 1, September 1995).

    Thanks for the blog! I am a recent Fitzgerald reader and am enjoying his works!


  4. You are most welcome Laurie. What an odd term - I just had to look it up.

    So far, I have read Gatsby and have just finished The Beautiful and Damned. These are haunting works that will stick with me. I am looking forward to reading EVERYTHING.

    Being a Literature fan, is there anything else can you would recommend from this period?

    Thanks again for this fantastic blog!


  5. Another interesting read, with the same clear style and interesting male lead would be Mikhail Lermontov's "A Hero of Our Time". It's a little older, but in my opinion, it belongs very near beside The Great Gatsby.

  6. Thank you for your research! I am currently reading The Beautiful and Damned. At times the words or just his style of writing in general can be difficult to understand. I will be referring to your blog often while reading his books from now on!


Please remember that I am not a Fitzgerald expert. My posts are my point of view at a specific moment in time, I may get things wrong. Kind words and discussions are always welcomed. If I have made a mistake, politely let me know. I would like to keep Fitzgerald musings a positive experience. Comment Away.....

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