The book satirizes the fads and fashions of the time. It describes a number of types of the period. The house party is viewed largely through the eyes of the naive young poet Denis Stone. Denis is enamored of Anne Wimbush, who seems more interested in the artist Gombauld. The quiet and hard-of-hearing Jenny often hides behind her red journal. Mary, decisive and yet naïve, decides to embark on an amorous adventure. Mr. Wimbush, the owner of Crome, has been writing a history of the house and its family, of which extracts are given. His wife is obsessed with spiritualism. Other characters include the pompous literary hack Mr. Barbecue-Smith, the cynical Mr. Scogan, the libertine Ivor Lombard, and the ascetic and melancholy Vicar and his wife.