F. Scott Fitzgerald

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For other people named Scott Fitzgerald, see Scott Fitzgerald (disambiguation).
For F. Scott Fitzgerald's daughter, see Frances Scott Fitzgerald.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
F Scott Fitzgerald 1921.jpg
Photograph of F. Scott Fitzgerald c. 1921, appearing in "The World's Work" (June 1921 issue)
Born Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald
(1896-09-24)September 24, 1896
St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
Died December 21, 1940(1940-12-21) (aged 44)
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States
Resting place Saint Mary's Cemetery
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, poet
Nationality American
Period 1920–40
Notable works The Great Gatsby
Spouse Zelda Sayre (m. 1920–40)
Children Frances Scott Fitzgerald

Signature

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940) was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are the paradigmatic writings of the Jazz Age, a term he coined. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.[1] Fitzgerald is considered a member of the "Lost Generation" of the 1920s. He finished four novels: This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby (his most famous), and Tender Is the Night. A fifth, unfinished novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, was published posthumously. Fitzgerald also wrote many short stories that treat themes of youth and promise along with age and despair.

Fitzgerald's work has been adapted into films many times. His short story, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", was the basis for a 2008 film. Tender Is the Night was filmed in 1962, and made into a television miniseries in 1985. The Beautiful and Damned was filmed in 1922 and 2010. The Great Gatsby has been the basis for numerous films of the same name, spanning nearly 90 years; 1926, 1949, 1974, 2000, and 2013 adaptations. In addition, Fitzgerald's own life from 1937 to 1940 was dramatized in 1958 in Beloved Infidel.

Life and career[edit]

Born in 1896 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to an upper-middle-class family, Fitzgerald was named after his famous second cousin, three times removed, Francis Scott Key,[2] but was referred to by the familiar moniker Scott Fitzgerald. He was also named after his deceased sister, Louise Scott,[3] one of two sisters who died shortly before his birth. "Well, three months before I was born," he wrote as an adult, "my mother lost her other two children ... I think I started then to be a writer."[4] His parents were Mollie (McQuillan) and Edward Fitzgerald.[5] His mother was of Irish descent, and his father had Irish and English ancestry.[6][7]

Fitzgerald spent the first decade of his childhood primarily in Buffalo, New York (1898–1901 and 1903–1908, with a short interlude in Syracuse, New York between January 1901 and September 1903).[8] His parents, both devout Catholics, sent Fitzgerald to two Catholic schools on the West Side of Buffalo, first Holy Angels Convent (1903–1904, now disused) and then Nardin Academy (1905–1908). His formative years in Buffalo revealed him to be a boy of unusual intelligence and drive with a keen early interest in literature, his doting mother ensuring that her son had all the advantages of an upper-middle-class upbringing.[9] In a rather unconventional style of parenting, Fitzgerald attended Holy Angels with the peculiar arrangement that he go for only half a day—and was allowed to choose which half.[8]

In 1908, his father was fired from Procter & Gamble, and the family returned to Minnesota, where Fitzgerald attended St. Paul Academy in St. Paul from 1908 to 1911.[10] When he was 13 he saw his first piece of writing appear in print—a detective story published in the school newspaper. In 1911, when Fitzgerald was 15 years old, his parents sent him to the Newman School, a prestigious Catholic prep school in Hackensack, New Jersey. There he met Father Sigourney Fay, who noticed his incipient talent with the written word and encouraged him to pursue his literary ambitions.

After graduating from the Newman School in 1913, Fitzgerald decided to stay in New Jersey to continue his artistic development at Princeton University. At Princeton, he firmly dedicated himself to honing his craft as a writer. There he became friends with future critics and writers Edmund Wilson (Class of 1916) and John Peale Bishop (Class of 1917), and wrote for the Princeton Triangle Club, the Nassau Lit,[11] and the Princeton Tiger. He also was involved in the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, which ran the Nassau Lit.[12] His absorption in the Triangle—a kind of musical-comedy society—led to his submission of a novel to Charles Scribner's Sons where the editor praised the writing but ultimately rejected the book. He was a member of the University Cottage Club, which still displays Fitzgerald's desk and writing materials in its library.

Fitzgerald's writing pursuits at Princeton came at the expense of his coursework. He was placed on academic probation, and in 1917 he dropped out of school to join the U.S. Army. Afraid that he might die in World War I with his literary dreams unfulfilled, in the weeks before reporting for duty Fitzgerald hastily wrote a novel called The Romantic Egotist. Although the publisher Charles Scribner's Sons rejected the novel, the reviewer noted its originality and encouraged Fitzgerald to submit more work in the future.[10][13]

Zelda Fitzgerald[edit]

Main article: Zelda Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry and assigned to Camp Sheridan outside of Montgomery, Alabama. While at a country club, Fitzgerald met and fell in love with Zelda Sayre (1900–1948), the daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court justice and the "golden girl", in Fitzgerald's terms, of Montgomery youth society. The war ended in 1918, before Fitzgerald was ever deployed, and upon his discharge he moved to New York City hoping to launch a career in advertising lucrative enough to convince Zelda to marry him. He worked for the Barron Collier advertising agency, living in a single room at 200 Claremont Avenue in the Morningside Heights neighborhood on Manhattan's west side.

Zelda accepted his marriage proposal, but after some time and despite working at an advertising firm and writing short stories, he was unable to convince her that he would be able to support her, leading her to break off the engagement. Fitzgerald returned to his parents' house at 599 Summit Avenue, on Cathedral Hill, in St. Paul, to revise The Romantic Egoist, recast as This Side of Paradise, a semi-autobiographical account of Fitzgerald's undergraduate years at Princeton.[14] Fitzgerald was so low on finances that he took up a job repairing car roofs.[13][15] The revised novel was accepted by Scribner's in the fall of 1919, and Zelda and Fitzgerald resumed their engagement. The novel was published on March 26, 1920, and became one of the most popular books of the year. Fitzgerald and Zelda were married in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral. Their daughter and only child, Frances Scott "Scottie" Fitzgerald, was born on October 26, 1921.

"The Jazz Age"[edit]

F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1921

Paris in the 1920s proved the most influential decade of Fitzgerald's development. Fitzgerald made several excursions to Europe, mostly Paris and the French Riviera, and became friends with many members of the American expatriate community in Paris, notably Ernest Hemingway. Fitzgerald's friendship with Hemingway was quite vigorous, as many of Fitzgerald's relationships would prove to be. Hemingway did not get on well with Zelda. In addition to describing her as "insane" he claimed that she "encouraged her husband to drink so as to distract Fitzgerald from his work on his novel",[16][17] the other work being the short stories he sold to magazines. Like most professional authors at the time, Fitzgerald supplemented his income by writing short stories for such magazines as The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's Weekly, and Esquire, and sold his stories and novels to Hollywood studios. This "whoring", as Fitzgerald and, subsequently, Hemingway called these sales, was a sore point in the authors' friendship. Fitzgerald claimed that he would first write his stories in an authentic manner but then put in "twists that made them into saleable magazine stories".[17]

Fitzgerald wrote frequently for The Saturday Evening Post. This issue from May 1, 1920, containing the short story "Bernice Bobs Her Hair", was the first with Fitzgerald's name on the cover.

Although Fitzgerald's passion lay in writing novels, only his first novel sold well enough to support the opulent lifestyle that he and Zelda adopted as New York celebrities. (The Great Gatsby, now considered to be his masterpiece, did not become popular until after Fitzgerald's death.) Because of this lifestyle, as well as the bills from Zelda's medical care when they came, Fitzgerald was constantly in financial trouble and often required loans from his literary agent, Harold Ober, and his editor at Scribner's, Maxwell Perkins. When Ober decided not to continue advancing money to Fitzgerald, the author severed ties with his longtime friend and agent. (Fitzgerald offered a good-hearted and apologetic tribute to this support in the late short story "Financing Finnegan".)

Fitzgerald began working on his fourth novel during the late 1920s but was sidetracked by financial difficulties that necessitated his writing commercial short stories, and by the schizophrenia that struck Zelda in 1930. Her emotional health remained fragile for the rest of her life. In February 1932, she was hospitalized at the Phipps Clinic at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland.[18] During this time, Fitzgerald rented the "La Paix" estate in the suburb of Towson, Maryland to work on his latest book, the story of the rise and fall of Dick Diver, a promising young psychiatrist who falls in love with and marries Nicole Warren, one of his patients. The book went through many versions, the first of which was to be a story of matricide. Some critics have seen the book as a thinly-veiled autobiographical novel recounting Fitzgerald's problems with his wife, the corrosive effects of wealth and a decadent lifestyle, his own egoism and self-confidence, and his continuing alcoholism. Indeed, Fitzgerald was extremely protective of his "material" (i.e., their life together). When Zelda wrote and sent to Scribner's her own fictional version of their lives in Europe, Save Me the Waltz, Fitzgerald was angry and was able to make some changes prior to the novel's publication, and convince her doctors to keep her from writing any more about what he called his "material", which included their relationship. His book was finally published in 1934 as Tender Is the Night. Critics who had waited nine years for the followup to The Great Gatsby had mixed opinions about the novel. Most were thrown off by its three-part structure and many felt that Fitzgerald had not lived up to their expectations.[19] The novel did not sell well upon publication but, like the earlier Gatsby, the book's reputation has since risen significantly.[20] Fitzgerald's alcoholism and financial difficulties, in addition to Zelda's mental illness, made for difficult years in Baltimore. He was hospitalized nine times at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and his friend H.L. Mencken noted in a 1934 letter that "The case of F. Scott Fitzgerald has become distressing. He is boozing in a wild manner and has become a nuisance."[18]

Hollywood years[edit]

In 1937, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood, and he made his highest annual income thus far of $29,757.87.[21] Most of the income came from short story sales. Besides writing, he also started to get involved in the film industry. Although he reportedly found movie work degrading, Fitzgerald was once again in dire financial straits, and spent the second half of the 1930s in Hollywood, working on commercial short stories, scripts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (including some unfilmed work on Gone with the Wind), and his fifth and final novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon. Published posthumously as The Last Tycoon, it was based on the life of film executive Irving Thalberg. Among his other film projects was Madame Curie, for which he received no credit. In 1939, MGM ended the contract, and Fitzgerald became a freelance screenwriter. However, during all this, Fitzgerald's alcoholic tendencies still remained, and conflict with Zelda surfaced. Fitzgerald and Zelda became estranged; she continued living in mental institutions on the East Coast, while he lived with his lover Sheilah Graham, the gossip columnist, in Hollywood. In addition, records from the 1940 U.S. Census reflect that he was officially living at the estate of Edward Everett Horton in Encino, California in the San Fernando Valley. From 1939 until his death in 1940, Fitzgerald mocked himself as a Hollywood hack through the character of Pat Hobby in a sequence of 17 short stories, later collected as "The Pat Hobby Stories", which garnered many positive reviews. The Pat Hobby Stories were published in The Esquire and appeared from January 1940 to July 1941, even after Fitzgerald died.

Illness and death[edit]

Fitzgerald had been an alcoholic since his college days, and became notorious during the 1920s for his extraordinarily heavy drinking, leaving him in poor health by the late 1930s. According to Zelda's biographer, Nancy Milford, Fitzgerald claimed that he had contracted tuberculosis, but Milford dismisses it as a pretext to cover his drinking problems. However, Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli contends that Fitzgerald did in fact have recurring tuberculosis, and according to Nancy Milford, Fitzgerald biographer Arthur Mizener said that Fitzgerald suffered a mild attack of tuberculosis in 1919, and in 1929 he had "what proved to be a tubercular hemorrhage". It has been said that the hemorrhage was caused by bleeding from esophageal varices.[citation needed]

Fitzgerald suffered two heart attacks in the late 1930s. After the first, in Schwab's Drug Store, he was ordered by his doctor to avoid strenuous exertion. He moved in with Sheilah Graham, who lived in Hollywood on North Hayworth Avenue, one block east of Fitzgerald's apartment on North Laurel Avenue. Fitzgerald had two flights of stairs to climb to his apartment; Graham's was on the ground floor. On the night of December 20, 1940, Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham attended the premiere of This Thing Called Love starring Rosalind Russell and Melvyn Douglas. As the two were leaving the Pantages Theater, Fitzgerald experienced a dizzy spell and had trouble leaving the theater; upset, he said to Graham, "They think I am drunk, don't they?"

The following day, as Fitzgerald ate a candy bar and made notes in his newly arrived Princeton Alumni Weekly, Graham saw him jump from his armchair, grab the mantelpiece, gasp, and fall to the floor. She ran to the manager of the building, Harry Culver, founder of Culver City. Upon entering the apartment to assist Fitzgerald, he stated, "I'm afraid he's dead." Fitzgerald had died of a heart attack. His body was moved to the Pierce Brothers Mortuary.

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

Among the attendants at a visitation held at a funeral home was Dorothy Parker, who reportedly cried and murmured "the poor son-of-a-bitch", a line from Jay Gatsby's funeral in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.[22][23][24] His body was transported to Maryland, where his funeral was attended by twenty or thirty people in Bethesda; among the attendants were his only child, Frances "Scottie" Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith (then age 19), and his editor, Maxwell Perkins. Fitzgerald was originally buried in Rockville Union Cemetery. Zelda died in 1948, in a fire at the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. Scottie Smith worked to overturn the Archdiocese of Baltimore's ruling that Fitzgerald died a non-practicing Catholic, so that he could be buried at the Roman Catholic Saint Mary's Cemetery where his father's family was interred; this involved "re-Catholicizing" Fitzgerald after his death. Both of the Fitzgeralds' remains were moved to the family plot in Saint Mary's Cemetery, in Rockville, Maryland, in 1975.[25]

Fitzgerald died at age 44, before he could complete The Love of the Last Tycoon.[26][27] His manuscript, which included extensive notes for the unwritten part of the novel's story, was edited by his friend, the literary critic Edmund Wilson, and published in 1941 as The Last Tycoon. In 1994 the book was reissued under the original title The Love of the Last Tycoon, which is now agreed to have been Fitzgerald's preferred title.[28]

Legacy[edit]

Fitzgerald's work has inspired writers ever since he was first published. The publication of The Great Gatsby prompted T. S. Eliot to write, in a letter to Fitzgerald, "[I]t seems to me to be the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James ...".[29] Don Birnam, the protagonist of Charles Jackson's The Lost Weekend, says to himself, referring to The Great Gatsby, "There's no such thing ... as a flawless novel. But if there is, this is it."[30] In letters written in the 1940s, J. D. Salinger expressed admiration of Fitzgerald's work, and his biographer Ian Hamilton wrote that Salinger even saw himself for some time as "Fitzgerald's successor".[31] Richard Yates, a writer often compared to Fitzgerald, called The Great Gatsby "the most nourishing novel [he] read ... a miracle of talent ... a triumph of technique".[32] It was written in a New York Times editorial after his death that Fitzgerald "was better than he knew, for in fact and in the literary sense he invented a generation ... He might have interpreted them and even guided them, as in their middle years they saw a different and nobler freedom threatened with destruction."

Into the 21st century, millions of copies of The Great Gatsby and his other works have been sold, and Gatsby, a constant best-seller, is required reading in many high school and college classes.[33]

Fitzgerald is a 2009 inductee of the New Jersey Hall of Fame.[34] He is also the namesake of the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota, home of the radio broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion.

Fitzgerald was the first cousin once removed of Mary Surratt, hanged in 1865 for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.[35]

Bibliography[edit]

For a complete list of works, see F. Scott Fitzgerald bibliography.

Novels[edit]

Novellas[edit]

Short story collections[edit]

Notable short stories[edit]

Other notable works[edit]

Cambridge Editions[edit]

Cambridge University Press is publishing the complete works of F. Scott Fitzgerald in authoritative annotated editions. Thirteen volumes have been published, with the fourteenth forthcoming.[36]

Cover of the first volume in the series
Title Date published ISBN
The Great Gatsby August 1991 978-0-521-40230-9
The Love of the Last Tycoon: A Western December 1993 978-0-521-40231-6
This Side of Paradise January 1996 978-0-521-40234-7
Flappers and Philosophers December 1999 978-0-521-40236-1
Trimalchio: An Early Version of The Great Gatsby April 2000 978-0-521-40237-8
Tales of the Jazz Age August 2002 978-0-521-40238-5
My Lost City: Personal Essays, 1920–1940 October 2005 978-0-521-40239-2
All The Sad Young Men January 2007 978-0-521-40240-8
The Beautiful and Damned June 2008 978-0-521-88366-5
The Lost Decade: Short Stories from Esquire, 1936–1941 September 2008 978-0-521-88530-0
The Basil, Josephine, and Gwen Stories October 2009 978-0-521-76973-0
Spires and Gargoyles: Early Writings, 1909–1919 March 2010 978-0-521-76592-3
Tender Is the Night May 2012 978-0-521-40232-3
Taps at Reveille May 2014 978-0-521-76603-6

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Golden Moment: The Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. MR Stern. 1970. University of Illinois Press.
  2. ^ Matthew Joseph Bruccoli and Scottie Fitzgerald Smith, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2002), p. 13.
  3. ^ Jonathan Schiff, "Ashes to Ashes: Mourning and Social Difference in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Fiction", (Selingsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 2001), p.21
  4. ^ F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Afternoon of an Author: A Selection of Uncollected Stories and Essays", (New York: Scribner, 1957), p.184.
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Marketplace: The Auction and Dealer Catalogues ... – Google Books
  7. ^ The Life and Times of F. Scott Fitzgerald – Golgotha Press – Google Books
  8. ^ a b "''"F. Scott Fitzgerald in Buffalo, NY: 1898–1908"'' – Buffalo as an Architectural Museum". Buffaloah.com. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 
  9. ^ Matthew Joseph Bruccoli and Scottie Fitzgerald Smith, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2002), p. 14.
  10. ^ a b Petri Liukkonen (2008). "F(rances) Scott (Key) Fitzgerald". Retrieved 25 October 2009. 
  11. ^ "Whig, Clio Were Once Rivals". The Daily Princetonian Special Class of 1971 Issue 91 (72). June 15, 1967. p. 44. Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Over Three Hundred Freshmen Join Halls". The Daily Princetonian 37 (93). October 15, 1913. pp. 1–2. Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b "F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography – Facts, Birthday, Life Story". Biography.com. 1940-12-21. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 
  14. ^ Pomerantz, Will. "This Side of Paradise". History Theatre. Retrieved 2013-06-19. 
  15. ^ "Link to Zelda & F. Scott Fitzgerald Chronology Web Page". Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  16. ^ In his book, "A Moveable Feast", in which Hemingway describes his years in Paris and his encounter with the couple.
  17. ^ a b Canterbury, E. Ray; Birch, Thomas. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Under the Influence.(St. Paul: Paragon House, 2006), p. 189
  18. ^ a b Rudacille, Deborah (December 2009). "F. Scott Fitzgerald in Baltimore". Baltimore Style. Retrieved August 23, 2014. 
  19. ^ Donaldson, Scott, ed. Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall, 1984
  20. ^ Reader's companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night. MJ Bruccoli, J Baughman – 1996 – Univ of South Carolina
  21. ^ Fitzgerald, F. Scott (2012). The Great Gatsby. Great Britain: Alma Classics. p. 196. 
  22. ^ Mizener, Arthur. "The Big Binge", Excerpt: "The Far Side of Paradise: A Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald". Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1951. (pp. 362; c/o Time), Monday, January 29, 1951,
  23. ^ "Biography in Sound". Time, Monday, July 11, 1955.
  24. ^ In a strange coincidence, the author Nathanael West, a friend and admirer of Fitzgerald, was killed along with his wife Eileen McKenney in El Centro, California, while driving back to Los Angeles to attend Fitzgerald's funeral service.
  25. ^ McDonough, Megan (May 10, 2013). "Revisit Jazz Age history in Rockville at F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's grave". The Washington Post. 
  26. ^ "Cornell University New Student Reading Project". The Reading Project, Cornell University. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  27. ^ "F Scott Fitzgerald". The Reading Project, Cornell University. Retrieved April 10, 2013. 
  28. ^ The Love of the Last Tycoon. 1941. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli FS Fitzgerald – 1994 – Cambridge: Cambridge University
  29. ^ Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "The Crack-Up". A New Directions Book, edited by Edmund Wilson. New York, 1993, p. 310.
  30. ^ Jackson, Charles. The Lost Weekend. London: Black Spring Press. 1994. p.136.
  31. ^ Hamilton, Ian (1988), In Search of J. D. Salinger, New York: Random House, ISBN 0-394-53468-9  p. 53, 64.
  32. ^ Yates, Richard. The New York Times Book Review. April 19, 1981.
  33. ^ "Gatsby, 35 Years Later. ''The New York Times''. April 24, 1960". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 
  34. ^ New Jersey to Bon Jovi: You Give Us a Good Name[dead link] Yahoo News, February 2, 2009
  35. ^ Noted in many Fitzgerald biographies.[dead link]
  36. ^ "The Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald – Series – Academic and Professional Books – Cambridge University Press". Cambridge.org. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Glenday, Michael K. (2012), F. Scott Fitzgerald, London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-0-333-66900-6

External links[edit]