F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

(1896-1940)

Who Was F. Scott Fitzgerald?

F. Scott Fitzgerald was a short story writer and novelist considered one of the pre-eminent authors in the history of American literature due almost entirely to the enormous posthumous success of his third book, The Great Gatsby . Perhaps the quintessential American novel, as well as a definitive social history of the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby has become required reading for virtually every American high school student and has had a transportive effect on generation after generation of readers.

At the age of 24, the success of his first novel, This Side of Paradise , made Fitzgerald famous. One week later, he married the woman he loved and his muse, Zelda Sayre. However by the end of the 1920s Fitzgerald descended into drinking, and Zelda had a mental breakdown. Following the unsuccessful Tender Is the Night , Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood and became a scriptwriter. He died of a heart attack in 1940, at age 44, his final novel only half completed.

Family, Education and Early Life

Fitzgerald's mother, Mary McQuillan, was from an Irish-Catholic family that made a small fortune in Minnesota as wholesale grocers. His father, Edward Fitzgerald, had opened a wicker furniture business in St. Paul, and, when it failed, took a job as a salesman for Procter & Gamble. During the first decade of Fitzgerald's life, his father’s job took the family back and forth between Buffalo and Syracuse in upstate New York. When Fitzgerald was 12, Edward lost his job with Procter & Gamble, and the family moved back to St. Paul in 1908 to live off of his mother's inheritance.

Fitzgerald was a bright, handsome and ambitious boy, the pride and joy of his parents and especially his mother. He attended the St. Paul Academy. 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 preparatory school in 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, writing scripts for Princeton's famous Triangle Club musicals as well as frequent articles for the Princeton Tiger humor magazine and stories for the Nassau Literary Magazine.

However, Fitzgerald's writing 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 to duty, Fitzgerald hastily wrote a novel called The Romantic Egotist . Though the publisher, Charles Scribner's Sons, rejected the novel, the reviewer noted its originality and encouraged Fitzgerald to submit more work in the future.

Fitzgerald was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry and assigned to Camp Sheridan outside of Montgomery, Alabama. The war ended in November 1918, before Fitzgerald was ever deployed. Upon his discharge, he moved to New York City hoping to launch a career in advertising lucrative enough to convince his girlfriend, Zelda, to marry him. He quit his job after only a few months, however, and returned to St. Paul to rewrite his novel.

'This Side of Paradise' (1920)

This Side of Paradise is a largely autobiographical story about love and greed. The story was centered on Amory Blaine, an ambitious Midwesterner who falls in love with, but is ultimately rejected by, two girls from high-class families.

The novel was published in 1920 to glowing reviews. Almost overnight, it turned Fitzgerald, at the age of 24, into one of the country's most promising young writers. He eagerly embraced his newly minted celebrity status and embarked on an extravagant lifestyle that earned him a reputation as a playboy and hindered his reputation as a serious literary writer.

'The Beautiful and Damned' (1922)

In 1922, Fitzgerald published his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned , the story of the troubled marriage of Anthony and Gloria Patch. The Beautiful and Damned helped to cement Fitzgerald’s status as one of the great chroniclers and satirists of the culture of wealth, extravagance and ambition that emerged during the affluent 1920s — what became known as the Jazz Age. "It was an age of miracles," Fitzgerald wrote, "it was an age of art, it was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire."

'The Great Gatsby' (1925)

The Great Gatsby is considered Fitzgerald's finest work, with its beautiful lyricism, pitch-perfect portrayal of the Jazz Age, and searching critiques of materialism, love and the American Dream. Seeking a change of scenery to spark his creativity, in 1924 Fitzgerald had moved to Valescure, France, to write. Published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is narrated by Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner who moves into the town of West Egg on Long Island, next door to a mansion owned by the wealthy and mysterious Jay Gatsby. The novel follows Nick and Gatsby's strange friendship and Gatsby's pursuit of a married woman named Daisy, ultimately leading to his exposure as a bootlegger and his death.

Although The Great Gatsby was well-received when it was published, it was not until the 1950s and '60s, long after Fitzgerald's death, that it achieved its stature as the definitive portrait of the "Roaring Twenties," as well as one of the greatest American novels ever written.

'Tender Is the Night' (1934)

In 1934, after years of toil, Fitzgerald finally published his fourth novel, Tender is the Night , about an American psychiatrist in Paris, France, and his troubled marriage to a wealthy patient. The book was inspired by his wife Zelda’s struggle with mental illness. Although Tender is the Night was a commercial failure and was initially poorly received due to its chronologically jumbled structure, it has since gained in reputation and is now considered among the great American novels.

'The Love of the Last Tycoon' (unfinished)

Fitzgerald began work on his last novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon , in 1939. He had completed over half the manuscript when he died in 1940.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Short Stories

Beginning in 1920 and continuing throughout the rest of his career, Fitzgerald supported himself financially by writing great numbers of short stories for popular publications such as The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire . Some of his most notable stories include "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Camel's Back" and "The Last of the Belles."

Fitzgerald’s Wife Zelda

F. Scott Fitzgerald married Zelda Sayre on April 3, 1920, in New York City. Zelda was Fitzgerald’s muse, and her likeness is prominently featured in his works including This Side of Paradise , The Beautiful and the Damned , The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night . Fitzgerald met 18-year-old Zelda, the daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge, during his time in the infantry. One week after the publication of Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise , the couple married. They had one child, a daughter named Frances “Scottie” Fitzgerald, born in 1921.

Beginning in the late 1920s, Zelda suffered from mental health issues, and the couple moved back and forth between Delaware and France. In 1930, Zelda suffered a breakdown. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and treated at the Sheppard Pratt Hospital in Towson, Maryland. That same year was admitted to a mental health clinic in Switzerland. Two years later she was treated at the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She spent the remaining years before her death in 1948 in and out of various mental health clinics.

Later Years

After completing his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby , Fitzgerald's life began to unravel. Always a heavy drinker, he progressed steadily into alcoholism and suffered prolonged bouts of writer's block. After two years lost to alcohol and depression, in 1937 Fitzgerald attempted to revive his career as a screenwriter and freelance storywriter in Hollywood, and he achieved modest financial, if not critical, success for his efforts before his death in 1940.

Fitzgerald died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940, at the age of 44, in Hollywood, California. Fitzgerald died believing himself a failure, since none of his works received more than modest commercial or critical success during his lifetime.

QUICK FACTS

  • Name: F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Birth Year: 1896
  • Birth date: September 24, 1896
  • Birth State: Minnesota
  • Birth City: St. Paul
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: American short-story writer and novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald is known for his turbulent personal life and his famous novel 'The Great Gatsby.'
  • World War I
  • Fiction and Poetry
  • Astrological Sign: Libra
  • St. Paul Academy
  • Newman School
  • Princeton University
  • Interesting Facts
  • Fitzgerald’s namesake (and second cousin three times removed on his father's side) was Francis Scott Key, who wrote the lyrics to the "Star-Spangled Banner."
  • Fitzgerald died believing himself a failure, since none of his works received more than modest commercial or critical success during his lifetime.
  • Although 'The Great Gatsby' was well-received when it was published, it was long after Fitzgerald's death that it was regarded as one of the greatest American novels ever written.
  • Death Year: 1940
  • Death date: December 21, 1940
  • Death State: California
  • Death City: Hollywood
  • Death Country: United States

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CITATION INFORMATION

  • Article Title: F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/authors-writers/f-scott-fitzgerald
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: July 9, 2020
  • Original Published Date: April 3, 2014
  • What little I've accomplished has been by the most laborious and uphill work, and I wish now I'd never relaxed or looked back—but said at the end of The Great Gatsby: 'I've found my line—from now on this comes first.'
  • Often I think writing is a sheer paring away of oneself leaving always something thinner, barer, more meager.
  • In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day.
  • It was an age of miracles, it was an age of art, it was an age of excess and it was an age of satire.
  • Having once found the intensity of art, nothing else that can happen in life can ever again seem as important as the creative process.
  • My characters are all Scott Fitzgerald.
  • I didn't know till 15 that there was anyone in the world except me, and it cost me plenty.
  • I never at any one time saw [Gatsby] clear myself—for he started as one man I knew and then changed into myself—the amalgam was never complete in my mind.
  • Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy.
  • There are no second acts in American lives.
  • Riding in a taxi one afternoon between very tall buildings under a mauve and rosy sky; I began to bawl because I had everything I wanted and knew I would never be so happy again.
  • I left my capacity for hoping on the little roads that led to Zelda's sanitarium.
  • Isn't Hollywood a dump—in the human sense of the word. A hideous town ... full of the human spirit at a new low of debasement.
  • I was in love with a whirlwind and I must spin a net big enough to catch it.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography

With his good looks, his swift success, his love of parties , and his incredible spending. F. Scott Fitzgerald was the personification of “the jazz age. After his novel of Princeton , This Side of Paradise, which gained him immediate popularity, he went on to write The Great Gatsby, the almost perfect expression of the Prohibition Era. But it was Fitzgerald’s tragedy that he did not mature to carry out the still bigger books which he saw in his mind. ARTHUR MIZENER has been working on a biography of Fitzgerald since 194 5: in his research he has had the help of people like Edmund Wilson and Ernest Hemingway, and a Houghton Mifflin Fellowship enabled him to take a leave of absence from his teaching at Carleton College and to settle for an intense period at Princeton, where he was given access to Fitzgerald’s personal papers.

a&e biography f. scott fitzgerald questions

by ARTHUR MIZENER

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD’S life was at once representative and dramatic, at moments a charmed and beautiful success to which he and his wife, Zelda, were brilliantly equal and at moments disastrous beyond the invention of the most macabre imagination. The forces of flawed character and of chance are revealed in Fitzgerald’s life with remarkable fullness, both because it was a dramatic life lived with all the lack of caution w hich characterized Fitzgerald and because he spent his life representing what he understood of it. Just as his life illuminates his work, so his work does his life.

He was born at three-thirty in the afternoon of September 24, 1896, in a house on Laurel Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota. He weighed ten pounds and six ounces: it was the only period in his life when he was the physical superior of his contemporaries.

His father, Edward Fitzgerald, had been born in 1853 on a farm named Glenmary near Rockville in Montgomery County, Maryland, and was descended, on his mother’s side, from Scotts and Keys who had been in this country since the early seventeenth century and had regularly serv ed in the colonial legislatures. Francis Scott Key was a remote cousin of his mother. At the close of the Civil War, Edward Fitzgerald, then no more than twelve or fifteen, went west. Ev entually he arrived in St. Paul, where, by the eighties, he was running a small wicker furniture business. In one of the panics of the nineties this business failed and he went to work as a salesman for Procter and Gamble, lie was a small, quiet, ineffectual man with beautiful Southern manners, “very much the gentleman,” as his contemporaries said, “but not much get up and go.” He was, in any event, no match for his wife.

Mary McQuillan, Scott’s mother, was the oldest of the four children of Philip McQuillan, an Irish immigrant who, after a start in Galena, Illinois, w here he married his employer’s daughter, came on to St. Paul. Here, as a wholesale grocer, he eventually “reared a personal fortune estimated at from three to four hundred thousand dollars,” the St. Paul papers reported, before he died at the age of forty-four of Bright’s disease. Fitzgerald’s Grandmother McQuillan’s imposing Victorian mansion represented the solidity and permanence of wealth to a boy whose childhood was spent moving from apartment to apartment and hotel to hotel at the rate of better than one move a year, largely because of his father’s economic insufficiency. But the McQuillans did not represent breeding, for in addition to being “straight 1850 potato famine Irish” (as Fitzgerald once put it) they were eccentric, and their eldest daughter added to this eccentricity a directness which was also marked in her only son. “Whatever came into her head,” one of her in-laws remarked, “came right out of her mouth.” Fitzgerald’s contemporaries remember her from their childhood as a witchlike old lady who carried an umbrella, rain or shine, and seemed always to be walking back and forth to the lending library with an armful of books. She was devoted to her only son and she spoiled him in a way that was bad for a precocious and imaginative boy.

As a small boy Fitzgerald lived, he said later, “with a great dream,” and his object was always to try to realize that dream. When he was four or five, for instance, he described his pony to his Grandmother McQuillan in minute detail; she was horrified that so small a child should have a pony, and it was not easy, after Scott’s persuasive description, to convince her that the pony was quite imaginary. With his gift for imagining games and his energy in executing them, he sought to be the leader wherever he went. As a child he had a hard time understanding that other children did not exist simply as material for his uses, and when they asserted their own egos with the brutal directness of children, he was always unprepared for it and deeply wounded.

It is a consequence of this habit of projecting his wishes that he retained all his life the important emotional commitments of his growing up. It is partly because, as Americans, we all have similar commitments, and because it never occurred to Fitzgerald, as it does to us, that he ought to pretend to have outgrown these commit ments, that his work has such remarkable immediacy for us. He never buried his past because he was too naive to realize that you are supposed to believe it is dead

Given Fitzgerald’s capacity for hero-worship, for identifying himself with some person he admired and then imagining himself as that person, he was bound to make a heroic image for himself of the athlete, and the process by which he did so can be traced step by step. The hero was a prep-school or college boy, a male Cinderella, small and discriminated against, who by some dramatic and unlikely display of pluck won the big game for St. Regis or Princeton. This dream w as only gradually modified and never wholly uprooted by the hard realities of prep-school and college life. If put him on the Newman football team despite his dislike of the game and sent him out for freshman football at Princeton — at one hundred and thirty-eight pounds. Every so often the ideal would achieve a new personification: Sam White in the Princeton-Harvard game of 1911; Hobey Baker, Princeton football captain of 1913, “slim and defiant”; “the romantic Buzz Law whom I had last seen one cold tall twilight in 1915, kicking from behind his goal line with a bloody bandage round his head,”the mere sight of whom, “a slender, dark-haired young man with an indolent characteristic walk,” could make “something stop inside” Fitzgerald when they passed on the Champs Elysées ten years after they had left college. In these figures he found, as he put it once about Hobey Baker, “an ideal worthy of everything in my enthusiastic admiration, yet consummated and expressed in a human being who stood within ten feet of me.”

This is a characteristic instance of the process by which Fitzgerald’s imagination took hold of—or was taken hold of by — the concrete particulars of American experience and gradually made out of them symbols for the whole of human experience.

SUMMIT AVENUE is St. Paul’s show street, “a museum,” as Fitzgerald later called it, “of American architectural failures.” As Fitzgerald grew up, his family moved gradually around the periphery of St. Paul’s finest residential district, settling finally at the end of its best street. The symbolism is almost too neat, and Fitzgerald was acutely aware of it.

At the top — he once wrote of St. Paul — came those whose grandparents had brought something with them from the East, a vestige of money and culture; then came the families of the big self-made merchants, the “old settlers” of the sixties and the seventies, American-English-Scotch, or German or Irish, looking down somewhat in the order named — upon the Irish less from religious difference — French Catholics were considered rather distinguished— than from their taint of political corruption in the East. After this came certain well-to-do “new people”— mysterious, out of a cloudy past, possibly unsound.

This was the world Fitzgerald grew up in, desiring with all the intensity of his nature to succeed according to its standards and always conscious of hovering socially on the edge of it, alternating between assertion and uncertainty because of his acute awareness that his foothold was unsure. None of the things that bothered him would have made a serious impression on him had it not been for his already established insecurity.

I am — Fitzgerald wrote long afterward — half black Irish and half old American stock with the usual exaggerated ancestral pretensions. The black Irish half of the family had the money and looked down upon the Maryland side of the family who had, and really had, that . . . series of reticences and obligations that go under the poor old shattered word “breeding”. ... So being born in that atmosphere of crack, wise crack and countercrack I developed a two cylinder inferiority complex.

Very conscious of a dubious gentility and an inadequate family income, Fitzgerald set out to make his way in St. Paul and at St. Paul Academy. He w as a small, handsome, blue-eyed boy, full of energy and invention and so determined to make a success that the school magazine, Now and Then, quickly tagged him as the man who knew exactly “ How to Run the School,” and asked rather quarrelsomely if there were not someone who would “poison Scotty or find some means to shut his mouth.” “He wasn’t popular with his schoolmates,” said his headmaster. “He saw through them too much and wrote about it.”

On the long, wonderful summer visits at White Bear Lake with his friends Cecil Reed and Robert Clark — whose families could afford places at White Bear — he was constantly being beaten at games, even by girls. Nonetheless, as he was to do all his life, he stuck grimly to it.

But if his athletic career was an unbroken series of unadmitted defeats, he had some success in an extracurricular way and as a literary man. He was the leader and idea man for a club, known first as the Scandal Detectives and later as the Goosrah, which had its headquarters in the loft of his friend Cecil Reed’s barn on Holly Avenue and later in the attic of the Reeds’ new house on Summit. Here, when Fitzgerald was reading The Three Musketeers, they were taught by him to fence and, when he read Arsènc Lupin , to be detectives: everything he read had to be lived. Under the stimulus of romances about the Ku Klux Klan, the Goosrah also organized “adventures.” One of these was an attack on another boy of their own age, Reuben Warner, who had captured the affections of the girl Fitzgerald admired. Their skillfully conceived piece of terrorization, which ended with Mr. Warner’s calling out the police, was used by Fitzgerald in his story “The Scandal Detectives” in Taps at Reveille.

Meanw hile he had begun to w rite and had become St. Paul Academy’s star debater (no one had found a means to shut him up). Having had to read Sir Walter Scott in school, he turned out a complicated story of knights and ladies called “Elavo”; and having become an expert on the detective story on his own initiative, he wrote “The Mystery of the Raymond Mortgage.” This story was printed in Now and Then in September, 1909, when he was thirteen, and it was his first published work. It is, for a schoolboy, a skillfully plotted little murder story and, in its sedulous imitation of the style of such works, often unconsciously very funny. “Through some oversight,” Fitzgerald remarked later, “I neglected to bring the [mortgage] into the story in any form”; but no one seemed to notice. This success was followed by two romantic Civil War stories, “A Debt of Honor” and “The Room with the Green Blinds,” and a football story called “Reade, Substitute Right Half.”

His multifarious extracurricular activities had seriously affected Fitzgerald’s school work. He was incapable of learning anything which did not appeal to his imagination, and always depended on his wealth of scattered information about American history and certain areas of literature to distract attention from his failure to have prepared the day’s assignment. But since he had become a writer he had taken to scribbling on the blank pages of his textbooks throughout his classes, and it became apparent that drastic measures would have to be taken. A family conference was held and it emerged that Aunt Annabel, his mother’s sister and his champion, was prepared to foot the bill for a boarding school, provided it was a good Catholic school. Plans were therefore laid to send Fitzgerald to Newman in the fall of 1911.

He faced this prospect with his usual burst of imaginative fervor. All his knowledge of boarding school life, as he had learned about it from Ralph Henry Barbour and others, was summoned to the task of providing an adequate dream of social and athletic success in this glittering Eastern world.

FITZGERALD’s two years at Newman were a repetition on a larger scale of his experience at St. Paul Academy. He set off for Newman when he was fifteen, full of dreams of success and popularity and yet acutely aware of his divided nature. He once recalled in detail his judgment of himself at this time.

. . . Physically — I marked myself handsome; of great athletic possibilities, and an extremely good dancer. . . . Socially ... I was convinced that I had personality, charm, magnetism, poise, and the ability to dominate others. Also I was sure that I exercised a subtle fascination over women. Mentally ... I was vain of having so much, of being talented, ingenious and quick to learn. To balance this, I had several things on the other side: Morally — I thought I was rather worse than most boys, due to a latent unserupulousness and the desire to influence people in some way, even for evil . . . lacked a sense of honor, and was mordantly selfish. Psychologically ... I was by no means the “Captain of my fate.” ... I was liable to be swept off my poise into a timid stupidity. I knew I was “fresh” and not popular with older boys, . . . Generally — I knew that at bottom I lacked the essentials. At the last crisis, I knew I had no real courage, perseverance or self respect.

Fitzgerald arrived at Newman, and, repeating his mistakes at St. Paul Academy, made himself the most unpopular boy in the school. His extreme good looks — even four years later he collected a painful number of votes as the prettiest member of his class at Princeton — helped to win him a quick reputation as a sissy. Within a month of his arrival he had had several lights forced on him, with the crowd always against him, and had been lectured on his freshness by a fellow student named Herbert Agar. His roommate remembered him years later as having had “the most impenetrable egotism I’ve ever seen”: he was constantly aware that “he was one of the poorest boys in a rich boys’ school.” He had the faculty as well as the students against him: he was never on time for classes or meals, and he could not be prevented from reading after lights; he was constantly on bounds.

His second year at Newman was happier than his first. He made the football team, though not as a regular, and was even commended for his “fine running with the ball” in the Newman News’s account of the Kingsley game. But he was still without enthusiasm for the game and, on one occasion during the Newark Academy game, he avoided an open-field tackle so obviously that the quarterback, Donahoe, came over to him and said, “You do that again and I’ll beat you up my self.”With his wonderful Irish sense of the absurd and his ability to see it in his own experience, Fitzgerald loved to repeat this story about himself, and usually concluded his narration by remarking that he was so much more scared of Donahoe than of any ball carrier that he played a brilliant defensive game the rest of the afternoon. He made a good friend of Donahoe, and all his life admired with his characteristic generosity Donahoe’s possession of the persistence and selfcontrol which he imagined —often quite wrongly — that he himself lacked. Respect for Donahoe’s modesty made him omit his name when he said in “Handle with Care” that he “represented my sense of the ‘good life,’ though I saw him once in a decade . . . in a difficult situation I . . . tried to think what he would have thought, how he would have acted.”

In May of his second year at Newman he took his examinations for Princeton and “did a little judicious cribbing and never forgot it afterwards.”Even so he did not do well enough to assure his admission. Aunt Annabel was still financing his schooling and did not want him to go to a Protestant college. She was, however, eventually talked around.

During this summer the youthful bottle of drugstore sherry began to give w ay to more adult drinks, and twice during the year Fitzgerald was drunk enough to remember the occasions as special ones, He began to be known around St. Paul as “a man who drank,” a reputation which gave him a certain romantic interest w hich he undoubtedly enjoyed.

TIZGERALD came on to Princeton in the middle of September of 1913 to take the examinations which would determine whether he was to be admitted. On the twenty-fourth he w as able to w ire his mother: ADMITTED SEND FOOTBALL PADS AND SHOES IMMEDIATELY PLEASE WAIT THUNK. He settled for his freshman year into the rambling stucco warren at 15 University Place.

The Princeton to which he was then admitted was a very different place from the present Princeton. It was essentially an undergraduate college, though the Graduate School was dedicated the fall Fitzgerald arrived. Its enrollment was around 1500; it had a good undergraduate library of about 300,000 volumes; it had just begun to feel the effect of the preceptorial system and the four-course honors plan introduced under President Wilson, who had recently escaped from an unhappy situation at the University into the governorship of New Jersey and had been replaced by John Grier Hibben.

Physically Princeton still centered in the old campus above the transverse line set by McCosh Walk, though some of the new dormitories on the lower campus such as Little, Patton, and Cuyler had been built. The railroad station still stood at the foot of Blair steps, and the old Casino, where the Triangle Club rehearsed, stood not far off. The rickety but partly eighteenth-century façade of Nassau Street had not yet been replaced by faked Georgian; Nassau Street itself was unpaved. The modern undergraduate commons on the corner of University Place and Nassau Street would not be built for two more years; Palmer Stadium was under construction and would first be used for the Dartmouth game in the fall of Fitzgerald’s sophomore year.

Football was a deadly serious affair; the Big Three were still really big, so that football, it could be felt, was a game conducted by gentlemen in a kind of Tennysonian Round-Table spirit. No editorial writer on the Daily Princetonian ever questioned the idea that the success or failure of a university year depended on the results of the Yale and Harvard games.

Football was the best means to social distinction on the campus, and social distinction was the main preoccupation of the first two years of an undergraduate’s career. The competition was no less fierce because its most inviolable requirement was that the contestants should appear quite unconcerned with social prestige. Beneath this pretense of indifference the game of becoming a Big Man was carried on day in and day out by everyone w ho had, by local standards, good sense. “From the day when, wild-eyed and exhausted [from the rush], the . . . freshmen sat in the gymnasium and elected some one from Hill School class president . . . up until the end of sophomore year it never ceased, that breathless social system, that worship, seldom named, never really admitted, of the bogey ‘Big Man.’”

“ . . . all the petty snobbishness within the prep-school, all the caste system of Minneapolis, all were here magnified, glorified and transformed into a glittering classification.”

There were besides football other, though less powerful, means of becoming a Big Man; other sports which drew crowds counted, though, as John Peale Bishop noted, “Closet athletics, such as wrestling and the parallel bars, are almost a disadvantage.” After football the most powerful organization socially was the Triangle Club, which, by an incredible consumption of undergraduate time and energy, produces annually a commonplace musical comedy. After the Triangle Club, the Daily Princetonian was the most reputable pursuit for an undergraduate, and after that what Bishop called “the Y.M.C.A. in a Brooks suit”—the Philadelphian Society — and The Tiger , the comic weekly.

All this energetic pursuit of extracurricular activities received its reward at the time of club elections in the middle of the sophomore year. The Princeton clubs come as near to being purely social institutions as such organizations ever can. A Princeton club, apart from providing a place to eat, to play billiards, and to take a girl on week-ends (and nowadays, though not in Fitzgerald’s day, a bar and a television set), does not even pretend to offer anything. The function of the Princeton clubs is to provide a system of grading people according to social distinction at the middle of the sophomore year. For the last two years of an undergraduate’s life the club then provides him with a gathering place patterned on the best country-club models, where he eats and enjoys the wonderful leisure of undergraduate years in luxurious surroundings with congenial companions — if in the scramble of other considerations he has been lucky enough to fall among friends.

But if this was the dominant world of the University, Princeton was also a place in which Scott Fitzgerald, going out for dinner during the September examination period before commons were open, could sit down at the Peacock Inn next to an aristocratic-looking boy, and while “in the leafy street outside the September twilight faded [and] the lights came on against the paper walls, where tiny peacocks strode and trailed their tails among the gayer foliations,” he and Bishop could talk and talk about books, about Stephen Phillips and Shaw and Meredith and the Yellow Book.

It is true that as they talked Fitzgerald appears to have worried for fear the “St. Paul’s crowd at the next table would . . . mistake him for a bird, too . . .”and he would injure his social standing. Still, that intellectually admirable world was there. It had been built up through two college generations under the leadership of T. K. Whipple and Edmund Wilson and it was, before the war broke its tradition, to include, besides Bishop, the versatile Stanley Dell, John Biggs, Jr., and Hamilton Fish Armstrong. Fitzgerald was going to turn to this group at the end of his college career and to say many years later, without qualification and undoubtedly with some exaggeration: “I got nothing out of my first two years [in college] — in the last I got my passionate love for poetry and historical perspective and ideas in general (however superficially), that carried me full swing into my career.”

But if this is an oversimplified v iew of his career it is a tribute to what this group did for him which is deserved; they gave him the only education he ever got, and, above all, they gave him a respect for literature which was more responsible than anything else for making him a serious man. The voice of conscience which had taken form under these pressures spoke when Fitzgerald wrote sadly to his old friend, John Biggs, about Biggs’s appointment to the Second C ircuit Court of Appeals as the youngest judge in the history of that court: “I hope you’ll be a better judge than I’ve been a man of letters.” This was a professional conscience. If Princeton was a place of provincial social competition for two years and of charming relaxation for two more, and if it was academically a place where, as Fitzgerald himself remarked, too often “in the preceptorial rooms . . , mildly poetic gentlemen resented any warmth of discussion and called the prominent men of the class by their first names,” it was also a place where people with intellectual interests could educate themselves.

These people were committed to high standards and maturity of judgment; they wrote for each other as best they could without embarrassment or inhibition. They belonged, these young writers, as Edmund Wilson remarked long after, to a kind of professional group. . . . [They] saw in literature a sphere of activity in which they hoped themselves to play a part. You read Shakespeare, Shelley, George Meredith, Dostoevsky, Ibsen, and you wanted, however imperfectly and on however infinitesimal a scale, to learn their trade and have the freedom of their company. I remember Scott Fitzgerald’s saying to me, not long after we got out of college: “I want to be one of the greatest writers who have ever lived, don’t you?” I had not myself really quite entertained this fantasy because I had been reading Plato and Dante. Scott had been reading Booth Tarkington, Compton Mackenzie, H. G. Wells and Swinburne; but when he later got to better writers, his standards and achievements went sharply up, and he would always have pitted himself against the best in his own line that he knew. I thought his remark rather foolish at the time, yet it was one of the things that made me respect him; and I am sure that his intoxicated ardor represented the healthy way for a young man of talent to feel.

However far this world was, in its essential values, from the ordinary social world of Princeton, the two of course overlapped; Princeton was a small place. The two worlds thus lived together with only the occasional strain of a rebellion against the club system to mar their sympathy, and many undergraduates doubtless lived out their college careers according to the ostensible conventions of the society largely unaware of how a man really becomes Big. It was a perfectly healthy society set in an old and homogeneous small town.

Fitzgerald plunged eagerly into the life of Princeton. His first impulse was to accept its standards, to admire its heroes, to use his imagination to make his participation in it seem even more dazzling than it otherwise would have. His acceptance of Princeton did not, of course, prevent the shrewd, observing part of his mind from seeing what the forces which made for success were; but neither did his almost Machiavellian grasp of the political realities of the system and the worth of some of its big men affect his admiration of it or his determination “to become one of the gods of the class. All his life he made this kind of approach to a new world.

As the telegram announcing his admission indicates, Fitzgerald began by trying to be a football hero, but at one hundred and thirty-eight pounds his chances of success were not good even had he had any natural talent or liking for the game. He lasted just one day on the freshman squad. The initial failure did not daunt him at the time, but it meant there was one kind of god he would never be and the realization left its scar, a lifelong habit of daydreaming a story which he had first written out as a student at St. Paul Academy. He described this dream in his essay on insomnia called “Sleeping and Waking.”

“Once upon a time” (I tell myself) “they needed a quarterback at Princeton, and they had nobody and were in despair. The head coach noticed me kicking and passing on the side of the field, and he cried: ‘Who is that man — why haven’t we noticed him before?’ The under coach answered, ‘He hasn’t been out,’and the response was: ‘Bring him to me.’ ”. . . we go to the day of the Yale game. I weigh only one hundred and thirty-five, so they save me until the third quarter, with the score —”

— But it’s no use — I have used that dream of a defeated dream to induce sleep for almost twenty years, but it has worn thin at last.

But there were other ways to prestige. He went out for The Tiger and had a contribution in the first issue. Most important of all, he went to the organization meeting of the Triangle Club in October and was busy for the next two months helping with suggestions for lyrics and laboring over the lights during rehearsals in the old Casino. By February he was hard at work on a libretto which he hoped would be accepted for t he next year’s Triangle show. By that date he was also deep in academic difficulties. As early as October 7 the dean had called him into consultation on this question and now the midyear examinations showed that he had failed three subjects.

Throughout the spring he continued to work hard on his Triangle show and grew intimate with Walker Ellis, a handsome and romantic junior from New Orleans who was now the president-elect of the Triangle. He also took to walking in the beautiful gardens of the Pyne estate and watching the swans in the pools. Father Fay, a converted Episcopalian who had taken Fitzgerald up when he had been a student at Newman, came to the campus from time to time during the year and took him out to dinner with a few other carefully selected undergraduates. That spring he invited Fitzgerald to his mother’s home at Deal for a week-end and Fitzgerald was dazzled by the mixture of luxury and intellectual life he found. With his usual combination of innocence and calculation he played the eager, ingenuous boy; one guest who met him at Deal called him “a prose Shelley.’ There was of course much very real naïveté in him at this point in lus career, and all his life he appeared more naïve than he was because he was so direct and effervescent. Moreover, he had had very little experience of the sophisticated Eastern rich, and Fay’s world doubtless seemed to him the perfect fulfillment of the simpler St. Paul society in which he had never felt secure. To be intimately at home in Fay’s world was really to succeed.

Father Fay was a man of taste and cultivation who, having never known anything but the life of the well-to-do, had that unconscious ease and security in it which Fitzgerald always envied and never could achieve. In addition to these qualifies he was something of an eighteen-nineties aesthete, a dandy, always heavily perfumed, and a lover of epigrams. To a schoolboy of both social and literary ambitions this combination of characteristics must have been nearly irresistible. As a convert to Catholicism Fay could sympathize with Fitzgerald’s dislike of the dreary side of his Irish Catholic youth and also show him a Catholicism which was wealthy and cultivated and yet secure in its faith. “He [Shane Leslie] and another [Fay], since dead, Fitzgerald wrote several years later, made of that church a dazzling, golden thing, dispelling its oppressive mugginess and giving the succession of days upon gray days, passing under its plaintive ritual, the romantic glamour of an adolescent dream.”

Asa man of taste and intellectual interests, Father Fay understood all Fitzgerald’s ambitions and doubts. At the same time he had a gift for getting on an intimate footing with young men of Fitzgerald’s age, and, delighting in him, exercised that talent so that Fitzgerald found him sympathetic and understanding and talked with him as an equal. Fay was presently to be a Monsignor and, as a friend of Cardinal Gibbons and the occasional diplomatic representative of the Vatican, he had already considerable position and influence in the church, He was a romantically satisfying figure. There is no doubt that Fay did a great deal for what Shane Leslie, the Irish novelist and critic, called “the crude, ambitious schoolboy” who arrived at Newman from St. Paul, and, until he died very suddenly in the influenza epidemic in 1919, Fay was probably the greatest single influence on Fitzgerald. How much Fitzgerald admired him is clear from the portrait of him as Father Darcy in This Side of Paradise and from the dedication of the book to him (even though his name is misspelled in it). Such need as there was in Fitzgerald’s nature for a father was fully satisfied by him. “The jovial, impressive prelate who could dazzle an embassy ball, and the green-eyed, intent youth . . . accepted in thenown minds a relation of father and son within a half-hour’s conversation,” says Fitzgerald of Monsignor Darcy and Amory Blaine.

The rest of his life he liked to remember that he had flunked practically everything his freshman year in order to write the Triangle show. “I spent my entire freshman year,” he said later, “writing an operetta for the ‘Triangle Club. To do this I failed in algebra, trigonometry, coördinate geometry and hygiene.”But in fact three of these four failures were in the first term and his June record, with only one failure, was a great improvement over February.

During the summer he managed to get in enough tutoring to go back to Princeton early and to pass off enough conditions to become a sophomore in precarious “good standing.” The Committee on Non-Athletic Organizations, however, found his standing too insecure to allow him to participate officially in the Triangle Club. It puzzled and angered him to find that important things like the Triangle Club and his career as a Big Man could be interfered with by the academic authorities. However, he was swept away in the excitement of having his Triangle show accepted in September. Unable to accept the part he had been cast for or to go on the Christmas trip because of his ineligibility, Fitzgerald nonetheless threw himself into the work of producing the show, pulling wires for others instead of himself when it came to parts, working to get his friends into the chorus, and devoting the better part of a solid month to rehearsals. In the intervals he worried about the club elections which would come in the spring.

At midyears he managed to pass everything except chemistry, and in March he went triumphant ly into Cottage Club as one of the important men in its section, having turned down bids from Cap and Gown, Quadrangle, and Cannon. Cottage represented the type of social success Fitzgerald had dreamed of; it was the logical climax to his social career. Years later he wrote a friend he was trying to advise for her son’s sake that “though I might have been more comfortable in Quadrangle, for instance, where there were lots of literary minded boys, I was never sorry about my choice.”

In many ways this was one of the happiest times in his whole life. In February he had been elected secretary of the Triangle and he began to look forward lo being the club’s president in his senior year with confidence. In May he was elected to the editorial board of The Tiger. He anticipated election to the Senior Council, that most select gathering of the leaders of the senior class. He was in love with Ginevra King, a beautiful and wealthy girl from Chicago, whom he had met during the Christmas vacation. There was one wonderful moment in early June when he met Ginevra in New York. They went to Nobody Home and to the Midnight Frolic. The glittering urban splendor of a metropolitan evening was the perfect setting for Ginevra and he always remembered how “for one night . . . she made luminous the Ritz Roof on a brief passage through [New York].”He was also beginning to make his way among the serious writers; before the spring was out he had appeared twice in the Nassau Lit. Because he was successful and confident of the future, he was at case about everything. Consequently he was unmoved by the first faint signals of disaster which could be seen in his term-end report. Again he failed three subjects; he had taken in the firsl term alone more than the forty-nine cuts allowed in any two successive terms.

DURING the summer vacation he went west to visit his friend Sap Donahoe at the Donahoes’ ranch near White Sulphur Springs, Montana. This visit provided the background for “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.”While he was there he played cowboy in a Stetson, gauntlets, and puttees, won fifty dollars at poker, and on one occasion got drunk and climbed on a table to sing to the amused cowmen of White Sulphur Springs a song called “ Won’t You Come Up.”He was not hearing from Ginevra, but his anxiety was somewhat relieved when he was told that his chief rival was “poor as a church mouse.”

In the fall he returned to Princeton ready to go on to the climactic triumphs of his undergraduate career. As always, however, when he was most full of confidence, the enemy struck; he flunked make-up examinations in Latin and chemistry, and he had one of those familiar conferences with the Committee on Non-Athletic Organizations and found himself ineligible for extracurricular activities. The situation was more serious now; his academic deficit had been accumulating for two years and this was the year for the crucial elections, the final rewards of three years of labor in the Triangle Club and on The Tiger. Still, though he had moments of despair, the situation was not yet irretrievable. There was Ginevra at Westover and they dined happily at the Elton in Waterbury after the Yale-Princeton game at New Haven in October; he worked hard as the Triangle’s secretary, coaching his friends in their parts as a substitute for playing a part himself and doing much of the organizing and directing of the show while President Heyniger played football; he was secretary of the Bicker Committee in Cottage. What was in the sequel the most ironic event of the fall occurred when, in October, the Triangle had a series of photographs made of him as a Show Girl; these photographs were widely used for publicity over such captions as “Considered the Most Beautiful ‘Show Girl’ in the Princeton Triangle club’s New Musical Play ‘The Evil Eye.’ ” But Fitzgerald was of course never in the show.

In November he went to the infirmary with a high fever, got out after a week or so, and then had to return. His trouble was diagnosed as malaria, which was more or less endemic at that time in Princeton, with its swamps and mosquitoes and its Negro slums down Witherspoon Street. When, in 1929, he had what subsequently proved to have been a tubercular hemorrhage, and later investigations showed the scars of even earlier attacks, he decided that this malaria had been tuberculosis. But since t here is evidence of a mild attack of tuberculosis in 1919 also, there is little reason to suppose that there was anything more the matter with him than the malaria which he certainly had. His illness was perfectly real, and it also gave him an opportunity to leave college for a respectable reason at a time when the odds on his flunking out at midyears were prohibitive. His plan was to drop out for the rest of the year and to return the next September to start his junior year over again. On November 28 he attended his last class of the year and departed for St. Paul.

Still trying to save something from the wreckage of his social career, he persuaded Dean McClenahan to write him an official statement that “Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald withdrew from Princeton voluntarily . . . because of ill-health and that he was fully at liberty, at that time, to go on with his class, if his health had permitted.” “Dear Mr. Fitzgerald,” said the Dean’s covering letter, “This is for your sensitive feelings. I hope you will find it soothing.” “Almost my final memory before I left,” Fitzgerald wrote later, “was of writing a last lyric on that year’s Triangle production while in bed in the infirmary with a high fever.

But the career was beyond redemption. “It took them,” he said twenty-five years later, still hating vigorously the malicious and impersonal “them,” “four months to take it all away from me - stripped of every office and on probation — the phrase was ‘ineligible for extra-curricular activities.’ ” In February he came on to Princeton for a visit: both the club elections and the Triangle eleclions were impending. But there was nothing to be done. “To me,” he wrote twenty years later, “college would never be the same. There were to be no badges of pride, no medals, after all. It seemed on one March afternoon that I had lost every single thing I wanted—and that night was the first time that I hunted down the spectre of womanhood that, for a little while, makes everything else seem unimport ant.”

For all the trivial objective content of the experience, this was one of the great blows of his life. He had committed himself imaginatively to this world — or had had his imagination committed to it by circumstances—and the occasion’s value was determined for him by what his imagination had made of it. He brought with him to Princeton for exorcism the ghosts of all his past failures. To have succeeded at Princeton would have been to triumph in a world so superior to the Middle West that he could have taken the Middle West for granted. And he had succeeded at Princeton; he had made Cottage, had every reason to believe he would be president of the Triangle, an editor of The Tiger, perhaps even a member of the Senior Council. All his life he remembered the deprivation and could not get out of his mind an extravagant sense of the value of these medals or a feeling that somehow he had never quite known what it was to be a Princeton man. When, five years later. President Hibben wrote him a letter of mild remonstrance at the impression given by This Side of Paradise “that our young men are merely liv ing for four years in a country club and spending their lives wholly in a spirit of calculation and snobbery,” Fitzgerald was still so angry that he replied: —

[This Side of Paradise] was a book written with the bitterness of my discovery that I had spent several years trying to fit in with a curriculum that is after all made for the average student. After the curriculum had tied me up, taken away the honors I’d wanted, bent my nose over a chemistry book and said, No fun, no activities, no offices, no Triangle trips — no, not even a diploma “if you can’t do chemistry” — after that I retired.

At moments all the rest of his life this feeling of helpless ragenot really at others so much as at life, for hav ing refused him what he had earned — would come back.

IN September he was back at Princeton to begin over again in his stubborn and courageous way. He was still ineligible, but Paul Nelson, who had been elected to the presidency of the Triangle Club which he had expected to get, suggested there was still hope for him, and he set to work once more to write the songs for the show; once more the Show Girl pictures were got out and printed in the newspapers, though he was not to be in this new show either. He wrote endlessly for The Tiger despite his lack of any official connection with it, and conceived and wrote most of an issue of the Nassau Lit which burlesqued Cosmopolitan. Ginevra came down for the Yale game, but they were quarreling now, and when they met again in January she was no longer interested; they quarreled, so far as she was concerned, finally. (“I have destroyed your letters,” she wrote him that summer in reply to a request from him. “. . . I’m sorry you think that I would hold them up to you as I never did think they meant anything.”)

His interests were gradually shifting from the social to the intellectual world. He began to see more of Bishop and John Biggs, who in March succeeded Bishop as editor of the Nassau Lit. He deluged the Lit with his work and before he was through the had published nine poems, five reviews, and eight short stories.

With this shift, he completed for the first time what was to be the characteristic pattern of his relation to his experience. In an article written years later Malcolm Cowley pointed out what he called Fitzgerald’s “double vision.” “It was as if.” he said, “all his novels described a big dance to which he had taken . . . the prettiest girl . . . and as if at the same time he stood outside the ballroom, a little Midwestern boy with his nose to the glass, wondering how much the tickets cost and who paid for the music.”

This is an important insight for an understanding of Fitzgerald the talented novelist. His nature was divided. Partly he was an enthusiastic, romanticyoung man. Partly he was what he called himself in the “General Plan” for Tender Is the Night, “a spoiled priest.” This division shows itself in nearly even aspect of his life. The romantic young man was full of confidence about his own ability and the world’s friendliness; the spoiled priest distrusted both himself and the world. The romantic young man wanted to participate in life and look delight in spending himself and his money without counting the cost (“All big men have spent money freely,’' he wrote his mother when she tried to caution him in 1930. “I hate avarice or even caution”); but the spoiled priest, shocked by debt and fearing the spiritual exhaustion Fitzgerald was later to call “Emotional Bankruptey,”wanted to stand aside and study life.

All his best work is a product of the tension between these two sides of his nature, of his ability to hold in balance the impulses “to achieve and to enjoy, to be prodigal and open-hearted, and yet ambit ions and wise, to be strong a nd self-controlled, yet to miss nothing to do and yet to symbolize.” Not until 1936 did he lose faith in his ability to realize in his personal life what, he called “the old dream of being an entire man in the Goethe-ByronShaw tradition, with an opulent American touch, a sort of combination of J. P. Morgan, Topham Beauclerk and St. Francis of Assisi. . . .” He never lost his conviction that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

If Fitzgerald’s imagination owes its force and penetration to the spoiled priest, however, it was the kind which works successfully only when it has personal experience to deal with. Understanding was for him the awareness of a constellation of feelings and of the objects to which they attached themselves in a moment of actual experience. The direct experience of the romantic young man who plunged eagerly and unwarily into the life about him provided the novelist with his material. This material the spoiled priest struggled throughout Fitzgerald’s life to understand.

ALL through the spring of 1917 a preoccupation with the war had been growing at Princeton. A large delegation of undergraduates had gone off to join the mosquito fleet; another was, with the assistance of experienced military men like Professor Robert Root of the Fnglish Department, drilling energetically on the campus. Fitzgerald took little, part in this excitement. He never did participate in the Rotarian kind of war hysteria — “winebibbers of patriotism.” he called such people, “which, of course, I think is the biggest rot in the world.” But he noted the names of classmates he had admired who had been killed in France during the winter and spring of 1916-1917 and he tried to decide whether to enlist in the air force or the infantry. Late in July he was back in St. Paul, where he went out to Fort Snelling and took the necessary examinations for a provisional appointment as a second lieutenant in the regular army. But his commission hung fire and there was nothing to do but return to Princeton for his senior year and wait restlessly, He roomed with John Biggs. Together they sometimes produced whole issues of The Tiger and wrote a great deal of the Lit.

His commission was finally issued on October 26. His first move on receiving it was to sign the Oath (“My pay started the day I signed the Oath of Allegiance and sent it back w hich was yesterday ”); his second to go up to New York, to Brooks Brothers. and order his uniforms. Presently his orders came and he prepared to depart for Fort Leavenworth on November 20. He maintained the proper attitude, writing his mother; —

About t he army please let’s not have either tragedy or Heroics because they are equally distasteful to me. I went into this perfectly cold-bloodedly . . . and purely for social reasons. If you want to pray, pray for my soul and not that I won’t get killed — the last doesn’t seem to matter particularly and if you are a good Catholic the first ought to.

To a profound pessimist about life, being in danger is not depressing. I have never been more cheerful.

For all his dislike of conventional patriotism he was appealed to by the romantic idea of the gallant individual confronting and dominating danger and death. His not getting overseas and into action came gradually to seem to him a great deprivation. “It was as if, when he came later to read books about it,” as Edmund Wilson has said, “he decided that he had been greatly to blame for not having had any real idea of what had been going on at that time, and he suddenly produced Ins old trench helmet which had never seen the shores of France and hung it up in his bedroom at wilmington and would surprise his visitors there by showing them, as if it were a revelation, a book of pictures of horribly mutilated soldiers.”(As part of her education he required his eleven-year-old daughter to look these pictures over at La Paix in 1932, and the book was still in his library when he died.)

His departure from Princeton was, he thought, the end of youth, the end of experiments with life and fresh starts undertaken with easy confidence that there was plenty of time, the end of the period when one is irretrievably committed to nothing. Just before he left, he brought Dean Gauss the manuscript of a novel. He wanted Dean Gauss to recommend the book to his publisher, Scribner’s, Gauss, after reading it, told Fitzgerald frankly that he could not do so. Fitzgerald argued that he would probably be killed in the war and wanted it published. Dean Gauss finally talked him out of trying to publish, He remembers that the first part of this novel was much like the first part of This Side of Paradise, the remainder a series of unconnected anecdotes, satires, and verse about Princeton life.

But Fitzgerald was not through with the novel. The minute he was settled at Leavenworth, he started to rewrite his manuscript, at first by concealing a pad within his copy of Small Problems for Infantry and later, after he had been caught at this, by working week-ends amidst the smoke and conversation and rattling of newspapers at the Officers Club. “I would begin work at it every Saturday afternoon at one and work like mad until midnight. Then I would work at it from six Sunday morning until six Sunday night, when I had to report back to barracks. I was thoroughly enjoying myself.”Working in this way he wrote a novel of one hundred and twenty thousand words, twenty-three chapters, of which four were in verse, “on the consecutive week-ends of three months" - that is, while he was at Fort Leavenworth; he was transferred to Camp Taylor, Kentucky, in February, 1918. It is hardly any wonder that he was remembered at Leavenworth as “a sandy-haired youngster . . . the world’s worst second lieutenant.”

Fitzgerald’s statement that The Romantic Egotist was completed by January is a slight exaggeration; he still had five of his twenty-three chapters to go. But in spite of being on leave that month, he got the rest finished by March, doing part of the job in Cottage Club during his leave and sending the final installment to Bishop in March, He sent the book to Shane Leslie, who, after spending ten days correcting the punctuation and grammar, sent it along to Scribner’s with a recommendation and a request that, if they did not like it, they keep it any wax so that Fitzgerald “could go to France believing his book had been accepted.”

By June the book was being read by Scribner’s.

The Romantic Egotist was a very crude book, yet it was an original and striking book, too. Its worst faults were its lack of structure and, in the early parts, of concrete particulars. It should also be remembered that a great deal of what is now This Side of Paradise, including some of the best of it. such as the chapters about Princeton and the Isabelle and Eleanor episodes, was carried over into that book with only minor revisions from The Romantic Egotist.

In August Scribner’s returned the book to Fitzgerald with a long and encouraging letter. “We are,”they said, “considerably influenced by the prevailing conditions, including a governmental limitation on the number of publications . . . but we are also influenced by certain characteristics of the novel itself.”They then went on to make a number of detailed suggestions and concluded by urging him to submit the book again. Fitzgerald attempted to meet these suggestions and returned the manuscript to Scribner’s, but at the end of October they finally rejected it. Of the editors only Perkins was really for it.

At the same time he had been getting on with his career as the worst second lieutenant in the army. In February he got a leave and made a flying trip east to visit Princeton. He returned to Camp Taylor, Kentucky, where he found Bishop, who showed him around Louisville and talked poetry with him into the small hours. In April he was transferred again, to Camp Gordon, Georgia, and in June yet again, to Camp Sheridan near Montgomery, Alabama. Here, in June, ho received the news that Ginevra was to be married in September.

Then one night at the Country Club, when he was in attendance on several superior officers from Camp Sheridan, his eyes fell on a small group which had gathered near him during one of the pauses between dances. In their midst was a young girl so young that she had not put up her hair and was dressed in the frilly sort of dress which used to be reserved for young girls. As he looked at her. everything inside him, as he always recalled afterwards, seemed literally to melt, and without a thought for the officers who were supposed to be his responsibility for the evening, he walked straight up to Zelda Sayre and introduced himself. In his precise way where emotions were concerned he noted in his Ledger that he “fell in love on the 7th of September.

(To be continued)

a&e biography f. scott fitzgerald questions

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F. Scott Fitzgerald

By: History.com Editors

Updated: March 27, 2023 | Original: June 1, 2010

F. Scott Fitzgerald

American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) rose to prominence as a chronicler of the jazz age . Born in St. Paul, Minn., Fitzgerald dropped out of Princeton University to join the U.S. Army. The success of his first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), made him an instant celebrity. His third novel, The Great Gatsby (1925), was highly regarded, but Tender is the Night (1934) was considered a disappointment. 

Struggling with alcoholism and his wife’s mental illness, Fitzgerald attempted to reinvent himself as a screenwriter. He died before completing his final novel, The Last Tycoon (1941), but earned posthumous acclaim as one of America’s most celebrated writers.

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota , Fitzgerald had the good fortune—and the misfortune—to be a writer who summed up an era. The son of an alcoholic failure from Maryland and an adoring, intensely ambitious mother, he grew up acutely conscious of wealth and privilege—and of his family’s exclusion from the social elite. After entering Princeton in 1913, he became a close friend of Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop. He spent most of his time writing lyrics for Triangle Club theatrical productions and analyzing how to triumph over the school’s intricate social rituals.

He left Princeton without graduating and used it as the setting for his first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920). It was perfect literary timing. The twenties were beginning to roar, bathtub gin and flaming youth were on everyone’s lips, and the handsome, witty Fitzgerald seemed to be the ideal spokesman for the decade . 

With his stunning southern wife, Zelda, he headed for Paris and a mythic career of drinking from hip flasks, dancing until dawn, and jumping into outdoor fountains to end the party. Behind this façade was a writer struggling to make enough money to match his extravagant lifestyle and still produce serious work. His second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), which recounted an artist’s losing fight with dissipation, was flawed. His next, The Great Gatsby (1925), the story of a gangster’s pursuit of an unattainable lost love, was close to a masterpiece.

The Fitzgeralds’ frenetic ascent to literary fame was soon tinged with tragedy. Scott became an alcoholic and Zelda, jealous of his fame (or in some versions, thwarted by it), collapsed into madness. They crept home in 1931 to an America in the grip of the Great Depression —a land no longer interested in flaming youth except to pillory them for their excesses. 

The novel with which he had grappled for years, Tender Is the Night , about a psychiatrist destroyed by his wealthy wife, was published in 1934 to lukewarm reviews and poor sales. Fitzgerald retreated to Hollywood . He made a precarious living as a scriptwriter and struggled to control his alcoholism. Miraculously he found the energy to begin another novel, The Last Tycoon (1941), about a complex gifted movie producer. He had finished about a third of it when he died of a heart attack. Obituaries generally dismissed him.

a&e biography f. scott fitzgerald questions

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Not until the early 1950s did interest in Fitzgerald revive, and when it did, it became a veritable scholarly industry. A closer look at his life and career reveals a writer with an acute sense of history, an intellectual pessimist who doubts Americans’ ability to survive their infatuation with material success.

At the same time, he conveyed in his best novels and short stories the sense of youthful awe and hope America’s promises created in many people. Few historians have matched the closing lines of The Great Gatsby , when the narrator reflects on how the land must have struck Dutch sailors’ eyes 300 years earlier: “For a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity to wonder.”

a&e biography f. scott fitzgerald questions

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Discussion Questions (from A&E Biography education links) How

a&e biography f. scott fitzgerald questions

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IMAGES

  1. Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald

    a&e biography f. scott fitzgerald questions

  2. F. Scott Fitzgerald

    a&e biography f. scott fitzgerald questions

  3. FitzgeraldDocViewingSheet.docx

    a&e biography f. scott fitzgerald questions

  4. Scott Fitzgerald; A Biography by Meyers, Jeffrey: (1994) First edition

    a&e biography f. scott fitzgerald questions

  5. F. Scott Fitzgerald Overview: A Biography Of F. Scott Fitzgerald

    a&e biography f. scott fitzgerald questions

  6. F. Scott Fitzgerald

    a&e biography f. scott fitzgerald questions

VIDEO

  1. F. Scott Fitzgerald

  2. F. Scott Fitzgerald

  3. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Great American Writer

  4. Biography of F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

  5. F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography

  6. F. Scott Fitzgerald

COMMENTS

  1. A&E Biography

    In the 1930's the depression hit. People didn't want to read stories about parties anymore when they couldn't barely afford a meal. It was simply outdated. Fitzgerald potrayed his own life, hopes, and dreams in his novels. True.

  2. PDF Pre-Reading Fitzgerald Biography

    Fitzgerald Biography VIEWING GUIDE 2-page viewing guide for A&E's "The Great American Dreamer" biography video with questions designed to prepare students for reading ANSWER KEY INCLUDED! ... -- F. Scott Fitzgerald-- ...

  3. PDF F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great American Dreamer Viewing Questions

    Directions: Answer the following questions that are based on A&E Biography's F.Scott Fitzgerald: The Great American Dreamer. The questions are in order. (Since this is an honors class, I don't think I have to tell you to use complete sentences, right?) 1. How did the "Jazz Age," a moniker Fitzgerald coined, provide a climate favorable ...

  4. A&E Biography F. Scott Fitzgerald Viewing Guide and Discussion Questions

    Description. This is a viewing guide for students to complete while watching the A&E Biography video of F. Scott Fitzgerald. There are also discussion questions to use after watching the documentary. Use this as a pre-reading to The Great Gatsby or when teaching the 1920s. An answer key for the viewing guide is included.

  5. F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography

    This is the A&E biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited slightly to cut out the reveal of the ending of The Great Gatsby.

  6. F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Francis Scott Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fitzgerald's namesake (and second cousin three times removed on his father's side) was Francis Scott Key , who ...

  7. F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography, Works, and Quotes

    F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography. Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, and named after his ancestor Francis Scott Key, the writer of "The Star-Spangled Banner.". Fitzgerald was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. Though an intelligent child, he did poorly in school and was sent to a New Jersey boarding school in 1911.

  8. F.Scott Fitzgerald: A&E Biography Video Guide

    Description. As students watch A&E's Fitzgerald biography, they can take notes on the fill-in-the-blank worksheet. These notes can then be used to do a comparison between Fitzgerald's life and his works, including The Great Gatsby or Winter Dreams. Total Pages. 4 pages.

  9. F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896 - December 21, 1940) was an American novelist, essayist, and short story writer. He is best known for his novels depicting the flamboyance and excess of the Jazz Age—a term he popularized in his short story collection Tales of the Jazz Age.During his lifetime, he published four novels, four story collections, and 164 short stories.

  10. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography

    1. F. SCOTT FITZGERALD'S life was at once representative and dramatic, at moments a charmed and beautiful success to which he and his wife, Zelda, were brilliantly equal and at moments ...

  11. F. Scott Fitzgerald

    F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was an American writer, whose books helped defined the Jazz Age. He is best known for his novel "The Great Gatsby" (1925), considered a masterpiece. He was married ...

  12. Discussion Questions (from A&E Biography education links) How

    10. How did alcoholism play a role in the destruction of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald's lives? Discussion Questions (from A&E Biography education links) 1. How did the failures of F. Scott's father affect his life and attitudes? 2. Why are the 1920s known as the "Roaring Twenties.". What made this decade so different from the decade.

  13. A&E Biography F. Scott Fitzgerald by Kim Praser

    A&E Biography F. Scott Fitzgerald. Rated 5 out of 5, based on 1 reviews. 5.0 ... Questions & Answers. More from. Kim Praser See all 45 resources. 116 Followers. Follow. TPT is the largest marketplace for PreK-12 resources, powered by a community of educators. Facebook. Instagram.

  14. A&E Biography

    94 terms. asdfghjkuuub. Preview. Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like Why is Princeton University significant in our study of F. Scott Fitzgerald's life?, How did Fitzgerald get involved with the U.S army? Did he end up liking the army?, Who is Zelda Fitzgerald? and more.

  15. F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Fitzgerald's rise and fall was dramatic, even shocking. But as he once wrote, give me a hero, and I'll write you a tragedy. It was the story of his life, the story of a great American dreamer. The start of the 20th century was an exciting time in America as the industrial revolution gave way to a more modern era.

  16. F. Scott Fitzgerald Questions and Answers

    Ask a question. F. Scott Fitzgerald Questions and Answers - Discover the eNotes.com community of teachers, mentors and students just like you that can answer any question you might have on F ...

  17. F. Scott Fitzgerald A&E Biography Quiz Flashcards

    Match. Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like When F. Scott Fitzgerald was a teenager he realized he had a talent for writing. He decided to use his talent to write plays. What was his main motivation for creating this plays?, Where did Fitzgerald attend college?, After Fitzgerald was kicked out of college for failing ...

  18. The Great American Dreamer -Fitzgerald A&E Biography Viewing ...

    Description. This listing is for 2 different biography assignments. 1- Viewing Guide for A&E's "The Great American Dreamer", the biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald. 2- A biography close reading assignment for F. Scott Fitzgerald. Both are very easy lessons, that I have used in my English classes depending on the class.

  19. F. Scott Fitzgerald Intro (A&E Biography) |Film Guide|

    This product is great to assign to students as part of a study of an author study of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It includes 20 multiple-choice questions that are chronological order and include timestamps (places to easily pause & allow students to answer questions before moving on). The questions are...