The Fitzgeralds went to Montgomery with the intention of settling there. Zelda needed a quiet environment and wanted to be with her parents because Judge Sayre’s health was failing. They rented a house at 819 Felder Avenue in the Cloverdale section, and Fitzgerald began to replan his novel—perhaps considering a return to the Kelly material. After writing “A Freeze-Out” and “Diagnosis” for the Post in the fall, he had enough money to finance a period of uninterrupted work on his novel. Zelda, too, wrote stories that fall; two of her September-October stories are known only by their titles: “All About the Downs Case” (also titled “Crime Passionel”; Ober’s memo on “All About the Downs Case” reads: “Difficult—cleverly written but doesn’t get anywhere. Reminiscent of Nixon-Nordlinger case. Woman married to very rich man who gives her everything but treats her as a part of his possessions. She and a musician fall in love and he sees them kiss each other. He takes her to Europe and won’t let her speak to anyone. She shoots him in the end. Strong language on p. 20.” The story was declined by College Humor, The Delineator, and Harper’s Bazaar. The Harold Ober Associates archives include memos on seven other stories by Zelda: “Cotton Belt” (1932), “Duck Supper,” “Getting Away from It All,” “Gods and Little Fishes,” “One And, Two And” (1932), “The Story Thus Far,” and “Sweet Chariot.” Most of these stories appear to have been written in 1932. but some may have been reworkings of Prangins stories.) and “There’s a Myth in a Moral” (possibly retitled “A Couple of Nuts”). Her best story, “A Couple of Nuts,” had been written at Prangins. Scribner’s Magazine rejected the first version in October 1931 and published it in August 1932. The nuts are a young American couple who make a hit as entertainers in France during the Twenties but are corrupted by their rich patrons. The story ends on a characteristic Fitzgerald note of regret: “Poor kids! Their Paris address turned up just the other daywhen I was looking for my trunk keys, along with some dirty postcards and a torn fifty-franc note and an expired passport. I remembered the night Larry gave it to me: I had promised to send them some songs from home—songs about love and success and beauty.”
Fitzgerald blamed Zelda’s literary disappointments on her inability to take a professional approach to writing. She wrote in bursts of energy without a sense of long-range achievement. He analyzed her misdirected activity in “A Portrait”:
She will never be able to build a house. She hops herself up on crazy arrogance at intervals and wanders around in the woods chopping down everything that looks like a tree (vide: sixteen or twenty short stories in the last year all of them about as interesting as the average high-school product and yet all of them “talented.”) When she comes near to making a clearing it looks too much to her like all the other clearings she’s ever seen so she fills it up with rubbish and debris and is ashamed even to speak of it afterwards. Driven, ordered, organized from without, she is a very useful individual—but her dominant idea and goal is freedom without responsibility which is like gold without metal, spring without winter, youth without age, one of those maddening, coo-coo mirages of wild riches which make her a typical product of our generation. She is by no means lazy yet when she chops down a tree she calls it work—whether it is in the clearing or not. She makes no distinction between work and mere sweat—less in the last few years since she has had arbitrarily to be led or driven.
Early in November, Fitzgerald was contacted by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with an offer of six weeks at $750 to work on Katherine Brush’s novel Red-Headed Woman, a Jean Harlow vehicle. Fitzgerald was needed to rewrite a screenplay by Bess Meredyth and C. Gardner Sullivan. He didn’t want to leave Zelda; he didn’t want to delay his novel again; and he didn’t want to go to Hollywood. When M-G-M raised the offer to $1,200 a week because Irving Thalberg wanted him for the job, he accepted. In Hollywood, Fitzgerald feuded with his collaborator, Marcel de Sano, whom he described as a studio hack. Fitzgerald wanted to appeal directly to Thalberg for permission to work alone but was advised that this would be considered improper conduct.
Invited to a Sunday party the Thalbergs gave for English playwright Freddie Lonsdale, Fitzgerald after a number of drinks performed his humorous song “Dog” with a piano accompaniment by Ramon Navarro and was booed by John Gilbert and Lupe Velez. Thalbergtold Charles MacArthur to take Fitzgerald home. The next day Fitzgerald received a telegram from Norma Shearer, Thalberg’s wife: I THOUGHT YOU WERE ONE OF THE MOST AGREEABLE PERSONS AT OUR TEA. He drank in Hollywood, but, except for the Thalberg exhibition, he behaved himself.
While Fitzgerald was in Hollywood, Zelda wrote him daily loving, dependent letters assuring him that she was well. Some of these letters are so overstated that they were obviously intended as playful irony: “Its wonderful that we have never had a cross word or done bad things to each other. Wouldn’t it be awful if we had?” Yet, according to her Montgomery friend Sara Mayfield, Zelda investigated the possibility of a divorce at this time.
Fitzgerald was concerned about a relapse when Judge Sayre died on 17 November 1931, but Zelda took it well. In December she began to have asthma attacks and decided to drive to Florida to get away from dampness in Montgomery. Alarmed that asthma might signal the start of another breakdown, Fitzgerald persuaded her to travel with a nurse.
Fitzgerald finished his screenplay in five weeks and returned to Montgomery in time for Christmas. He had earned $6,000, but was convinced that M-G-M regarded his departure as running out on them because he had been asked to stay on for rewrites. His screenplay for Red-Headed Woman was not used, and the movie was made from a new screenplay by Anita Loos. Zelda organized a gala Christmas for his return from Hollywood, constructing an historical panorama in papier-mache around the tree—Hannibal crossing the Alps, a Roman village, a desert with Egyptian soldiers, and a train that stopped at several periods in history, ending with the War of the Roses.
Fitzgerald promised to write an article on “Hollywood Revisited” for Scribner’s Magazine but in January 1932 wrote instead the story “Crazy Sunday.” Combining himself with screenwriter Dwight Taylor, he enlarged his humiliation at the Thalbergs’ party into a story about the marital problems of a brilliant movie director. The story was declined by the Post as too sexually frank, and it was not accepted by any of the other mass-circulation magazines. Fitzgerald later wrote Ober: “Do you remember how the Hearst publicity men killed my story ’Crazy Sunday’ for Cosmopolitan. That was in case someone should get hurt, that it might offend Norma Shearer, Thalberg, John Gilbert or Marion Davies, etc. etc. As a matter of fact I had mixed up those characters so thoroughly that there was no character who could have been identified except possibly King Vidor and he would have been very amused by the story.” “Crazy Sunday” was published in Mencken’s American Mercury.
In January, Fitzgerald took Zelda back to Florida for her asthma and informed Perkins of his writing plans from St. Petersburg: “At last for the first time in two years + ½ I am going to spend five consecutive months on my novel. I am actually six thousand dollars ahead Am replanning it to include what’s good in what I have, adding 41,000 new words + publishing. Don’t tell Ernest or anyone—let them think what they want—you’re the only one whose ever consistently felt faith in me anyhow.”
In St. Petersburg what Fitzgerald described as a spot of eczema (more likely a hive) appeared on Zelda’s neck, an ominous sign when accompanied by irrational outbursts. She was working hard on a novel, and the strain was showing. On the trip back to Montgomery she drank the contents of Fitzgerald’s flask during the night and woke him to complain that terrible things were being done to her with his knowledge. Fitzgerald tried to talk her out of her fears, but Zelda insisted that she wanted to be hospitalized. He informed Dr. Forel, who advised him to bring Zelda back to Prangins; but that seemed out of the question. On 12 February 1932—five months after her release from Prangins—Fitzgerald took Zelda to the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic of the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. He returned to Montgomery to wait for news of her progress and to try to resume work on his novel. That winter he spent considerable time with Scottie, reading Great Expectations to her and teaching her chess, which he loved to play. He was always teaching her something. In the spring there was a treasure hunt for which Fitzgerald wrote all the clues in verse, greatly impressing her classmates at Miss Margaret Booth’s School.
Zelda did not respond well to Dr. Adolf Meyer, director of the Phipps clinic, whom she found dull and humorless; but she felt close to Dr. Mildred Squires. Fitzgerald was unable to achieve a collaborative relationship with Dr. Meyer, as he had with Dr. Forel. Wanting to participate in Zelda’s treatment, he felt that Dr. Meyer did not regard him as a serious man. At Phipps, Zelda was permitted to work for two hours a day on her novel, and Dr. Squires informed Fitzgerald on 9 March that Zelda had finished it. Zelda sent it to Perkins, explaining: “Scott being absorbed in his own has not seen it. … As soon as I hear that you have safely received the copy, I want to mail the ms. ToScott, so could you wire?” She also wrote to Fitzgerald promising to send her novel to him. By 16 March, a week after Zelda’s typescript had been sent to Perkins, Fitzgerald wrote an angry letter to Dr. Squires. He had read the novel and felt betrayed because she had preempted material from his work-in-progress.
As you may know I have been working intermittently for four years on a novel which covers the life we led in Europe. Since the spring of 1930 I have been unable to proceed because of the necessity of keeping Zelda in sanitariums. However about 50,000 words exist and this Zelda has heard and literally one whole section of her novel is an imitation of it, of its rhythm materials even statements and speeches. Now you say that the experiences which two people have undergone in common is common property—one transmutes the same scene through different temperaments and it “comes out different”. As you will see from my letter to her there were only two episodes both of which she has reduced to anecdotes but upon which whole sections of my book turn that I have asked her to cut. Her own material—her youth her love for Jozan her dancing her observation of Americans in Paris the fine passages about the death of her father— any criticisms of that will be simply impersonal and professional. But do you realize that “Amory Blaine” was the name of the character in my first novel to which I attached my adventures and opinions in effect my autobiography? Do you think that his turning up in a novel signed by my wife as a somewhat anemic portrait painter with a few ideas lifted from Clive Bell Leger ect could pass unnoticed? In short it puts me in an absurd and Zelda in a ridiculous position. If she should choose to examine our life together from an inimicable attitude + print her conclusions I could do nothing but answer in kind or be silent as I chose—but this mixture of fact and fiction is simply calculated to ruin us both or what is left of us and I can’t let it stand. Using the name of a character I invented to put intimate facts in the hands of the friends and enemies we have accumulated en route—My God, my books made her a legend and her single intention in this somewhat thin portrait is to make me a non-entity. That’s why she sent the book directly to New York.
Fitzgerald did not feel threatened by Zelda’s writing ability, though he was probably chagrined by her display of concentration in completing her novel so rapidly. His feeling of betrayal was aggravated by his conviction that it had been written on time paid for by him with money earned by time taken away from his own novel. On 16 March he wired Perkins: PLEASE DO NOT JUDGE OR IF NOT ALREADY DONE EVEN CONSIDER ZELDAS BOOK UNTIL YOU GET REVISED VERSION LETTER FOLLOWS.
When Zelda learned of Fitzgerald’s reaction, she attempted to pacify him:
Dr. Squires tells me that you are hurt that I did not send my book to you before I mailed it to Max. Purposely I didn’t—knowing that you were working on your own and honestly feeling that I had no right to interrupt you to ask for a serious opinion. Also, I know Max will not want it and I prefer to do the corrections after having his opinion. Naturally, I was in my usual rush to get it off my hands—You know how I hate brooding over things once they are finished: so I mailed it poste haste, hoping to have yours + Scribner’s criticisms to use for revising.
Scott, I love you more than anything on earth and if you were offended I am miserable. We have always shared everything but it seems to me I no longer have the right to inflict every desire and necessity of mine on you. I was also afraid we might have touched on the same material. Also, feeling it to be a dubious production due to my own instability I did not want a scathing criticism such as you have mercilessly—if for my own good given my last stories, poor things. I have had enough discouragement, generally, and could scream with that sense of inertia that hovers over my life and everything I do. So, Dear, my own, please realize that it was not from any sense of not turning first to you—but just time and other ill-regulated elements that made me so bombastic about Max.
Goofo, please love me—life is very confusing—but I love you.
Try, dear—and then I’ll remember when you need me too sometime, and help.
Fitzgerald wrote on Zelda’s letter “This is an evasion.” He was right, but he should have been prepared for her wish to keep her novel her own.
On 25 March—nine days after he read the novel—Fitzgerald wired Perkins: THINK NOVEL CAN SAFELY BE PLACED ON YOUR LIST FOR SPRING IT IS ONLY A QUESTION OF CERTAIN SMALL BUT NONE THE LESS NECESSARY REVISIONS MY DISCOURAGEMENT WAS CAUSED BY THE FACT THAT MYSELF AND DAUGHTER WERE SICK WHEN ZELDA SAW FIT TO SEND MANUSCRIPT TO YOU YOU CAN HELP ME BY RETURNING MANUSCRIPT TO HER UPON HER REQUEST GIVING SOME PRETEXT FOR NOT HAVING AS YET TIME READ IT AM NOW BETTER AND WILL WRITE LETTER TOMORROW IN MY OPINION IT IS A FINE NOVEL STOP WILL TAKE UP ARTICLE AS SOON AS I HAVE FINISHED CURRENT POST STORY WHICH WILL BE ON ARRIVAL BALTIMORE WEDNESDAY BEST REGARDS FAITHFULLY SCOTT FITZGERALD. And on 28 March: READ MANUSCRIPT BUTIF YOU HAVE ALREADY RETURNED IT WIRE AND ILL SEND MY COPY STOP IF YOU LIKE IT AND WANT TO USE IMMEDIATELY REMEMBER ALL MIDDLE SECTION MUST BE RADICALLY REWRITTEN STOP TITLE AND NAME OF AMORY BLAINE CHANGED STOP ARRIVING BALTIMORE THURSDAY TO CONFER WITH ZELDA WILL IMMEDIATELY DECIDE ON NEW TITLE AND NAME CHANGES REVISING SHOULD TAKE FORTNIGHT SCOTT FITZGERALD.
Although Zelda agreed to withdraw the novel and revise it, she tried to take a firm stand on the question of their joint material: the things that had happened to them were community literary property.
Of cource, I glad submit to anything you want about the book or anything else. I felt myself that the thing was too crammed with material upon which I had not the time to dwell and consequently lost any story continuity. Shall I wire Max to send it back? The real story was the old prodigal son, of cource. I regret that it offended you. The Pershing incident which you accuse me of stealing occupies just one line and will not be missed. I willingly relinquish it. However, I would like you to thoroughly understand that my revision will be made on an aesthetic basis: that the other material which I will elect is nevertheless legitimate stuff which has cost me a pretty emotional penny to amass and which I intend to use when I can get the tranquility of spirit necessary to write the story of myself versus myself. That is the book I really want to write.
The original title of the novel is unknown. Zelda found “Save Me the Waltz” in a record catalog. The drafts of her novel are lost along with Fitzgerald’s letters of editorial advice, so it is impossible to determine how much work he put into the revision—whether he confined himself to editorial advice or whether he revised it himself. The surviving setting copy and proofs show only a few galley revisions in Fitzgerald’s hand. On 30 March he left Alabama and lived at the Hotel Rennert in Baltimore, where he was able to consult with Zelda during the revision process. She was able to make a thorough revision in a month, and by the end of April Fitzgerald reported to Perkins: “Zelda’s novel is now good, improved in every way. It is new. She has largely eliminated the Speakeasy-nights-and-our-trip-to-Paris atmosphere. You’ll like it. It should reach you in ten days. I am too close to it to judge it but it may be even better than I think.” He warned Perkins to keep his compliments conservative and avoid exciting Zelda’s hopes. “If she has a success coming she must associate it with work done in a workmanlike manner for its own sake, + part of it done fatigued and uninspired, and part of it done even when to remember the originalinspiration and impetus is a psychological trick. She is not twenty-one and she is not strong, and she must not try to follow the pattern of my trail which is of course blazed distinctly on her mind.”
In the middle of May, Fitzgerald sent Zelda’s rewritten novel to Perkins:
Now, about its reception. If you refuse it, which I don’t think you will, all communication should come through me. If you accept it write her directly and I withdraw all restraints on whatever meed of praise you may see fit to give. The strain of writing it was bad for her but it had to be written—she needed relaxation afterwards and I was afraid that praise might encourage the incipient egomania the doctors noticed, but she has taken such a sane common sense view lately (at first she refused to revise— then she revised completely, added on her own suggestion + has changed what was a rather flashy and self-justifying “true confessions” that wasn’t worthy of her into an honest piece of work. She can do more with the galley but I cant ask her to do more now.)
This letter includes the warning not to discuss Zelda’s novel with Hemingway, who would expect Perkins’s full allegiance to his new book, Death in the Afternoon. Perkins accepted Save Me the Waltz for fall 1932 publication.
In May, Fitzgeraldrented “La Paix,” a fifteen-room Victorian frame house on the twenty-eight-acre Turnbull estate at Towson, outside Baltimore. He also acquired an impressive used Stutz. Although the Fitzgeralds lived at “La Paix” until the end of 1933, the house retained the bare look of a temporary residence. Zelda described it for Perkins: “We have a soft shady place here that’s like a paintless play-house abandoned when the family grew up. It’s surrounded by apologetic trees and [morning] meadows and creaking insects and is gutted of its aura by many comfortable bed rooms which do not have to be floated up to on alcoholic inflation past the cupolas and cornices as did the ones at ’Ellerslie’.” Fitzgerald had found “La Paix” with the help of Edgar Allan Poe, Ir., a Baltimore lawyer who had been at Princeton with him. During the period Fitzgerald lived in Maryland, Poe handled his legal affairs. At first Zelda spent mornings at “La Paix,” returning to Phipps after lunch. On 26 June she was discharged from Phipps; but she was not regarded as cured, and both Fitzgeralds went to Phipps for regular conferences with her doctors.
When Zelda became a full-time resident at “La Paix,” Fitzgerald insisted that he have control over her and that she live according to a strict schedule of exercise and rest he had prepared. She resented his authority and chafed at the restraints put on her writing by him and Dr. Meyer; nonetheless, Fitzgerald blamed Dr. Meyer for encouraging her to write. Fitzgerald was concerned that Zelda would again poach on the material for his novel, particularly in the area of psychiatry, and he encouraged her to resume painting instead. Among the paintings she worked on after 1932 are ballet studies in which the dancers have swollen feet and legs, expressing the pain of her own ballet experiences. (Since Zelda did not date her paintings, it is impossible to place them in a chronology.) Her paintings were, like her prose, often surprising and even startling. There was also a witty series of New York and Paris city-scapes. Zelda painted for the rest of her life, but she preferred writing as a form of expression because she did not feel confident about her command of painting. She also believed that her poor eyesight hampered her work as a painter.
Although she had relinquished her ballet ambitions, Zelda continued to practice and often wore a tutu. She had developed the nervous habit of picking at her face, perhaps as the result of the eczema she had suffered at Prangins. At “La Paix” there were frequent arguments during which the Fitzgeralds shouted at each other, but there were also interludes of tenderness. Visitors were impressed by the Fitzgeralds’ enjoyment of each other’s wit and the way they responded to recollections of past happiness.
During April and May 1932 Fitzgerald wrote three Post stories for ready money: “Family in the Wind,” “What a Handsome Pair!” and“The Rubber Check.” “What a Handsome Pair!” was an oblique response to the crisis over Zelda’s novel. In this story the marriage between two keen sporting people turns into bitter competition. Another marriage in the story, that of a composer to an uncultured woman who knows nothing about music, is contrastingly comfortable because the wife is just a wife. Too much mutuality of interests may ruin a marriage; one kind of good marriage—especially for a creative man—requires a wife without ambitions. “Family in the Wind” expresses Fitzgerald’s determination to fulfill his responsibilities to Scottie. Based on a recent cyclone in Alabama, the story treats a once-brilliant surgeon who has become the alcoholic proprietor of a small-town drugstore. He assumes responsibility for a little girl who has been orphaned by the cyclone and resumes his medical career. There were two more stories later in the year: “One Interne” and “On Schedule.” The Post cut his payments from $4,000 to $3,500, $3,000, and $2,500. In one year Fitzgerald’s story price fell to its 1925 level. The Post was feeling the Depression with diminished advertising revenues, but the editors were also complaining to Ober that these stories were not up to the Fitzgerald standard. Fitzgerald admitted that one of his 1932 stories, “Nightmare” (also titled “Fantasy in Black”), set at an insane asylum, was unsalable to any of the slick magazines. Ober ignored Fitzgerald’s suggestion that it be offered to the pulps. Fitzgerald’s 1932 earnings were $15,832.40—the lowest annual total since 1919.
Fitzgerald maintained his friendship with H. L. Mencken in Baltimore, but Mencken’s domestic situation prevented resumption of the roistering times of 1920. Mencken had married an invalid, Sara Haardt—a girlhood friend of Zelda’s from Montgomery—with whom he lived quietly. Although Mencken regarded him as the “white hope of American letters,” he was convinced that Fitzgerald would not fulfill his promise as long as he remained with Zelda and continued to drink.
During August 1932 Fitzgerald made his first trip to Johns Hopkins Hospital with a tentative diagnosis of typhoid fever. His stay in the hospital provided him with “One Interne,” a competently plotted doctor-nurse love story reinforced by details of Hopkins customs. Fitzgerald was hospitalized at Hopkins eight more times between 1933 and 1937, both for alcoholism and for chronic inactive fibroid tuberculosis. One of his Baltimore physicians was Benjamin Baker, a thirty-one-year-old former Rhodes scholar. At Mencken’s urging Dr. Baker took a personal interest in Fitzgerald and tried to keep him on the wagon. He managed it for several months by getting Fitzgerald to phone whenhe wanted to take a drink; Dr. Baker went to Washington and Richmond in response to these calls.
Inevitably, Fitzgerald spent hours pumping Dr. Baker about his personal life. In search of story material he began visiting the Hopkins emergency room, where he made a friend of the eighty-year-old man— supposedly a disgraced English aristocrat—who registered the patients. Fitzgerald eventually wrote half a dozen Hopkins stories, some of which were unsalable.
Save Me the Waltz—dedicated to Dr. Squires—was published at $2 by Scribners on 7 October 1932 in a printing of 3,010 copies. The reception was disappointing. Sales were only about 1,400 copies, and the reviewers did not treat it respectfully. The novel was probably hurt by the circumstance that it apparently never received thorough copy editing and was peppered with errors. Fitzgerald had written into the contract the stipulation that half the royalties up to $10,000 were to be credited against his Scribners debt; but the 1932 earnings from Save Me the Waltz were only $120.73—partly because of the cost of proof revisions.
Zelda’s impressionistic technique and lush style puzzled readers. Passages like this are frequent: “A shooting star, ectoplasmic arrow, sped through the nebulous hypothesis like a wanton hummingbird. From Venus to Mars to Neptune it trailed the ghost of comprehension, illuminating far horizons over the pale battlefields of reality.” Flowers always enriched Zelda’s life, and her letters often expressed her intense responses to them. Save Me the Waltz includes a lavish synesthesic description of the flowers of Paris.
Yellow roses she bought with her money like Empire satin brocade, and white lilacs and pink tulips like moulded confectioner’s frosting, and deep-red roses like a Villon poem, black and velvety as an insect wing, cold blue hydrangeas clean as a newly calcimined wall, the crystalline drops of lily of the valley, a bowl of nasturtiums like beaten brass, anemones pieced out of wash material, and malignant parrot tulips scratching the air with their jagged barbs, and the voluptuous scrambled convolutions of Parma violets. She bought lemon-yellow carnations perfumed with the taste of hard candy, and garden roses purple as raspberry puddings, and every kind of white flower the florist knew how to grow. She gave Madame gardenias like white kid gloves and forget-me-nots from the Madeleine stalls, threatening sprays of gladioli, and the soft, even purr of black tulips. She bought flowers like salads and flowers like fruits, jonquils and narcissus, poppies and ragged robins, and flowers with the brilliant carnivorous qualities ofVan Gogh. She chose from windows filled with metal balls and cactus gardens of the florists near the rue de la Paix, and from the florists uptown who sold mostly plants and purple iris, and from florists on the Left Bank whose shops were lumbered up with the wire frames of designs, and from outdoor markets where the peasants dyed their roses to a bright apricot, and stuck wires through the heads of the dyed peonies.
Openly autobiographical, Save Me the Waltz is Zelda’s attempt to comprehend her collapse. The novel makes it clear that her parents were a powerful presence in her life. Judge Sayre, despite his remoteness, provided Zelda with a standard of conduct against which she rebelled while accepting its justness. Save Me the Waltz is divided into four sections. In the opening section Alabama Beggs, the daughter of a Southern judge, meets a painter during World War I and marries him. David Knight, like Fitzgerald, has a quality of romantic promise. He achieves rapid success, and the Knights become New York celebrities: “They were having the bread line at the Ritz that year. Everybody was there. People met people they knew in hotel lobbies smelling of orchids and plush and detective stories, and asked each other where they’d been since last time.” When her parents make a disastrous visit to the Knights’ Connecticut home, Alabama realizes she is permanently estranged from the Judge’s certainties. The Knights have a daughter, Bonnie; and in the second section of Save Me the Waltz they go to the Riviera, where Alabama falls in love with a French naval aviator, Tacques Chevre-Feuille. She does not sleep with him, and the aviator discourages Alabama’s offer to leave her husband. David tries to force a fight with Jacques, who refuses because he is much stronger than David.
The Knights move to Paris: “Nobody knew whose party it was. It had been going on for weeks. When you felt you couldn’t survive another night, you went home and slept and when you got back, a new set of people had consecrated themselves to keeping it alive.” When David has an affair with an actress, Alabama determines to seek a ballet career. The third section of the novel details the strain of Alabama’s ballet work and her concomitant estrangement from David as “Madame,” the head of the studio, becomes the artistic and spiritual center of her life. In the final section Alabama accepts a position with a ballet company in Naples (the same offer Zelda had declined), and is separated from her husband and daughter. Alabama develops blood poisoning from an infected blister, and the operation makes it impossible for her to dance again. Reconciled, the Knights return to America.After Judge Beggs dies in November 1931, as did Judge Sayre, the Knights prepare to leave the South. They are together again with their shared sense of regret and loss. Even in its rewritten version, Save Me the Waltz is transparently about the Fitzgeralds and rehearses the crises of the first decade of their marriage—with the omission of the homosexual suspicions and psychiatric episodes. But it is not simply Zelda’s exercise in self-justification. The Knights’ betrayals are mutual.
At “La Paix” Fitzgerald hired his first full-time secretary, Isabel Owens, and prepared for the final assault on his novel. Abandoning the Melarky-matricide and Kelly-shipboard material, he conceived a new plot set in Europe about an American psychiatrist who is ruined by his marriage to a wealthy mental patient. If his inability to complete the early versions of the novel can be blamed on his lack of commitment to the matricide material, in 1932 Fitzgerald had material that he felt strongly about: Zelda’s breakdown and his own deterioration. When he resumed work on the novel that would have to recoup his reputation, he had a store of painful emotions to draw on. Tender Is the Night became in the writing his attempt to understand the loss of everything he had won, the loss of everything he had ever wanted.
In August 1932 he noted in his Ledger, “The novel now plotted + planned, never more to be permanently interrupted.” The plan consists of sixteen pages of story digest, character sketches, charts, and work schedules.
The novel should do this. Show a man who is a natural idealist, a spoiled priest, giving in for various causes to the ideas of the haute Burgeoise, and in his rise to the top of the social world losing his idealism, his talent and turning to drink and dissipation. Background one in which the liesure class is at their truly most brilliant + glamorous such as Murphys.
The hero born in 1891 is a man like myself brought up in a family sunk from haute burgeoisie to petit burgeoisie, yet expensively educated. He hasall the gifts, and goes through Yale almost succeeding but not quite but getting a Rhodes scholarship which he caps with a degree from Hopkins, + with a legacy goes abroad to study psychology in Zurich. At the age of 26 all seems bright. Then he falls in love with one of his patients who has a curious homicidal mania toward men caused by an event of her youth. Aside from this she is the legendary promiscuous woman. He “transfers” to himself + she falls in love with him, a love he returns.
After a year of non-active service in the war he returns and marries her + is madly in love with her + entirely consecrated to completing the cure. She is an aristocrat of half American, half European parentage, young, mysterious + lovely, a new character. He has cured her by pretending to a stability + belief in the current order which he does not have, being in fact a communist-liberal-idealist, a moralist in revolt. But the years of living under patronage ect. + among the burgeoise have seriously spoiled him and he takes up the marriage as a man divided in himself. During the war he has taken to drink a little + it continues as secret drinking after his marriage. The difficulty of taking care of her is more than he has imagined and he goes more and more to pieces, always keeping up a wonderful face.
At the point when he is socially the most charming and inwardly corrupt he meets a young actress on the Rivierra who falls in love with him. With considerable difficulty he contains himself out of fear of all it would entail since his formal goodness is all that is holding his disintegration together. He knows too that he does not love her as he has loved his wife. Nevertheless the effect of the repression is to throw him toward all women during his secret drinking when he has another life of his own which his wife does not suspect, or at least he thinks she doesn’t. In one of his absensces during which he is in Rome with the actress having a disappointing love affair too late he is beaten up by the police. He returns to find that instead of taking a rest cure she has committed a murder and in a revulsion of spirit he tries to conceal it and succeeds. It shows him however that the game is up and he will have to perform some violent + Byronic act to save her for he is losing his hold on her + himself.
He has known slightly for some time a very strong + magnetic man and now he deliberately brings them together. When he finds under circumstances of jealous agony that it has succeeded he departs knowing that he has cured her. He sends his neglected son into Soviet Russia to educate him and comes back to America to be a quack thus having accomplished both his burgeoise sentimental idea in the case of his wife and his ideals in the case of his son, + now being himself only a shell to which nothing matters but survival as long as possible with the old order.
The Drunkard’s Holiday will be a novel of our time showing the breakup of a fine personality. Unlike The Beautiful and Damned the break-up will be caused not by flabbiness but really tragic forces such as the inner conflicts of the idealist and the compromises forced apon him by circumstances.
The novel will be a little over a hundred thousand words long, composed of fourteen chapters, each 7,500 words long, five chapters each in the first and second part, four in the third—one chapter or its equivalent to be composed of retrospect.
CHARACTERS + NAMES
The hero was born in 1891. He is a well-formed rather athletic and fine looking fellow. Also he is very intelligent, widely read—in fact he has all the talents, including especially great personal charm. This is all planted in the beginning. He is a superman in possibilities, that is, he appears to be at first sight from a burgeoise point of view. However he lacks that tensile strength—none of the ruggedness of Brancusi, Leger, Picasso. For his external qualities use anything of Gerald, Ernest, Ben Finny, Archie Mcliesh, Charley McArthur or myself. He looks, though, like me.
The faults—the weakness such as the social-climbing, the drinking, the desparate clinging to one woman, finally the neurosis, only come out gradually.
We follow him from age 34 to age 39.
Actual Age of
|June||1912||Graduated Yale aged 20|
|June||1916||Graduated Hopkins. Left for Vienna (8 mo. there)|
|June||1917||Was in Zurich after 1 year and other work. Age 26|
|June||1918||Degree at Zurich. Aged 26.|
|June||1919||Back in Zurich. Aged 27|
|September||1919||Married—aged 1928 (after his refusing fellowship at University in neurology and pathologist to the clinic. Or does he accept?|
|July||1925||After 5 years and 10 months of marriage is aged almost 34|
|July||1929||After 9 years and 10 months of marriage is aged almost 38.|
Always one year younger than century.
The heroine was born in 1901. She is beautiful on the order of Marlene Dietrich or better still the Norah Gregor-Kiki Allen girl with those peculiar eyes. She is American with a streak of some foreign blood. At fifteen she was raped by her own father under peculiar circumstances—work out. She collapses, goes to the clinic and there at sixteen meets the young doctor hero who is ten years older. Only her transference to him saves her—when it is not working she reverts to homicidal mania and tries to kill men. She is an innocent, widely read but with no experience and no orientation except what he supplies her. Portrait of Zelda—that is, a part of Zelda.
We follow her from age 24 to age 29
Method of Dealing with Sickness Material
Classification of the Material on Sickness
The plan includes a sheet on which Zelda’s case history is charted with that of the novel’s heroine.
The actress was born in 1908. Her career is like Lois or Mary Hay—that is, she differs from most actresses by being a lady, simply reeking of vitality, health, sensuality. Rather gross as compared to the heroine, or rather will be gross for at present her youth covers it. Mimi-Lupe Velez
We see her first at the very beginning of her carreer. She’s already made one big picture
We follow her from age 17 to age 22.
The Friend was born in 1896. He is a wild man. He looks like Tunte and like that dark communist at the meeting. He is half Italian or French + half American. He is a type who hates all sham + pretense. (See the Lung type who was like Foss Wilson) He is one who would lead tribesmen or communists—utterly aristocratic, unbourgeoise king or nothing. He fought three years in the French foreign legion in the war and then painted a little and then fought the Riff. He’s just back from there on his first appearance in the novel and seeking a new outlet. He has money + this French training—otherwise he would be a revolutionist. He is a fine type, useful or destructive but his mind is not quite as good as the hero’s. Touch of Percy Pyne, Denny Holden also.
We see him from age 28 to age 33.
In replanning his novel Fitzgerald was guided by Emile Zola’s documentary method for assembling material, as described in Matthew Josephson’s Zola and His Time (1928). When Tender Is the Night was published, Fitzgerald sent Josephson an inscribed copy: “Save for the swell organization of ’Zola’ + your reproduction of it, this would never have reached the stalls—” Fitzgerald departed from his preliminary plan in the course of writing the novel; for example, Nicole is not homicidal in the book. The plan reveals that from the inception of the final plot in 1932 the novel was not a direct transcription from life. The characters are composites. Nicole is a “Portrait of Zelda— that is, a part of Zelda” compounded with an invented character and invented action. Of course, Zelda had not been raped by her father.
The manuscripts for the novel, which now had the working title “The Drunkard’s Holiday” (the title of one of Fitzgerald’s projected novels in 1919), show that while salvaging the best parts from the earlier versions, the book Fitzgerald planned in the summer of 1932 was a new work which synthesized many events and figures from the Fitzgeralds’ expatriate years. Zelda’s insanity—transferred to Nicole Diver—was the catalytic experience; but the subject of the novel isFitzgerald’s betrayal of his genius expressed through the career of Dr. Richard Diver, who represents Fitzgerald’s self-judgment and self-condemnation. The characterization of Diver is complex because Fitzgerald brought to it both self-pity and self-contempt. The name “Diver” reveals the ambivalence of Fitzgerald’s feelings both about the hero and about himself. Dick Diver is of course the man who plunges from great promise to disgraced failure; but the name also has the slang meaning “cocksucker.” Diver is the victim of corrupting influences, but he is corrupted because he is corruptible. On the simplest level he is ruined by the rich; but the true source of his collapse is his need to be loved and admired, which compels him to squander his emotional capital. Dr. Diver succeeds in curing his patient-wife at the cost of his own career. In achieving Zelda’s impossible cure in fiction Fitzgerald may have been trying to absolve himself of whatever guilt he felt for his wife’s madness—as well as to punish himself for his self-indulgence and self-betrayal.
The dedication of Tender Is the Night—“TO/GERALD AND SARA/MANY FETES”—has led the incautious to assume that the Divers are the Murphys. This assumption does not hold up under scrutiny. The Pipers (Rorebacks) in the matricide version were modeled on the Murphys, but as Fitzgerald wrote and rewrote he worked away from the Murphys. Social qualities or background details from the Murphys were transferred to the Divers; but the Divers are invented— or synthesized—characters who finally are much closer to the Fitzgeralds than to the Murphys. As Fitzgerald’s “General Plan” shows, even at that preliminary stage the Divers were not straight transcriptions of the Murphys. Dick’s external qualities were assembled from Murphy, Hemingway, Finney, MacLeish, MacArthur, and Fitzgerald. John O’Hara later told Gerald Murphy: “Scott wrote the life, but not the lives. And that is true partly because Scott was always writing about the life. Sooner or later his characters always come back to being Fitzgerald characters in a Fitzgerald world… And of course as he moved along, he got farther away from any resemblance to the real Murphys. Dick Diver ended up as a tall Fitzgerald…”
Except for This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald never wrote a roman a clef, in which the characters and action are directly based on actual people and real events. He did, however, always draw some of his characters from life—sometimes closely. Abe North is obviously modeled on Ring Lardner with a suggestion of Charles MacArthur, but the events of North’s life were invented. Tommy Barban is anamalgam of five people—Edouard Jozan, Mario Braggiotti, Tommy Hitchcock, Percy Pyne, and Denny Holden. Although Fitzgerald did not stipulate Hemingway as one of the models for Barban, there are clear connections: just as Barban usurps Diver’s Riviera kingdom, so Hemingway had eclipsed Fitzgerald’s literary reputation. Baby Warren was drawn from Sara Murphy’s sister, Hoyt; but her name was given to Rosemary Hoyt.
The most instructive example of Fitzgerald’s method of character creation in Tender Is the Night is Rosemary, who evolved from the combination of the fictional Francis Melarky with Lois Moran. Rosemary resembles the actress while performing some of the action salvaged from the Melarky drafts. In the process Fitzgerald converted the protagonist of the early version into the observer or reflector figure in the published novel. Because Rosemary’s point of view is not maintained throughout the novel, Fitzgerald was unable to achieve the impression of distance from Diver that Carraway provides for Gatsby. In the Melarky version Fitzgerald had tried and rejected the partially involved narrator method—probably because the scope of the Tender story is too great to be observed by one character.
The material from the early drafts was not simply transferred to the Diver version. Fitzgerald revised or rewrote what he salvaged, and he wrote new material for the new characters. “The Drunkard’s Holiday” is based on the Melarky material up to Abe’s departure from Paris in Chapter 19 of Book I. The rest of the novel is new—except for the account of Dick’s beating in Rome, which was originally intended as the prologue for the matricide plot. The novel achieved its final form through layers of drafts. As was his invariable practice, Fitzgerald wrote the novel in pencil on unlined white legal-size sheets, with his secretary typing sections or chapters as they were written. Mrs. Owens prepared a ribbon copy (triple-spaced to allow room for revision) and two carbons. Fitzgerald revised the ribbon and carbon copies. Then the best revision was retyped, and the revision process continued. At every stage Fitzgerald polished his prose by tightening sentences and finding richer language.
The complete typescript of “The Drunkard’s Holiday,” prepared for serialization in Scribner’s Magazine, was some 700 double-spaced pages. Fitzgerald revised the ribbon copy (which he retitled “Doctor Diver’s Holiday: A Romance”) and then the carbon copy (retitled Tender Is the Night: A Romance). The subtitle “A Romance” indicates that Fitzgerald regarded his book as a departure from the realistic or novelistic modes of fiction. It is not known whether Fitzgerald was familiar with Hawthorne’s explanation of his designating The House of the Seven Gables a romance, but Fitzgerald’s application of the term accords with Hawthorne’s usage to designate a form or technique that grants itself “a right to present that truth [of the human heart] under circumstances, to a great extent, of the writer’s own choosing or creation. If he think fit, also, he may so manage his atmospherical medium as to bring out or mellow the lights and deepen and enrich the shadows of the picture.” Fitzgerald later described it to James Thurber as “my testament of faith.” Henceforth Fitzgerald thought of himself as a writer of romances; The Last Tycoon would also be subtitled “A Romance.”
Although the title “Doctor Diver’s Holiday” was an improvement over “The Drunkard’s Holiday,” Fitzgerald worried that it would give potential readers the impression that it was a medical story. The title Tender Is the Night—from Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” (a poem Fitzgerald said he could never read without tears) pleased him; but Perkins or some of the Scribners people required persuasion because it was not a selling title that gave the customers a clue to the nature of the work, and Fitzgerald briefly considered the neutral title “Richard Diver.” Tender Is the Night with its epigraph (“Already with thee! tender is the night …/… But here there is no light,/Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown/Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.”) evokes the mood of disenchantment that pervades Fitzgerald’s romance. Keats’s poem expresses an attempt to flee painful reality and the consequent return to despair. The final lines of the ode express Dick Diver’s mood of loss at the end of the novel: “Was it a vision, or a waking dream?/Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?”
Fitzgerald was lonelyat “La Paix” and spent time with Scottie and the three Turnbull children—Eleanor, Frances, and Andrew—inventing games and writing skits for them. He shared an interest in football with eleven-year-old Andrew, who would become his biographer in 1962, and took him to Princeton games. Fitzgerald tried to compensate for Zelda’s absences and withdrawal from family life by devoting attention to Scottie, who was approaching eleven. Concerned that she might be influenced by exposure to her parents’ weakness, he endeavored to train her to be disciplined. He expected her to excel at her studies and was harsh with her when she disappointed him. Scottie was very much under her father’s influence, and Zelda resented it when the child indicated that Daddy’s decisions were the ones that counted.
Fitzgerald shared his pleasure in verbal play with Scottie, teaching her riddles (the farmer, the goose, the fox, and the bag of grain) and limericks (“There was a Young Lady of Niger …”). He played the word game Hangman with her and encouraged her to read his favorite children’s books, Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring and Kipling’s Just-So Stories. There was also croquet and tennis at “La Paix,” and Fitzgerald gave his daughter boxing lessons. A favorite diversion of Fitzgerald’s was chess, which he played with both Scottie and Zelda.
In Baltimore, Fitzgerald looked up his college friend Eben Finney, Princeton ’19. The Finneys had a daughter, Peaches, who was Scottie’s age. The girls attended the Calvert and Bryn Mawr schools together, and Peaches Finney became Scottie’s closest friend.
Mollie Fitzgerald’s visits to “La Paix” from Washington irritated her son because she could not conceal her anxiety about him. She would bring him candy, hoping that it would help him to cut down his drinking. Annabel Fitzgerald had married Clifton Sprague, a naval officer, and she rarely saw her brother. (Admiral Sprague, whom Fitzgerald admired but felt no rapport with, became a hero of the Battle of Leyte Gulf in World War II.)
Relations between the Fitzgerald and Turnbull households were cordial but not close. For one thing, the Turnbulls ran a dry house. Bayard Turnbull, an architect, was put off by Fitzgerald, who nevertheless developed a warm friendship with Margaret Turnbull. He talked books with her and sought her advice on Scottie. Fitzgerald respected women who represented for him the old standards of manners and impeccable conduct, and he was on his best behavior with Mrs. Turn-bull. (He was amused by her reaction when the banks closed in March 1933 and he was the only one at “La Paix” with money—$1,800 in gold.) When T. S. Eliot lectured on the metaphysical poets at Johns Hopkins University in February 1933, the Turnbulls invited Fitzgerald to a dinner they gave for Eliot. Fitzgerald regarded him as the greatest living poet and had been gratified by his praise of The Great Gatsby. On this occasion Fitzgerald was asked to read Eliot’s poems aloud, which he did effectively. On 2 February, Eliot inscribed Fitzgerald’s copy of Ash-Wednesday “with the author’s homage.” Reporting on the meeting to Edmund Wilson, Fitzgerald described Eliot as “Very broken and sad + shrunk inside.”
While Zelda was at “La Paix” during the summer of 1932, Fitzgerald kept in close touch with her doctors at Phipps. Zelda responded better to Dr. Thomas Rennie, a young psychiatrist, than she did to Dr. Meyer, and Fitzgerald wrote him analyses of her behavior. More and more Fitzgerald blamed Mrs. Sayre’s indulgence of Zelda as a child for making her selfish and irresponsible. There were frequent arguments at “La Paix,” for Zelda resented Fitzgerald’s control over her daily activities.
Fitzgerald was unable to give up gin, which he was convinced made it possible for him to work. He reserved the times of the day when he was sober for his novel; but he took alcohol every day, and he went on binges. He later admitted to Perkins that drinking had interfered with his work on Tender and marred the pacing of the novel:
It has become increasingly plain to me that the very excellent organization of a long book or the finest perceptions and judgment in time of revision donot go well with liquor. A short story can be written on a bottle, but for a novel you need the mental speed that enables you to keep the whole pattern in your head and ruthlessly sacrifice the sideshows as Ernest did in “A Farewell to Arms.” If a mind is slowed up ever so little it lives in the individual part of a book rather than in a book as a whole; memory is dulled. I would give anything if I hadn’t had to write Part III of “Tender is the Night” entirely on stimulant. If I had one more crack at it cold sober I believe it might have made a great difference. Even Ernest commented on sections that were needlessly included and as an artist he is as near as I know for a final reference.
Dr. Meyer regarded the Fitzgeralds as a joint case and insisted that Zelda would not be cured unless Fitzgerald gave up drinking, referring to him as “a potential but unwilling patient.” But Fitzgerald refused to undergo psychiatric treatment because he thought it would damage his writer’s equipment. Again he had to defend or minimize his drinking; drafting a letter to Dr. Meyer, he wrote:
The witness is weary of strong drink and until very recently He had the matter well in hand for four years and has it in hand at the moment, and needs no help in the matter being normally frightened by the purely physical consequences of it. He does work and is not to be confused with the local Hunt-Club-Alcoholic and asks that his testimony be considered as of prior value to any other.
P.S. … In answer to your points—I can concieve of giving up all liquor but only under conditions that seem improbable—Zelda suddenly a helpmate or even divorced and insane. Or, if one can think of some way of doing it, Zelda marrying some man of some caliber who would take care of her, really take care of her This is a possibility Her will to power must be broken without that—the only alternative would be to break me and I am forwarned + forearmed against that
Fitzgerald’s Ledger summary for his thirty-fifth year was: &“Recession + Procession Zelda Well, Worse, Better. Novel intensive begins.” Fitzgerald complained about Zelda’s withdrawal from family life at “La Paix.” They did not entertain and rarely went out together. An undated memo by Fitzgerald provides a sense of the domestic conditions under which he wrote his novel: “As I got feeling worse Zelda got mentally better, but it seemed to me as she did she was also coming to the conclusion she had it on me, if I broke down it justified her whole life—not a very healthy thought to live with about your own wife… Finally four days ago I told her frankly + furiously that had got + was getting a rotten deal trading my health for her insanity andfrom now on I was going to look out for myself + Scotty exclusively + let her go to Bedlam for all I cared.”
The most serious crisis resulted from her plan to write a novel about insanity—probably dealing with Nijinsky, the Russian dancer who had gone mad. Since Fitzgerald was treating psychiatric material in his novel, he charged that she was again poaching and insisted that she could not write about this subject until his novel was published. Zelda felt that she had earned the right to the material, that it was her material more than his, but she yielded and wrote a play instead. Scandalabra, “a farce-fantasy,” was completed in the fall of 1932; in October, Zelda sent it to Harold Ober for circulation to Broadway producers, but there was no interest. The play can be described as a reversal of The Beautiful and Damned. A wealthy man leaves a fortune to his nephew on the condition that he live a dissipated life. After working at dissipation, the young man and his wife decide they’d rather be good—which is what the uncle had really intended. The dialogue is filled with Zelda’s inversions and paradoxes, and much of it has a neo-Wildean quality: “Influence, madam, is when there’s somebody fond enough of us to justify our blaming them for our mistakes.”
Fitzgerald worked steadily on his book during the fall and winter of 1932. The only distraction he allowed himself, apart from conferences with Zelda’s doctors, was a growing concern with politics as he read Karl Marx. A November Ledger note reads: “Political worries, almost neurosis.” Zelda wrote Perkins, “The Community Communist comes and tells us about a kind of Luna-Park Eutopia.” Although Fitzgerald had called himself a socialist in the Twenties and always regarded himself as a liberal, he remained essentially nonpolitical. Indeed, in “Echoes of the Jazz Age” Fitzgerald stated, “It was characteristic of the Jazz Age that it had no interest in politics at all.” He approached politics as an aspect of history, and his interest was in main currents of thought. Nonetheless, in the Thirties he felt a pull toward political activity. The far left was beginning to dominate the literary scene. As politics and literature merged, Fitzgerald felt the need to identify with the ideas that were shaping literary standards. When he drew up the plan for his novel, he described Dick Diver as “a communist-liberal-idealist, a moralist in revolt” and intended to end it with Diver’s decision to send his son to be educated in Russia. This idea was not carried out.
Fitzgerald was incapable of submitting to political discipline, especially in his writing. He observed in his Notebooks: “To bring on therevolution it may be necessary to work inside the communist party”—which he could not do. His interest in communism was probably stimulated by Edmund Wilson’s activities. He thought of Wilson as his intellectual conscience, and Wilson—though he did not join the party—was deeply involved with communism. However, Fitzgerald came to believe that Wilson’s political commitment had narrowed him. After he went on a bender in New York in January 1933 and quarreled with both Hemingway and Wilson, Fitzgerald reported to Perkins: “Am going on the water-wagon from the first of February to the first of April but don’t tell Ernest because he has long convinced himself that I am an incurable alcoholic, due to the fact that we almost always meet on parties. I am his alcoholic just like Ring is mine and do not want to disillusion him, tho even Post stories must be done in a state of sobriety. I thought he seemed in good shape, Bunny less so, rather gloomy. A decision to adopt Communism definitely, no matter how good for the soul, must of necessity be a saddening process for anyone who has ever tasted the intellectual pleasures of the world we live in.” At this time he wrote Wilson: “I little thought that when I left politics to you + your gang in 1920 you would devote your time cutting up Wilson’s shroud into blinders! Back to Mallarme.” And in 1934 Fitzgerald summarized his terminated political involvement for his cousin Ceci Taylor: “… it will interest you to know that I’ve given up politics. For two years I’ve gone half haywire trying to reconcile my double al-liegence to the class I am part of, and the the Great Change I believe in. … I have become disgusted with the party leadership + have only health enough left for my literary work, so I’m on the sidelines. It had become a strain making speeches at ’Leagues against Imperialistic War,’ + their treatment of the negro question finished me.” (The American communists were trying to win Negro adherents; the party line called for self-determination in the South.) There is no record of any speeches he made in Baltimore except for a talk on “How the war came to Princeton” for the Student Congress Against War. A very different public appearance came in March 1933 when Fitzgerald served as one of the judges for a Baltimore children’s talent contest sponsored by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
On 28 May 1933 Fitzgerald, Zelda, and Dr. Rennie met at “La Paix” with a stenographer, who prepared a 114-page typescript. The angry discussion ranged over many of the fissures in the Fitzgeralds’ marriage, but the crux was Fitzgerald’s insistence on the authority toveto Zelda’s writing. In addition to the problem of who had first call on their shared experience, Fitzgerald was convinced that her name on novels would damage his reputation. He was also concerned that she might reveal too much about their lives in her fiction. The transcript show how resentment and dependence were compounded in their relationship:Extracts
Zelda: It seems to me you are making a rather violent attack on a third-rate talent, then… Why in the hell you are so jealous, I don’t know. If I thought that about anybody I would not care what they wrote.
Fitzgerald: Because you are broaching at all times on my material just as if a good artist came into a room and found something drawn on the canvas by some mischievous little boy.
Zelda: Well, what do you want me to be?
Fitzgerald: I want you to do what I say. That is exactly what I want you to do and you know it. … Now, one of the agreements made between Dr. Adolph Meyer and Dr. Rennie and myself was that it was extremely inadvisable for you to write any novels which were a resume of your insanity or discussed insanity. I gave you a clipping one day about Nijinsky which Ihad in my files, and immediately you founded upon that the idea that you would write a novel about insanity. You have been sneakingly writing that novel for a period of some months. What good that could have brought you or given you, I don’t know, against any wish of mine that you should [not] publish a book before I publish another book and with the use of my name. … I don’t want you for your own sake to write a novel about insanity because you know there is certain psychiatric stuff in my books; and if you publish a book before me or even at the same time in which the subject of psychiatry is taken up and people see “Fitzgerald,” why that is Scott Fitzgerald’s wife. They read that and that spells the whole central point of being a novelist, which is being yourself. You picked up the crumbs I drop at the dinner table and stick them into books… She wants to write a novel against everybody’s advice and it is discovered about three weeks ago that she is doing it. … Everything that we have done is mine—if we make a trip—if I make a trip to Panama and you and I go around—I am the professional novelist and I am supporting you. That is all of my material. None of it is your material.
Dr. Rennie: We know that if you are writing a personal, individual study on a psychiatric topic, you are doing something that we would advise you right along not to do and that is not to write anything personal on psychiatric material.
Zelda: Well, Dr. Rennie, didn’t we discuss some time ago and didn’t I say to you that I was miserable because I could not write short things? … And didn’t we decide that it would perhaps be better to go on and write long things?
Dr. Rennie: But didn’t I also say very emphatically and haven’t I said all along that for you to dabble with psychiatric material is playing with fire and you ought not to do it, and didn’t you promise me really once that you would put the psychiatric novel away for five years and would not touch it in that period?
Fitzgerald: Well, we have had no relations for more than three or four months. The fact of the thing is we have various social connections with each other, one of which I blame you chiefly for, this course you are taking, because I think that course is egotistic, and I think that I am trying to be social and you are trying to be individual; and that we cannot in these times, that everything is so hard and tough, that we cannot come to any understanding on that basis, and I have got all the worries that everybody also has of making a living and I find an enemy in the family, treachery behind my back, or what I consider that. I may be hypersensitive to what I consider logical from the traditions of my profession.
Zelda: You think it is personally all right that you feel that way and you accuse me of everything in the world, with having ruined your life, not once, but over and over again.
Fitzgerald: When did that first happen?
Zelda: You did that last fall. You sat down and cried and cried. You were drunk, I will admit, and you said I had ruined your life and you did not love me and you were sick of me and wished you could get away, and I was strained and burdened. You said that when you came back from New York, also drunk, and that is the kind of life I am expected to live together with you, and make whatever adjustment I can.
Fitzgerald: What do you think caused these two things?
Zelda: It is impossible to live with you. I would rather be in an insane asylum where you would like to put me.
Fitzgerald: What do you think causes those things?
Zelda: I think the cause of it is your drinking. That is what I think is the cause of it. … Dr. Rennie, I am perfectly willing to put aside the novel, but I will not have any agreement or arrangements because I will not submit to Scott’s neurasthenic condition and be subjected to these tortures all the time. I cannot live in this kind of a world, and I would rather live in any insane asylum. That is my ultimatum on the subject.
Fitzgerald: Our sexual relations were very pleasant and all that until I got the idea you were ditching me. They were all very nice to then, weren’t they?
Zelda: Well, I am glad you considered them satisfactory.
Fitzgerald: I want you to stop writing fiction… Whether you write or not does not seem to be of any great importance.
Zelda: I know. Nothing I do seems to be of any great importance. Fitzgerald: Why don’t you drop it then?
Zelda: Because I don’t want to live with you, because I want to live someplace that I can be my own self.
Fitzgerald: Would you like to go to law about it?
Zelda: Yes, I would. … I think honestly the only thing is to get a divorce because there is nothing except ill will on your part and suspicion.
Fitzgerald: I am perfectly determined that I am going to take three or four drinks a day… And then the fact that if I ever stop drinking her familyand herself would always think that that was an acknowledgement that I was responsible for her insanity, which is not so.
Zelda: What is the matter with Scott is that he has not written that book and if he will ever get it written, why, he won’t feel so miserable and suspicious and mean towards everybody else.
Fitzgerald: It has got to be an unconditional surrender on her part. That is the only promise I can have. Otherwise I would rather go to law because I don’t trust her… The unconditional surrender is that it is necessary for her to give up the idea of writing anything… the important point is that she must only write when under competent medical assistance I say that she can write. Now that sounds awfully egotistical, but it is the only way that I can ever organize my life again.
Zelda: I want to write and I am going to write. I am going to be a writer, but I am not going to do it at Scott’s expense if I can possibly avoid it. So I agree not to do anything that he does not want, a complete negation of self until that book is out of the way, because the thing is driving me crazy the way it is, and I cannot do that. And if he cannot adjust it and let me do what I want to do and live with me after that, I would rather do what I want to do.
Fitzgerald: The thing that used to crop up in the days before Zelda collapsed, she would continually make this statement, that she was working to get away from me. Now, you see, that sticks with me.
Zelda: Dr. Rennie, that is not true… Here is the truth of the matter: that I have always felt some necessity for us to be on a more equal footing than we are now because I cannot possibly—there is just something, one thing, that I simply cannot live in a world that is completely dependent on Scott when he does not care anything about me and reproaches me all the time… I want to be able to say, when he says something that is not so, then I want to do something so good that I can say, “That is a goddamned lie,” and have something to back it up—that I can say it.
Fitzgerald: Now we have found rock bottom.
Zelda: What is our marriage, anyway? It has been nothing but a long battle ever since I can remember.
Fitzgerald: I don’t know about that. We were about the most envied couple in about 1921 in America.
Zelda: I guess so. We were awfully good showmen.
Fitzgerald: We were awfully happy… You say that you will put off your writing another book, you will stop everything, and you have said thata number of times before in the presence of Dr. Rennie. And you did not mean it. You will start it up in twenty-four hours. You mean I will have to write this whole book in the next three months with the sense that you wait hating me, waiting for me to get away. That is not the social arrangement that I can live under. … I want my own way. I earned the right to my own way— …
Zelda: And I want the right of my own way.
Fitzgerald: And you cannot have it without breaking me so you have to give it up. It all comes to the same thing: I have to sacrifice myself for you, and you have got to sacrifice yourself for me, and no more writing of fiction.
Zelda: Of any kind?
Fitzgerald: If you write a play, it cannot be a play about psychiatry and it cannot be a play laid on the Riviera, and it cannot be a play laid in Switzerland, and whatever the idea is it will have to be submitted to me.
Zelda: Scott, you can go on and have your way about this thing and do anything until you finish the book, and when you finish the book I think we’d better get a divorce, and any decision you choose to make with regard to me is all right because I cannot live on those terms, and I cannot accept them.
Fitzgerald consulted Poe about a divorce for the first time after this conference.
The tensions in the household are documented by one of the case histories Fitzgerald prepared at this time:
Husband works with great success + Woman flirts = Both drink
In Hollywood at 25 woman discovers there are still young girls.
One of them wants her husband to take screen test. Husband reluctantly consents for the money but director judges his face too old.
That night wife gets drunk, imagines her husband is with the screen stars when in reality he is at a banquet given to President Hillen. She burns her clothes in the bath tub and throws away a platinum and diamond wrist watch of large sentimental and material value.
They are reconciled but husband repelled by the outburst now becomes interested in screen star.
After an unhappy month husband and wife return East where screen star visits them. Finis actress.
Wife at first is nicer to husband, more womanly. Then, plunging into ballet, she grows odd, secretive. Conjugal difficulties on both sides with wife’s announcement that she is working to set up for herself.
Recovery, reunion and happiness for eight months.
Husband goes to Hollywood. Period of strain at home agravated by asthma. Probably jealous suspicion of husband because of former event.
Jealousy again takes form as rivalry. When husband reads her beginning of his book in which movie director does not and cannot be with his wife every minute, she has sudden return of psychosis.
Not realizing the cause of the old jealousy “I’m as good as you and a whole lot better” and loving husband and child she turns against
This of course is illogical and her personality again disintegrates.
In Phipps she charms woman psychiatrist who not understanding author’s profession. Document blames author deeply, uses much of his material is calculated to harm him professionally. He is struggling with money worries and takes it hard.
Improved wife issues from clinic. No more documents dealing with husband or psychiatry order doctors. Patient agrees.
Lives in country and agrees.
Her book fails—just as husband had accumulated enough capital to take up his own novel interrupted by her sickness.
Immediately she changes. Again she wants to write novel, is apparently persuaded out of it.
All old jealousy of husband flares up, but still not projected upon him but upon
A. The psychiatrists. Rage at psychiatrists.
B. The child. Trouble with child.
Situation now becoming too difficult for husband; wants to hospitalize her temporarily but psychiatrists refuse. Husband begins drinking.
Unpleasant episodes begin again between husband and wife—quarrels, suspicions, scenes, disagreements, also between mother and daughter, throwing father toward daughter and thus further estranging wife and husband. Husband overworked and overworried goes away for a week. No improvement. Wife’s painting fails to achieve much recognition. Miserable winter.
He has at least the solace of his novel and she thinks she needs the same and begins, semi-secretly, the very book she was asked not to write, a book based on her own going insane dancing.
But she is up against husband’s observation of parallel with dancingcrises. She suggests going to a clinic but it is apparent she wants to be sent away to write. She no longer wants integration but justification.
Manner to world now meek and mild. Young doctor (not psychiatrist) sees distraught author drunk and hysterical, announces falsely he could certify him and woman clings to this as a straw. She gets drunk—husband gets nurse.
From now on parallel with her dancing days just before the crash. Sinks into herself—world vague to her, foolish impulses and remarks, separation of spirit from her husband who as the wheel moves around has at last come to seem to her the enemy, emerging from behind figures of
3. Dr. Squires
4. Dr. Rennie
5. Dr. Myers
Husband forcibly seizes book she had agreed not to write. It is stored away and in long scene she is made unwillingly to admit principal of communality of obligation in marriage. Will stop till husband finishes in September.
Scandalabra was acceptedfor production by the Junior Vagabonds, a Baltimore little theater group, in the spring of 1933. Zelda designed the sets, and the play opened for a one-week run on 26 June. Fitzgerald did not attend the rehearsals; but when the dress rehearsal ran five hours, Zelda asked him to cut her script. In an all-night session he read the play to the cast and excised lines that could not be defended. This account of Fitzgerald’s revision of Scandalabra is substantiated by members of the Junior Vagabonds. Another report is that Fitzgerald began cutting the play after opening night and worked on it through the week. The play survives in two texts: the longer version deposited for copyright in 1932 and the shorter version at Princeton, which was published in 1980. Fitzgerald tried to promote Scandalabra. He invited friends down from New York for the opening, and praised it in front of the theater to attract passers-by. The Baltimore reviewers found the play confusing and lacking in action. Zelda did nothing further with Scandalabra after the Baltimore production.
Tender Is the Night was approaching completion in September 1933, but Fitzgerald was out of money. In 1933 he sold three stories to the Post for $8,500. Another 1933 story, “What to Do About It,” was unsalable. Even with a $4,200 advance from Scribners his income for the year came to only $16,328.03. The days when he could dependably grind out commercial fiction were over. Of the three Post stories—“More than Just a House” (written in April), “I Got Shoes” (July), and “The Family Bus” (September)—only the first is noteworthy. “More than Just a House” examines the decline of a Southern family through the three daughters’ feelings about the family house. The story brought a fan letter from John O’Hara, who was not yet a novelist. “You’ve written another swell piece, doing againseveral of the things you do so well, and doing them in a single piece. Miss Jean Gunther, of the More than Just a House Gunthers, was one of those girls for the writing about of whom you hold the exclusive franchise, if you can puzzle out that sentence… And that easily we get to the second thing you’ve done so well: Lowrie, the climber; and I wonder why you do the climber so well. Is it the Irish in you? Must the Irish always have a lot of climber in them?” Fitzgerald replied on 18 July (see p. 25 above) with an assessment of his social insecurities, blaming them on the conflict between his “black Irish” and “old American” backgrounds.
Fitzgerald probably began organizing his Notebooks after he moved to Maryland in 1932. The pages were typed by secretaries from Fitzgerald’s manuscript notes and marked tear sheets of his stories. There are twenty-three sections: Anecdotes; Bright Clippings; Conversations and Things Overheard; Description of Things and Atmosphere; Epigrams, Wise Cracks and Jokes; Feelings & Emotions (without girls); Descriptions of Girls; Descriptions of Humanity (Physical); Ideas; Jingles and Songs; Karacters; Literary; Moments (what people do); Nonsense and Stray Phrases; Observations; Proper Names; Rough Stuff; Scenes and Situations; Titles; Unclassified; Vernacular; Work References; Youth and Army. Fitzgerald’s Notebooks assembled ideas for stories and autobiographical material; they also provided a place to bank passages from his uncollected stories that he intended to salvage for use in novels. But, as he admitted in “One Hundred False Starts,” a March 1933 Post article, the “book of mistakes” did not help to break his short-story block.
Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves—that’s the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives—experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.
Then we learn our trade, well or less well, and we tell our two or three stories—each time in a new disguise—maybe ten times, maybe a hundred, as long as people will listen.
This article explains why Fitzgerald was unable to use other people’s experiences for stories: “Whether it’s something that happened twentyyears ago or only yesterday, I must start out with an emotion—one that’s close to me and that I can understand.” In 1933 he was concerned that he had used up his emotions—not just his material, but his capacity to invest his characters with authentic feeling. As he later observed in Hollywood, “Taking things hard—from Genevra King to Joe Mank—: that’s stamp that goes into my books so that people can read it blind like brail.” “One Hundred False Starts” includes Fitzgerald’s citation of “the idea that it is pleasantest to live with—the idea of heroism.” At this stage of his career he was doubting his “immaculateness of purpose.” Heretofore, despite his self-indulgences, he had believed in his destiny and in his ability to preserve the best part of his genius. Now, struggling with his novel and grinding out unfelt stories, he came to feel that he was starting out all over again without the confident illusions that had sustained him in 1920.
In 1933 after ninety commercial stories Fitzgerald felt depleted. What had seemed spontaneous in his stories now showed signs of labor. James Gould Cozzens commented after Fitzgerald’s death: “On the other hand, there is no trade better calculated to drive you to drink, especially if you practice as he did the Saturday Evening Post end of it—it is a perfect example of the truth that writing short stories is living on your capital if you are naturally a novelist—you can get through in a few years all the subjects, even if you have a lot, that you could have written books on.” The retrospective or self-assessing mood of “One Hundred False Starts” also informed another 1933 essay, “My Lost City,” written for Cosmopolitan and unpublished until 1945. In “My Lost City” Fitzgerald evoked the feelings of triumph and romance that New York gave him during his first success and mourned his lost exhilaration, lost confidence, lost illusions: “For the moment I can only cry out that I have lost my splendid mirage. Come back, come back, O glittering and white!”
The completion of Tender Is the Night was financed by Scribners and Ober. Fitzgerald’s accounting system is puzzling, but between 1927 and 1933 he received some $16,000 in advances from Scribners and borrowed from Ober against the anticipated serial rights sale. Liberty had asked for first refusal on the serial in 1927, and Fitzgerald expected between $30,000 and $40,000 from them. When Scribner’s Magazine offered $10,000, Fitzgerald accepted it because he thought serialization in a quality magazine would be better for the novel. Six thousand dollars of the serial fee was credited against the Scribnersadvances; $4,000 was paid to Ober, who turned it over to Fitzgerald as needed. Scribners lent Fitzgerald an additional $2,000 at 5 percent interest, and there were other borrowings from Ober. The collateral for these loans was the anticipated sale of movie rights. During the summer of 1933 Fitzgerald began borrowing money from his mother, a difficult thing for the son who had boasted to her in 1930: “All big men have spent money freely. I hate avarice or even caution”.
Perkins worried about Fitzgerald but never gave up on him. Publishing The Great Gatsby had been one of the warmest satisfactions of Perkins’s career. In August 1933 he wrote Fitzgerald: “Whenever any of these new writers come up who are brilliant, I always realize that you have more talent and more skill than any of them;- but circumstances have prevented you from realizing upon the fact for a long time.”
There was a fire at “La Paix” in August 1933 when Zelda burned some papers in a fireplace, causing damage to the second floor. The Baltimore News exaggerated the extent of the loss by reporting that “valuable manuscripts, books and paintings which never can be replaced were destroyed.” No important manuscripts were lost, but many of Fitzgerald’s World War I books were ruined.
Ring Lardner died in September 1933 at forty-eight from a heart attack, after a long struggle with tuberculosis and alcoholism. Fitzgerald had seen him infrequently since the Great Neck days, but he regarded Lardner with enduring affection combined with regret for his unfulfilled genius—feelings that he expressed through Abe North in Tender Is the Night. Lardner’s death moved him to write a tribute for The New Republic in which he stated that “Ring got less percentage of himself on paper than any other American of the first flight.”
At no time did I feel that I had known him enough, or that anyone knew him—it was not the feeling that there was more stuff in him and that it should come out, it was rather a qualitative difference, it was rather as though, due to some inadequacy in one’s self, one had not penetrated to something unsolved, new and unsaid. That is why one wishes that Ring had written down a larger proportion of what was in his mind and heart. It would have saved him longer for us, and that in itself would be something. But I would like to know what it was, and now I’ll go on wishing—what did Ring want, how did he want things to be, how did he think things were?
“Ring” attracted wide attention and brought Fitzgerald letters of appreciation from other writers. Dorothy Parker wrote him that it was “the finest + most moving thing I have ever read.” John O’Hara told Fitzgerald that when he asked for the magazine at a newsstand the vendor said, “You want it for the article on Lardner I guess.” Fitzgerald’s grief for Lardner was genuine, but some of the power of “Ring” derived from his identification with his friend’s despair. A decade before, they had met when they were both at their peaks. Now at thirty-seven, after years of waste and tragedy, Fitzgerald was attempting to reestablish or justify himself so as not to die with too much of what was in his own mind and heart unwritten. When Perkins asked him to help with the selection of the material and write the introduction for a Ring Lardner collection, he declined because of the pressure of seeing Tender Is the Night through the press and recommended Gilbert Seldes for the assignment. Seldes’s Lardner volume, First and Last (1934), disappointed Fitzgerald, but it was well received.
In the fall of 1933 Fitzgerald began checking into Johns Hopkins Hospital to taper off from benders and for treatment of fevers which were related to his tuberculosis. He was given sedatives and an alcohol ration, and was permitted to discharge himself. Between September 1933 and January 1937 he was in Hopkins eight times: 1—5 September 1933; 29 October—1 November 1933; 30 April—7 May 1934; 21-27 July 1934; 14-17 January 1936; 13-15 February 1936; 26 December-3 January 1937; 11-14 January 1937.
On 25 September 1933 Fitzgerald was able to promise Perkins delivery of Tender Is the Night by the end of October: “You can imagine the pride with which I will enter your office a month from now. Please do not have a band as I do not care for music.” When the novel was completed, Fitzgerald gave up “La Paix” and rented a town house at 1307 Park Avenue in Baltimore. His Ledger summary for the year in which he wrote the novel was “A strange year of Work + Drink. Increasingly unhappy.—Zelda up + down. 1st draft of novel complete Ominous!”
Fitzgerald brought the revised typescript of Tender Is the Night to Scribners for serialization on or about 27 October 1933. Because the serial appeared while the book was in production for April 1934 publication, he worked on the magazine and book texts at the same time— revising the serial proof for the magazine and then revising the serial again for the book. Between the serialization and the book publicationhe altered the chapter divisions. The serial proof revisions were so extensive that the second, third, and fourth installments had to be reset. In late November, Fitzgerald took a break from the proofs and went with Zelda to Bermuda for a week, but the trip was spoiled by his pleurisy.
Tender Is the Night opens on the Riviera in the summer of 1925, when the young actress Rosemary Hoyt meets a dazzingly attractive American couple, Dick and Nicole Diver. The Divers’ circle includes alcoholic composer Abe North and Tommy Barban, a Franco-American soldier of fortune, who is in love with Nicole. Rosemary becomes infatuated with Dick. A flashback provides the information that Dick was a brilliant young psychiatrist when he married Nicole Warren, a rich mental patient who had been raped by her father. As husband and doctor to Nicole, Dick finds it increasingly difficult to maintain his professional viewpoint, and he neglects his research while living up to the style of Nicole’s wealth. With the Warren money he becomes a partner in a Swiss clinic but is forced out because he has lost his commitment to his work—symptomized by his drinking. On a trip to Rome he sleeps with Rosemary and is beaten by the police as the result of a drunken brawl. In 1929 the Divers return to the Riviera, where Dick’s drinking increases and Nicole leaves him for Tommy Barban. Dick tries to resume his career in America but disappears as an unsuccessful small-town doctor.
In chronicling Dick Diver’s decline Fitzgerald was trying to account for his own loss of purpose after 1925, recognizing that in both cases the causes could be traced back to a romantic concept of character. Thus Dick “used to think that he wanted to be good, he wanted to be kind, he wanted to be brave and wise, but it was all pretty difficult. He wanted to be loved, too, if he could fit it in.” Dick’s susceptibilities were established before he met Nicole—just as Fitzgerald’s character was formed before he met Zelda. The decision to marry Nicole is not determined by the Warren money, although her moneyeventually erodes his commitment to his work. He marries her out of his need to be needed and to be used. But Dick’s generosity is not disinterested, for he requires the “carnivals of affection” that he inspires. His infatuation with Rosemary is a clear signal that his process of deterioration is well advanced by the opening of the novel. The price of the admiration he elicits is a steady drain on the energies a serious man reserves for work. When the rising line of Nicole’s strength has crossed the slope of his decline, Dick makes the professional decision to discharge his patient-wife. Nicole is ready for the break, but Dick forces her to declare her independence: “The case was finished. Doctor Diver was at liberty.” The spectacle of Dick Diver’s collapse is harrowing because he is destroyed by the same elements in his character that might have made him a great figure. His heroic aspirations dwindle into a “fatal pleasingness.”
The novel was serialized in four issues of Scribner’s Magazine, beginning in the January 1934 issue with Fitzgerald’s portrait on the cover. Edward Shenton’s pen-and-ink illustrations for the magazine were so successful that they were retained in the book. The serial text has twelve long chapters, which had been Fitzgerald’s plan in 1932. (The book text is divided into three sections: Book I with twenty-five chapters; Book II with twenty-three chapters; Book III with thirteen chapters.) The first magazine installment included what became the first eighteen chapters of Book I of the novel—through Abe North’s departure from Paris. The February installment completed Book I and included the first nine chapters of the flashback section in Book II of the novel—up to Dick’s decision to marry Nicole. The March installment completed the flashback and concluded Book II with Dick’s beating in Rome. The April installment comprised all of Book III.
Fitzgerald and Scribners anticipated that serialization would generate effective visibility and promote book sales, but serialization may have damaged the initial reception of Tender Is the Night. The structure of the novel, with its break in chronology and point of view between Books I and II, was probably blurred by the thirty-day intervals. Fitzgerald suspected that some of the critics reviewed his novel from the serial and urged his friends to reread it in book form. He wrote to Edmund Wilson a month before publication date: “Any attempt by an author to explain away a partial failure in a work is of course doomed to absurdity—yet I could wish that you, and others, had read the book version rather than the mag. version which in spots was hastily put together. The last half for example has a much morepolished facade now.” Fitzgerald inscribed the book for Dorothy Parker: “This is better than the magazine.” The serial version included six short scenes that were dropped from the book. The scenes deleted from the book text were two sequences describing Abe North in the Ritz Bar (Book I); Dick’s involvement with a woman at Innsbruck (Book II); and three sequences on the ship during Dick’s return to Europe after his father’s funeral (Book II). Fitzgerald cut from the typescript before serialization the account of Tommy and Nicole’s visit to an American gangster on the Riviera in Book III. The only passages added to the book were the sexual material that was unpublishable in the magazine—notably an expansion of Warren’s confession of his incestuous relationship with Nicole.
While the book text was being set, Fitzgerald made New York trips in January and February 1934 to work on the proofs. Twenty years later Scribners editor John Hall Wheelock remarked that Fitzgerald was the only author he knew who could make delicate stylistic revisions while obviously drunk. During these trips Fitzgerald spent time with John O’Hara and Dorothy Parker. O’Hara, who was trying to finish his first novel, Appointment in Samarra, was grateful for Fitzgerald’s encouragement. When Appointment in Samarra was published in August 1934, Fitzgerald provided a blurb that was used in ads: “John O’Hara’s novel indicates the tremendous strides that American writers have taken since the war.” Fitzgerald offered to lend him money, but O’Hara declined the loan because he knew that Fitzgerald had no money to spare.
Fitzgerald’s layers of extensive proof revision complicated the job of the proofreaders. The published book had dozens of spelling errors as well as serious inconsistencies of chronology which obscure the rate of Dick Diver’s decline. The fault was the author’s, but meticulous editing would have called the problem to his attention.
On 12 February 1934, exactly two years after she had been moved from Montgomery to Baltimore, Zelda reentered the Phipps clinic. When she failed to show improvement, Fitzgerald had her transferred to Craig House, a resort-like sanitarium at Beacon, New York, where the minimum fee was $175 a week. With writing interdicted, Zelda worked at painting in 1933 and 1934. Fitzgerald arranged a New York show for her with Cary Ross, a friend from the Paris years. Although the show was planned to boost Zelda’s morale, she felt that Fitzgerald was taking it over and withdrew from active participation. It was held at Ross’s gallery from 29 March to 30 April, with a smaller exhibit at the Hotel Algonquin, and was a joint show of Zelda’s paintings withthe photographs of Dr. Marion Hines of the Johns Hopkins Medical School. Since Zelda’s show overlapped publication of Tender Is the Night, Fitzgerald was probably trying to compensate Zelda for compelling her to abandon her novel. The catalog—with the motto parfois la folie est la sagesse (“Sometimes madness is wisdom”)—listed thirteen paintings and fifteen drawings by Zelda. The biographical note read in part: “Her work crystallizes the qualities of imagination and poetry which have made her an almost legendary figure since the days just after the last war when she and her husband became symbols of young America in the Jazz Age.” The paintings that attracted the most attention were two portraits of Fitzgerald: “The Coronet Player” (bought by Dorothy Parker) and “Portrait in Thorns” (not sold). Neither of these portraits has been located. Many of Zelda’s paintings were destroyed after her death when a shed in which they were stored in Montgomery burned. “The Coronet Player” is believed to have been lost in another fire.
Zelda was permitted to leave Craig House for the opening of her exhibit. The reception was disappointing and the gross receipts were only $328.75. Commenting on Zelda’s “latest bid for fame,” Time noted: “The work of a brilliant introvert, they were vividly painted, intensely rhythmic. A pinkish reminiscence of her ballet days showed figures with enlarged legs and feet—a trick she may have learned from Picasso. An impression of a Dartmouth football game made the stadium look like the portals of a theatre, the players like dancers. Chinese Theatre was a gnarled mass of acrobats with an indicated audience for background. There were two impressionistic portraits of her husband, a verdant Spring in the Country geometrically laced with telephone wires.” Zelda told the Time reporter that her greatest wish was to earn her own living; but this bid for independence failed.
Because of the bitterness resulting from the Fitzgeralds’ quarrels about their material, Zelda did not read Tender Is the Night until it was serialized. After congratulating him on the installments, she wrote him in April from Craig House:
The book is grand. The emotional lift sustained by the force of a fine poetic prose and the characters subserviated to forces stronger than their interpretations of life is very moving. It is tear-evoking to witness individual belief in individual volition succumbing to the purpose of a changing world. That is the purpose of a good book and you have written it—Those people are helpless before themselves and the prose is beautiful and there ismanifest an integrity in the belief of both those expressions. It is a reverential and very fine book and the first literary contribution to what writers will be concerning themselves with some years from now.
Zelda did not improve at Craig House, and on 19 May 1934 she was admitted in a catatonic condition to the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital outside Baltimore. By this time Fitzgerald had come to accept that Zelda’s full recovery was impossible and that they would never be able to resume life together. He wrote in his Notebooks: “I left my capacity for hoping on the little roads that led to Zelda’s sanitarium.”
Tender Is the Night was published on 12 April 1934 at $2.50. It had been nine years since The Great Gatsby. One of the Fitzgerald myths is that the novel was a failure when it was published. It was a failure in terms of Fitzgerald’s expectations; otherwise, it had a respectable sale for a Depression-year novel. The first printing of 7,600 copies sold out promptly, and in the spring there were two more printings of 5,075 and 2,520 copies. Tender Is the Night was tenth on the Publishers Weekly best-seller lists for April and May. By 1934 the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Literary Guild were in operation, but Tender Is the Night was not a main selection of either. The Literary Guild used the novel as an alternate, which meant that it filled orders. On 15 April 1935 Fitzgerald wrote Perkins: “Things happen all the time which make me think that it is not destined to die quite as easily as the boys-in-a-hurry prophesied. However, I made many mistakes about it from its delay onward, the biggest of which was to refuse the Literary Guild subsidy.” The nature of this offer is unknown. Even so, the royalties did not pay off Fitzgerald’s debts. At 37½ cents per copy royalty, the book sales earned him $5,104.65.
John O’Hara has endorsed the generally held view that Tender Is the Night was a victim of the Depression: “The book came out at precisely the wrong time in the national history. No matter how good it was, it was about the Bad People, the well fed, well housed, well educated, well born—the villains of the depression. It was a time for Odets and the imitators of Odets, and of Steinbeck and the imitators of Steinbeck. … I am proud to say I did not go along with the gutless thinking that all but destroyed TENDER IS THE NIGHT and without a doubt broke Fitzgerald’s heart.” Nonetheless, a list of the ten best-selling novels of 1934 does not suggest that the Depression readersrejected Tender in favor of sociopolitical tracts. The most successful book of the year was Hervey Allen’s Anthony Adverse, followed by Caroline Miller’s Lamb in His Bosom, Stark Young’s So Red the Rose, James Hilton’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Margaret Barnes’s Within This Present, Sinclair Lewis’s Work of Art, Phyllis Bottome’s Private Worlds, Mary Ellen Chase’s Mary Peters, Alice Tisdale Hobart’s Oil for the Lamps of China, and Isak Dinesen’s Seven Gothic Tales. There is no proletarian novel in this typical mixture. That the three top sellers of the year were historical novels and the number four book was Goodbye, Mr. Chips indicates that historical romance and sentimental books about schoolmasters sell well, boom or bust. Private Worlds was a novel about psychiatry; and Fitzgerald protested when the Houghton Mifflin publicity compared it with Tender Is the Night.
The reviews were not hostile, nor did the reviewers uniformly attack Fitzgerald for reverting to the unfashionable subject of expatriate life in the Twenties. There were twice as many favorable as unfavorable reviews, but even the favorable reviews expressed disappointment that it was not a better novel. The years of waiting since The Great Gatsby had generated high expectations among critics; Fitzgerald was competing with his own reputation. Tender had become a legend before it was published. In an unfinished preface Fitzgerald attempted to account for the long period of gestation:
This is the first novel the writer have published in nine years’. Since then there has scarcely a week when some party didn’t ask me the state of its progress and the probable time of its publication. For awhile I told what I believed to be the truth “this fall,” “next spring,” “next year.” Then growing weary I lied and lied, announced that I had given it up or that it was now a million words long and would eventually be published in five volumes. Since some of those inquiries were inspired by interest instead of mere curiosity I append a word of explanation.
When I finished my last novel at the end of 1924 I felt pretty empty, nothing much to say, nothing long to say, but after a little more than a year I had formulated a new idea and during 1926 I began work on it very slowly indeed. I picked it up and I dropped it.
The most frequent criticism was that Tender Is the Night failed to achieve a strong single effect. Some influential reviewers contended that the causes of Dick Diver’s destruction were not sufficiently clear. Henry Seidel Canby (Saturday Review of Literature), Clifton Fadiman (New Yorker), J. Donald Adams (New York Times), Edith Walton(New York Sun), Horace Gregory (New York Herald Tribune), and William Troy (Nation) claimed that because Dick was not convincing as a character, his collapse failed to produce a clear response in the reader. Other critics cited faulty organization or lack of unity. In the 13 April Times John Chamberlain commented that when Rosemary leaves at the end of Book I “one could almost guarantee that ’Tender Is the Night’ is going to be a failure. But, as a matter of fact, the novel does not really begin until Rosemary is more or less out of the way.” He concluded, “By the time the end is reached, the false start is forgotten.” After Adams complained in the Times on the fifteenth that “the wrecking of his [Dick’s] morale seems contrived rather than the product of his inability to withstand the pressure to which he is subjected,” Chamberlain interrupted a review of Faulkner’s Dr. Martino the next day with a rebuttal of Adams: “The wonder to us is that Dick didn’t collapse long before Mr. Fitzgerald causes him to break down. And when he does collapse, his youth is gone, it is too late to catch up with the Germans who have been studying new cases for years. This seems to us to be a sufficient exercise in cause-and-effect. Compared to the motivation in Faulkner, it is logic personified.”
Malcolm Cowley’s tardy mixed review in the 6 June New Republic introduced the double-vision approach to Fitzgerald’s sensibility that Cowley developed in his later critical pieces. He explained that Fitzgerald had the ability to be simultaneously an observer and a participant in his work: “Part of him has been a little boy peeping in through the window and being thrilled by the music and the beautifully dressed women—a romantic but hardheaded little boy who stops every once in a while to wonder how much it all cost and where the money comes from.” Compare William Butler Yeats’s comment on Keats in “Ego Dominus Tuus”: “I see a schoolboy when I think of him,/With face and nose pressed to a sweetshop window.” Cowley also proposed an influential explanation for the “technical faults” of Tender: that as it was written over a long period parts of it became fixed so that the early and late sections do not agree. This view can be challenged. Fitzgerald intermittently worked on the three versions of his novel for eight years, but the final version was written in a little over a year. Nonetheless, Fitzgerald felt that the years of false starts had cost him some of the control over his material. As he remarked to Baltimore journalist Louis Azrael, “The man who started the novel is not the man who finished it.”
Fitzgerald was particularly pleased by the review in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, which stated that the novel was “an achievement which no student of the psychobiological sources of human behavior, and of its particular social correlates extant today, can afford not to read.” The receptive reviewers included Burton Rascoe (Esquire), Harry Hansen (New York World-Telegram), Herschel Brickell (North American Review), C. Hartley Grattan (Modern Monthly, a Marxist journal), and Cameron Rogers (San Francisco Chronicle). Gilbert Seldes, who had recognized Fitzgerald as the best of his generation at the time of The Great Gatsby, announced in the New York Evening Journal: “He has gone behind generations, old or new, and created his own image of human beings. And in doing so has stepped again to his natural place at the head of the American writers of our time,”
Tender Is the Night was published in London by Chatto & Windus in September 1934 and was the last Fitzgerald book published in England during his lifetime. The English reviews were sparse. G. B. Stern praised both Fitzgerald and his work in the London Daily Telegraph; The Times Literary Supplement commented respectfully on the quality of the writing and the sensitivity of feeling but complained that “It is almost all of it tragedy without nobility, and therefore the less tragedy.” The most substantial English review was by D. W. Harding in the December issue of the prestigious critical journal Scrutiny. Harding found the spectacle of Dick’s decline so harrowing that he tried to discover an “emotional trick” behind it, questioning whether the reader has been “trapped into incompatible attitudes” toward Dick. Failing to make a case against Fitzgerald, he concluded rather lamely: “The difficulty of making a convincing analysis of the painful quality of this novel, and the conviction that it was worth while trying to, are evidence of Scott Fitzgerald’s skill and effectiveness. … I am prepared to be told that this attempt at analysis is itself childish—an attempt to assure myself that the magician didn’t really cut the lady’s head off, did he? I still believe there was a trick in it.” Harding’s response was symptomatic of a shared critical resistance to Fitzgerald in England and America, a reluctance to credit him with the fulfillment of deliberate intentions.
As a consequence of Fitzgerald’s commercial magazine work and his playboy image it had become increasingly difficult for critics to appraise the serious novelist. A writer’s career is organic. Fitzgerald’smagazine work and his novels have to be judged by the same standards; but the gauge of a writer’s achievement must be his best work. Hemingway could get away with writing for Esquire—or with not writing at all—because he had compelled the critics to regard him as a dedicated artist. Fitzgerald’s flamboyant reputation impeded the recognition of his best work.
Having learned the importance of structure with The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald undertook to achieve a structure for Tender that again would involve the reader in reordering the story. The novel has a flashback plan, opening in 1925 and then going back to 1917 in Book II. The first twenty-five chapters—all of Book I—describe two weeks on the Riviera and Paris mostly from the point of view of Rosemary Hoyt, the eighteen-year-old actress who idealizes the Divers. At the opening of Book II Rosemary is dropped, and the novel reverts to the true beginning of the story when Dr. Diver meets Nicole, a patient at a Swiss psychiatric clinic during World War I. The first nine chapters of Book II relate Dick’s participation in Nicole’s recovery up to his decision to marry her in 1919. The tenth chapter is the time bridge in which the course of the Divers’ marriage is summarized in Nicole’s interior monologue up to the opening of the novel on the beach in 1925: “Yes, I’ll look. More new people—oh, that girl—yes. Who did you say she looked like… No, I haven’t, we don’t get much chance to see the new American pictures over here. Rosemary who? Well, we’re getting very fashionable for July—seems very peculiar to me. Yes, she’s lovely, but there can be too many people.” Thereafter the novel is presented in straight chronology. Dick’s affair with Rosemary and his beating by the Rome police in 1928 conclude Book II, which has twenty-three chapters. The thirteen chapters of Book III cover Dick’s resignation from his clinic through his departure from the Riviera in 1929 and the epilogue report of his humiliated wanderings in upstate New York.
The structure of the novel is not complicated and makes no heavy demands on the reader. The important reviews did not specifically question the flashback—apart from the disappearance of Rosemary at the end of Book I—but Fitzgerald came to believe that the flashback was responsible for the critics’ complaints that Dick Diver was not a convincing character. On 23 April 1934 Fitzgerald defended his plan in a letter to H. L. Mencken, who had not reviewed Tender Is the Night:
… I would like to say in regard to my book that there was a deliberate intention in every part of it except the first. The first part, the romantic introduction, was too long and too elaborated, largely because of the fact that it had been written over a series of years with varying plans, but everything else in the book conformed to a definite intention and if I had to start to write it again tomorrow I would adopt the same plan, irrespective of the fact of whether I had, in this case, brought it off or not brought it off. That is what most of the critics fail to understand (outside of the fact that they fail to recognize and identify anything in the book) that the motif of the “dying fall” was absolutely deliberate and did not come from any diminuition of vitality but from a definite plan.
That particular trick is one that Ernest Hemmingway and I worked out—probably from Conrad’s preface to “The Nigger”[Other examples of the understated ending or fade-off cited by Fitzgerald were from David Garnett’s The Sailor’s Return and Lady into Fox, DostoevskI’s The Brothers Karamazov, and Proust’s Time Regained. Fitzgerald sent Garnett an inscribed copy of Tender: “Notice how neatly I stole + adapted your magnificent ending to Lady into Fox (which I know practically as I used to know the X’s Prayer in my Catholic days) ’By heart.” The last paragraph of Lady into Fox (1922) reads: “For a long while his life was despaired of, but at last he rallied, and in the end he recovered his reason and lived to be a great age, for that matter he is still alive.”]—and it has been the greatest “credo” in my life ever since I decided that I would rather be an artist than a careerist. I would rather impress my image (even though an image the size of a nickel) upon the soul of a people than be known, except in so far as I have my natural obligation to my family—to provide for them. I would as soon be as anonymous as Rimbaud, if I could feel that I had accomplished that purpose—and that is no sentimental yapping about being disinterested. It is simply that having once found the intensity of art, nothing else that can happen in life can ever again seem as important as the creative process.
Here Fitzgerald is dealing with the emotional plan—in particular with the understatement of Book III—rather than with the structure.
In 1936 Fitzgerald proposed a new edition of Tender Is the Night for The Modern Library, in which the time scheme would be clarified. He explained to publisher Bennett Cerf: “That the parts instead of being one, two and three … would include in several cases sudden stops and part headings which would be to some extent explanatory; certain pages would have to be inserted bearing merely headings. Part two, for example, should say in a terse and graceful way that, The scene is now back on the Riviera in the fall after these events havetaken place, or that, This brings us up to where Rosemary first encounters the Divers… There is not more than one complete sentence that I want to eliminate, one that has offended many people and that I admit is out of Dick’s character: ’I never did go in for making love to dry loins.’ … I don’t want to change anything in the book but sometimes by a single word change one can throw a new emphasis or give a new value to the exact same scene or setting.” These projected alterations made the book impossible for The Modern Library, which kept costs down by reprinting from existing plates.
For the rest of his life Fitzgerald brooded about what he regarded as the stillbirth of Tender Is the Night. In 1938 he wrote to Perkins: “But I am especially concerned about Tender—that book is not dead. The depth of its appeal exists… It’s great fault is that the true beginning —the young psychiatrist in Switzerland—is tucked away in the middle of the book. If pages 151-212 were taken from their present place and put at the start the improvement in appeal would be enormous. In fact the mistake was noted and suggested by a dozen reviewers.” At Fitzgerald’s death his books included a revised disbound copy of Tender with the chapters in chronological order beginning with Dick Diver’s 1917 arrival in Switzerland: “This is the final version of the book as I would like it.” (Fitzgerald’s revisions in this copy end on page 212.) Malcolm Cowley’s edition of the “author’s final version” was published by Scribners in 1951; but after a flurry of attention it was discontinued. Whatever its flaws, the 1934 version has been vindicated by reader preference.
The most likely cause for the critics’ feeling that Dick’s collapse is unconvincing is that the time-scheme of Tender is unclear or even contradictory, and this problem bears on the structure. Because it is impossible to be sure of the year in which certain crucial events take place after 1925, it is difficult for the reader to gauge the rate of Dick’s deterioration. The causes of his decline are clear, but the timing is blurred. The novel opens with Dick at the peak of his charm in the summer of 1925, and by the Rome episodes in 1928 he has lost control. Fitzgerald does not specifically account for the intervening years, beyond noting that the Divers had been at the clinic for a year and a half in 1928—which leaves 1926 unaccounted for. Moreover, it is not clear how much time elapses between Dick’s withdrawal from his clinic in 1928 and his final departure from the Riviera at the end of the novel. Almost certainly the last Riviera scenes are supposed to take place in 1929 before the Wall Street crash. Tommy’s remark at the endof the novel that his stocks are doing well indicates that the time is pre-October 1929; but Malcolm Cowley has made a case for 1930. Fitzgerald’s plans for Tender do not clarify the time scheme. In 1935 Fitzgerald inscribed a copy of the novel: “F Scott Fitzgerald requests the pleasure of Laura Guthrie’s Company in Europe 1917-1930.”
Rosemary’s return to the Riviera in Book III confuses the chronology. Three times the novel specifies that it has been five years since she first came to the Riviera in 1925; however, Fitzgerald seems to have confused five summers with five calendar years. In 1929 five summers—but only four years—have elapsed since 1925. The chronology is further obscured by the contradictory ages stipulated for characters at different points in the novel.
Whereas The Great Gatsby was a dramatic novel, Fitzgerald classified Tender as a philosophical or psychological novel. The writing is less concentrated than in Gatsby, but the expansiveness of Tender allowed Fitzgerald to achieve his effects by accumulation. In Tender Fitzgerald evoked what he called “lingering after-effects,” leaving the reader with a sense of regret generated by the action and by the language. The mood of loss and waste pervades the novel. Again, as with Gatsby, there are scenes and passages that are classics of American prose: the Divers’ party in Paris, Nicole’s shopping excursion, Dick’s meditation at the trenches, the funeral of Dick’s father, the haunting understatement of the final paragraph:
After that he didn’t ask for the children to be sent to America and didn’t answer when Nicole wrote asking him if he needed money. In the last letter she had from him he told her that he was practising in Geneva, New York, and she got the impression that he had settled down with some one to keep house for him. She looked up Geneva in an atlas and found it was in the heart of the Finger Lakes Section and considered a pleasant place. Perhaps, so she liked to think, his career was biding its time, again like Grant’s in Galena; his latest note was post-marked from Hornell, New York, which is some distance from Geneva and a very small town; in any case he is almost certainly in that section of the country, in one town or another.
Fitzgerald was anxiousto have Hemingway’s response to Tender Is the Night. When Hemingway did not communicate with him, Fitzgerald wrote on 10 May, a month after publication: “Did you like the book? For God’s sake drop me a line and tell me one way or another. You can’t hurt my feelings. I just want to get a few intelligent slants at it to get some of the reviewers jargon out of my head.” Hemingway—who had replaced Fitzgerald as the Murphys’ great friend—had already told Perkins that Tender was unsound because the Divers act in ways that the Murphys would never behave: “Scott can’t invent true characters because he doesn’t know anything about people. … he has so lousy much talent and he has suffered so without knowing why, has destroyed himself and destroyed Zelda, though never as much as she has tried to destroy him, that out of this little children’s, immature, misunderstood, whining for lost youth death-dance that they have been dragging into and out of insanity to the tune of, the guy all but makes a fine book, all but makes a splendid book.”
On 28 May, Hemingway sent Fitzgerald a three-page typed letter saying that even though the writing is brilliant, Tender is untrue because it distorts the Murphys.
Goddamn it you took liberties with peoples pasts and futures that produced not people but damned marvellously faked case histories. You, who can write better than anybody can, who are so lousy with talent that you have to—the hell with it. Scott for gods sake write and write truly no matter who or what it hurts but do not make these silly compromises. You could write a fine book about Gerald and Sara for instance if you knew enough about them and they would not have any feeling, except passing, if it were true.
There were wonderful places and nobody else nor none of the boys canwrite a good one half as good reading as one that doesn’t come out by you, but you cheated too damn much in this one. And you don’t need to.
In the first place I’ve always claimed that you can’t think, all right we’ll admit you can think. But say you couldn’t think; then you ought to write, invent, out of what you know and keep the people’s antecedent’s straight. Second place a long time ago you stopped listening except to the answers to your own questions. That’s what dries a writer up (we all dry up. That’s no insult to you in person.) not listening. And we sprout again as grass does after rain when we listen. That is where it all comes from. Seeing, listening. You see well enough. But you stop listening.
Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it—don’t cheat with it. …
You see Bo, you’re not a tragic character. Neither am I. All we are is writers and what we should do is write. Of all people on earth you needed discipline in your work and instead you marry someone who is jealous of your work, wants to compete with you and ruins you. It’s not as simple as that and I thought Zelda was crazy the first time I met her and you complicated it even more by being in love with her and, of course you’re a rummy. But you’re no more of a rummy than Joyce is and most good writers are. But Scott good writers always come back. Always. You are twice as good now as you were at the time you think you were so marvellous. You know I never thought so much of Gatsby at the time. You can write twice as well now as you ever could. All you need to do is write truly and not care about what the fate of it is.
Hemingway added on the envelope that he has not commented on the good parts of Tender but Fitzgerald knows what they are. Fitzgerald wrote a restrained six-page typed reply on 1 June.
Next to go to the mat with you on a couple of technical points. The reason I had written you a letter was that Dos dropped in in passing through and said you had brought up about my book what we talked about once in a cafe on the Avenue de Neuilly about composite characters. Now, I don’t entirely dissent from the theory but I don’t believe you can try to prove your point on such a case as Bunny using his own father as the sire of John Dos Passos, or in the case of this book that covers ground that you personally paced off about the same time I was doing it. In either of those cases how could you trust your own detachment? If you had never met any of the originals then your opinion would be more convincing.
Following this out a little farther, when does the proper and logical combination of events, cause and effect, etc. end and the field of imagination begin? Again you may be entirely right because I suppose you were applying the idea particularly to the handling of the creative faculty in one’s mind rather than to the effect upon the stranger reading it. Nevertheless, I am not sold on the subject, and especially to account for the big flaws of Tender on that ground doesn’t convince me. Think of the case of the Renaissance artists, and of the Elizabethan dramatists, the first having to superimpose a medieval conception of science and archeology, etc. upon the bible story; and in the second, of Shakespeare’s trying to interpret the results of his own observation of the life around him on the basis of Plutarch’s Lives and Hollinshed’s Chronicles. There you must admit that the feat of building a monument out of three kinds of marble was brought off. You can accuse me justly of not having the power to bring it off, but a theory that it can’t be done is highly questionable. I make this point with such persistence because such a conception, if you stick to it, might limit your own choice of materials. The idea can be reduced simply to: you can’t say accurately that composite characterization hurt my book, but that it only hurt it for you.
To take a case specifically, that of Gerald and Sara. I don’t know how much you think you know about my relations with them over a long time, but from certain remarks that you let drop, such as one “Gerald threw you over,” I guess that you didn’t even know the beginning of our relations. In that case you hit on the exact opposite of the truth.
I think it is obvious that my respect for your artistic life is absolutely unqualified, that save for a few of the dead or dying old men you are the only man writing fiction in America that I look up to very much. There are pieces and paragraphs of your work that I read over and over—in fact, I stopped myself doing it for a year and a half because I was afraid that your particular rhythms were going to creep in on mine by process of infiltration. Perhaps you will recognize some of your remarks in Tender, but I did every damn thing I could to avoid that… .
To go back to my theme song, the second technical point that might be of interest to you concerns direct steals from an idea of yours, an idea of Conrad’s and a few lines out of David-into-Fox-Garnett. The theory back of it I got from Conrad’s preface to The Nigger, that the purpose of a work of fiction is to appeal to the lingering after-effects in the reader’s mind as differing from, say, the purpose of oratory or philosophy which leave respectively leave people in a fighting or thoughtful mood. The second contribution to the burglary was your trying to work out some such theory in your troubles with the very end of A Farewell to Arms. I remember that your first draft—or at least the first one I saw—gave a sort of old-fashioned Alger book summary of the future lives of the characters: “The priest became a priest under Fascism,” etc., and you may remember my suggestion to take a burst of eloquence from anywhere in the book that you couldfind it and tag off with that; you were against this idea because you felt that the true line of a work of fiction was to take a reader up to a high emotional pitch but then let him down or ease him off. You gave no aesthetic reason for this—nevertheless, you convinced me. The third piece of burglary contributing to this symposing was my admiration of the dying fall in the aforesaid Garnett’s book and I imitated it as accurately as it is humanly decent in my own ending of Tender, telling the reader in the last pages that, after all, this is just a casual event, and trying to let him come to bat for me rather than going out to shake his nerves, whoop him up, then leaving him rather in a condition of a frustrated woman in bed. (Did that ever happen to you in your days with MacCallagan or McKisco, Sweetie?)
Sara Murphy shared Hemingway’s view that Fitzgerald did not understand people: “I have always told you you haven’t the faintest idea what anybody else but yourself is like…”97 Fitzgerald regarded her view as a dismissal of his career, and in August 1935 he tried to convince Sara that he had captured the essence of her personality in Tender:
In my theory, utterly opposite to Ernest’s, about fiction i.e. that it takes half a dozen people to make a synthesis strong enough to create a fiction character—in that theory, or rather in despite of it, I used you again + again in Tender:
“Her face was hard + lovely + pitiful”
“He had been heavy, belly-frightened with love of her for years”—in those + in a hundred other places I tried to evoke not you but the effect that you produce on men—the echoes + reverberations—a poor return for what you have given by your living presence, but nevertheless an artist’s (what a word!) sincere attempt to preserve a true fragment rather than a “portrait” by Mr. Sargent. And someday, in spite of all the affectionate scepticism you felt toward the brash young man you met on the Rivierra eleven years ago, you’ll let me have my little corner of you where I know you better than anybody—yes, even better than Gerald.
At the end of 1935, in a time of unhappiness, Gerald admitted to Fitzgerald: “I know now that what you said in ’Tender is the Night’ is true. Only the invented part of our life,—the unreal part—has had any scheme any beauty.”
Hemingway sent Perkins a message about the novel in 1935: “How is Scott? I wish I could see him. A strange thing is that in retrospect his Tender Is the Night gets better and better.” On 15 April 1935 Fitzgerald replied to Perkins, who had become a relay station for their communications: “Thanks for the message from Ernest. I’d like to see him too and I always think of my friendship with him as being one of the high spots of my life. But I still believe that such things have a mortality, perhaps in reaction to their very excessive life, and that we will never again see very much of each other. I appreciate what he said about ’Tender is the Night.’” Later Hemingway wrote Perkins: “I found Scott’s Tender Is the Night in Cuba and sent it over. It’s amazing how excellent much of it is. If he had integrated it better it would have been a fine novel (as it is) much of it is better than anything else he ever wrote. How I wish he would have kept on writing. Is it really all over or will he write again? If you write him give him my great affection. (I always had a very stupid little boy feeling of superiority about Scott—like a tough little boy sneering at a delicate but talented little boy.) But reading that novel much of it was so good it was frightening.” Fitzgerald preserved Hemingway’s messages in his scrapbook for Tender.
The disappointment of Hemingway’s 1934 response to Tender was compensated for by the warm letters Fitzgerald received from James Branch Cabell, Bennett Cerf, Carl Van Vechten, John O’Hara, Richard Simon, Christian Gauss, G. B. Stern, Robert Benchley, John Dos Passos, Matthew Josephson, Louis Bromfield, and John Peale Bishop. Archibald MacLeish wrote: “Great God Scott you can write. You can write better than ever. You are a fine writer. Believe it. Believe It—not me.” Despite the resentment he had felt toward Fitzgerald in Europe, Thomas Wolfe wrote after reading the magazine installments: “I thought you’d be interested to know that the people in the book are even more real and living now than they were at the time I read it. It seems to me you’ve gone deeper in this book than in anything you ever wrote. … I think it’s the best work you’ve done so far, and I know you’ll understand what I mean and won’t mind it if I get a kind of selfish hope and joy out of your own success.”
Through his interest in the Junior Vagabonds theater group Fitzgerald had met Charles Marquis Warren, a young Baltimorean who had written and directed the musical revue called So What? Fitzgerald was greatly impressed by Warren’s talent and appointed himself his patron. Nearly all the information about their friendship derives from Warren, whose statements cannot be verified. Warren has said that he was seventeen when he met Fitzgerald, but Filmgoer’s Companion gives his birth year as 1912—which would make him twenty-one or twenty-two in 1934; his entry in Who’s Who in America omits the year of his birth. Warren’s account of his relationship with Fitzgerald has been included in Aaron Latham’s Crazy Sundays (1971). Warren reports thatZelda resented him and scratched his face so badly that he had to be treated at a hospital. He also reports that once, while he played tennis with Zelda, she stripped off all her clothes as Fitzgerald watched impassively. Warren’s most important claim is that he collaborated on Book III of Tender Is the Night. The manuscripts provide no evidence of the collaboration; however, at page 320 of the book the name of Nicole’s father is given as Charles Warren, although it is Devereux Warren earlier. This name change, according to Charles Marquis Warren, was Fitzgerald’s way of acknowledging his help; in the third printing of 1934 the name was changed back to Devereux.
Warren did collaborate with Fitzgerald on the movie treatment and provided a musical score. Hoping that Tender Is the Night would solve his money problems, Fitzgerald was eager to exploit the movie and play rights. Since the Hollywood studios made no offers for the novel, Fitzgerald and Warren prepared a treatment for the movies in April and May 1934. This work clearly shows the differences between Fitzgerald’s concepts of literary material and movie material, for it reads like a version of Tender Is the Night rewritten by Lloyd C. Douglas. A melodramatic happy ending is achieved when Dick operates on Nicole after their separation.
In the quiet, mechanical smoothness of the operating room, in the midst of his delicate work—with the newness and mystery of this particular operation—and the burning sensation that he is trying to save Nicole for another man, Dick’s nerve fails.
But Nicole, deep in the oblivion of the anesthetic murmurs once “Dick” and his hand does not falter after that.
The inscription in Warren’s copy of Tender Is the Night reads: “For Charles (Bill) Warren with the hope that our co-operation will show us to prosperity. April 1st (fool’s day) 1934.” This message does not stipulate cooperation or collaboration on the novel and almost certainly refers to the movie project. An undated receipt signed by Warren shows that Fitzgerald paid him $250 “for my work on treatment of Tender is the Night and permission to use what I contributed to it as his own creation and property as he may see fit, this not to include my music to which I reserve full copyright.”
Ober was unable to interest Hollywood in the treatment. At the endof May, Fitzgerald staked Warren to a Hollywood trip for the double purpose of looking for a writing job and selling their treatment. Fitzgerald armed him with letters of introduction [Fitzgerald wrote letters to John Monk Saunders, Myron Selznick, Bess Meredyth, George Cukor, Roland Young, Sonia Levien, Dwight Taylor, Zoe Akins, Al Lewin, and Richard Barthelmess.], one of which, to M-G-M story editor Samuel Marx, offered this high appraisal of Warren’s abilities: “His talents are amazingly varied—he writes, composes, draws and has this aforesaid general gift for the theatre—and I have a feeling that he should fit in there somewhere within a short time and should go close to the top, in fact I haven’t believed in anybody so strongly since Ernest Hemingway.” Warren failed to find Hollywood employment in 1934. (He later became a movie and television producer-director and created the Gunsmoke and Rawhide series.)
Against Ober’s advice Fitzgerald assigned the stage rights to another young Baltimore writer, Robert Spafford. Fitzgerald did not collaborate with Spafford, and the play does not seem to have been completed. A dramatic version written by Cora Jarrett and Kate Oglebay in 1938 was not produced.
Probably through the Vagabonds, Fitzgerald met Rita Swann, a Baltimore newspaper writer whose children were active in the theater group. Mrs. Swann’s home on Park Avenue was a gathering place for stage-struck young people and Baltimore bohemians, and Fitzgerald enjoyed showing off for them. He planned an unproduced musical revue with her son Francis and worked on another project with eighteen-year-old Garrison Morfit—who would become a prominent radio and television figure as Garry Moore. Fitzgerald had the idea of combining Ring Lardner’s nonsense plays with horror plays and invited Morfit to work with him. Unlikely as this plan seems, Fitzgerald was serious about it and discussed it with Gilbert Seldes in May 1934: “… it seems to me that an evening of five nonsense plays would be monotonous no matter how funny they were, but just suppose, taking over the technique of the Grand Guignol, two of these plays were alternated with something macabre.”
Morfit’s home was near 1307 Park Avenue, and he worked with Fitzgerald in the evenings over the course of four months. Fitzgerald dictated dialogue to him, with the requirement that he use a different color of pencil for each character’s speech. Morfit thought this method was silly, and Fitzgerald was furious when he caught him ignoring hisorders. Once when Morfit was driving Fitzgerald past the statue of Francis Scott Key at Eutaw Place, Fitzgerald jumped out of the car and hid in the bushes, calling: “Don’t let Frank see me drunk.” Morfit had to wave a handkerchief at the statue to distract Key while Fitzgerald sneaked away. One night Fitzgerald needed a secretary and Morfit got his sister to help. When Fitzgerald showed an amorous interest in her, Morfit left with her and the collaboration ended. Morfit never saw Fitzgerald sober or charming.
Disappointed by the reception of Tender and faced with Zelda’s incurable state, Fitzgerald was drunk during much of spring and summer of 1934. Louis Azrael recalls that Fitzgerald tried to ration himself to an ounce of gin every hour but that he would borrow ounces ahead.
While she was at Craig House and Sheppard-Pratt in 1934, Zelda and Fitzgerald exchanged letters that were permeated with memories of unrecoverable happiness and wasted possibilities. From Fitzgerald in April: “The sadness of the past is with me always. The things that we have done together and the awful splits that have broken us into war survivals in the past stay like a sort of atmosphere around any house that I inhabit. The good things and the first years together, and the good months that we had two years ago in Montgomery will stay with me forever, and you should feel like I do that they can be renewed, if not in a new spring, then in a new summer. I love you my darling, darling.” And from Zelda in June:
I wish we could spend July by the sea, browning ourselves and feeling water-weighted hair flow behind us from a dive. I wish our gravest troubles were the summer gnats. I wish we were hungry for hot-dogs and dopes [Coca-Cola] and it would be nice to smell the starch of summer linens and the faint odor of talc in blistering bath-houses. Or we could go to the Japanese gardens with Kay Laurel and waste a hundred dollars staging conceptions of gaiety. We could lie in long citroneuse beams of the five-o’clock sun in the plage at Juan-les-Pins and hear the sound of the drum and piano being scooped out to sea by the waves. Dust and alfalfa in Alabama, pines and salt at Antibes, the lethal smells of city streets in summer, buttered pop-corn and axel grease at Coney Island and Virginia beaches—and the sick-sweet smells of old gardens at night, verbena or phlox or night-blooming stock—we could see if all those things are still there.
After Tender Is the Night was published, Fitzgerald withdrew his interdiction of Zelda’s writing. He provided editorial help and tried toarrange for publication of her short pieces. In June 1934 he reported to Zelda that he was trying to persuade Perkins to publish a collection of her stories and essays. The Fitzgeralds both put time into polishing the material, but nothing came of this project.
Published as Some Sort Of Epic Grandeur: The Life Of F. Scott Fitzgerald by Matthew J. Bruccoli (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1991 - second edition; 1981 - first edition).