One evening in the spring of 1932 I was walking with a friend down the lane of my family’s country place outside Baltimore. As we approached La Paix, the old house on our property that had just been rented again, we noticed a man sitting motionless on the high front steps. Alone and pensive, he had been communing with the fireflies that twinkled across the lawn, but now he turned his attention to us and we felt ourselves being scrutinized. In the manner of eleven-year-olds we scrutinized him back, while pretending to be busy with our own affairs.
No word passed between us in the dusk. That moment, however, was the beginning of this book, for the stranger was the new tenant my parents had been talking about; he was Scott Fitzgerald.
Though an artist in prose fiction—with facets of the dramatist, the essayist and the social historian—Fitzgerald was fundamentally a poet. He said himself that his talent was in large part the poetic kind that matures early, and he had the poet’s temperament as Wordsworth has defined it: “… a man speaking to men; a man, it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than othermen in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the Universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them.” [Struthers Burt wrote a little known, perceptive essay on Fitzgerald’s novels as the work of an unreconciled poet (New York Herald Tribune Book Review, July 8, 1951). Yet Fitzgerald left behind no significant body of verse—only passages of great prose poetry which he knew by heart. Words came to him rhythmically charged with feeling. Driving with a friend one night in 1934, he had been dozing and woke up suddenly to mumble something about a bus that hurtled past. “Write that down,” he told the friend, “that’s my rhythm.” Later the remark went into his notebook as “The nineteen wild green eyes of a bus were coming up to them through the dark.” (The Crack-Up, p. 109)]
The frontispiece in this volume dates from 1933 when Fitzgerald was completing Tender Is the Night. It is one of a group of photographs which his wife, Zelda, thought the best ever taken of him, and I prefer it to any other because it shows more of the man. The dissipation is there but also the fineness, the fire, the almost speaking sensitivity. It is Fitzgerald as I remember him and have tried to recapture him in some of these pages.
This book could not have been written without the gracious help of a great many people, a number of whom I have listed further on. At the outset, however, I would like to acknowledge a few major debts. First of all, to Fitzgerald’s daughter, Mrs. Samuel J. Lanahan, who patiently suffered my intrusions and lent me all the material I asked for. Harold Ober, Fitzgerald’s literary executor, encouraged my project from the start and aided me unstintingly during the two and a half years before his death. Judge John Biggs, Jr., Fitzgerald’s legal executor, was also of great service. No one brought me nearer the Fitzgeralds’ spirit than Gerald and Sara Murphy, whose point of view combined deep affection with critical discernment and whose memories I checked and rechecked in the course of several visits. I am grateful to Fitzgerald’s sister, Mrs. Clifton Sprague, and to Zelda’s sister, Mrs. Newman Smith, for their friendly cooperation. Fitzgerald had kept typed copies of all Ginevra King’s letters which were returned to her on his death and which she kindly let me see. I am grateful to Henry Dan Piper for lending me his biographical materials on Fitzgerald. I am grateful to Sheilah Graham for steady assistance in filling in the details of Fitzgerald’s last years in Hollywood. Glenway Wescott, Matthew Josephson, Malcolm Cowley, John Kuehl and Katherine Fessenden were good enough to read and criticize my manuscript.
My greatest debt, beyond describing, is to my mother, Margaret Carroll Turnbull.
When I began the research for this book in the spring of 1957, I knew my focus would be Fitzgerald’s personality. Since the revival of interest in him, there had been extensive criticism and exegesis of his work, but the man remained elusive, as he had been in life. My desire was to get back to the sources, to ponder the written evidence and probe the memories of those who had known him.
My interest in his drama had been increased by my having met some of the other participants. At Fitzgerald’s funeral I had shaken hands with Max Perkins, later exchanging letters with him about a sketch of Fitzgerald I wrote just after he died. While heeling for the Princetonian, I had interviewed H. L. Mencken, and I had sat under Dean Gauss in his celebrated course on the French Romantics. I remembered T. S. Eliot’s eagle countenance from his visit with us, as well as his remark to my mother when she told him enthusiastically that his essay on Dante had made her want to read The Divine Comedy. (“You mean,” said Mr. Eliot, “begin to read it.”)
I set about exploring all the places Fitzgerald had lived for any length of time: Buffalo, St. Paul, Princeton, Montgomery, West-port, Great Neck, Paris, the Riviera, Wilmington, Baltimore, Asheville, Tryon, Los Angeles, and of course the Plaza Hotel where he survived in the memory of a single bellboy. Along the way, I interviewed everyone I could find who had known him, and their testimony is part of the fabric of this book, though the interpretation of people and events is strictly my own.
I am particularly indebted to the following for information on Fitzgerald’s parents and their early years in St. Paul: Mrs. Blair Flandrau, Miss Constance Goodrich, Mrs. A. M. Hennessy, Mrs. Victor Robertson, Mrs. Edwin R. Sanford.
On the Fitzgeralds in Buffalo: Helen Powell Collard, Kiddy Williams Frederick, Theodore Keating, John Kimberly, Mrs. George Manning, Marie Lautz Rose, William D. Van Arnam, Hamilton Wende.
On Fitzgerald growing up in St. Paul (a number of these went on seeing him in later life): Henry Adams, Theodore Ames, Paul Baillon, Donald Bigelow, Ralph Boalt, Mrs. Laurance Boardman, John deQ. Briggs, Gordon Bryant, Alida Bigelow Butler, Francis Butler, James Cathcart, Miss Caroline Clark, Dean Clark, Robert Clark, Mrs. Robert Clark, Sr., Worrell Clarkson, Mrs. C. J. Claude, Mrs. Stanislas Czetvertinski, Margaret Armstrong Dean, Egbert Driscoll, Mrs. Edward K. Dunn, Robert R. Dunn, Jr., Elizabeth Konantz Ellis, Katherine Tighe Fessenden, Philip Fitzpatrick, Dr. Fred Foley, Dr. John Fulton, Ben Griggs, Marie Hersey Hamm, Jay Hevener, Mrs. Florence Hubbell, Frank Hurley, Archie Jackson, Mr. and Mrs. Norris Jackson, Mrs. Crawford Johnson, Mrs. Oscar Kalman, Mrs. R. S. Kinkead, Mrs. Leonard Lampert, Frank Leslie, Mrs. Herbert Lewis, Miss Katherine Ordway, Lucius Ordway, David McQuillan, Mrs. A. T. Miller, Mrs. Mary Morrissey, Archie Mudge, Dudley Mudge, Grace Warner Mudge, Miss Alice O’Brien, Mrs. Willem Panman, Cecil Read, Clifton Read, Gustave B. Schurmeier, Mrs. Alfred Schweppe, McNeil Seymour, Frank Shepard, Wharton Smith, Mrs. Lucian Strong, Sidney Stronge, General Samuel Sturgis, Mrs. J. J. Summersby, Mother Theresa and Sister Frances de Sales of the Visitation Convent, Miss Lynne Thompson, Mrs. James Towle, Mrs. Vlacau Vytlacil, Reuben Warner, Richard Washington, William Webster, Ardita Ford Wood.
On Fitzgerald at Newman: Herbert Agar, William Agar, Martin Amorous, Frank Brophy, Thornton Delehanty, Charles W. Dona-hoe, Richard Farrelly, Howard M. Hart, Augustine Healy, Cyril Hume, John L. Kuser, Paul Nelson, Joseph B. Pearman, Bernard Shanley, Joseph Shanley, Walter Tracey.
On Fitzgerald at Princeton: James F. Adams, T. Hart Anderson, Hamilton Fish Armstrong, Chailes Arrott, A. C. M. Azoy, Howard Ballantyne, Robert F. Barnett, Newton Bevin, Paul Bigler, J. F. Bohmfalk, A. L. Booth, William Bowman, J. Clement Boyd, W. Rex Brashear, Percy Buchanan, Asa Bushnell, C. Lawton Campbell, H. Ranald Chambers, Henry Chapin, William R. Compton, Francis Comstock, Samuel Conant, Robert Crawford, James Creese, Jarvis Cromwell, Arthur P. Davis, Stanley Dell, Paul Dickey, Gregg Dougherty, Henry Doyle, Wells Drorbaugh, Richard Dunn, Rudolph Eberstadt, Herbert Eldridge, Gerald English, John F. Fennelly, Bernard Feustman, Eben Finney, Charles Folwell, James R. Forgan, Porter Gillespie, Prof. Walter P. Hall, Erdman Harris, Gardiner Hawkins, Ashley Hewitt, Lambert Heyniger, Paul Hills, Raymond Holden, Harry Hoyt, Alan Jackman, F. Winston Johns, Walter Johnson, Graham Johnston, E. Winslow Kane, Samuel Kauffman, W. Boulton Kelly, A. D. Kimball, John R. Kimbark, S. Whitney Landon, Lewis Lukens, Edward MacNichol, Gordon McCormick, Edward D. McDougal, John D. McMaster, Allyn Marsh, Robert L. Nourse, Norman Pearson, Landon Raymond, George Rentschler, Oliver Rodgers, John R. T. Ryan, Charles M. Scott, Sidney Shea, Eugene W. Sloan, Harvey Smith, George R. Stewart, Edward L. Straier, Henry Strater, William E. Studdiford, Perry Sturges, David Tibbott, Reginald Tickner, David Williamson, Frederick Yeiser, Joseph S. Young, Richard Ziesing. Also Ruth Sturtevant Brown, Catherine Crapo Bullard, Marjorie Muir Hotchkiss, Fluff Beckwith Mackey, Ginevra King Pirie, Helen Walcott Younger. Also Monsignor William Hemmick and Sir Shane Leslie.
On Fitzgerald in the army: Richardson Bronson, Louis Cardinal, Harold A. Conrad, Elwood C. Cornog, Ernest Hoftyzer, David H Jones, Devereux Josephs. Edward G Knowles. C. J Malone. Alonzo F. Myers, Raymond J Poirier, James O. Tarbox. Also Mrs. Henry Flower.
On Fitzgerald at the Barron Collier advertising agency: C. F. Chatfield and T. B. Hilton.
On Zelda growing up in Montgomery (a number of these also knew Scott): Eleanor Browder Addison, Mrs. Harry Allen, Warren Andrews, Mrs. Frederick Atterburv. Ed Auerbach, Fred Ball. Mrs. Lloyd Barnett, Lewis Clark, Dan Cody, May Steiner Coleman, Mrs. W. R. ). Dunn, Mrs. John Dun, Mrs. Laura Fuller, Mrs. Carter Gannon. Miss Lucy Goldthwaite, Mrs. Frederick Gunsten, Mrs. Paxton Hibben, Lloyd Hooper, Mrs. W. H. Hooper, Mrs H. C. Hutchings, Irby Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Paul LeGrand, Mrs. Fendall Marbury, Mrs. Joseph Matthews, Mrs. R. S. Minier, Mrs. Frank Morgan, Mrs. Isabelle Nunnally, Clotilde Sayre Palmer, Mrs. Nash Read, Mrs. Harry Ridgeway, Miss Adelaide Rogers, Emmett Ruth, Leon Ruth, Mrs. Mildred Saffold, Mrs. E. Safiold-Holt, J. J. Steiner, Mrs. William Brock Taber, John Tilley, Mrs. H. L. Weatherby, Louis Whitfield, Mrs. Ellen Wiley.
On the Fitzgeralds when they returned to Montgomery in 1931: Mrs. Edward Breslin, Mrs. Joseph Garland, Mrs. Frances Nix, Amalia Harper Rosenberg, Mrs. Frances Stevenson.
On Fitzgerald in Baltimore: Louis Azrael, Dr. Benjamin Baker, Curtis Carroll Davis, Edmund Duffy, Mrs. Gaylord Estabrook, Dr. Lindol French, Dr. Horsley Gantt, Mrs. Henriette M. Hill, Mrs. Sidney Lanier, Miss Elizabeth Lemmon, William Leonard, Garry Moore, Dr. Charles O’Donovan, John Ostermaier, Mrs. Allein Owens, Edgar Poe, Alice Wooten Richardson, Mrs. Don Swann, Francis Swann, Gordon Van Ness, Charles Warren, Zack Waters.
On Fitzgerald in Asheville and Tryon: Margaret Culkin Banning, Mrs. Albert Barnett, Hamilton Basso, Frederick Bowes, Mr. and Mrs. Carter Brown, James Fain, Maurice Flynn, Laura Guthrie Hearne, Mrs. Walter Hill, James Hurley, Mrs. Julia Lytle, Michael Mok, Mrs. W. W. Orr, Edwin Peeples, Thomas Phipps, Dr. and Mrs. John Preston, Miss Marie Shank, Mrs. John L. Washburn.
On Fitzgerald’s last years in Hollywood: Lester Cowan, George Cukor, Corey Ford, Mrs. Richard Gordon, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Hackett, Colleen Moore Hargrove, Lillian Hellman, Mrs. Earleen Henderson, Nunnally Johnson, Albert Lewin, John Lee Mahin, Joseph Manckiewicz, Dr. Clarence Nelson, Edwin Knopf, Morton Kroll, Kenneth Littauer, Otho Lovering, S. J. Perelman, Maurice Rapf, Frances Kroll Ring, Cameron Rogers, Budd Schulberg, Lawrence Stallings, Gay Lloyd Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Harlan Thompson, Walter Wanger, Max Wilkinson, Edwin Justus Mayer.
On Scott and Zelda at various times during the twenties and thirties (in a few cases these people did not know the Fitzgeralds but some one else in the story): Mrs. Charles Abeles, Mrs. John Amen, Charles Angoff, Mrs. Chester Arthur, Carlos Baker, Miss Jeanne Ballot, Miss Natalie Barney, the Misses Grace and Irene Barron, Mrs. A. W. Barrow, Mrs. Philip Barry, Richard Barthlemess, Monsignor Gerald Baskfield, Clive Bell, Nathanael Benchley, Mrs. Robert Benchley, Mrs. Stephen Vincent Benet, Konrad Bercovici, Louise Bogan, Mr. and Mrs. Ian Boissevin, Madeleine Boyd, Catherine Drinker Bowen, Charles Brackett, Mme. Jenny Bradley, Mario Bragiotti, Stiano Bragiotti, Van Wyck Brooks, Mrs. Richardson Bronson, Arthur William Brown, Slater Brown, Robert Buechner, Roger Burlingame, Alan Campbell, Mrs. James Campbell, Andre Chamson, Theodore Chanler, Morrill Cody, Padraic Colum, Marc Connolly, T. B. Costain, Malcolm Cowley, Caresse Crosby, Whitney Darrow, Marcia Davenport, John Dos Passos, J. Hyatt Downing, Mrs. Ruth Dubonnet, John Stuart Dudley, Gstavo Duran, Egarova, Dr. Helen Evarts, John Farrar, Mlle. Franchise Feret, Ben Finney, Michael Fisher, W. H. G. Fitzgerald, James Montgomery Flagg, Dr. Louis B. Flinn, Miss Mary French, Lewis Galantiere, Arnold Gingrich, Dr. Margaret Gildea, Dorothy Gish, Lillian Gish, Rube Goldberg, Mrs. Louis Goldstein, Caroline Gordon, Mrs. Elizabeth Gorsline, Mr. and Mrs. James Gray, Ramon Guthrie, Margaret Case Harriman, John Held, Josephine Herbst, Maurice Hindus, Gerald Hirsch, Mrs. Thomas Hitchcock, Miss Elizabeth Huling, Matthew Josephson, Mrs. Frank Ketcham, Miss Thelma Laird, John Lardner, Ring Lardner, Jr., Mrs. Ring Lardner, Sr., Lawrence Lee, Mrs. Thomas Lineaweaver, Mrs. Conrad Little, Harold Loeb, Anita Loos, Holger Lundberg, Dorothy MacKail, Archibald MacLeish, Mary McCarthy, Robert McClure, Vincent McHugh, Marya Mannes, Sam Marx, Wallace Meyer, Robert Montgomery, Arthur Moss, Mrs. Allen Myers, Carmel Myers, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Myers, Whitney Oates, Mrs. Harold Ober, John O’Hara, Mrs. Victor Onet, Dorothy Parker, Stephen Parrott, Mrs. Maxwell Perkins, Mrs. Keith Pevear, Mrs. Burton Rascoe, James Rennie, Mike Romanoff, Gilbert Seldes, Mr. and Mrs. David Silvette, George Slocombe, Col. Newman Smith, T. P. Smith, William B. Smith, Y. K. Smith, Donald Ogden Stewart, Julian Street, H. N. Swanson, Herbert Bayard Swope, Allen Tate, Dwight Taylor, Miss Virginia Taylor, Alice B. Toklas, Ralph Tompkins, Ernest Truex, Carl Van Vechten, King Vidor, Orville Wales, William Weber, Glenway Wescott, Rebecca West, Jerome Weidman, John N. Wheeler, John Hall Wheelock, Otis Wiese, Thornton Wilder, Mrs. Stephens Wiman, Lois Moran Young.
Among numerous librarians who helped me I am specially indebted to Alexander P. Clark and Mrs. Alden Randall of the Princeton University Library, to James Taylor Dunn of the Minnesota Historical Society, and to Miss Myra Champion and Miss Ida Padelford of the Pack Memorial Library in Asheville. Mrs. Norris Harris gave me expert assistance with genealogy. Dr. John O. Neustadt, for a while the Fitzgeralds’ neighbor in Baltimore, advised me on the psychiatric aspects of my story, as did Dr. William T. Dixon. I am grateful to Lynwood Bryant, Richard L. Schoenwald and Francis D. Murnaghan for help and advice.
Fitzgerald, though he never managed to save any money, was a great hoarder of the written word. His papers in the Princeton Library are one of the finest collections of their kind to come out of the period. They include a large and representative group of his manuscripts. The files of received correspondence are enriched by carbons of many of his letters for the period 1932-40. Outside the Princeton collection, Fitzgerald’s complete and voluminous correspondences with Max Perkins and Harold Ober were of primary importance, while Scribners’ correspondence with other authors who knew Fitzgerald yielded interesting sidelights.
My starting point was Fitzgerald’s “Ledger,” which he began keeping in the summer of 1922. This legal-sized record book of two hundred lined pages contains an “Outline Chart” of his life—a rough precis by months, telling what he did, where he went and the people he saw. There is a page for each year, and at the top of the page, beginning with his fourteenth year, there are summary remarks (i.e. Twenty-two Years Old—“The most important year of my life. Every emotion and my life work decided. Miserable and exstatic but a great success;” Twenty-six Years Old—“A comfortable but dangerous and deteriorating year at Great Neck. No ground under our feet”). The outline chart ends in March, 1935, and there are supplementary notes for it among Fitzgerald’s papers.
The Ledger also contains a statement of Fitzgerald’s annual earnings from 1919 through 1936 and of Zelda’s from 1922 through 1930, as well as a record of his published fiction through June, 1937, when he went to Hollywood for the last time. For each story Fitzgerald tells when it was written, the magazine where it appeared, whether it was published abroad, whether it was made into a movie or a broadcast, whether it got into a short story collection or received any prizes, whether it was published in a volume of his own short stories, or whether it was “stripped” of its best phrases and “permanently buried.”
From childhood Scott and Zelda each kept a personal scrapbook. Scott discontinued his after he left the army, but Zelda’s goes on till the end of 1924. Their joint history runs through five scrapbooks devoted to Fitzgerald’s work (I—This Side of Paradise; II—The Beautiful and Damned; III—Tales of the Jazz Age, The Vegetable, and All the Sad Young Men: IV—The Great Gatsby; V—Tender Is the Night and Taps at Reveille). Besides a great many reviews, these scrapbooks contain letters, newspaper gossip, photographs and other memorabilia. Fitzgerald’s “Baby Book,” kept by his mother during his boyhood, as well as scrapbooks, letters and other genealogical materials relating to the Fitzgerald and McQuillan families have also been preserved.
There is a wealth of published reminiscence about Fitzgerald. I also drew on unpublished memoirs by C. Lawton Campbell, Edwin Justus Mayer, Alonzo F. Myers, James Rennie, and Alice Wooten Richardson, as well as on Laura Guthrie Hearne’s diary of several hundred typewritten pages, describing her association with Fitzgerald in 1935-36.
Among previous books on Fitzgerald, the most useful for my purposes were Sheilah Graham’s memoir, Beloved Infidel, and Arthur Mizener’s pioneering biography, The Far Side of Paradise.