This book's seventeen stories, comprising the entire Pat Hobby sequence, bridge the last major gap in the collected writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
But this volume is more than a collection of previously uncollected short stories. For while its several episodes were originally published as a series of separate sketches, Fitzgerald began thinking of them, after the first three were written, as a collective entity. Almost every time he wrote another, he would reconsider the order of their appearance in print and as long as he lived he kept revising them, just before their publication. Some were revised up to four times. The revisions were in some instances caused by considerations of the interdependence of the various parts in constituting the over-all delineation of the character of Pat Hobby.
Thus, while it would be unfair to try to judge this book as a novel, it would be less than fair to consider it as anything but a full-length portrait. It was as such that Fitzgerald worked on it, and would have wanted it presented in book form, after its original magazine publication. He thought of it as a comedy.
At the time of his death in December 1940, two thirds of the way through its publication, we referred to the Pat Hobby sequence as his “last word from his last home, for much of what he felt about Hollywood and about himself permeated these stories.”
The continuity of the original publication was unbroken, beginning in January 1940 and continuing without interruption for seventeen months, through May 1941.
Fitzgerald's literary stock was at its all-time low, and the obituary notices, almost without exception, gave no hint that this “forgotten” author of the Twenties might ever be read again. Except for the then current Pat Hobby stories, none of his work was any longer in the public eye. Typical of the appraisals at the moment of his passing, and by no means the least kind, was this, in the Chicago Daily News:
When he died at 44, F. Scott Fitzgerald, hailed in 1922 as the protagonist and exponent of the Flapper Age, was almost as remote from contemporary interest as the authors of the blue-chip stock certificates of 1929. He was still writing good copy, but no one was mistaking a story writer for the Herald of an Era.
As soon as we could answer that (in the pages of the March '41 issue of Esquire, the one magazine that had never been closed to him), we reminded the Chicago Daily News that in literature there is no more insecure grip on immortality than that of a Herald of an Era, while a story writer may very well live forever. Twenty-one years is only a short step toward eternity, yet here now, over twenty-one years later, is the good copy that story writer was writing at that time.
But that his own expectations, at that moment, squared more nearly with those of the American press, who dismissed him as if he were a sort of verbal counterpart of John Held, Jr., was evident in his last letter to our office, a matter of days before his death, in which he spoke of the unfinished novel that was to be published posthumously (The Last Tycoon) as “a book I confidently expect to sell all of a thousand copies.”
In the beginning, he didn't give the Pat Hobby project even that much of a sendoff. The first Pat Hobby story came in on September 16, 1939, from what Scott called his hide-out address, 5521 Amestoy Avenue, Encino, California. Just above the address he had written in pencil, “Hide-out address! Now that I've paid off 99/100 of my debts people want me to contract more.” He was working on the Universal lot at the time, was not drinking, thanks to Sheilah Graham's watchful care, and after having been ill for four months earlier in the year, was in a happy and productive working streak. He had sent in three stories that we had accepted in the previous six weeks (“Design in Plaster,” “Lost Decade,” and “Between Planes”) and a fourth, about a father and his son, that hadn't quite jelled. He took that one back, to try to fix it, and then sent in the first Pat Hobby story, “A Man in the Way,” with the following note:
I have tried twice to fix the father-and-son story but there is something wrong structurally. I shall try it again next Sunday.
Meanwhile, perhaps this will take its place. If so, will you kindly wire me as usual. I can't calm down after a story till I know if it's good or bad.
Weekends were reserved for stories, since Universal took up his weekdays, and the next one, instead of being devoted to further tinkering on the story with which there was something wrong structurally, resulted in another tale about Pat Hobby, “who used to be a good man for structure.” Here is the note that came with it, on September 21, 1939:
Here's another story about Pat Hobby, the scenario hack, to whom I am getting rather attached. Also some enclosed pages with corrections for the first story about him (“Man in the Way”).
Once again can I get a Western Union acceptance—that is if you like it wire me and wire the money to the Bank of America, Culver City.
I think I'll do one more story about this character Saturday or Sunday. In that case—and if you like it—that will give you six of my things. I wish to God you could pay more money. These have all been stories, not sketches or articles and only unfit for the big time because of their length.
Added poignancy is now lent to the above plea by the realization that the term “sketches” was the one Scott always used to refer to such things as the now-famous Crack-Up series of 1936, “The Crack-Up,” “Pasting It Together,” and “Handle with Care.” (A couple of years before he had passed out saying “Read those sketches to Sheilah, while I take a nap.”)
Six days later, on September 27, 1939, came the following:
Here are some improvements for the second Hobby story, “Boil Some Water.”
And on October 2, 1939 came the third, “Teamed with Genius”:
Once again the address is the Bank of America, Culver City, and I wish you'd wire the money if you like this story. Notice that this is pretty near twenty-eight hundred words long. I'd like to do some more of these if your price made it possible. Would you wire me too, what you think of it?
That letter was followed by this wire, two days later:
Am sending revised version of last story stop don't set it up until it comes regards
And two days after that, October 6, 1939, two revised scripts came in with this note:
Enclosed is a copy of “Teamed with Genius” revised. Do you think the Pat stories would be effective if published in one issue, or would that be against your budget system? I mean it would only be worth doing as a feature.
The following sounds crazy but I picked up the second Pat Hobby story and liked it so well that I thought I'd make that one a little better also. I hope it's not too late to use this version.
Enclosed were the second version of the third story, and the third version of the second story.
On October 14, 1939 the fourth and fifth stories came in together.
With the fourth, “Pat Hobby's Christmas Wish”: “Here's another Pat Hobby story. Again will your usual emolument to me be telegraphic?”
With the fifth, “Pat Hobby's Preview”: “Again the old ache of money. Again will you wire me, if you like it. Again will you wire the money to my Maginot Line: The Bank of America, Culver City.”
Two days later, October 16, 1939, came this wire:
This request should have been inclosed with Pat Hobby's Christmas Wish which is three thousand words long if you can't go up by $ 1501 will have to send it East I hate to switch this series but can't afford to lose so much please wire me.
Sending $150 today which will credit against purchase of Pat Hobby's Christmas Wish if you insist since that one has been rushed through for January issue and I can't do otherwise. However if you insist upon this arrangement for this story will have to decline with regret any more in this series. Would have been pleased to go on stocking them up against future requirements as fast as you could turn them out but cannot do so any more unless and until you let me be the judge of how much we can honestly afford to pay for them. Realize you haven't asked for my advice but would nevertheless advise you frankly not to jeopardize old reliable instant payment market like this by use of strong arm methods which I am bound to resent as reflection on my six year record of complete frankness in dealing with you. In any case you have the extra $ 150 and next move is up to you but on bird in hand theory believe you would be better businessman to regard it as advance against another story. Regards.
Imagine calling Scott a “businessman,” even in the heat of a hot wire. But two hours later he was calling me much worse, long distance collect. Miraculously, the connection wasn't cut, though on other occasions it had been, when his rage had towered above the limits of language permitted by the telephone company, so it is only memory which seems to censor what he must have said to provoke this second wire of that day:
Dear Scott: We Mennonites cool down quicker than you fighting Irish so suggest you don't answer this until tomorrow but after you hung up I realized that if my unfortunate choice of words in my wire hurt you half as much as your last spoken words hurt me then it is ineffably silly for two adults to fight a mutually unwanted war over a relatively small amount of money. Upon re-reading our two wires I now frankly confess that yours did not warrant my use of the phrase “strong arm methods” for which I apologize and can only ask you to forgive and forget. Meanwhile I assure you that our corporate troops may always be counted upon as allies to be summoned at will to your bread and butter Maginot Line. And I deeply regret that my ill temper should have burst so utterly without provocation and spattered such a sensitive soul as your good sweet self. Excuse it please.
Well, he must have, for I can neither remember nor find any answer to that, but my next wire read “Appreciate the good word,” and the next story came in, on October 27, 1939, with this note:
Pay for this what you like. It's not up to the last story—yet it belongs to the series.
At the same time I wish you'd drop me a general opinion about whether you think Pat has run his course or not.
You'll telegraph, won't you?
So I did, as follows: “Hobby titled No Harm Trying is very good in the series and perhaps only seems below par to you because you are tiring of him, but please don't. He's good for consecutive series of twelve at least and will make you a nice book afterwards. Wiring money. Regards.”
On November 8, 1939 came “Pat Hobby's College Days,” with this note:
On your advice I am going on with the Hobby series for at least two more. This is an in and outer, but I think certainly as good as the last.
Thanks, by the way, for your very concrete opinion about the series in general. It was most encouraging.
The usual wire to hold for corrected copy followed, and on November 13, 1939 came another story, “Pat Hobby's Young Visitor,” followed almost immediately by the expected wire to hold that one, too, for a corrected version.
Then, in December, after two telegraphed requests for wired reinforcements to the Maginot Line at Culver City, came another story on the nineteenth, “Two Old-Timers,” with a note explaining that he'd “been sick in bed again and gotten way behind.”
By this time, the first of the stories to appear in print, “Pat Hobby's Christmas Wish,” had come out in our issue dated January 1940, eliciting this comment from Scott:
I felt in spite of the title being appropriate to the season it was rather too bad to begin the Pat Hobby series with that story because it characterizes him in a rather less sympathetic way than most of the others. Of course, he's a complete rat but it seems to make him a little sinister which he essentially is not. Do you intend to use the other stories in approximately the order in which they were written?
Thus began the endless shuffling of the order of appearance of the various stories, on which he seemed to have new thoughts every time another in the series was delivered.
This, together with keeping track of the first, second and third drafts, and charging off the right advances against the right stories, and coping with the telegrams that began asking why he hadn't heard anything about a given story, that often preceded its receipt in the mails, made the editing of the Pat Hobby series an overtime job. Production took no notice of holidays, as witness this wire, filed after office hours on December 22, 1939:
that you wire a hundred advance on really excellent story to reach you Tuesday so I can buy turkey is present Christmas wish of
“Pat Hobby Fitzgerald”
The money was wired that night, and on Christmas Day, 1939, he mailed the story, “Mightier Than the Sword,” with this note:
Please wire money. Thanks. Did you know that last story (Two Old Timers) was the way “The Big Parade” was really made? King Vidor pushed John Gilbert in a hole—believe it or not.
The next, “A Patriotic Short,” was mailed on January 8, and followed four days later by a wire asking whether I got it, to which my secretary unguardedly answered that I was out of town, which brought her a wire telling her, as if she of all people didn't know, that “my arrangement with Mr. Gingrich has been always based on payments upon delivery for his series stop must realize on this story somewhere by Monday please wire.” So now it was my series, not his. That was what I got for bragging about being an “instant market.” So she wired the money instantly, and I got this complaint:
I don't get a word from you except in telegrams. Please do take time to answer this if you possibly can. You have one story of mine “Between Planes” which doesn't belong to the Pat Hobby series. It is a story that I should hate to see held up for a long time. If your plans are to publish it only at the end of the Pat Hobby series would you consider trading it back to me for the next Pat Hobby story? I might be able to dispose of it elsewhere. Otherwise I very strongly wish that you could schedule it at least as early as to follow the first half dozen Pat Hobbys.
The weakest of the Hobby stories seem to me to have been “Two Old-Timers” and “Mightier Than the Sword.” If you could hold those out of type for a while I might be able either to improve them later or else send others in their place. You remember I did this in the case of a story sent you a few years ago.
Answering that, I stuck up for the “Two Old-Timers,” and particularly for the moment when the guard, speaking of how soon they may be let out, differentiates between how soon the ex-star may be let out as opposed to how long poor old Pat may be held.
On February 7, 1940 he wrote further:
What would you think of this? You remember that about a week ago I wrote asking about the publication of “Between Planes.” You said that you hadn't intended to publish it until after the Pat Hobby stories. Why don't you publish it under a pseudonym—say John Darcy. I'm awfully tired of being Scott Fitzgerald anyhow as there doesn't seem to be so much money in it and I'd like to find out if people read me just because I am Scott Fitzgerald or, what is more likely, don't read me for the same reason. In other words it would fascinate me to have one of my stories stand on its own merits completely and see if there is a response. I think it would be a shame to let that story stand over such a long time.
What do you think of this? While the story is not unlike me it is not particularly earmarked by my style as far as I know. At least I don't think so. If the idea interests you I might invent a fictitious personality for Mr. Darcy. My ambition would be to get a fan letter from my own daughter.
Ever your friend,
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)
On February 6, 1940, after receipt of a wired advance against it, the twelfth story, “Pat Hobby and Orson Welles,” came in with the request to shove it in the earliest possible issue, and this P.S.:
I've lost track of the order in which I sent you the stories. Would you have one of your slaves write me a note telling me the order in which the stories were received?
This was done, and on Valentine's Day 1940, after a wired advance against it on Lincoln's Birthday, “On the Trail of Pat Hobby” left Encino with this note:
This is short but it seems to me one of the very funniest of all. I know that is a dangerous thing to say but I think this really has a couple of belly laughs. I wish you could schedule it ahead of “Pat Hobby's College Days” and put that one last. It seems the weakest of all to me and perhaps I can substitute another one for it later.
This note accompanied “Pat Hobby's Secret” on March 9, 1940:
I think this one should go in as early as possible (that is if you agree with me that it is one of the best). The strongest should come first in comedy because once a character is really established as funny everything he does becomes funny. At least it's that way in life.
If you agree then, I hope you have this substituted for any of the earlier stories except “Orson,” “No Harm Trying,” or “Young Visitor.” It is better than any of the others I feel sure.
The old complaint about money accompanied the next, “Pat Hobby Does His Bit,” with this note of March 18, 1940, enclosing a couple of corrections for it:
I am sorry you can't pay more for the Pat stories. I've gotten so interested in them that I feel a great deal is going into them.
“Homes of the Stars” followed ten days later, after being saluted with the usual wired advance:
Hope you like this one. I think I am going to work on the picture version of my own story, Babylon Revisited, so this may be the last Pat story for a couple of months. I think this is good enough to be shoved ahead of what I indicated in one of my last letters as the least good of the stories. This could come after “Pat Hobby Does His Bit.”
The most recent list which had downgraded, as “the less interesting,” a couple of his previous favorites, was comprised of the following: “Two Old-Timers,” “Pat Hobby's Preview,” “On the Trail of Pat Hobby,” “Pat Hobby's College Days,” “A Patriotic Short,” and “Mightier Than the Sword.”
Once he tried taking Pat out of Hollywood, eliciting a wired advance for a story titled “Pat at the Fair,” but wrote as follows about it on June 14, 1940:
Thanks for the advance. I thought I had a comic idea and have actually written three versions of it but it simply isn't funny. Pat out of Hollywood doesn't jell, so I'm doing another Hobby story which you will get Tuesday. There was no use sending a poor one.
Will you tell me what response you're getting from them, or does anyone care about anything now except the war? Thanks again for the advance.
On June 25, 1940 came “Fun in an Artist's Studio” with this note:
Believe it or not this is the fourth story about Pat in the last two weeks. One of the others was good but I wanted a story that would be up to the late ones. It is rather more risque than those in the past—a concession to war times. I hope you can put it ahead of those I have designated in other letters as being mediocre.
You haven't answered my questions about “Between Planes.” I do wish you would publish it but I wish if it is not already set up that the nom-de-plume could be changed to John Blue instead of John Darcy.
I do hope you can keep this title rather than change it to something with the word Pat in it. In the case of “Putative Father” changing the title (from “Young Visitor”) anticipated the first climax. If you want to use the word Pat in a subtitle, O.K., but the title is really an intrinsic part of a story, isn't it?
If you like this will you wire the money?
Asking for a pseudonym that didn't sound quite so obviously phony as John Blue brought the following, on July 13, 1940:
My name is Paul Elgin and Paul will presently send you some contributions.
I see that your next scheduled story is “Pat Hobby Does His Bit” and I hope that the one after that is “No Harm Trying.” It certainly seems to me next in order of merit. You didn't comment on “Fun in an Artist's Studio.” Perhaps if your secretary told me in which order the remaining stories are scheduled I might be able to make some changes in one or two of them before they go into type. There are a couple there that don't please me at all.
Paul Elgin did send in a story, called “On an Ocean Wave,” on October 3, and we published it, but by the time it appeared (February '41) Scott was dead, and could never know whether Scottie would write him a fan letter.
Also on October 3 he wrote: “Deems Taylor paid me a compliment on the Hobby stories the other day. I had about decided that nobody was reading them.”
On October 14, barely two months before his death, he sent off a revise of “A Patriotic Short,” and wired about it the same day:
Revision of “A Patriotic Short” sent today. Please insert it before any others as far as possible. Plan to revise all that remain. Regards.
As luck would have it, that one was already printed, in an early form for our December 1940 issue, so we had to tell him so, and there was this consequent uproar:
Patriotic short so confused it will stop interest in series stop several people concur in this stop can't you set it up again stop your letter promised to hold it out.
Although the revisions were really minor, he made such an unbuttoned fuss about our inability to accommodate them that we had to draw up a schedule of deadlines on all the remaining stories, setting dates by which revisions would have to be received on the five stories awaiting publication in the issues from January through May 1941.
But the last five scenes of the comedy went unrevised. His first heart attack occurred the next month, and two months later, just before Christmas 1940, the second one killed him.
So although he had planned to revise them all, and undoubtedly to shuffle the order of the sequence at least once again, before turning the whole lot in to Scribners as a book, the stories lay where they fell, uncollected and largely ignored, for two lost decades.
There was a rich irony in this that Fitzgerald would have been the first to appreciate. For Pat Hobby, a book that he himself had written, went unpublished through successive waves of revival of interest in Fitzgerald. Books about Fitzgerald, and even movies and plays, made a lot of money for other people, while this one remaining book by Fitzgerald was ignored. As Scott had himself written, there didn't seem to be much money in being Scott Fitzgerald, however much there might be in being or becoming an authority on Scott Fitzgerald. For Pat Hobby could well say, as he had in the very first story about him to appear in print, “I've had a hell of a time. I've waited so long.”
He certainly had one hell of a time getting published.
Failure always fascinated Fitzgerald, and he would have felt sardonic satisfaction in having created, in Pat, such a thoroughgoing failure that he couldn't even, so to speak, “get on the lot” for more than twenty-one years. For while everybody and his ghost began putting between book covers every least and last scrap of Fitzgeraldiana, poor Pat, as the one remaining Fitzgerald “original,” couldn't even get into print.
Scott's own favorite scene in his first book, This Side of Paradise, was the one where the boy, showing off for his classmates who watch with bated breath while he opens the envelope in which a pink slip will tell him that he stays in Princeton, or a blue slip that he must leave, waves it and says “Blue as the sky, gentlemen.”
He would similarly have enjoyed the realization that Pat Hobby became “a man in the way”—wanting to help and not being allowed to—when the great day came that they began carting off, as museum pieces, literally everything that Scott Fitzgerald had ever touched.
Only Scottie, Fitzgerald's only daughter, had a kind word for poor old Pat, whenever the subject of a separate volume for Pat Hobby came up. “Why, he sent me to Vassar,” she said.
There you have the ultimate irony. Just as in “Boil Some Water,” while everybody else stood around, Pat alone had acted. And of course, as a result, he had to take the rap.
The Pat Hobby stories had been a sore point in the Fitzgerald literary entourage almost from the start. Always most abusive to those who treated him best, though endlessly forbearing to those who treated him badly, Scott had used this series to show Harold Ober, his literary agent, that he could get along without him.
Having paid back, during the year and a half that he made good money at MGM, the thousands of dollars that Ober had advanced him out of his own pocket in the lean years memorialized by The Crack-Up, Scott began again in 1939, after losing the MGM contract and after the wretched spring that followed the Dartmouth Carnival fiasco, to start assuming that he could again run up unlimited advances at Ober's expense. Ober, the most long-suffering of men and a veritable saint among literary agents, prudently refused to allow himself to be drawn back into the same morass from which he had so lately emerged, and Scott was furious with him. So Scott began again, in the Fall of '39, just as he had ever since '34, every time he had exhausted his credit with Ober, to bypass him and start getting telegraphed advances direct from Esquire. Not unnaturally, Pat Hobby became a red flag to Harold Ober.
Nor was Pat Hobby exactly a term of endearment around Maxwell Perkins. He, too, having exhausted what he could do for Scott professionally, through Scribners, had begun dipping into his own pocket, and Scott wasn't above using Pat Hobby to show him that he wasn't indispensable.
Since Maxwell Perkins and Harold Ober were the Alpha and Omega of the Fitzgerald literary high command after his death, it was hardly surprising that Pat Hobby's standing at headquarters stayed away down even after Fitzgerald's began to shoot up. But Pat got around that by the simple expedient of outliving them both.
Despite the fact that, as Fitzgerald himself had said, he had become so interested in the Pat Hobby stories that he felt a great deal was going into them, they were for a long time dismissed as being “done to pay the grocer.” It is true that, except for odd studio jobs, they constituted his only certain source of income in those last two years, and they were written to redeem a spate of fifty and hundred dollar advances made by wire to the bank at Culver City. But to counterbalance that consideration, the thing to remember is that Scott Fitzgerald wrote for his living all the twenty years of his working life.
From 1920 on he wrote for money—enough to marry Zelda in the first place and to afford her, and the wild life they led together until 1930. And after that, he wrote for money enough to meet the strain of her fantastically expensive treatments for mental illness. So in a very real sense it could be said that Fitzgerald wrote for his living, as opposed to living for his work, more than any other author of our time. In fact, paradoxically, if ever he could have been said to be living for his work, it was in his Pat Hobby period, those last two desperately difficult years of his life.
But after Scott's death, almost from the moment the papers were first made available in the Princeton Library, the scholars began falling, with singular uniformity, into the pathetic fallacy about Pat Hobby: these stories are about a hack, ergo these stories are hack work. But Pat will ultimately have his way even there. For some time the scholars will have a field day, going through the successive layers of revision of the various Pat Hobby stories, like so many palimpsests.
For the purposes of the present volume, however, it will suffice to give the single exhibit of the revision of “A Patriotic Short,” to show how much importance Fitzgerald could attach to relatively minor changes in the text of one of these stories. This was the one that he feared would “stop interest in the series” if we printed it without this revision, because it was “so confused.” You can see for yourself that it isn't. And the fact that you can shows that it didn't.
For with this volume, an authentic first edition, however belated, the Fitzgerald cast of major characters is at last complete, and Pat Hobby takes his rightful place, if not alongside Jay Gatsby and Dick Diver, then at least between Monroe Stahr and Amory Blaine.
March 7, 1962 New York, N.Y.
Published in The Pat Hobby Stories collection (1962).