“For a year and a half, the writer of this appreciation was Ring Lardner's most familiar companion… .”—Fitzgerald in “Ring”
Fitzgerald's attitude toward Ring Lardner is in some respects puzzling. There can be no doubt that he admired Lardner and had deep respect and affection for the man. Fitzgerald saw him as “proud, shy, solemn, shrewd, polite, brave, kind, merciful, honorable”—“a great and good American” with an abundance of “noble dignity.” These are the words Fitzgerald used in the memorial tribute I have referred to in an earlier chapter, the prose elegy that evoked so warm and emotional a response from Fitzgerald's friends. That response might well suggest to us the accuracy of Fitzgerald's comments on Lardner and his intimate understanding of Lardner's character.
But Fitzgerald's essay also stresses Lardner's artistic limitations. Fitzgerald believed that Lardner had failedto fulfill his promise, that “whatever Ring's achievement was, it fell far short of the achievement he was capable of.” The reasons for this failure, according to Fitzgerald, were rather complicated: first of all, early in his career Lardner had adopted a “cynical attitude” toward his work; he simply refused to think that he had any great or important stories to tell. This attitude, Fitzgerald suggests, was partially temperamental; Lardner had assumed “a habit of silence. … He had agreed with himself to speak only a small portion of his mind.” But Lardner's cynicism, Fitzgerald believed, was also the product of his early experiences as a sports reporter:
During those years, when most men of promise achieve an adult education, if only in the school of war, Ring moved in the company of a few dozen illiterates playing a boy's game. A boy's game, with no more possibilities in it than a boy could master, a game bounded by walls which kept out novelty or danger, change or adventure. This material, the observation of it under such circumstances, was the text of Ring's schooling during the most formative period of the mind. A writer can spin on about his adventures after thirty, after forty, after fifty, but the criteria by which these adventures are weighed and valued are irrevocably settled at the age of twenty-five. However deeply Ring might cut into it, his cake had exactly the diameter of Frank Chance's diamond.
What, then, with these limitations, had Lardner accomplished? “There is You Know Me, Al, and there are about a dozen wonderful short stories … and there is some of the most uproarious and inspired nonsense since Lewis Carroll. Most of the rest is mediocre stuff, with flashes, and I would do Ring a disservice to suggest it should be set upon an altar and worshipped… .”
If there is more than a grain of truth in all this, there isalso a large measure of injustice to Lardner. The man who “might have done much more” did, after all, a great deal; and Fitzgerald's emphasis upon the limited volume of Lardner's enduring work detracts notice from the force which that small body of fiction exerted upon American readers and writers. The impression Fitzgerald creates, in other words, is misleading not for what it says, but for what it omits about Lardner's true stature. Maxwell Geismar has written that Ring Lardner helped to change the currents of our literature. Of this there can be no doubt; Lardner's influence was far-reaching and pervasive. His themes anticipate those used time after time by the novelists and storytellers who succeeded him; writers as diverse as Sinclair Lewis and Ernest Hemingway in the twenties—as well as James Thurber, Thomas Wolfe, and James T. Farrell afterwards—are in his debt. Perhaps Fitzgerald was too close to his subject, in 1933, to see Ring Lardner's achievement in perspective; in this case, as in so many others, detachment might well play a decisive part. Still, Fitzgerald's underestimation of Lardner is difficult to understand. For Lardner exerted a significant influence on The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald's most perfectly realized work of fiction.
Furthermore, Fitzgerald's notion of Lardner's “schooling” stands in need of correction. Baseball might well be a boy's game for those who take it as such—which Lardner certainly did not. Instead he used the ball park as an arena in which the human drama—at least in some of its comic and absurd aspects—is enacted. Fitzgerald's comment that Lardner, during his formative years, “moved in the company of a few dozen illiterates” is also a distortion, if we accept his association with such men as “the text of Ring's schooling.” Baseball and baseball players represented Lardner's early material; but his attitudes toward his material, and his skill in representing it, were developed elsewhere. In fact, Lardner's early education was not far different from Fitzgerald's writing apprenticeship at Princeton. His university was The Chicago Tribune, where for nine years (from 1908 to 1919, with an interruption of two and a half years) he was employed as a columnist and sports reporter, and where he met a number of professional associates who helped shape his career and writing style. These men—humorists, reporters, and sports writers such as Charlie Dryden, Hugh Fullerton, Harry Leon Wilson, and Hugh Keogh—taught Lardner valuable lessons. Of minor but original talent, they helped to establish the direction of his prose a few years after he arrived in Chicago.
In addition, Lardner gained useful experience in writing his column “In the Wake of the News,” which soon became one of the most popular of the Tribune's features. Baseball news occupied him only part of the time; he frequently did experimental pieces—verse, vignettes, short dramas, and letters in dialect, all of which look forward to the work of the mature artist. What the Nassau Lit was to Fitzgerald, “In the Wake of the News” was to Lardner: during the crucial apprenticeship period of their careers both writers found an ever-increasing number of enthusiastic readers and a ready testing ground for their talents. The “Wake” column not only helped Lardner develop the writing style that was to be the foundation of his art; it also gave him the opportunity, thanks to the liberal policy of the Tribune editors, to expand his interests, to try his hand at shrewd and cynical interpretations of American character types and a wide range of topical themes. In the end, the “Wake” was a steppingstone from obscurity to fame, and from journalism to serious art. By 1919, the transition was complete.
For several years Lardner had been contemplating a move to the East. Many of his newspaper friends had left Chicago to take jobs in and around New York, and he himself had long felt an impulse to follow their example, partly to satisfy a growing interest in the theater. When a newspaper syndicate in New York offered him a large salary to conduct a weekly column, Lardner accepted the offer and made it an occasion for leaving the Midwest. In 1919, he and his family moved to Greenwich, Connecticut (“The Young Immigrants” is a memorably comic record of that trip). A year later they moved once more—this time to stay only a few months—to Garden City, Long Island; and then, in 1921, to Great Neck, Long Island, where they remained until 1928.
Meanwhile, Fitzgerald had been enjoying the success of This Side of Paradise, and with Zelda had spent the early years of the new decade in hard work and restless travel. The Fitzgeralds had come to New York early in 1920; after a few months they moved to Westport, Connecticut, for the summer and fall of that year; the following spring they sojourned briefly in England; on their return to America they stayed for a year in St. Paul; and in the autumn of 1922 they came back to New York to settle for a year and a half in Great Neck. Here Fitzgerald and Lardner were neighbors, and they soon became close friends. Lardner was thirty-seven; Fitzgerald was twenty-six.
In his biography of Ring Lardner, Donald Elder has described the two writers' frequent convivial evenings, which were held sometimes at Fitzgerald's house, sometimes at Lardner's. They often sat up through the night drinking and talking, alone or with a few friends; they read and discussed the same magazines and books, among which was Gertrude Stein's Three Lives, which Lardner read on Fitzgerald's recommendation. At the end of these evenings, with the sun streaming through the parlor windows, Lardner would get up and say: “Well, I guess the children haveleft for school by this time—I might as well go home.” Lardner was working hard during this period—he had two syndicate features, several magazine articles in progress, and numerous fragments of plays to be completed. Fitzgerald, who had a great deal of respect for Lardner's talent, felt certain that Lardner was wasting himself on these insignificant efforts. He was afraid that Lardner was inadvertently suppressing his real genius. [Ring Lardner (New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1956), pp. 183-185].
Fitzgerald's concern was genuine; and he urged his friend to apply himself (as Fitzgerald recalled years later in “Ring”) to something sustained and significant:
The present writer once suggested to him that he organize some cadre within which he could adequately display his talents, suggesting that it should be something deeply personal, and something on which Ring could take his time, but he dismissed the idea lightly; he was a disillusioned idealist but he had served his Fates well, and no other ones could be casually created for him—“This is something that can be printed,” he reasoned; “this, however, belongs with that bunch of stuff that can never be written.”
But if Lardner could not be persuaded to undertake new and different projects, he did respond to another suggestion Fitzgerald made in 1923. Lardner was enjoying great popularity as a syndicated newspaper columnist and as the author of “The Young Imrnigrunts” and the earlier You Know Me, Al. He was also well known to readers of the Saturday Evening Post and Cosmopolitan as a frequent contributor of humorous and satirical short stories. But he had never collected any of his stories between hard covers; and Fitzgerald, hoping to attract critical attention to this area of Lardner's fiction, proposed such a collection both to Lardner and to Scribner's. The result was How To Write ShortStories, which sold extremely well and at the same time established Lardner as a serious artist in the short-story form. Fitzgerald had not only originated the idea for the collection; he had supplied the title and assisted in the selection of stories.
Furthermore, shortly before the appearance of How To Write Short Stories Fitzgerald persuaded Maxwell Perkins at Scribner's to reissue several of Lardner's works that for some years had been out of print. Consequently, in 1925, Scribner's brought out You Know Me, Al, Gullible's Travels, and The Big Town. These volumes, together with How To Write Short Stories, helped Lardner attain a greater and more enthusiastic following than ever before. The critics, too, were impressed; and Lardner was on his way to undreamed-of recognition. By 1929, with the publication of Round Up (which contained all of Lardner's best stories up to that time), more than one reviewer was earnestly comparing Ring Lardner with Chekhov and Shakespeare.
Fitzgerald may well have underestimated his influence on Lardner. The younger man was eager for Lardner to try his hand at writing a novel; this Lardner did not do, but in the years following his period of close association with Fitzgerald he turned more and more frequently to the third-person short story as a vehicle. Without the critical recognition of the middle twenties, and without Fitzgerald's repeated suggestions that he try something beyond his customary range and style, Lardner might never have written “The Love Nest,” “There Are Smiles,” or “Old Folks' Christmas.”
In the spring of 1924, Fitzgerald left Great Neck to travel abroad and to finish The Great Gatsby, which he had begun a few months earlier. He left Lardner to look after such details as the renting of the house in Great Neck, the repairs required by the new tenants, and the sometimes precarious state of Fitzgerald's account at the Great Neck bank: Lardner covered his friend's overdrafts by hastily depositing the rent from Fitzgerald's tenants; on one occasion he covered one of Fitzgerald's checks out of his own pocket.
In the meantime the two friends carried on a lively correspondence. “To no one else outside his family,” Lardner's biographer tells us, “did Ring write such affectionate, trusting, and revealing letters.” Lardner kept Fitzgerald informed on the social life of New York and Long Island, the gossip that was so much a part of the frequent parties he attended, and his own professional activities. I reproduce here a few excerpts from Lardner's letters to Fitzgerald that are characteristic of his tone and interests during this period.
March 24, 1925
We had a dinner party at our little nest two weeks ago; the guests were the Ray Longs, the Grantland Rices, June Walker, and Frank Crowninshield. As place cards for Ray, Crownie, and Grant, we had, respectively, covers of Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair and The American Golfer, but this didn't seem to make any impression on June and right after the soup she began knocking Conde Nast in general and his alleged snobbishness in particular. Finally Crownie butted in to defend him and June said, “What do you know about him?” “I live with him,” said Crownie. “What for?” said June. “Well,” said Crownie, “I happen to be editor of one of his magazines, Vanity Fair.” “Oh!” said June. “That's my favorite magazine! And I hate most magazines! For instance, I wouldn't be seen with Cosmopolitan.” After the loud laughter had subsided, I explained to her that Ray was editor of Cosmopolitan. “I'm always making breaks,” she said, “and I guess this is one of my unlucky evenings. I suppose that if I said what I think of William R. Hearst, I'd find that even he has a friend here or something.” [Grantland Rice wrote for the Hearst newspapers.]
Some of the Algonquin bunch was sort of riding Michael Arlen, I don't know why. Anyway, when Edna Ferber was introduced to him, she said: “Why, Mr. Arlen, you look almost like a woman!” “So do you, Miss Ferber,” was Michael's reply.
Red Lewis got the [Pulitzer] Prize with “Arrowsmith” and turned it down. I can see his point. I am against all that kind of stuff, meaning the Pulitzer awards and the All American football team and “The Best Short Stories of so-and-so,” even when Mr. O'Brien honors me with a place or three or four stars in the last named.
In the spring of 1925, with The Great Gatsby about to be released, Lardner reported:
I read Mr. F's book (in page proofs) at one sitting and liked it enormously, particularly the description of Gatsby's home and his party, and the party in the apartment in New York. It sounds as if Mr. F. must have attended a party or two during his metropolitan career. The plot held my interest, too, and I found no tedious moments. Altogether I think it's the best thing you've done since Paradise.
On the other hand, I acted as volunteer proof reader and gave Max a brief list of what I thought were errata. On page 31 and 46 you spoke of the newsstand on the lower level of the Pennsylvania station. There ain't any lower level on that station and I suggested substitute terms for same. On page 82 you had the guy driving his car under the elevated at Astoria, which isn't Astoria, but Long Island City. On page 118 you had a tide in Lake Superior and on page 209 you had the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul running out of the Lasalle Street Station. These things are trivial, but some of the critics pick on trivial errors for lack of anything else to pick on.
Some of these errors of detail Fitzgerald corrected at Lardner's suggestion; others he let stand.
When Fitzgerald returned to America at the end of 1926 he immediately accepted an offer from Hollywood to work on a film script, and he spent the next several months on the West Coast. Thereafter, up to the time of Lardner's death in 1933, Fitzgerald stayed successively in Montgomery, Alabama; Wilmington, Delaware; and outside Baltimore, Maryland. Lardner, in the meantime, had settled in East Hampton, Long Island. Thus separated, and caught up each in his own personal and professional problems, the two friends saw little of each other during these years.
The letters from Lardner, however, continued. From time to time he wrote to Fitzgerald about his own projects; and on one occasion he sent an ironic inquiry concerning the novel Fitzgerald had been struggling to complete for five years:
Feb. 27, 1930
I hear from Max Perkins that your book is nearly finished. What are you calling it, The Encyclopedia Britannica?
At the time this was written, Lardner was suffering from various physical ailments (an examination in 1926 revealed that he had tuberculosis) and from the ever-deepening mental depression that drove him into long lapses of silence and repeated periods of heavy drinking. From 1930 until his death three years later, he fought a losing battle against ill-health and despondency. Much of his time was spent in hospitals and in trips to California and Arizona, where he hoped to find rest and at least partial recovery. More and more he withdrew into himself, maintaining contact with only a few close friends and members of his immediate family.
Fitzgerald saw Lardner for the last time in 1931, whenthe latter was in the early stages of his final decline. “He looked already like a man on his deathbed,” Fitzgerald recalled in “Ring.” “It was terribly sad to see that six feet three inches of kindness stretched out ineffectual in the, hospital room. His fingers trembled with a match, the tight skin on his handsome skull was marked as a mask of misery and nervous pain.” Two years later Maxwell Perkins wrote Fitzgerald: “I think things are bad with Ring. I hate to inquire. He is at Easthampton and nobody ever seems to see him.” A month later Lardner was dead.
At the time, Fitzgerald was deeply involved in writing the final chapters of Tender Is the Night, the novel he had been working on for eight years. Perkins wrote asking for Fitzgerald's assistance in the preparation of a “memorial” collection of Lardner's work. The volume, Perkins suggested, would need an introduction “by someone really appreciative of [Lardner] as a writer, and at the same time knew him well as a man… . Would you be willing to undertake it?” Perkins also asked if Fitzgerald could supply a picture of Lardner for this volume. “I would almost rather have it after the Great Neck days [i.e., after 1928] because, although he did look terribly gaunt and ill, even before he went to the hospital, I do think that you could see better what a remarkable creature he was then.”
Fitzgerald did for a time contemplate editing the collection Perkins had suggested and he exchanged letters with Lardner's son John, asking for advice on the selection of material. But Fitzgerald's commitment to his own work was pressing, and eventually the task of editing a posthumous Lardner volume was undertaken by Gilbert Seldes.
The fictional character Abe North in Tender Is the Night is Fitzgerald's portrait of Ring Lardner, and perhaps the most eloquent reminder of the deep impression Lardner made on the younger writer. Fitzgerald emphasized AbeNorth's failure to fulfill an early artistic promise, characterizing him as “a musician who after a brilliant and precocious start had composed nothing for seven years.” North also has lost all interest in his work, in his friends, and in life itself:
“I used to think until you're eighteen nothing matters,” said Mary.
“That's right,” Abe agreed. “And afterward it's the same way.”
“The afternoon you took me to that funny ball—you know, St. Genevieve's—” [Abe] began.
“I remember. It was fun, wasn't it?” [said Nicole.]
“No fun for me. I haven't had fun seeing you this time. I'm tired of you both, but it doesn't show because you're even more tired of me—you know what I mean. If I had any enthusiasm, I'd go on to new people.”
There was a rough nap on Nicole's velvet gloves as she slapped him back:
“Seems rather foolish to be unpleasant, Abe. Anyhow you don't mean that. I can't see why you've given up about everything.”
Abe considered, trying hard not to cough or blow his nose.
“I suppose I got bored; and then it was such a long way to go back in order to get anywhere.”
Abe, in fact, has lost interest in everything but drink. And though the qualities that endeared Lardner to Fitzgerald are still visible, Abe North's physical debility and his spiritual despair have overwhelmed other aspects of his character (at times in his description of Abe North, Fitzgerald uses the same telling details he applied to Lardner in “Ring”):
“Tired of women's worlds,” [Abe] spoke up suddenly.
“Then why don't you make a world of your own?” [Nicole said.]
“Tired of friends. The thing is to have sycophants.” Nicole tried to force the minute hand around on the station clock, but, “You agree?” he demanded.
“I am a woman and my business is to hold things together.”
“My business is to tear them apart.”
“When you get drunk you don't tear anything apart except yourself,” she said, cold now, and frightened and unconfident. The station was filling but no one she knew came. After a moment her eyes fell gratefully on a tall girl with straw hair like a helmet, who was dropping letters in the mail slot.
“A girl I have to speak to, Abe. Abe, wake up! You fool!”
Patiently Abe followed her with his eyes. The woman turned in a startled way to greet Nicole, and Abe recognized her as some one he had seen around Paris. He took advantage of Nicole's absence to cough hard and retchingly into his handkerchief, and to blow his nose loud. The morning was warmer and his underwear was soaked with sweat. His fingers trembled so violently that it took four matches to light a cigarette; it seemed absolutely necessary to make his way into the buffet for a drink… .
The noble dignity of Abe's face took on a certain stubbornness… .
Dick laughed indulgently at Abe, whom he loved, and in whom he had long lost hope… .
They stood in an uncomfortable little group weighted down by Abe's gigantic presence: he lay athwart them like the wreck of a galleon, dominating with his presence his own weakness and self-indulgence, his narrowness and bitterness. All of them were conscious of the solemn dignity that flowed from him, of his achievement, fragmentary, suggestive and surpassed. But they were frightened at his survivant will, once a will to live, now become a will to die.
“Abe used to be so nice,” Nicole told Rosemary. “Sonice. Long ago—when Dick and I were first married. If you had known him then. He'd come to stay with us for weeks and weeks and we scarcely knew he was in the house. Sometimes he'd play—sometimes he'd be in the library with a muted piano, making love to it by the hour—Dick, do you remember that maid? She thought he was a ghost and sometimes Abe used to meet her in the hall and moo at her, and it cost us a whole tea service once—but we didn't care.”
“What did this to him?” [Rosemary] asked. “Why does he have to drink?”
Nicole shook her head right and left, disclaiming responsibility for the matter: “So many smart men go to pieces nowadays.”
“And when haven't they?” Dick asked. “Smart men play close to the line because they have to—some of them can't stand it, so they quit.”
Toward the end of the novel Fitzgerald has Dick Diver overhear the final and tragic chapter of his friend's history: Abe North has been beaten to death in a New York speakeasy. It is perhaps fortunate that Lardner did not live to read Fitzgerald's fictional interpretation of his character in Tender Is the Night. Years earlier Lardner had portrayed Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald as Cinderella and the Prince in one of his burlesque fairy tales.
Fitzgerald exaggerated Lardner's “deterioration” and underestimated (both in “Ring” and in Tender Is the Night) the quality and significance of the man's artistic achievement. “Am going on the water wagon from the first of February to the first of April,” Fitzgerald wrote Maxwell Perkins early in 1933. “But don't tell Ernest [Hemingway] because he has long convinced himself that I am an incurable alcoholic. … I am his alcoholic just like Ring is mine… .” This is a revealing statement, and a clue to one of the basic elements in Fitzgerald's attitude toward his friend: Lardner was for Fitzgerald a man of gentle, affectionate,even noble character; but he was also a compulsive drinker and an artist who had realized only a small measure of his potential.
But it is important to understand that Fitzgerald felt not only sympathy with Lardner's drinking problem and (relative) artistic failure; he also felt a positive sense of identification with these unhappy tendencies in his friend's character. The man who in 1936 was to write with brutal frankness in “The Crack-Up” of his own deterioration saw in Ring Lardner a reflection of his own weakness, his own tendencies toward alcoholism, despair, and artistic failure. As a matter of fact, the portrait of Abe North in Tender Is the Night is extremely revealing as a comment on Fitzgerald himself. The description of the artist who “after a brilliant and precocious start had composed nothing for seven years” can apply as well to Fitzgerald (who at the time had not published a novel for several years) as to Lardner. Furthermore, Abe North's decline is a counterpoint to the decline of Dick Diver, the major figure in the novel and a character who bears more than an incidental resemblance to Fitzgerald. As Arthur Mizener, borrowing a phrase from Conrad, observes, North and Diver are “secret sharers.” Here, then, was one of the foundations of the relationship between Lardner and Fitzgerald. It was part of Fitzgerald's deepest understanding of his friend: he saw in Lardner what he feared was happening to himself.
The two writers, however, had something in common that overshadowed even this major element in their relationship. They were practicing literary artists, and they consistently drew their inspiration from an awareness of current attitudes and events. In their works is reflected a profound interest in the ephemera of the nineteen-twenties—the fashions, fads, and popular enterprises of the day; but they also recorded more essential aspects of national experience—therhythms of American speech, the patterns of contemporary behavior, the ethics of the moment, the tragedies. Fitzgerald and Lardner shared a fascination with America during one of the most dramatic periods in its history.
Donald Elder observes that Lardner and Fitzgerald were both “disabused in the same way, they had lost their beliefs, and their judgments on their times were basically the same.” With this statement I am in complete accord, though there is much to be said concerning the two authors' different perspectives. Lardner's stories are humorous, ironic, at times fiercely pessimistic, and unequivocal in their intention and meaning. Fitzgerald's fiction, in contrast, is dominated by a romantic tone and emphasis and is frequently complicated by an ambiguity in the author's attitude toward his material. Yet time after time Fitzgerald and Lardner treat the same themes and subjects, and in their very best work they reach for, and arrive at, the same conclusions.
“Go to Florida—
“Where enterprise is enthroned—
“Where you sit and watch at twilight the fronds of the graceful palm, latticed against the fading gold of the sun-kissed sky—
“Where sun, moon and stars, at eventide, stage a welcome constituting the glorious galaxy of the firmament—
“Where the whispering breeze springs fresh from the lap of Caribbean and woos with elusive cadence like unto a mother's lullaby… .”
The above, written in 1925, is quoted in Frederick Lewis Allen's Only Yesterday as an example of the “unbuttoned rhetoric” inspired by the Florida real-estate boom. At the time the advertisement was written, the “great white Goddess of states” had become a center of feverish buying and selling and a source of enormous profits to the land speculators who swarmed within its borders. A few years earlier, on the eve of Coolidge prosperity, Florida had been a vacation playground for the rich; and its exotic attractions were well suited to the purposes of the popular fictionist. Fitzgerald no doubt sensed the romantic appeal of such a setting when in 1920 he wrote:
This unlikely story begins on a sea that was a blue dream, as colorful as blue-silk stockings, and beneath a sky as blue as the irises of children's eyes. From the western half of the sky the sun was shying little golden disks at the sea— if you gazed intently enough you could see them skip from wave tip to wave tip until they joined a broad collar of golden coin that was collecting half a mile out and would eventually be a dazzling sunset. About half-way between the Florida shore and the golden collar a white steam-yacht, very young and graceful, was riding at anchor and under a blue and white awning aft a yellow-haired girl reclined in a wicker settee… .
The passage speaks for itself. For descriptive gaudiness Fitzgerald's prose outshines that of the public-relations promoter, pamphleteering at the height of the Florida boom. The story from which it is taken appeared in the Saturday Evening Post under the title “The Offshore Pirate,” and concerns a handsome young man and a beautiful young girl who fall in love against a colorful backdrop of palms, lagoons, and crimson sunsets.[The passage from “The Offshore Pirate” is also cited by Henry Dan Piper in his unpublished doctoral dissertation (University of Pennsylvania, 1950), “Scott Fitzgerald and the Origins of the Jazz Age,” p. 36. I have followed Piper's comments on the relation of “The Offshore Pirate” to the Florida boom].
Meanwhile, in 1917, Ring Lardner had documented his impressions of Florida's allure. The cynical narrator of “Gullible's Travels” had discovered a semitropical paradise that was relatively barren of enchantment:
They was about two dozen uniformed Ephs on the job to meet us. And when I seen 'em all grab for our baggage with one hand and hold the other out, face up, I knowed why they called it Palm Beach.
And while Fitzgerald's breathless youngsters cavort in a “shimmering channel” under a sky “shadowy blue and silver,” Lardner's tourists are enjoying a unique sight-seeing excursion:
First, we went to St. George Street and visited the oldest house in the United States. Then we went to Hospital Street and seen the oldest house in the United States. Then we turned the corner and went down St. Francis Street and inspected the oldest house in the United States. Then we dropped into a soda fountain and I had an egg phosphate, made from the oldest egg in the Western Hemisphere. We passed up lunch and got into a carriage drawn by the oldest horse in Florida, and we rode through the country all afternoon and the driver told us some o' the oldest jokes in the book.
Later, Lardner's hero and heroine take a ride along the boardwalk in a vehicle native to Florida resorts: “It was part bicycle, part go-cart and part African.” They wind up the day in the hotel ballroom:
I bet you any amount you name that the Castles in their whole life haven't danced together as much as I and the Missus did at Palm Beach. I'd of gave five dollars if even one o' the waiters had took her offen my hands for one dance. But I knowed that if I made the offer public they'd of been a really serious quarrel between us instead o' just the minor brawls occasioned by steppin' on each other's feet.
Fitzgerald's Palm Beach (in a later story) “sprawls plump and opulent between the sparkling sapphire of Lake Worth, flawed here and there by house-boats at anchor, and thegreat turquoise bar of the Atlantic Ocean.” His young couple, dissatisfied with bridge-playing at the Everglades Club, wander out to a moonlit beach:
“Darling, darling… .”
They embraced recklessly, passionately, in a shadow… .
The treatment of Florida is hardly of major significance in the fiction of Lardner and Fitzgerald; yet the contrast is revealing. Here we find Fitzgerald exploiting every possibility for glamor—and for romance, in the popular sense of the term. And here we find Lardner's characteristic cynicism, his instinctive grasp of the ridiculous, and his penchant for the wisecrack. [Other writers of the period also left impressions of Florida during the nineteen-twenties. See Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel (New York, 1960), p. 133; and John Dos Passos, U.S.A. (New York, 1937). III, pp. 340-342]. These differences are apparent in other themes and subjects which Fitzgerald and Lardner treated.
We find the same contrast, for example, in the two authors' attitudes toward another, more significant phenomenon of the twenties—the Revolt (as it has been called) of the Younger Generation. The actions of Fitzgerald's flappers dramatically reflect that spirited change in the behavior of the American adolescent. The flapper was, for one thing, contemptuous of the older generation. Witness the following interview, which takes place between Ardita Farnam, the heroine of “The Offshore Pirate,” and her middle-aged uncle:
“Ardita!” said the gray-haired man sternly.
Ardita uttered a small sound indicating nothing.
“Ardita!” he repeated. “Ardita!”
Ardita raised the lemon languidly, allowing three words to slip out before it reached her tongue.
“Oh, shut up.”
“Will you listen to me—or will I have to get a servant to hold you while I talk to you?”
“Put it in writing.”
“Will you have the decency to close that abominable book and discard the damn lemon for two minutes?”
… “O-o-o-oh!” The cry was wrung from Ardita with the agony of a lost soul. “Will you stop boring me! Will you go 'way! Will you jump overboard and drown! Do you want me to throw this book at you!”
“If you dare do any—”
Smack! The Revolt of the Angels sailed through the air, missed its target by the length of a short nose, and bumped cheerfully down the companionway.
The gray-haired man made an instinctive step backward and then two cautious steps forward. Ardita jumped to her five feet four and stared at him defiantly, her gray eyes blazing.
“How dare you!”
“Because I darn please!”
“You've grown unbearable! Your disposition—”
“You've made me that way! No child ever has a bad disposition unless it's her family's fault! Whatever I am, you did it!”
The flapper, having thus explained away the causes of her petulance, turns her attention to another, more agreeable subject—herself. Fitzgerald frequently presents her as quite conscious of her physical charms and flawless grooming, as in the following excerpt from “May Day”:
She thought of her own appearance. Her bare arms and shoulders were powdered to a creamy white. She knew they looked very soft and would gleam like milk against the black backs that were to silhouette them tonight. The hair-dressing had been a success; her reddish mass of hair waspiled and crushed and creased to an arrogant marvel of mobile curves. Her lips were finely made of deep carmine; the irises of her eyes were delicate, breakable blue, like china eyes. She was a complete, infinitely delicate, quite perfect thing of beauty, flowing in an even line from a complex coiffure to two small feet… . She had never felt her own softness so much nor so enjoyed the whiteness of her own arms.
She is also reluctant to abandon her narcissistic pleasures for more adult pursuits, which she views with loathing:
“You know [says the Debutante of This Side of Paradise] I'm old in some ways—in others,—well, I'm just a little girl. I like sunshine and pretty things and cheerfulness—and I dread responsibility. I don't want to think about pots and kitchens and brooms. I want to worry whether my legs will get slick and brown when I swim in the summer.”
And Gloria Gilbert, the heroine of The Beautiful and Damned, reflects:
“Marriage was created not to be a background but to need one. Mine is going to be outstanding. It can't, shan't be the setting—it's going to be the performance, the live, lovely, glamorous performance, and the world shall be the scenery. I refuse to dedicate my life to posterity. Surely one owes as much to the current generation as to one's unwanted children. What a fate—to grow rotund and unseemly, to lose my self-love, to think in terms of milk, oatmeal, nurse, diapers… . Dear little dream children, how much more beautiful you are, dazzling little creatures who flutter on golden, golden wings… .”
The flapper is also fickle and flirtatious, with an honest indifference to her most ardent devotees. Occasionally Fitzgerald has his heroines attempt to apologize for their fickleness, as if it were a failing; at the same time, this quality of character exerts a strong force of attraction on the youngauthor. In “Winter Dreams” Judy Jones confesses to Dexter Green: “I don't know what's the matter with me. Last night I thought I was in love with a man and tonight I think I'm in love with you.. ..” Dexter's reaction to this is typical: “It seemed to him a beautiful and romantic thing to say. It was the exquisite excitability that for the moment he controlled and owned.” [Fitzgerald apparently was unaware of the ironic insult to Dexter in Judy Jones's statement.] And Minnie Bibble, of “Basil and Cleopatra,” pleads innocent of any responsibility for her lighthearted capriciousness: “Oh, Basil, am I just perfectly terrible? I never want to be mean to anybody; things just happen.” After Minnie's all-covering evasion, Basil, we are told, “wanted to put his arm around her and tell her she was the most romantic person in the world… .”
But for all her coldness, inconstancy, and narcissism, Fitzgerald's flapper is amorous by nature; and she takes a keen delight in the pleasures of love—when those pleasures are limited, that is, to innocent kisses: “A woman,” says Gloria Gilbert in The Beautiful and Damned, “should be able to kiss a man beautifully and romantically without any desire to be either his wife or his mistress.”
But she must not be restricted, another of Fitzgerald's heroines makes clear, to one partner: “I've kissed dozens of men,” boasts Rosaline Connage in This Side of Paradise. “I suppose I'll kiss dozens more.”
It is probably true, as Fitzgerald himself claimed years later, that his depiction of the flapper was largely responsible for the popularity of his early novels and stories. And the composite portrait I have drawn above suggests his attitude toward the romantic figure he helped to create. As Paul Rosenfeld remarked in 1925, Fitzgerald did not recognize his characters for what they were; he invested them with the glamor with which they pathetically investedthemselves. We might summarize Fitzgerald's attitude toward the flapper and all that she represented with a line spoken by Curtis Carlyle, the hero of “The Offshore Pirate”:
Suddenly against the golden furnace low in the east their two graceful figures melted into one, and he was kissing her spoiled young mouth.
“It's a sort of glory,” he murmured… .
To Ring Lardner it was a sort of abomination. In at least a few incisive and uncompromising sketches, Lardner deals cynically or satirically with those qualities of the flapper's character which enlisted Fitzgerald's admiration. Consider, for example, the story “I Can't Breathe,” in which Lardner's adolescent heroine spends a two-week vacation tangling up her boy friends' lives. The story unfolds in the form of a diary kept by Lardner's flapper, who is as empty-headed as Fitzgerald's girls are insouciant:
I am staying here at the Inn for two weeks with my Uncle Nat and Aunt Jule and I think I will keep a kind of diary while I am here to help pass the time and so I can have a record of things that happen though goodness knows there isn't lightly to anything happen, that is anything exciting with Uncle Nat and Aunt Jule making the plans as they are both at least 35 years old and maybe older.
Left to her own devices she trifles with one suitor who is staying at the Inn, corresponds with two others who are already making plans to marry her, and finally abandons all three for a returned ex-sweetheart who suddenly appears just as her vacation is drawing to a close. In the midst of these involvements Lardner's heroine reflects philosophically that in a world made over to her specifications she would be at liberty to marry all four of her admirers in succession:
Life is so hopeless and it could be so wonderful. For instance how heavenly it would be if I could marry Frank first and stay married to him five years and he would be the one who would take me to Hollywood and maybe we could go on parties with Norman Kerry and Jack Barrymore and Buster Collier and Marion Davies and Lois Moran.
And at the end of five years Frank could go into journalism and write novels and I would be only 23 and I could marry Gordon and he would be ready for another trip around the world and he could show me things better than someone who had never seen them before.
Gordon and I would separate at the end of five years and I would be 28 and I know of lots of women that never even got married the first time till they were 28 though I don't suppose that was their fault, but I would marry Walter then, for after all he is the one I really love and want to spend most of my life with and I wouldn't care whether he could dance or not when I was that old. Before long we would be as old as Uncle Nat and Aunt Jule and I certainly wouldn't want to dance at their age when all you can do is just hobble around the floor. But Walter is so wonderful as a companion and we would enjoy the same things and be pals and maybe we would begin to have children.
But that is all impossible though it wouldn't be if older people just had sense and would look at things the right way.
But “I Can't Breathe” is a relatively mild satire on the flapper Fitzgerald popularized. Another story, written in 1929, draws on a deeper vein of contempt. In “Old Folks' Christmas” Lardner systematically divests the Revolt of Youth of every particle of appeal.
Ted and Caroline Carter, the adolescents of “Old Folks' Christmas,” were christened Junior and Grace. But “Junior had changed his name to Ted and Grace was now Caroline, and thus they insisted on being addressed, even by their parents.” The youngsters, who have delayed their holidayhomecoming from school, offer transparent alibis for their failure to arrive on schedule; but in fact Ted has been on a drunk, and his seventeen-year-old sister has probably kept some casual assignation en route. As soon as they arrive at the house they take afternoon naps, then a friend calls for them in his new roadster. Shortly after three the next morning the roadster returns; forty minutes later Caroline staggers up to bed, scarcely pausing to greet her parents, who have waited up. Ted comes in around dawn, hangs his hat and coat “carefully” on the hall floor and retires to his bedroom. The children spend Christmas morning recuperating and making plans to exchange the gifts that the Carters senior have carefully selected for them. Next they present their progenitors with two tickets to a stale Broadway musical for that evening—a convenient and respectable ruse for getting them out of the house. When Mr. and Mrs. Carter return late that night, they are greeted by a scene of devastation—the aftermath of the entertainment to which Ted and Caroline have treated their friends.
The tone Lardner maintains in “Old Folks' Christmas” is far from that of caricature: Ted and Caroline Carter are outwardly civil to, even thoughtful of, their parents. Without doubt their real-life counterparts existed in many American homes. Artistically Lardner is neither subtle nor profound here; but the story is still a penetrating commentary on the life of the times, and certainly one of the most individual and realistic treatments of a theme that engaged more than a few major writers of the period.[For an excellent summary of popular fictional treatments of the Younger Generation, see Frederick J. Hoffman, The Twenties (New York, 1955), pp. 86-100.]
Perhaps the comparison drawn above is not quite fair to Fitzgerald, whose young rebels accurately reflect the spirit and mood of their generation. In all justice, it must be admitted that Fitzgerald's debutantes and playboys are no mere glamorized versions of Lardner's irresponsible adolescents. Almost invariably they act and speak out of a conviction that they are engaged in a kind of holy crusade for self-determination. The disregard for convention, the casual attitude toward admirers, the defiance of the older generation—all these are invested with the dignity Fitzgerald believed to be inherent in the Younger Generation's code of conduct. Fitzgerald always makes an attempt (sometimes bathetic, but in any case consistent) to portray the attitudes and actions of youth as earnest and intensely felt. None of these distinguishing qualities apply to Lardner's undisciplined children. Lacking in any code save that of self-interest, they are frankly detestable. There are a few exceptions: see the healthy youngsters in “The Young Immigrunts” and the daring and carefree Edith Dole of “There Are Smiles.”
Still another theme, more important and more pervasive than those already considered, attracted the attention of Lardner and Fitzgerald. Both writers manifest a profound interest in the social disruption that followed World War I and that attended the prosperity of the Harding-Coolidge era. It was against this background, in fact, that Ring Lardner projected his most incisive studies of American life. His best stories record the emergence of a parvenu class, a society which finds itself, somewhat to its own bewilderment, suddenly affluent, and therefore—according to one of the basic assumptions of democracy—blessed with the freedom to claim status. Lardner's target is the pretensions of his class; he misses no opportunity to expose the ludicrous disappointments and humiliations that await the socially uninitiated.
Fitzgerald's treatment of this theme differs, of course, inits particulars; his would-be aristocrats are conscious of what they are trying to achieve and acutely aware of their failures, while Lardner's are relatively callous and unperceptive. Fitzgerald's eager protagonists suffer the consequences of their self-imposed social displacement: they lose dignity or youthful optimism, or vitality, or life itself; Lardner's interlopers are incapable of any such noble distress. Fitzgerald's tone is tragic, Lardner's satiric. Lardner's cynicism and his detachment are everywhere apparent; Fitzgerald's perspective is complicated by a personal involvement with his heroes' struggles, and an inability to decide whether their ambitions are glorious and admirable or futile and destructive. In short, the differences between Lardner's and Fitzgerald's treatment of the theme of the social adventurer are emphatic. Still, it is essentially the same drama that engages the two authors. Again and again, both trace the pattern of the failure of social aspiration, a pattern that parallels what was happening all around them in the life of the period.
In one of his familiar essays Fitzgerald claimed that professional writers have only two or three stories to tell, which they repeat in different disguises “as long as people will listen.” One of the stories Fitzgerald relied on—perhaps more than any of the others—is basically the same story the reader encounters in the pages of Ring Lardner. With neither author, however, is the story a simple one.
It was along last January when I and the Wife was both hit by the society bacillus [says the hero of “Gullible's Travels”]. You remember me tellin' you about us and the Hatches goin' to Carmen and then me takin' my Missus and her sister, Bess, and four of one suit named Bishop to see The Three Kings? Well, I'll own up that I enjoyed wearin' the soup and fish and minglin' amongst the high polloi and pretendin' we really was somebody. And I knowmy wife enjoyed it, too, though they was nothin' said between us at the time.
The next stage was where our friends wasn't quite good enough for us no more… .
We quit attendin' pitcher shows because the rest o' the audience wasn't the kind o' people you'd care to mix with… .
Then we took to readin' the society news at breakfast… .
Here, in unblushing directness, is a definitive statement of the situation that appealed so strongly to Lardner's imagination. But it represents only the first step in a truly ambitious undertaking. The “wise boob” hero and his Missus can do more than read the society news at breakfast: they have the financial means to equip themselves with two train tickets, new wardrobes, and accommodations at a good resort hotel. These are, at first glance, the only requirements for easy access to the world of the leisure class.
We'd be staying under the same roof with the Vanderbilts and Goulds, and eatin' at the same table, and probably, before we was there a week, callin' 'em Steve and Gus… . And all Chicago society was down there, and when we met 'em we'd know 'em for life and have some real friends amongst 'em when we got back home.
The ascent to the halls of Privilege, in actuality, is not this simple, as Lardner's innocents discover. The closest approach to the desired acceptance comes at the end of the story, when the narrator and his wife, having been ignored by everyone save waiters and bus boys, encounter a genuine representative of the aristocracy:
“It's Mrs. Potter,” [the Missus] says; “the Mrs. Potter from Chicago!”
“Oh!” I says, puttin' all the excitement I could into my voice.
And I was just startin' back into the room when I seenMrs. Potter stop and turn around and come to'rd us. She stopped again maybe twenty feet from where the Missus was standin'.
“Are you on this floor?” she says.
The Missus shook like a leaf.
“Yes,” says she, so low you couldn't hardly hear her.
“Please see that they's some towels put in 559,” says the Mrs. Potter from Chicago.
This saga of the social climber is, of course, caricature; yet it is remarkable how many stories and novels produced during the decade were to parallel its general outline. And for Lardner himself there were other, more disturbing areas of the subject to be explored. As in “Gullible's Travels,” so in a number of other stories he portrays the nouveaux riches as harboring an intense but frustrated desire for ease and gracious living, which they assume will automatically attend their entry into upper economic strata. The consequences of this false assumption are sometimes disastrous.
“The Love Nest,” for example, is clearly a variation on Lardner's theme of the disappointed parvenu. But Celia Gregg's disappointment is not presented in the comic spirit of “Gullible's Travels.” It is savage, resentful, and profoundly bitter. She has married for money, Celia explains to the reporter who comes to do a feature story on the domestic life of the “great man” (Celia's husband); but her anticipated contentment has failed to materialize:
“You're dumb, Barker! You may be sober, but you're dumb! Did you fall for all that apple sauce about the happy home and the contented wife? Listen, Barker—I'd give anything in the world to be out of this mess. I'd give anything to never see him again.”
“Don't you love him any more? Doesn't he love you? Or what?”
“Love! I never did love him! I didn't know what love wasl And all his love is for himself!”
“How did you happen to get married?”
“I was a kid; that's the answer. A kid and ambitious. See? He was a director then and he got stuck on me and I thought he'd make me a star. See, Barker? I married him to get myself a chance. And now look at me!”
“I'd say you were fairly well off.”
“Well off, am I? I'd change places with the scum of the earth just to be free! See, Barker? And I could have been a star without any help if I'd only realized it. I had the looks and I had the talent. I've got it yet. I could be a Swanson and get myself a marquis; maybe a prince! And look what I did get! A self-satisfied, self-centered —! I thought he'd make me! See, Barker? Well, he's made me all right; he's made me a chronic mother and it's a wonder I've got any looks left.
“I fought at first. I told him marriage didn't mean giving up my art, my life work. But it was no use. He wanted a beautiful wife and beautiful children for his beautiful home. Just to show us off. See? I'm part of his chattels. See, Barker? I'm just like his big diamond or his cars or his horses.”
And there are Ella and Kate, of “The Big Town,” whose father dies of grief when the war ends and cuts short his unscrupulous profiteering. He leaves his daughters two hundred thousand dollars, and the heiresses immediately “run over to Chi and buy all the party dresses that was vacant. Then they come back to South Bend, and wished somebody would give a party.” South Bend, of course, can no longer satisfy their craving for Life, nor can it provide a rich husband for Sister Kate. The family migrates to New York, there to encounter a varied assortment of crooks, cheats, and frauds—a cross section of Lardner's middle-class America. At one point in their adventures, Ella and Kate have placed a bet of twelve hundred dollars on a horse named Only One, a wager strongly urged by the horse'sowner. Lardner memorably records their reaction to the news Only One has lost the race:
The gals sunk down in their chairs. Ella was blubbering and Kate was white as a ghost.
“I can't understand it!” [the owner] says. “I don't know what happened!”
“You don't!” hollered Kate. “I'll tell you what happened. You stole our money! Twelve hundred dollars! You cheat!”
These characters and many others who participate in the grim Lardner comedy all fall victim sooner or later to essentially the same assumption. They have recently acquired great sums of money, and consequently they claim a right to the kind of life they naively associate with wealth. Whatever it is they seek—luxury, fame, social distinction, or culture (see the story “Carmen”)—Lardner's final judgment of these would-be gentlemen and women is unequivocal: all suffer some fundamental defect of character that disqualifies them from enjoying their riches. Their newly acquired wealth only intensifies their unaristocratic condition.
But Lardner's final irony is contained in his portrayal of the “aristocrats” who very infrequently appear in his fiction. Lady Perkins, the self-styled English noblewoman of “The Big Town,” is the most unforgettable representative of this class: she turns out to be as fiercely avaricious and as blatantly crude as the mass of aspirers who seek to win her favor. [The Mrs. Potter of “Gullible's Travels” is another of the “aristocrats” Lardner satirizes. An interesting parallel may be found in Sinclair Lewis's treatment of Sir Gerald Doak, the Babbitty English nobleman in Babbitt]. “Contract,” Lardner's miniature of manners at the card table, illustrates the same point. Shelton, the hero, has recently acquired money and position: “Shelton's magazine had advanced him to a position as associate editor and he was able, with the assistance of a benignant bond andmortgage company, to move into a house in Linden.” Shelton and his wife are soon involved in a round of bridge parties with other nouveaux riches suburbanites who exasperate them with their jocose vulgarity and transparent affectations, and continually criticize their inexpert attempts to play contract bridge. Shelton avenges himself one night by correcting everyone's table manners and bad grammar. But when the Sheltons, having deserted the circle of boors, manage an invitation to play cards at “the palatial home of E. M. Pardee, one of the real aristocrats of Linden,” they encounter the same rudeness from which they have fled, only a week earlier, in disgust:
After dinner, Mrs. Pardee asked the Sheltons whether they played contract, and they said they did. The Pardees, not wishing to impoverish the young immigrants, refused to play “families.” They insisted on cutting and Shelton cut Mrs. Pardee.
“Oh, Mr. Shevlin,” she said at the end of the first hand, “why didn't you lead me a club? You must watch the discards!”
The implication of these examples is clear: the ambition of the parvenu is hopelessly unattainable. What the predatory social climber is pursuing does not exist, except as an ideal in his own pathetic imaginings.
The typical Fitzgerald hero bears a remarkable resemblance to Lardner's aggressive social climber. He too has been infected by the “society bacillus” that beset the humorist's naive parvenu. The malignancy is more subtle, sublimating social ambition into nice distinctions, as in the case of Dexter Green in “Winter Dreams”: “He wanted not association with glittering things and glittering people—he wanted the glittering things themselves.” Nevertheless,Dexter Green wants what virtually all Fitzgerald's heroes want: social superiority, refinement, magnificence. In Lardner's phrase, Fitzgerald's sad young men want acceptance “amongst the high polloi.”
There are, however, significant differences in Fitzgerald's conception of the subject. The hero of the Fitzgerald romance does not “discover” social possibilities suddenly, as do Lardner's enterprising social climbers. Instead, he awakens to them early—usually in childhood—and thereafter earnestly pursues a course upward toward fulfillment of the American Dream of status and “success.”
It is this deeply felt, almost compulsive ambition that motivates Dexter Green to “pass up a business course at the State University—his father, prospering now, would have paid his way—for the precarious advantage of attending an older and more famous university in the East. .. .” Once out of college, Green amasses quick wealth in the laundry business; but neither higher education nor riches can assure the fulfillment of the hero's “dream.” For the heroine remains skeptical of Dexter's qualifications as a member of her class. Judy Jones, the beautiful debutante of “Winter Dreams,” thinks him suitable for a brief love affair which “endured just one month.” But she will not seriously consider marriage to Dexter Green; and at last he abandons his dream of attaining this country-club chimera, the exciting and elusive figure on the moonlit veranda who, mysteriously, is not for him: “he did not possess in himself the power to move fundamentally or to hold Judy Jones… . He loved her, and he would love her until the day he was too old for loving—but he could not have her.”
The story of Dexter Green and Judy Jones crystallizes one of Fitzgerald's most essential parables, one that was admirably suited to the tone and tempo of the nineteen-twenties. Perhaps much of his own generation's fascinationwith Fitzgerald may be attributed to his repeated emphasis on the two major themes that appear uniquely intermingled in “Winter Dreams”—social aspiration and romantic love.
“Winter Dreams” is clearly a preparation for The Great Gatsby; the short story sounds certain themes which Fitzgerald orchestrates more fully in the novel. Like Dexter Green, the hero of The Great Gatsby has his “dreams”— which emerge as brilliant and limitless fantasies beckoning him on to an extravagant extreme of American success. Like Dexter Green, Gatsby covets The Girl, who in his eyes represents a way of life almost inconceivably glamorous, exciting, and desirable. At first an outsider at the gates of her world, the hero can gain admission only by the boldness of a timely opportunism:
But he knew that he was in Daisy's house by a colossal accident. However glorious might be his future as Jay Gatsby, he was at present a penniless young man without a past, and at any moment the invisible cloak of his uniform might slip from his shoulders. So he made the most of his time. He took what he could get, ravenously and unscrupulously—eventually he took Daisy one still October night, took her because he had no real right to touch her hand.
He might have despised himself, for he had certainly taken her under false pretenses. I don't mean that he had traded on his phantom millions, but he had deliberately given Daisy a sense of security; he let her believe that he was a person from much the same strata as herself—that he was fully able to take care of her. As a matter of fact, he had no such facilities—he had no comfortable family standing behind him, and he was liable at the whim of an impersonal government to be blown anywhere about the world.
Later, Gatsby indulges in an elaborate, costly project which includes the purchase of a feudal mansion on LongIsland, “full of interesting people … celebrated people,” a wardrobe of silver shirts and golden ties, a continuous series of gaudy parties, and a romantic “background” made to order from bits and scraps of the hero's past. All this, and more, Gatsby contrives as part of the same self-improvement program thought de rigueur by Dexter Green and Lardner's innocents, who yearn for culture and social distinction. At times, in fact, Fitzgerald abandons the fantasies of his glamorous protagonist to strike the same note of ruthless satire that one encounters in Lardner. Myrtle Wilson, Tom Buchanan's vulgar mistress, exchanges confidences with one of her pretentious friends:
“I almost made a mistake, too,” [Mrs. McKee] declared vigorously. “I almost married a little kike who'd been after me for years. I knew he was below me. Everybody kept saying to me: 'Lucille, that man's 'way below you!' But if I hadn't met Chester, he'd of got me sure.”
“Yes, but listen,” said Myrtle Wilson, nodding her head up and down, “at least you didn't marry him.”
“I know I didn't.”
“Well, I married him,” said Myrtle ambiguously. “And that's the difference between your case and mine.”
“Why did you, Myrtle?” demanded Catherine. “Nobody forced you to.”
“I married him because I thought he was a gentleman,” she said finally. “I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn't fit to lick my shoe.”
Celia Gregg, the heroine of Lardner's “Love Nest,” had similar great expectations: “I could be a Swanson and get myself a marquis; maybe a prince!”
These pretensions and yearnings, both in Lardner and Fitzgerald, end in frustration: Celia Gregg's only comfort is furtive alcoholism; Myrtle Wilson's struggles end indeath; and Gatsby's extravagances are unavailing. Daisy Fay, the enchantress with money in her voice, remains “high in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl… .” She is beyond Gatsby's reach.
The fate of the Fitzgerald hero almost invariably follows this pattern of aspiration and failure. To be sure, certain details of each individual history are unique: Amory Blaine suffers from a bad case of poverty; Gatsby does not “belong” in Daisy's world; and Dexter Green's social deficiencies qualify him merely to feed Judy Jones's appetite for adoration. Gordon Sterrett, the protagonist of “May Day,” finds Me intolerable because he cannot locate himself socially. Sterrett doesn't have the money to be accepted into the world of Philip Dean, his former classmate; and he lacks the ability to become a self-made Alger hero. Trapped into a marriage with a girl his friends consider vulgar, he commits suicide. Andy, the narrator of “The Last of the Belles,” cannot hope to hold the affections of Allie Calhoun as long as he continues to see through her social pretensions; Dick Diver, having once accepted a dependent position as Nicole Warren's salaried caretaker, cannot claim equality in her milieu.
In addition, Fitzgerald's protagonists suffer different kinds and degrees of distress, ranging from sophomoric self-pity to utter and inescapable devastation. Amory emerges with crushed emotions and bittersweet memories; Dexter Green loses what he has cherished most highly—the optimistic illusions of his youth; Gatsby loses his life; and Dick Diver sacrifices his vitality and ambition. But the reader should not underestimate the equally important uniformity that shapes the contour of these histories. For it is clear that all these sad young men are engaged in the same struggle; Fitzgerald's foremost tale of the Jazz Age was based on anassumption that was shared by his real-life contemporaries: it is possible to be anything one dreams of being, to become a part of any milieu one chooses as desirable. That is the dream. But the reality, at least as Fitzgerald presents it in his serious fiction, is disappointment.
The forces that defeat Fitzgerald's heroes are far more complicated and more seriously considered than those that confront Lardner's social climbers. Lardner's middle-class aspirers fail because of social ineptness and stupidity (ironically shared by parvenu and “aristocrat” alike). Fitzgerald's social drama implies a fundamental incompatibility between the classes: he consistently portrays the members of the American “aristocracy” as a class apart, insulated from intrusion by outsiders. “Let me tell you,” Fitzgerald says in one of his most celebrated pronouncements, “about the very rich”:
They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.
Fitzgerald goes on, in the story that follows this brief introduction, to display some evidences of this difference and its inherent consequences. The Rich Boy, Anson Hunter, unwittingly permits a cold superiority to dominate his actions; his fastidious and egotistical nature will not allow him to forgive; it will not allow him to love. It renders him an outcast from life's feast.
But “The Rich Boy” illustrates only one form the difference may take. Daisy and Tom Buchanan, of The Great Gatsby, are different by virtue of an ingrained ethical “carelessness”:
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made… .
And Baby Warren and Nicole Diver (after she has regained her sanity) are different by virtue of their assumption that all things, including people, are available to serve their needs.
Thus the cycle of action represented in Fitzgerald's mature works leads from the naif's eager courtship of the aristocracy, to the failure of his suit and the revelation that he has wooed an unworthy and faithless mistress. Lardner's interest in the same cycle of action is evident, though he treats his heroes' ambitions and defeats less gravely. Yet in both authors, there is a repeated and disillusioned emphasis on the futility of the would-be gentleman's dream.
In certain areas, then—particularly in their treatments of the theme of the social adventurer—Lardner and Fitzgerald seem to display a number of similar attitudes: they fashion their stories from similar materials; they seem in accord in their conclusions. Yet there is an underlying difference in their interpretations of this pattern in American experience. One cannot escape the impression, in reading Fitzgerald, that his melancholy and romantic heroes are re-enacting the author's own pilgrimage to the shrine of wealth, success, and the beautiful heroine—that however critical Fitzgerald may be of the corruption, superiority, and inhumanity of the American rich, parts of his fiction represent a subtle tribute to his own yearning to be one of them. In “The Crack-Up” Fitzgerald spoke of how he had cherished “an abiding distrust, an animosity, toward the leisure class”; but later in the same series of essays he admitted that his depressed condition was the result of his having become identified “with the objects of my horror or compassion.” Apparently Fitzgerald suffered from a division of sympathies whenever he undertook to delineate his most essential theme.
Ring Lardner suffered no such conflict in his attitudes toward American society, nor do his works reveal the haunting ambiguities that oppressed Fitzgerald's sensibility. Throughout Lardner's fiction runs the implication that the author feels superior in intelligence and breeding to the society his heroes and heroines want so desperately to crash. To Fitzgerald's confident assertion that “the very rich are different from you and me,” Lardner might have replied: “No, there is no difference.” Or perhaps: “Yes, if anything they are a bit cruder.” Lardner, like Mencken, looked upon the pretensions of the middle class as a joke—sometimes ugly, sometimes merely amusing or pathetic in its futility. To Fitzgerald the dream was no joke, but a hope and something of a lifelong passion.
Under Lardner's influence, however, Fitzgerald's unfavorable impressions of the American rich emerged in greater clarity than ever before. That influence finds expression within the complicated framework of The Great Gatsby.
Fitzgerald's interest in sports is well known, and has been documented by his biographers and critics. During his days at prep school, and later at Princeton, one of Fitzgerald's ambitions was to be a football hero; his failure on the field seemed to be a source of deep regret, as well as self-accusation, in the years that followed. It is recorded that as late as twenty years after his graduation the novelist frequently made long-distance telephone calls to the Princeton football coach to offer advice and occasional criticism of the team's performance. This interest in football is reflected in parts of This Side of Paradise and in several short stories and informal essays Fitzgerald wrote during different periods of his career. There are also a few scattered and insignificant references to golfing in some of the stories written in the twenties. But it was not until The Great Gatsby that Fitzgerald introduced the game of baseball into his fiction.
Lardner, of course, was closely associated with this sport. For many years he traveled with baseball teams and acted as sports reporter for various metropolitan newspapers; and he is perhaps best remembered as an author for his vernacular studies of ballplayers and their sometimes comic, sometimes grotesque eccentricities. It is highly probable that the subject of baseball frequently came up during the period of Fitzgerald's stay in Great Neck, when in his own words he and Lardner “tucked a lot under their belts in many weathers, and spent many words on many men and things.” But more relevant to the composition of The Great Gatsby is the particular attitude toward American sports Lardner had evolved by the time of his association with Fitzgerald. Lardner had suffered disillusion with athletics in general and baseball in particular, as is apparent in works such as “Champion” (1916), “You Know Me, Al” (1914), his syndicated column (1919-27), and a great many short stories about ballplaying cranks, troublemakers, and neurotics. A glance at Lardner's contribution to the symposium Civilization in the United States—published the same year Fitzgerald arrived in Great Neck—discloses strong evidence of this dissatisfaction: “In blissful asininity, we may feast our eyes on the swarthy Champion of swat, shouting now and then in an excess of anile idolatry, 'Come on, you Babe. Comeon, you Baby Doll!'” Even more to the point is the fact that Lardner's disenchantment was simultaneously confirmed and nourished by the World Series of 1919, a focal point in sports history to which he repeatedly alluded in later years.
When, in 1920, it was made public that members of the Chicago White Sox team had been bribed, Lardner commented sardonically: “[The Series] was won by the Cincinnati Reds greatly to their surprise.” But Lardner's feelings about the scandal went deeper than the offhand tone of this comment might suggest. “For Ring,” Donald Elder tells us, “baseball was not the same after 1919. … In spite of his knowing that ball players were as corruptible as anyone else, the whole episode was bitterly shocking and too close to him to be passed off philosophically.” [Ring Lardner (New York, 1956), pp. 162-163]. The World Series of 1919 helped deepen Lardner's cynical attitude toward commercialized sports and toward the widespread corruption that was to characterize so much of the public life of the nineteen-twenties. It probably contributed, too, to the impression Fitzgerald received of Lardner as a “disillusioned idealist.”
It is this same World Series, used in a context of similar disillusion, that Fitzgerald incorporated into the novel he wrote almost immediately after he had enjoyed his close companionship with Ring Lardner. Fitzgerald, of course, must have heard of the Black Sox scandal before that time; anyone interested in sports would have had some knowledge of that highly publicized and much discussed event. But the circumstances outlined above—and the function of the World Series episode in The Great Gatsby—strongly suggest Lardner's direct influence on this portion of Fitzgerald's novel.
It is, furthermore, no trivial or incidental role that the World Series allusions play in Gatsby. They occupy a prominent position in Nick Carraway's developing sense of “the fundamental decencies”:
“Fixed the World's Series?” I repeated.
The idea staggered me. I remembered, of course, that the World's Series had been fixed in 1919, but if I had thought of it at all I would have thought of it as a thing that merely happened, the end of some inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people… .
Nick's reaction here is only one element in a subtle pattern woven throughout his entire experience in the book. Wolfsheim's act of tampering with the faith of fifty million people is related to Daisy's betrayal of Gatsby, to Tom Buchanan's marital infidelity, to Nick's own position in regard to the deceit, treachery, and bad faith practiced by the major characters of the novel. It is related to the period of Nick's employment at the “Probity Trust,” during which time he hangs suspended between awareness of good and evil, and its negation. Furthermore, as Gatsby's business partner, Wolfsheim is linked to the hero's illegally acquired riches, an association that helps us to understand Gatsby's desperate determination to impress Daisy, at whatever cost. In Fitzgerald's hands, the World Series image attains minor but important symbolic significance in The Great Gatsby. If Lardner provided the original inspiration, the full realization of its potential value must be credited to Fitzgerald's imaginative adaptation.
This process of artistic elaboration is even more apparent in another instance of Fitzgerald's debt to Lardner. The inspiration in this case stems from Lardner's story “A Caddy's Diary,” originally published in 1922 in the Saturday Evening Post and later reprinted in How To Write Short Stories (1925). Since Fitzgerald supervised the preparationof this volume, it is certain that he was acquainted with the curiously memorable fable of country-club golfers it contained. Internal evidence in The Great Gatsby confirms Fitzgerald's intimate knowledge of the story.
“A Caddy's Diary” takes the form of a day-to-day record kept by a boy named Dick, “16 of age … and a caddy at the Pleasant View Golf Club.” The action in the story is seen through the eyes of Lardner's adolescent narrator, who, like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, plays an apparently minor role in the main drama. But Dick and Nick Carraway both occupy ambiguous positions in their relation to the characters around them. Their presence may be taken merely as an artistic stratagem to attain verisimilitude; or they may be seen as protagonists in their own right, the central intelligence and major figure in the world each inhabits. The parallel extends even further: both Dick and Carraway come into close contact with a variety of cheats, liars, amoral and immoral characters of all sorts, representatives of what Carraway alludes to as the “rotten crowd” around Gatsby, the “foul dust that floated in the wake of his dreams”; both narrators are frequently in danger of being drawn into the general wickedness and moral laxity; both contribute, at one time or another, to that wickedness; and finally both develop a keener sense of moral awareness as they encounter a wider diversity of disenchanting experience.Other critics, notably James E. Miller, have advanced the idea that Fitzgerald's inspiration for Nick Carraway was the Marlow stories of Joseph Conrad. The Lardner source now seems to me to be the more likely possibility.
Lardner has created his narrator with skill and insight; and the story Caddy Dick tells has a disturbing and intense seriousness that gives it more than casual significance. But Nick Carraway's world is larger; his responses to experienceare more complicated; his sensibility is more mature; and the actions which he records are of greater consequence than those which take place at Lardner's country club. Fitzgerald elaborated upon his source, investing it with increased scope and complexity. Other elements Fitzgerald derived from “A Caddy's Diary” illustrate equally well the same process of artistic transmutation.
“A Caddy's Diary” exposes the pettiness and meanness— and the confused moral standards—of a modern upper-middle-class community. Most of the members of the Pleasant View Golf Club bribe or coerce their caddies, cheat their fellow players, and Me about their scores whenever the opportunity presents itself. Some of the players observe the letter of the golfing laws, but not their spirit; they are masters in the art of how to win without actually cheating. The only characters in the story who play an honest game are Charles Crane, who turns out to be a thief; and Jack Andrews, the club pro, who earns “a small steady income” by playing less than his best game with one of the club members he knows he can beat. Joe Bean, one of the caddies, explains why these two men never lie about their scores:
Players like Crane and Andrews that goes around in 80 or better can't cheat on their score because they make most of the holes in around 4 strokes and the 4 strokes includes their” tee shot and a couple of putts which everybody is right there to watch them when they make them and count them right along with them … that is one of the penaltys for being a good player, you can't cheat.
Obviously both Crane and Andrews—along with most of the other club members—are hypocrites. In addition, one of the women members is given to outbursts of obscene language, and all the rest are grasping mercenaries who readily sacrifice the rules of the game to a grand avarice for petty rewards. Mrs. Thomas, realizing that she cannot possibly win the match with Miss Rennie, insists upon searching for a lost ball until the game has to be called off on account of darkness; thereby she avoids paying Miss Rennie the twenty-five-cent wager agreed upon. Mr. Thomas and Mr. Dunham exchange vicious insults when they are “off” in their games. One of the older members smashes his four wood clubs against a tree in a fit of temper. Mr. Thomas, who thinks “golf is wrong on the sabbath,” misrepresents his score in order to win the tournament prize of nine golf balls. And the caddies, hoping to earn large tips, gladly assist in the players' deceptions. Caddy Dick willingly cheats for a pretty woman player in order to earn the reward of her smile.
When at the end of the story Charles Crane absconds with his secretary and eight thousand dollars stolen from the bank where he is employed, the members of the Pleasant View Golf Club pounce upon this act of outright dishonesty to sermonize upon their own righteousness. Only Dick and Joe Bean (who all along has commented cynically and shrewdly upon the players' conduct) ponder the true issues raised by Crane's act:
Well I said it seems to me like these people have got a lot of nerve to pan Mr Crane and call him a sucker for doing what he done, it seems to me like $8000 and a swell dame is a pretty fair reward compared with what some of these other people sells their soul for, and I would like to tell them about it.
Well said Joe go ahead and tell them but maybe they will tell you something right back.
What will they tell me?
Well said Joe they might tell you this, that when Mr Thomas asks you how many shots he has had and you say 4when you know he has had 5, why you are selling your soul for a $1.00 tip. And when you move Mrs Doanes ball out of a rut and give it a good lie, what are you selling your soul for? Just a smile.
Fitzgerald borrowed from “A Caddy's Diary” when he came to create the moral atmosphere of The Great Gatsby; but once again, he expanded and subtilized the original. In addition to exploring an entire scale of ethical values—from Tom Buchanan's amoral attitudes to Gatsby's ethical compromises and Nick Carraway's persistent and sometimes puzzled moral judgments—Fitzgerald considers the complicated subject of differing varieties of falsehood; the author's treatment of this theme suggests the manner of a technician weighing assertions on a delicate instrument designed to calculate the falseness of a lie. When Tom Buchanan directs Myrtle Wilson's husband to Gatsby's house, he is probably lying to shield Daisy from having to admit her responsibility for Myrtle's death. Later, he justifies this act to Nick Carraway by a neat bit of sophistry (the italics are mine):
“I told him the truth,” he said. “He came to the door while we were getting ready to leave, and when I sent down word that we weren't in he tried to force his way upstairs. He was cra2y enough to kill me if I hadn't told him who owned the car.”
Of course, Gatsby does own the car, but it was Daisy who struck down and killed Myrtle Wilson. On the other hand, if Tom believes what he says later in the same passage—“He ran over Myrtle like you'd run over a dog and never even stopped the car”—then Daisy is the liar who brings about the injustice of Gatsby's death. The text of the novel does not provide a conclusive answer to the question of Buchanan's veracity in this crucial matter (though Fitzgerald has him tell several lies earlier); rather, Fitzgerald encourages thereader to explore further the “relative-falsehood” theme that is interwoven throughout the fabric of the book.
Gatsby, to cite another example, is uncompromisingly dedicated to the attainment of love, prosperity, and status. He is committed, as Lionel Trilling has remarked of Fitzgerald, to an ideal of self. But Gatsby compromises his ethics drastically in his manner of money-getting, as his association with Meyer Wolfsheim attests. Opposed to Tom Buchanan's deliberate and outright lies is Gatsby's concoction of a personal “history” composed of half-truths. Myrtle Wilson's life with her husband is a lie, as is Tom's with Daisy, and Daisy's with Tom, once she re-encounters Gatsby on Long Island. It is a lie, in fact, that leads to the murder of Gatsby. Jordan Baker lies repeatedly, and Nick Carraway compromises with truth in the matter of his self-estimate early in the novel: “Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people I have ever known.” This compromise with truth is paralleled by Nick's ethical compromises occurring throughout the central section of the book, when (to mention only a few instances) he plays panderer for Jay Gatsby and he becomes intimate with the “incurably dishonest” Miss Jordan Baker. Fitzgerald's purpose in detailing this relativity of truth and falsehood—and its accompanying moral confusion—is partially clarified by Nick's statement to Jordan at the end of the novel:
“I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person [Jordan says to Nick]. I thought it was your secret pride.”
“I'm thirty,” I said. “I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor.”
Having begun with a complacent confidence in his own honor (“I am one of the few… .”), Nick profits from hisexposure to experience by losing his illusions about himself.
The theme of relative truth and morality contributes strongly to our understanding of the world of experience as Fitzgerald presents it in The Great Gatsby, a world inhabited by Gatsby, the Buchanans, Myrtle and George Wilson, and—for a time—Nick Carraway. It is insubstantial, elusive as a dream, full of “somewhat truthful” assertions, fatal and near-fatal self-delusions, and nebulous treacheries. Long Island is Fitzgerald's “unreal city,” as London was T. S. Eliot's, as the Pleasant View Golf Club was Ring Lardner's. These settings are characterized by an absence of fixed ethical standards, by a lack of any foundation in truth or morality. When Nick says good-by to Jordan Baker, he is renouncing the world in which she lives. When he starts for home, he is entering reality.
It is highly probable that Fitzgerald was inspired to the use of this intricate “relative truth and morality” theme by “A Caddy's Diary”; it is all but certain that he took at least one of its components from that source. Prominent among the characters in Lardner's story is the attractive Mrs. Doane, who during a particular golf match has wagered fifty dollars against a party dress owned by her opponent. At one point when she is unobserved, Mrs. Doane asks Dick to move the ball from a bad lie:
Do I have to play it from there she said.
I guess you do was my reply.
Why Dick have you went back on me she said and give me one of her looks.
Well I looked to see if the others was looking and then I kind of give the ball a shove with my toe and it come out of the groove and laid where she could get a swipe at it. This was the 16th hole and Mrs Doane win it by 11 strokes to 10 and that made her 2 up and 2 to go. Miss Rennie win the 17th but they both took a 10 for the 18th and that give Mrs Doane the match.
Compare this episode with Nick Carraway's sudden recollection:
When we were out on a house-party together up in Warwick, [Jordan] left a borrowed car out in the rain with the top down, and then lied about it—and suddenly I remembered the story about her that had eluded me that night at Daisy's. At her first big golf tournament there was a row that nearly reached the newspapers—a suggestion that she had moved her ball from a bad lie in the semi-final round. The thing approached the proportions of a scandal—then died away. A caddy retracted his statement, and the only other witness admitted that he might have been mistaken.
Mrs. Doane has stepped from the green at the Pleasant View Golf Club into the pages of The Great Gatsby to become Jordan Baker, one of the most memorable of Fitzgerald's fictional characters.
The metamorphosis of Mrs. Doane into Jordan Baker is another illustration of the manner in which a superior artist brings to fulfillment the latent value of material derived from a literary source. As stressed throughout this section, Lardner supplied his fellow author with relatively bare, unelaborated images; Fitzgerald's own artistry is finally responsible for the development of these basic themes, characters, and situations in The Great Gatsby.
Thus the peculiar alchemy of literary influence, when two such apparently dissimilar works as “A Caddy's Diary” and The Great Gatsby under close scrutiny reveal the deepest of affinities and show one writer's mark upon the imagination of another. Aside from bringing to light a long neglected source of inspiration for Fitzgerald's most highly regarded work of fiction, the extended comparison of these two writers should also provide a new perspective—a point of reference from which we may study one artist as he relates to one of his contemporaries, and both as they relate to their age.
Thus, too, a welcome opportunity to represent Ring Lardner at some length in his own voice—by no means an incidental part of my intention in this chapter. Lardner deserves more than incidental study. At his best he performed brilliantly in a demanding and, for us, highly instructive role—as a miniaturist depicting the vices and follies of an unhealthy society. Like the deft and merciless engravers of eighteenth-century England, Lardner evoked vivid images that serve as indictments of our moral compromises and hypocrisies. From Lardner, the Hogarth of our literature, Fitzgerald learned the means to bring into sharp focus his own feelings about the Tom and Daisy Buchanans in American society and their “vast carelessness” in human relations.
Fitzgerald's canvas is broader than Lardner's, and he has color—subtle, delicate, sometimes dazzling in its display of showy brightness, always appealing, suggestive of new meanings and fresh discoveries. Yet color is not enough. Fitzgerald's early novels, as his commentators have frequently noted, lack the detachment necessary to transmute his intensely felt personal impressions into mature art. With The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald achieved that detachment— the product, no doubt, of much diligent and independent disciplining of his talent. But the penetrating criticism of American mores in Gatsby may also be attributed, in part, to Fitzgerald's intimate association with Ring Lardner. Lardner and his unique works of fiction left an indelible impression on the young novelist from the Midwest, who, like Gatsby, came East to test the wonders of sophisticated America.
Elder, Donald. Ring Lardner. New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1956.
Geismar, Maxwell. Writers in Crisis. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1942.
Piper, Henry Dan. “Scott Fitzgerald and the Origins of the Jazz Age.” Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1950.
Soule, George. Prosperity Decade: From War to Depression: 1917-1929. (The Economic History of the United States, Vol. III.) New York: Rinehart & Co., Inc., 1947.
Yates, Donald A. “Fitzgerald and Football,” Michigan Alumnus Quarterly Review, LXIV: 10 (Autumn, 1957), 75-80.