College of One
by Sheilah Graham

The Curriculum

Scott divided the Wells Outline of History into forty sections, each one interrupted by a novel or a play.



Wells' Outline

158—184—Vanity Fair


   “           “

185—205—Man and Superman


   “           “

205—226—The Red and the Black


   “           “

226—252—Bleak House (1st half)


   “           “

252—285—Seven Men


   “           “

285—303—Bleak House (2nd half)


   “           “

303—322—Androcles & The Lion


   “           “

322—344—Henry Esmond


   “           “

344—375—A Doll's House


   “           “

376—387—Sister Carrie


   “           “

388—412—The Red Lily


   “           “

412—435—Youth's Encounter


   “           “

435—454—Sinister Street


   “           “

455—480—The Kreutzer Sonata (out)


   “           “

480—501—Death in Venice


   “           “

501—523—Madame Bovary


   “           “

524—546—Custom of the Country


   “           “

546—565—The Brothers Karamazov


   “           “



   “           “

599—617—Roderick Hudson


   “           “

617—634—The Pretty Lady


   “           “

634—667—Tess of the D'Urbervilles


   “           “

667—698—How to Write Short Stories


   “           “



   “           “

733—751—My Antonia


   “           “

751—778—The Sailor's Return


   “           “

778—803—The Financier


   “           “

803—835—The Titan


   “           “

835—866—A Lost Lady


   “           “

867—893—The Revolt of the Angels


   “           “

893—928—Ariel, or the Life of Shelley


   “           “

929—955—The Song of Songs


   “           “

956—991—The Sun Also Rises


   “           “

991—1025—Flaubert & Malraux


   “           “

1025—1050—Byron: The Last Journey


   “           “

1051—1076—South Wind


   “           “

1076—1101—Man's Fate


   “           “

1102—1128—The Woman Who Rode Away


   “           “

1128—1152—The Cabala


   “           “

1152—1170—Tender Is The Night & Chronology


Because some of the books were out of print—his own Tender Is The Night, which, to amuse himself, he credited to Shakespeare, was impossible to find—Scott made another list with some additions to fill in the gaps. And, to give a feeling of progress to the reading, he added time schedules. I was to read the forty books within ten months, from October to August.

He started me on the Wells Outline at Book Three, page 158, “The First Civilizations”. He believed it would be simpler if he explained Books One and Two, “The World Before Man” and “The Making of Man”. “You can absorb these prehistoric periods more easily from me than in the reading,” he said, and he was right. Even with his explanations, it was hard to grasp “The Earth in Space and Time', “The Record of the Rocks', “Life and Climate', “The Age of Reptiles', “The Age of Mammals', “Apes and Sub Men”. As I scan these chapters now, it is hard to believe they were ever too difficult.

After the seven sections of “The Early Empires', Vanity Fair (always on Scott's lists of “Books I Have Enjoyed Most') was a sweet pause, something to reach for—I was like a child taking its first step into outstretched arms. Following the twenty pages of “Sea Peoples and Trading Peoples', Shaw's Man and Superman with its war between the sexes and “Don Juan in Hell” was another welcome resting place. Scott admired Shaw for his courage in advocating unpopular causes such as socialism and atheism; he spoke of “Shaw's aloof clarity and brilliant consistency.” I enjoyed Stendhal's The Red and the Black. Julian Sorel had started life as a poor boy, an opportunist who came to a bad end because of his ambition and scheming. It was something to remember. I was especially interested in Wells's “Drama and Music in the Ancient World” because of my time on the London stage, although there was nothing similar in the two periods. It was written chattily, rather like my Hollywood gossip column.

Book Four in the Outline, 'Judaea, Greece and India', was interspersed with Max Beerbohm's Seven Men. The first of the seven, Enoch Soames, a third—rate writer yearning for immortality, was, Scott explained, a lampoon on the followers of Oscar Wilde. That made the story more interesting.

Thackeray's Henry Esmond. I enjoyed the book but found the accompanying slice of Wells's History, which dealt with Pericles, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, equally interesting. I have always been more drawn to accounts of real people than to fictionalized characters.

Four Wells sections, 'Science and Religion at Alexandria', preceded my first contact with Theodore Dreiser. 'Sister Carrie,' Scott said, “was almost the first piece of American realism.” It was a complicated word for something I told him I found as easy to read as I had found Peg's Papers in the East End of London. Except for Carrie's ruthlessness it somewhat resembled Peg's Papers, a 'penny dreadful” in which the poor factory girl always married a handsome son of the boss, but not until she hadbeen almost “ruined” by the wicked foreman. In 1939 it was difficult for me to believe that when Sister Carrie had been published, in 1900, it had been considered scandalous. When I finally came to read Scott's Tender Is The Night, the turnabout in the fortunes of Dick and Nicole Diver reminded me of Hurstwood, who was prospering when he met Carrie and who, as she moved up, went down. “Dreiser is rough,” Scott explained. “No social grace at all, but my God, what a storyteller! He's the best of our generation.” They had met and, as usual when Scott was young and close to an idol, he had to be drunk or he would have felt awkward and tongue—tied. “I had been invited to his house with some other people,” said Scott. “Dreiser was a poor host and it wouldn't occur to him to offer us a drink, so I brought along a bottle of champagne.” Dreiser's guests were sitting stiffly around the wall on straight—backed kitchen chairs, like schoolchildren, when Scott arrived. He waved his bottle and yelled, “I consider H. L. Mencken and Theodore Dreiser the greatest men living in this country today.” Dreiser took the news calmly and put Scott's champagne in his icebox, where it remained.

There are three embedded tomato pips, a red asterisk, marking the first page of Book Five in the Outline of History. After the education began, I studied while eating my lunch, and several of the books are pocked with bits of food. The history was now as interesting as the novels. “The Rise and Collapse of the Roman Empire', 'Christianity and Islam', “The Mongol Empires of the Land Ways and the New Empires of the Sea Ways”. Book Eight, “The Age of the Great Powers', brought us to the period after the First World War and “The Further Outlook of Mankind', which Wells, with his imagination, and Scott, with his insight, could somewhat foresee.

I completed the Wells history to the end of the Chronology which I marked off as I memorized it. At any question I could accurately state that Necho of Egypt defeated Josiah, King of Judah, at the Battle of Megiddo in 608 b.c; that Genghis Khan took Peking in a.d. 1218; thatMarco Polo started on his travels in 1271 and returned to Venice in 1295; that the Anabaptist rule in Munster fell during 1535; that the Manchus ended the Ming Dynasty in 1644; that the suicide of Clive of India took place in the same year that the American “revolutionary drama” began, in 1774. And that Austria annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908. By then I had read the total of forty novels and plays prescribed by Scott.

To continue with the list, I read two books, The Red Lily and The Revolt of the Angels, by Anatole France, whom Scott admired greatly. When he and Zelda had first arrived in Paris, they had waited outside Anatole France's house for an hour, hoping he would appear. Another author represented by two novels—Youth's Encounter and Sinister Street—was Compton Mackenzie, whom Scott had been accused of imitating (and with some justification, Scott admitted) in his first novel, This Side of Paradise. Mencken, to whom Scott had sent a copy, had written: “It derives itself from Mackenzie, Wells, and Tarkington.” Edmund Wilson, as soon as he read the manuscript, reported back to Scott: “It sounds like an exquisite burlesque of Compton Mackenzie with a pastiche of Wells thrown in at the end.”

Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Flaubert, “who is eternal,” Scott wrote, “while Zola already rocks with age … who consciously leaves out the stuff that Zola will come along presently and say.” Flaubert's Three Tales — when Scott's secretary had found a beautifully illustrated edition in a second—hand store in downtown Los Angeles, he gave her the cheaper volume he had already bought. “Flaubert and Conrad,' said my professor, “sometimes took days to polish one sentence.” He wanted his own style of writing as concise as theirs.

It is interesting that, although Scott in 1939 did not regard Wilde highly, this writer was featured prominently on his curriculum for me. When I read the “Ballad of Reading Gaol', Scott had me read A. E. Housman's poems, A Shropshire Lad, first published while Wilde was in prison.It didn't take any guessing on my part to know why Scott had wanted me to read the two works together; the Wilde poem was clearly an imitation of Housman. My teacher was pleased that I had spotted this. I did not like The Picture of Dorian Gray; the corruption and the portrait made me uncomfortable, as does everything that is not normal, but I liked the plays, especially The Importance of Being Earnest.

Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country. In Mizener's biography he states that when Scott met Miss Wharton in Paris he had tried to shock her by telling her that when he and Zelda first came to Paris they had spent two weeks in a bordello, believing it was a hotel. She had crushed him by stating majestically, “But Mr Fitzgerald, your story lacks data.”

Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, which had overwhelmed Scott when he had first read it in 1922. A few years later he wrote Mencken that “the influence on Gatsby has been the masculine one of the Brothers Karamazov, a thing of incomparable form.”

Roderick Hudson, by Henry James, whom I find less fascinating now than when I read him in a pause from Wells. I read six of James's earlier novels during our College of One. “The others would bore you,” said Scott, “like Tolstoy's later works—but in a different way. Tolstoy became too mystical, James too complex and intricate.” He told me his critics believed he had been influenced by Henry James, especially in The Great Gatsby. “It's surprising to read of an influence you were not aware of when writing.”

Arnold Bennett's very easy novel, The Pretty Lady; Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles — these girls always seemed to be in trouble. Scott admired Hardy; he “had survived … while Wells and Shaw and all those of the brave company who started out in the nineties so full of hope and joy in life and faith in science and reason” had become complete pessimists. Hardy, Scott told me, had been impressed with This Side of Paradise.

How to Write Short Stories by Ring Lardner, who had been a close friend of Scott when they were neighbours on Long Island, “The critics have never realized what a good writer he is,” Scott said of Lardner. “He had pride and dignity even when he was drinking himself to death.” Ring, said Scott, would disappear for weeks, and Scott would search for him and take him home to his wife, Alice. Ring, Abe North in Tender Is the Night, was enchanted with the Fitzgeralds, his “Prince Scott and Princess Zelda.”

On the flyleaf of Colette's Cheri, Scott has pasted some printed information for me: “Cheri—one of her latest novels—is the only story of a “gigolo” I have ever been interested to read or feel to be true. It is a brilliant work of character portrayal, a comedy in a genre new to us and full of a slightly macabre fascination.”

Two novels by Willa Cather, My Antonia and A Lost Lady; The Sailor's Return by David Garnett, whom I envied because of the intellectual atmosphere in which he had grown up; two additional gigantic novels by Dreiser, The Financier and The Titan. I read The Titan in the sweet—smelling garden at the Samarkand Hotel at Santa Barbara during one week—end while I was also reading the portion of the Wells history that concerned princes and foreign policy and seventeenth— and eighteenth—century painting. Andre Maurois” Ariel: La Vie de Shelley — I was so proud to be able to read it all in French; Suderman's Song of Songs; my second Ernest Hemingway novel, The Sun Also Rises. “Ernest always has a helping hand for people who don't need it', Scott wrote at the end of my copy of Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again, with another comment I cannot quite understand: “Distaste. Marcus” son had played football at Columbia and in his first year at medical school had dissected a human vagina and sent it for Xmas to his father!”

Hemingway was the shining hero of American letters during my time with Scott, who was still deeply hurt by the paragraph in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” in whichthe hero remembered poor Scott Fitzgerald's romantic awe (of the rich), and how he had started a story once that began: “The very rich are different from you and me” and how someone had said to Scott, “Yes, they have more money”—and when he had found they were not a special glamorous race “it wrecked him just as much as any other thing that wrecked him.” “It was as though I were already dead,” Scott complained to me.

The biography of Byron, The Last Journey, by Harold Nicolson was of the same nineteenth—century period as my Wells segment, “The Indian Precedent in Asia” to “The Rise of the Novel to Predominance in Literature”. Malraux's Man's Fate, accompanying “The United States and The Imperial Idea” to “The Great War from the Russian Collapse to the Armistice', was marked by Scott on the flyleaf with an unfinished sentence: “The strongest scene from Pasteur [referring to the Paul Muni film], the inoculated sheep, was lifted from Arrowsmith? Might admire it and be told that. …” Norman Douglas's South Wind; D. H. Lawrence's The Woman Who Rode Away; The Cabala by Thornton Wilder—Scott had to explain to me the meaning of “cabala”.

Glancing at my Wells Outline of History recently, I was amused to find inside the back cover a diagram of a football play—Scott's trademark.

It was a great deal of reading, by any standard. In a letter to Johnny late in 1939 I told him: “You would be amazed at all the books I have read this past year. It includes seven volumes of Proust, Victor Hugo, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and James Joyce. The best thing about reading is that the more you do it the more you want to do, and the easier the hard reading becomes.” On 25 January 1940, I was writing Johnny:

My collection of books is growing in my living room. Bookshelves cover all one side and I just had to buy another small case to take care of the overflow… I've just finished reading Gertrude Stein's Three Lives, which is in her simpler manner.   She   gets   pretty   screwy   later   on,   devotes   pagesto repeating words like a stuck gramophone, something like this—'He sat in a chair, chair chair chair he sat in the chair because he always sat in the chair.” That sort of thing could drive you nutty. I think Gertrude Stein is nutty as a matter of fact. But her early stuff is new, bright and fascinating reading…. I used to lunch at the studios a lot but now I have a sandwich and a glass of milk at home and read my current book. … One day when you have made your pile, I wish you'd come to California. It is quite something to see but I don't think I'd like to spend the rest of my life here. It is all too much like a painted backcloth.

I would still have another year in the College of One, but the education was beginning to take. In July 1940 I wrote Johnny: “I am reading a lot of political economy. Baby! [one of Scott's expressions] the things I didn't know and still don't know. Life in Hollywood would be dull but for the reading.” And ten days before Scott died: 'I am currently studying ancient Greek history. I am reading about Pericles and the Golden Age of Greece in Plutarch's Lives. It really is fascinating. I wish I'd had the sense to want to educate myself when —I lived in London near all the big museums. I suppose, when one is young, one has too good a time to think of developing the mind.”

Most educators create a master plan of study at the beginning and stick to it, regardless of the needs of the pupil. But not Mr Fitzgerald. The curriculum grew concrete as it developed. The order was changed when a book was impossible to get or because Scott believed my interest was flagging. There was nothing rigid about the education. It had an organic growth. The four sections of the plan were never considered final and were constantly retyped by Scott's secretary.

There was no time limit for the poetry, which was interspersed in the curriculum with biographies and criticisms of the poets, novels, various versions of the Odyssey, and Lord Charnwood's Lincoln. Scott headed the course: “A Short Introduction to Poetry (with Interruptions)”.Rupert Brooke, Swinburne, Tennyson, and others were matched with various critical works, while Browning and Moore's Esther Waters were read in tandem. At the end I was able to take in aspects of Eliot's and Rimbaud's poetry along with Edmund Wilson's criticism. At one point Scott had me read consecutive chapters of the Odyssey from three different translations (Chapman, Pope, and Butler).

The poetry was preceded by “A Discussion of Prosody and the most familiar meters”:




Short narrative


Long narrative




A Song


An address


Night song


Morning song

Elegy or (Threnody)

A lament

Pastoral, Bucolic

Country life

Eclogue and Epode

I never knew




Two lines rhyming

Heroic couplet

Two   rhymed   iambic   pentameter lines like Pope's Odyssey


Three lines rhyming


Four lines  rhyming once  or twice


Fourteen  lines   (8   and   then 6) used in iambic pentameter with a complete rhyme scheme

Alexandrine line

Rhymed six—foot couplet. Used in French Poetry (Racine & Corneille)





A stressed or “long” syllable

A slighted or “short” syllable

as alone or monkey or teepee

The French language has no exact equivalent for this. In English either stress or slight every syllable.

We break verse into “Feet”. According to the stress, we give these “feet” different names. The most important is the iambus. Alone is called an iambus. Also Oh Yeah! Five iambuses form a line of iambic pentameter (which means five feet in Greek).

But still the house affairs would call her hence (Othello)

Shakespeare is all written in unrhymed iambic pentameter (except his songs). He takes liberties with it, of course, adding an extra syllable sometimes or dropping one or inverting a foot. At the end of a scene he sometimes rhymes a couplet (2 lines).



a dactyl

Ex: Perlmutter

a trochee

Ex: Feeble

an anapest

Ex: on a bat


Ex: Oh God (which can also be an iambus or a trochee, as pronounced).

A trochaic line:
Come and kiss me sweet and twenty
[Song of Shakespeare's]

A dactylic meter:
This is the forest primeval

(The song “Little Wooden Shoes” is dactylic—so are many waltzes.)



Rhymed Verse

has metrical pattern (feet) and rhyme

Blank Verse

has metrical pattern but no rhyme (Ex: Elizabethan blank verse)

Free Verse

has a very loose metrical pattern which it   neglects   at   will.   No   rhyme.   Like Whitman or Masters'  “Ann  Rutledge”

Ogden Nash Verse

Free verse that rhymes

Prose Poetry

Loose terms to denote anything from Butcher's  &  Lang's  Odyssey  to  mere flowery language

Polyphonic Prose

Didn't I tell you not to shut the door
I told you not to shut the door


Once we started, the poetry flowed and overflowed through all the hours and days. Again it was not how it was done. Despite Scott's painstaking explanations, I was less interested in how the poetry was put together than in the actual poems. His examples for the various metres were revealing. Perlmutter—the long wait on the Perl, the two short u's in mutter; in Hollywood you cannot fail to know a Perlmutter. The example of “feeble', with the long sound on “feeb”—Scott called some of the producers and writers he met in the studios “Feebs', also any friends of Scottie's of whom he disapproved. His anapest, “on a bat', is not hard to understand. When a man called without leaving his name, Scott said with a straight face, “Oh, that was my old friend Onabat.” His example for a spondee, “Oh God,”—it was his constant expletive. I had never known there were so many types of poetry.

I was interested in the sonnet. Eddie Mayer had written one to Hedy Lamarr, which had pleased her, and she had consented to dine with him. The evening had fallen rather flat, Eddie told me later, because his producer had called him just before he had left for her home to order him to a conference at ten p.m. I thought of his sonnet when Eddie died in poverty and forgotten by Hollywood a few years ago. I had not realized when Eddieread me his poem that it was a sonnet because it had fourteen lines—eight and six—in iambic pentameter.

When Scott believed that I understood the metres and the types of poems, we plunged into Keats and, between the poems, read about him in Sidney Colvin's biography. “If poetry had not gone out of fashion, I would have been a poet,” Scott assured me, adding, 'Poets don't make any money today. I couldn't afford to be one.” At Princeton he had decided he would write prose on the same fine lines as Keats's poetry. In the letter on Keats to his daughter, Scott wrote of the “Grecian Urn':

Every syllable is as inevitable as the notes in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. … It is what it is because an extraordinary genius paused at that point in history and touched it. I suppose I have read it a hundred times . .. likewise with the “Nightingale', which I can never read through without tears in my eyes… the “Eve of St Agnes” has the richest most sensual imagery in English, not excepting Shakespeare. For a while after you quit Keats, all other poetry seems to be only whistling or humming.

The letter is dated August 1940. I had read and memorized the “Grecian Urn” and the “Nightingale' months before, but we were still discussing them in practically the same language as that of Scott's letter to his daughter.

So many of the poets had died young, Scott told me, although Shakespeare had lived to the comparatively ripe age of fifty—two. “He was a good businessman,” said Scott, who was not. 'He knew the value of his work to the penny.” Shakespeare, said Scott—who believed that I should never be psychoanalysed because “all your impulses are so near the surface”—had antedated Freud with the scenes between Hamlet and his mother and the relationship of Ophelia with her father.

I was surprised when Scott referred to Byron as a minor poet. At the orphanage he had been rated highly. Apparently there were not enough major poets to round out a college curriculum, so some of the minor poets were perforce included. “Byron's best work,” said Scott, “washis unfinished novel in verse, Don Juan. Goethe described it as a work of boundless genius.” Scott did not agree.

Never too long with any poem or portion of a book or biography; this was part of Scott's system—'the little courses', to keep me interested. Nothing must drag. I must never be bored. In the days of strain with his friends, he had advised me, “Look bored; then they will think you know all about the subject.” Now the faking was over. I really would know—not a great deal, perhaps, but enough to feel confident.

There are only five poems by Keats listed on the curriculum. In actual fact, we studied thirteen of the works of Scott's favourite poet: in addition to “The Eve of St Agnes', 'Isabella or The Pot of Basil”—'Oh misery to take my basil pot away from me; in memory of iambic hours, Scott, 1940,” he wrote on the Keats flyleaf—'Bright Star', “When I have Fears', “On First Looking into Chapman's Homer', “Ode to a Nightingale', “Ode on a Grecian Urn', “Ode to the Poets', “Ode on Melancholy', “Fragment” of an Ode to Maia', “In a Drear—Nighted December', “The Eve of St Mark', “La Belle Dame Sans Merci', on the margin of which Scott explained: “This is the bad form as edited by Leigh Hunt. See below.”

“On First Looking into Chapman's Homer” was followed by the page of Chapman's Iliad to reinforce the poem. Scott pointed out the mistake of Cortez for Balboa—'Silent upon a peak in Darien”. “When an immortal like Keats makes a mistake,' he said, “that too is immortal.” I realized that the more famous you become, the more careful you have to be, not only in your work but in your private life. Scott might have given me an argument on this, as he gave Edmund Wilson in a letter in the early twenties: “Wasn't it Bernard Shaw who said that you've either got to be conventional in your work or in your private life or get into trouble?” He wanted me to compare several translations of Homer—Butcher and Lang, Chapman, Pope, and Butler. The authors used different names for the various gods and places, and to avoid confusion inmy mind as I skipped from one to the other, Scott wrote for my guidance:



Butler uses the Roman instead of the Greek names for characters. Thus:







Pallas Athene








Jove (Jupiter)


the same














Pope uses the Greek name for one character, the Roman for another. Athene is Pallas—Odysseus is Ulysses, etc.

Scott had met Gertrude Stein in Paris in 1925. He showed me a letter she had written him after the publication of The Great Gatsby, complimenting him for creating the world of the twenties as Thackeray had created his contemporary times in Vanity Fair. He had liked her. Zelda had not. Miss Stein never bothered much, Scott told me, with the wives of the authors who came to her home. Her companion, Alice B. Toklas, took care of the unfamous women. Zelda, with her compulsion to compete with Scott and her jealousy of his fame, had sulked on the way home after the first meeting and vowed she would not return to the house on the Rue de Fleurus, although she did. Miss Stein spent the Christmas of 1934 with the Fitzgeralds in America and offered to buy two of Zelda's paintings.

Swinburne, my teacher informed me, was considered shocking by the Victorians. Some of his poems shocked me in 1939. Of the four Swinburne poems on the list, Scott pencilled at the top of “Atalanta in Calydon': "The fullest and most talented use of beat in the English language.The dancingest poem.' And with “Laus Veneris': “Notice how this influenced Ernest Dowson. In this, read only as far as you like. When it was published (1868?), it was a great mid—Victorian shocker.”

My mind, so long sleeping, grasped the musical—sounding words and, after reading them several times, I could not forget them. A letter to Johnny early in the Second World War—he was serving again in the army: “… You would be amazed at how much poetry I know by heart. Keats, Shelley, Shakespeare, Browning, E. B. and R., Wordsworth, Coleridge. I know long verses from these poets. I recite them to myself on the way to the studios —and presto! I'm there.”

Scott admired Matthew Arnold and believed I would benefit from his critical essays on Keats and Wordsworth. He disagreed with the author's opinion that Milton would be remembered for the “simple sensuous impassioned poetry” (Milton's own phrase), and that Keats would be remembered because his poetry was “enchantingly sensuous”. On the margin against this, Scott wrote: “Later ages have entirely disagreed with this. It shows Victorian stiffness and primness in its most unattractive pose.” On the flyleaf of Arnold's Essays in Criticism, Second Series, “For Sheilah, with love (and annotations)', there were several of the latter. Scott put quotation marks around Arnold's “Yet I firmly believe that the poetical performance of Wordsworth is, after that of Shakespeare and Milton, of which all the world now recognizes the worth, undoubtedly the most considerable in our language from the Elizabethan age to the present time.' Scott's comment covered all the left side of the page:

This, with its following artillery is now a famous critical sentence. Why it is accepted with such authority is a mid—Victorian mystery. Yet—it has affected everyone. I place Keats above him, but I am such a personal critic and may be wrong because of the sincerity of this God damned sentence. F.S.F.

On the next page, with Arnold still giving the top palmof poetry to Wordsworth, Scott harrumphed on the right—hand margin:

Mister Arnold had not read Pushkin—nor seen evidently that Dostoyevsky (if he knew him) was a great poet. Later you must compare this essay with Wilson's in The Triple Thinkers.

Arnold, still praising Wordsworth on page 142 of my copy says in regard to the poet's morality: “The question how to live is in itself a moral idea.” This was underlined for my special attention by Scott. He pencilled on the left margin:

This is Arnold at his best, absolutely without preachment.

On page 145, concerning Epictetus, Scott made another note:

Now he [Arnold] becomes “moral”—nevertheless follow him because this is real thinking through.

At the bottom of the same page:

I'll bet Arnold got his idea for his poem about his father ['Rugby Chapel'] from this idea of Epictetus.

Scott admired Wordsworth, but not quite as much as Arnold had. Browning's poem “The Lost Leader', he told me, concerned Wordsworth's sell—out to what we now call The Establishment. I can still recite the verse beginning, “Just for a handful of silver he left us, Just for a riband to stick in his coat … They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver …” Wordsworth seemed to have sold himself cheaply—but didn't everyone, even Scott? Some of his early potboilers to make fast money for Zelda and the Pat Hobby stories that he wrote for Esquire for $200 each were not worthy of his talent. We all have our pieces of silver, I thought, remembering Johnny and me.

On the poetry list there were three poems by Wordsworth, but I asked him to add “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud', the first verse of which I had read at the orphanage. Now for the first time, I could feel the tremendous loneliness of the line “I wandered lonely as a cloud”.

Scott's title This Side of Paradise had been taken from the last two lines of Rupert Brooke's “Tiara Tahiti” —'Well, this side of Paradise, there's little comfort in the wise.” As a child, I had grieved with Brooke's premonition of his death: “If I should die, think only this of me; That there's some corner of a foreign field, That is forever England.” “The Great Lover', on page 134 of The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke bought me by Scott, still has the corner turned down for easy reference, a habit Scott tried to cure me of; to hear him remonstrate, you would think books were human. I loved the boast of the handsome Mr Brooke: “I have been so great a lover: filled my days So proudly with the splendour of Love's praise.” The sonnet “Oh, Death Will Find Me” was marked for me by Scott and I learned it although it was not on the poetry list. Neither was “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester”. I read and reread the poem until I too was sitting at the Cafe des Westens, Berlin, in May of 1913, yearning for England, where “the lilac is in bloom … the poppy and the pansy blow. …' The last line, “And is there honey still for tea?” is repeated in one of Zelda's poignant letters to Scott. Why is this line so sad?

Elizabeth and Robert Browning's juxtaposition with George Moore's novel Esther Waters, about the servant girl who struggled to raise her illegitimate son, puzzles me today. George Moore had a special attraction for Scott, and it could be explained by Max Beerbohm's description of him: “Of learning … he had no equipment at all; for him everything was discovery; and it was natural that Oscar Wilde should complain … George Moore is always conducting his education in public”—which, in a way, Scott did with his vociferous enthusiams. “Also he had no sense of proportion, but this defect was, in truth, a quality. Whenever he discovered some new master, that master seemed to him greater than any other: he would hear of no other. And it was just this frantic exclusiveness that made his adorations so fruitful. … The critic who justly admires all kinds of things simultaneously cannot loveany one of them … that kind of writer is often … very admirable. But it is the Moores who matter.” This could have been written about Scott Fitzgerald, who died only seven years after the author of Esther Waters. “Sheilo, this is the only decent edition in English and impossible to get so don't lend it. Love, Scott', my professor wrote on the flyleaf of my now battered copy. It is like hearing him speak.

I enjoyed the poems by Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess” and “The Lost Leader”, but, because I am inclined to be sentimental, I preferred Mrs Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese, especially the sonnet “How do I love thee, let me count the ways'; I loved Scott like that. Whenever I learned a sonnet I carefully counted the lines to be sure they totalled fourteen. They always did.

On looking over the curriculum, I was surprised to find only one poem by Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind”. How could this be? I wondered—until I realized that the rest of the selected Shelley poems, to be read with Maurois” Ariel: La Vie de Shelley, were on the bookmark Scott headed “How to Learn from a Frenchman about an exiled Englishman by an American.” The poems: “Ariel to Miranda'; “To the Moon'; “Best and brightest, come away'; “To a Skylark'; “The Indian Serenade'; “I dreamed that as I wandered by the way'; “Ozymandias'; 'Many a green isle needs must be'; “Music, when soft voices die'; “Now the last of many days'; “A Lament'; “One word is too often profaned'; “To Night'; 'Love's Philosophy'; “The sun is warm, the sky is clear'; “When the lamp is shattered'; “Come into the garden, Maud” (actually by Tennyson). And should I lose the bookmark, they were marked by Scott in the indexes of the Oxford Book of English Verse and Palgrave's Golden Treasury.

On the inside back cover of the Palgrave, Scott wrote for my amusement a tough—guy account of “Ode on a Grecian Urn”:

A Greek Cup They Dug Up. S'as good as new! And think how long it was buried. We could learn a lot of history from it —about the rubes in ancient history, more than from any poetry about them. Those pictures on it must tell a story about their Gods, maybe, or just ordinary people—something about life in the sticks at a place called Tempe. Or maybe it was in the Arcady Valley. These guys chasing the dames are either Gods or just ordinary people—it doesn't give the names on the cup. They sure are tearing after them and the dames are trying to get away. Look—this guy's got a flute, or maybe it's an oboe and they're going to town, etc. etc.

This was a father teasing his favourite child.

I was not as excited by Shelley's “Skylark”—'Shelley was a god to me once,” Scott had written Max Perkins—as I was by Keats's “Nightingale', which Scott recorded for me one evening. We were walking on Hollywood Boulevard, reciting the poem softly, and happened across a recording place. The original record, declaimed by Scott in deep professorial tones, is at Princeton.

Another Fitzgerald bookmark was headed “Suggestions About Byron”. “The excerpts from long poems are short because of the fine print,” he wrote. “I have never been able to admire but five or six of his short lyrics in comparison to his contemporaries.” With the Harold Nicolson biography I read Childe Harold, “Maid of Athens', “So We'll Go No More a—Roving', “She Walks in Beauty', and Don Juan.

I was glad to read about Lincoln again in Lord Charnwood's book, sliced in three, threaded through the Odyssey, Shelley, Walt Whitman, and Rupert Brooke's “Menelaus and Helen”. There was a book about Lincoln at the orphanage, From Log Cabin to White House. One of. Scott's great—aunts, Mrs Suratt, had been hanged for her part in the assassination. He was not proud of the relationship, and I was surprised that he told me. Where I came from in England, if any member of your family had been hanged, you simply did not talk about it, although I was aware that many of the great families in England and France had ancestors who had gone to the chopping block or the guillotine. If you happened to havean illegitimate child by a king—an unmarried mother in the East End was treated like a leper in my day—well, you became a countess and the child was made a duke or duchess. Reading of the great mistresses in College of One, I was fascinated to learn that an illiterate girl like Nell Gwynn could have two sons with Charles II and one would be the Duke of St Albans. This was a delightful aspect of learning, that you discovered it was possible to misbehave and be rewarded—but only if you associated with aristocrats. No wonder they were so relaxed. They were rarely punished.

My Lincoln was peppered with comments from Scott. When Charnwood compared Jefferson disadvantageously to Hamilton, Scott pencilled between brackets: “This is the Tory Charnwood speaking.” There was a message to me at the bottom of the next page, again in reference to Charnwood's disparagement of Jefferson:

He means that from 1770—1820, our legislation was more progressive than yours, but that later it bogged down—i.e. when Dickens paid his visit.

After another attack:

The above is unfair to Jefferson. The great American line: Washington—Jefferson—Jackson—Lincoln would have been impossible without Jefferson, the French rationalist link.

Scott underlined a reference to Eli Whitney, who had contributed to unemployment by inventing the first cotton gin during a vacation from Yale. “You see,” Scott commented, “it's always Taft or Don Stewart or Archie MacLeish (Yale men all) who cause trouble!” Scott, underlining compromise (in reference to Henry Clay), brought it into current politics. “Compromise is the word Willkie associated with him on the Information program.” And, on the following page:

This attack on Calhoun is excellent—I fully agree with him and concur with the more generalized statements about the American Period temperament at this point.

Commenting on Charnwood, page 57:

Here we have irony and condescension—and a certain simple misunderstanding thru distance.

Scott sometimes used the films we saw to reinforce a historical lesson. In my Lincoln, underlining 'almost boundless western theatre” concerning the Civil War, Scott wrote : “Do you remember Quantrell's Irregular Cavalry we saw in the picture, who operated as far west as New Mexico?” Whenever he could get in a bit about his family he did. On page 280, underlining that General Grant had worked in his father's leather store “in Illinois and in gloomy pursuit of intoxication', he noted at the bottom: “In Galena, Illinois, then thought the coming city. My grandfather, a young Irishman, lived there in 1850 before going to St Paul.” And on page 394 :'My father marched with the rebels to Washington and back.” The pencilled comments were Scott's method of making history alive for me, and also to give himself a sense of belonging, through his reading and through his family, to the “dark fields of the republic … borne ceaselessly back into the past.”


Milton's “L'Allegro” was moved up to give a change of pace from Lincoln and Walt Whitman. I found Milton oppressive; Paradise Lost, a huge battered book with heavily embossed brown covers—where had Frances found it?—and inside, terrifying angels of Hell illustrated by Gustave Dore. Whitman's role was to reinforce my knowledge of and love for Lincoln. Glancing through the huge Leaves of Grass, I was relieved that only two poems were marked: “O Captain! My Captain!” and 'When Lilacs Last”. I liked them well enough, but preferred Edgar Lee Masters' poignant poem on Ann Rutledge, the young girl who had died before she could marry Lincoln: “Bloom forever, O Republic, from the dust of my bosom.”

Shakespeare as a poet was difficult. With Scott's help and with deep concentration on the four prescribed sonnets, I understood and loved them and was able to agree with him that this was the best poetry of all, sometimes, not always, even better than Keats. Encouraged by my enthusiasm, Scott revised the curriculum to include passages from Julius Caesar and Henry IV (I).

The poems and plays on the list were a growing delight: Blake's “The Tiger'; I can never forget John Donne's “The Ecstasy”—'Where, like a pillow on a bed, a pregnant bank swelled up”—and his “Song” “… teach me to hear mermaids singing.” I was delighted to recognize so many lines from Donne in T. S. Eliot—'I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.” Eliot was, in Scott's boundless praise for what he considered good, “The greatest living poet in any language”. He had read The Great Gatsby three times, Eliot had informed Scott, adding that the book was the first step forward American fiction had taken since Henry James. To have Eliot praise his work so highly sent Scott bounding to the top rung of happiness. Fitzgerald was not like his literary conscience, Edmund Wilson, who has never, it seems to me, judged bis own work by the praise or lack of it from others. Scott needed to be told he was a good writer. “They ganged up on me after This Side of Paradise,' he explained, “but the same critics not only praised Gatsby, but some, in retrospect, the first book as well.” Scott was still talking in 1940 of his meeting with Eliot in the mid—thirties at the home of the Turnbulls in Maryland. He had wanted to impress the poet with his knowledge and appreciation of his work. As always, he was intimidated by the proximity to an idol, but he insisted on reading a section of The Waste Land—very movingly, according to Andrew Turnbull. This new kind of conversational verse was as interesting to me as it had been for Scott.

To my astonishment, because I assumed they would be too intellectual for me, I enjoyed Edmund Wilson's essays in The Triple Thinkers and Axel's Castle and Mary Colum's From These Roots. In this Scott, underlining Longfellow's “A boy's will is the wind's will, and thethoughts of youth are long, long thoughts', commented, 'My God! His best line.” It was exciting for me to read examples of Verlaine and Rimbaud in French, in the Colum and Wilson books, with the English translations underneath. Scott had his own translation for me of Rimbaud's 'Voyelles” in my copy of Poesies:

A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue vowels
Some day I'll tell where your genesis lies
A—black velvet swarms of flies
Buzzing above the stench of voided bowels,
A gulf of shadow; E—where the iceberg rushes
White mists, tents, kings, shady strips
I—purple, spilt blood, laughter of sweet lips
In anger—or the penitence of lushes
U—cycle of time, rhythm of seas
Peace of the paws of animals and wrinkles
On scholars' brows, strident tinkles
On the Supreme trumpet note, peace
of the spheres, of the angels. O equals
X ray of her eyes; it equals Sex.

I memorized them all, some in English, some in French, for sheer intellectual joy. Verlaine's 'Il pleure dans mon coeur comme il pleut sur la ville' and the four stanzas from Rimbaud's 'Bateau Ivre' ending with 'O, que ma quille eclate! O, que faille a la mer!' I walked around declaiming the lines as fervently as I had recited poetry and songs at the orphanage. And Eliot's “I grow old … I grow old … I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled', and “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea … Till human voices wake us and we drown.” And “Of lonely men in shirt—sleeves, leaning out of windows.” The imagery affected me as though I had been blind and was seeing for the first time. At the back of From These Roots, Scott pencilled:

Poe influenced Baudelaire (184)

 influenced Rimbaud

influenced Lafargue (339)

influenced Eliot.

Verlaine and Rimbaud had led disreputable lives, Scott told me. Verlaine had quarrelled with Rimbaud, his disciple, and shot him. He was imprisoned for a year and a half. “Rimbaud deliberately experienced the worst kind of dissipation. He took opium, hoping to break the barriers of human limitation,” Scott said. To write a completely uninhibited type of poetry, Rimbaud wallowed in the depths of degradation. “But only as a young man. Quite early in life he abandoned poetry completely and led a respectable life as a white—slave trader in Africa.” I was never quite sure when Scott was teasing me. It seemed that so many geniuses drank or took drugs. Edgar Allan Poe had died a dreadful death in Baltimore at the age of forty, 'after,” Scott informed me, “he was picked up by the police in drunken delirium.” I did not dare say it, but I hoped this would never happen to Scott. I was curious about what drunks actually saw when they were having DTs. Scott assured me solemnly he had seen pink rats that were as big as elephants. I did not care for the poetry of Poe; it was too full of gloom and death and ghosts and decaying houses and I did not memorize any of the poems. Scott's father had introduced him to Poe's poetry when he was a small boy, with “The Raven” and 'The Bells”. In This Side of Paradise, when Amory meets Eleanor he is reciting Poe's “Ulalume” while she is singing a song based on a Verlaine poem. Scott, who disliked poverty, agreed with Poe's statement that he would not have the hero of “The Raven” in squalid circumstances because “poverty is commonplace and contrary to the idea of Beauty”. It wasn't the actual money of the rich that appealed to Scott, although he was always in need of it, but the way people like the Gerald Murphys used it, to give grace to their surroundings.

In Axel's Castle, in Wilson's chapter on symbolism, I memorized the line Scott had underlined, that one of the principal aims of symbolism was to approximate theindefiniteness of music. You find yourself swaying to such a line. I did not care that these poets were symbolists or romantics, although I memorized this fact against the day of the examinations. What poetry was called didn't matter to me. I was interested in what it was, and in the lives of Scott's great poets, who, I am sure, could never be dislodged by passing fashion.

We discussed W. H. Auden and some of the modern poets, although Auden was not in The New Poetry, which Scott gave me in 1940. “Remember,” he wrote on the flyleaf, “this poetry dates from a quarter of a century ago —some of it as far back as 1900. The "New Poetry Movement" started before the rise of prose fiction here and really faded in the 20s—it had done its work well though as this book proves.' Rupert Brooke and Willa Cather were represented; also T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy, Joyce Kilmer ('Trees'), Vachel Lindsay, Amy Lowell; John Masefield, England's durable Poet Laureate; a large slice of Edgar Lee Masters; Edna St Vincent Millay, whom I had met with Deems Taylor in Connecticut; Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg, Louis Untermeyer, and a host of less familiar names. Except for Eliot, I could never be as drawn to them, or even to Yeats or Dylan Thomas, as to Keats and Shakespeare and Shelley and Wordsworth, who were so much longer ago.

Next Chapter 8

Published as College Of One by Sheilah Graham (New York: Viking, 1967).