For many of us, it is difficult to believe that 1996 marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Class of 1917, the man who, more than any other, defined the Jazz Age of the 1920s. Fitzgerald seems far more contemporary than the centenary would suggest.
Fitzgerald's papers are housed in the Libraries’ Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, as are those of his wife, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald; they will be the subject of a major exhibition opening on 5 May 1996. In this discussion of the Fitzgerald legacy, Professor Roche focusses on the recently published book by Scott and Zelda’s granddaughter, and cites recent additions to the collections that illuminate Zelda's hospital stays.
My title is taken from the brilliant tide of Eleanor Lanahan’s recent biography of her mother, Scottie: The Daughter of… The daughter in question here was the daughter of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and the story that Lanahan tells is the story of the daughter of—by the daughter of the daughter of. How does one grow up being the daughter of, or even the daughter of the daughter of?
The conundrum probes deeply into the fabric of American social life and into the genre of the Bildungsroman. Nineteenth-century Anglophone literature rediscovered the orphan: Dickens’s Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, the Bronte sisters’ Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and on this side of the Adantic Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and a long line of adolescent savants, which stems, I suppose, from Wordsworth’s most terrifying prophecy: The child is father of the man. We have become victims of the Anxiety of Influence. After Holden Caulfield we have had a different strain of damaged child, for the most part biographies by daughters of famous film stars: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich. Lanahan’s biography falls into that category with two important differences: first of all, it is the story of the daughter of by the daughter of, and second, it is not a story of blame. It is a chronicle of how Scottie—Frances Scott Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith—became Jay Gatsby, with all the brilliance and sadness of that incarnation.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, the herald and poet of the Jazz Age, died in 1940. He knew nothing of Pearl Harbor or Cold War or Vietnam. He died with an innocence not granted to any of us who were alive on December 7th, 1941, or have been born since. America changed on that day, and we have been finding out how much we have changed in every year as we approach the second millennium. Today, we can see that Fitzgerald not only defined an age but put an end to a particular configuration of American hope and self-knowledge. After World War II what could Gatsby do? Could he have entered the fiction of Norman Mailer or Ayn Rand? The answer is quite simple: no more than he could have entered the world of Sinclair Lewis.
With the possible exceptions of Hawthorne and Melville, Fitzgerald is the most Romantic of American writers. Those curtains billowing in Daisy Buchanan’s Long Island living room come from Xanadu, so
Weave a circle round him thrice
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honeydew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
After this, what do you do with the visitor from Porlock? Lanahan’s book is about that exigency and how one family escaped that spell with intelligence, decorum, and style.
The story that Lanahan tells falls into three acts: Scottie’s birth in 1921, childhood, the Ethel Walker School and Vassar; marriage to Jack Lanahan, and the four children; divorce, remarriage, and death in 1986. Yet behind this almost canonical schema of a Seven Sisters graduate of the middle years of this century runs an almost Wagnerian impetus to impress, to do, to succeed. Beginning with the Wotan-like letters from her father during her time at Vassar, one wonders how Scottie survived the impact of a controlling, jealous, despairing and absent father.
One such letter from Scott, when Mademoiselle asked Scottie to write an article on modern youth, brought a tirade that is heart-rending even today, and one cannot help seeing a replay of the Scott-Zelda conflicts about Zelda’s writing career:
I grant you the grace of having been merely a dupe, as I warned you you would be—for I cannot believe that you pursued your education yourself while I went around to the speakeasies. There’s nothing to do about it now, but in future please call yourself by any name that doesn’t sound like mine in your writings. You must have wanted fifty dollars awfully bad to let them print such a trite and perverted version of your youth. (pp. 104-105)2
Lesson One in being “the daughter of.”
The second act begins with Scottie’s marriage to Jack Lanahan in February 1943. Scott is already dead, Zelda hospitalized. Scottie and Jack have four children: Thomas Addison Lanahan (“Tim,” born 1946), Eleanor Anne Lanahan (“Bobbie,” born 1948, author of her mother’s biography), Samuel Jackson Lanahan, Jr. (“Jackie,” born 1950), and Cecilia Scott Lanahan, who is the only child still called by her given name (born 1951). With the family’s move to Washington, Scottie genuinely began her Gatsby role to win over the East Egg of Washington: parties, annual musical plays, articles, short stories, newspaper columns. The Beautiful People are reborn, and Scottie gets caught up in the maelstrom of creating career and family. Unlike her parents’ splashing in the fountain at the Plaza or their European frivolities, Scottie’s “events” are politically oriented, in particular toward liberal Democratic causes, in which she was successful even though her candidates and family were not. Lanahan never complains about her mother’s divided allegiance, although the constant flip-flop in the book between Washington event and family problem suggest to an outside reader that happier adjustments might have been made. It is a credit to Lanahan’s skill and compassion as a writer that she can make us continue our interest in her mother’s life, when almost every impulse in the reader is to get on the phone to tell Scottie what a mess she is making. We as readers are saved from this bizarre reaction, first by historical events, and second by having lived through the dysfunctionality of American families in the Sixties. The failure of liberal political activities in that period sustains Lanahan’s loving allegiance to her mother and to her causes and makes of the story she tells of her brothers’ disaffection and rebellion (as well as the suicide of older brother “Tim”) just another part of the unhappiness that enwrapped us as Americans.
Nonetheless, Lanahan’s story is not about just every family in America in the Sixties; it is about “the daughter of” the most glamorous American couple of the Twenties, and, even more to the point, the daughter of the author of the most important American novel of the first half of this century. The Great Gatsby, virtually unavailable, unread at Fitzgerald’s death in 1940, has since that time been read by more American students than any other American novel. As well it should! Gatsby’s story reenacts our romantic and grasping past, and, unfortunately, perhaps our future. It is incantatory in its power to make us believe in Gatsby’s dream and devastating in its dismissal of our venial velleities. It has become us.
I do not want to discuss Act III of Lanahan’s book. It is there to be read, and read it should be, for it takes us into the lives of “the children of” as I know them today, and I don’t want to gossip, or make them unnecessarily proud of my admiration for them. I would rather speak of the spectres of this book, Scott and Zelda. Lanahan tells an extremely revealing anecdote:
[Scottie] never suggested that I read any of his books. My introduction to works by or about F. Scott Fitzgerald was precipitated by an embarrassing conversation at a dinner party. I was eighteen years old, and seated next to Geoffrey Wolff, who would later write The Duke of Deception but was then reviewing books for The Washington Post and teaching novels from the twenties and thirties at the Maryland Institute of Art. Geoffrey said something about how The Great Gatsby, more than any other novel of its era, had essentially lost nothing with the passage of time, Didn’t I think so?
My face burned, and I tensed in alarm. Dinner had barely begun. “I don’t know,” I choked, praying for deliverance. Even to acknowledge my relationship to my grandparents implied that I must have a special store of knowledge—which I clearly didn’t. After all these years, Geoffrey has no particular memory of the event, but his casual question compelled me to sneak to the book stacks at Sarah Lawrence College to read as much as I could. (pp. 13-14)
As a former teacher of Geoffrey Wolff here at Princeton, I can well believe that his smiling and (no doubt) generous question could put panic in the heart, as he often did in the heart of a first-year instructor in a preceptorial about which I knew much less than I should. But Lanahan’s encounter is extraordinary. Scottie had made of her parents what Gatsby had made of his forebears, a cipher. Scottie here was only following the lead of the rest of America. No one read Fitzgerald (except for Geoffrey Wolff and all those of his generation who were interested in American fiction). Why the blackout for the family?
Scottie had had to put her parents on hold to get her own life started. She was nineteen when her father died and only eight years older when her mother burned to death. She was already the mother of two. But the spectres began to take another shape, and “the daughter of’ had to learn a new role to perform for her parents, that of expert, possessor of all knowledge of the famous pair. The first reincarnation of the spectres came in the person of Arthur Mizener, Princeton Ph.D. and professor of English at Cornell University. His 1950 biography of Fitzgerald, The Far Side of Paradise, initiated the academic world to the Fitzgerald legend and began the canonization of Fitzgerald as a writer.
Other spectres immediately arose, in the shape of family members, such as Aunt Rosalind Smith, Zelda’s sister, who did not share Mizener’s view of the legend and spoke her dissatisfaction with frankness and hurt, not to “the daughter of,” but to Jack Lanahan, the husband of “the daughter of,” as if Scottie were some kind of moral imbecile to have pointed out the ghosts in the attic.3 Lanahan quotes no objections from the Fitzgerald side of the family; in fact, after the marriage of Scottie and Jack we hear nothing of the midwestern father’s family.
For Scottie this new acclaim for her father brought another career, a cottage industry, of which she was sole mistress. Lanahan has a wonderful paragraph at the beginning of her book, which shows another side to Scottie’s blackout of family history:
My mother was a spirited pack rat, and the number of papers she had accumulated in her house in Montgomery was truly extraordinary. All four bedrooms—one was uninhabitable—were stacked with newspapers; and so many papers were piled on the upstairs sunporch as to render it impenetrable. Clandestine filing cabinets, stuffed with clippings and camouflaged with chintz, served as end tables all over the house. They contained material that she had planned to use as background for a novel, as well as clippings about her parents, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. And there were clippings about us children, old playbills, magazine articles and ancient camp brochures—not to mention several drawers of photographs, most of them duplicates of ones she had already had framed and that sat on friends’ dressers and mantelpieces across the country. (pp. 1-2)
Scottie may not have spoken, but she saved, like some sibylline prophetess in the age of print. This trove became the stuff from which she ruled her cottage industry, most of which has come to the Princeton University Library, a droll story already too well known to repeat here.4
During the years when Scottie was becoming that “spirited pack rat,” there was also a concomitant development in academe of hunters of literary pack rats. One of the finest was my freshman roommate at Yale, Matthew Bruccoli, whose devotion to Fitzgerald in 1949, even before Mizener’s biography had appeared, was total and has remained so up to the present moment. I recall the day when I arrived at my freshman “dormitory,” a World War II barracks building, with plasterboard walls and bunk beds, on Whitney Avenue, at the top end of Humphrey Street. I was a town boy, native of New Haven, and I lived as a child on Humphrey Street, where I had been allowed to give a lump of sugar to an old horse who was stabled at the top of that hill, down which I sledded whenever the snow was right and my parents thought I would not be hurt. But instead of Rosebud I found Matthew Bruccoli, a still babyfat-plump, pugnacious, and domineering challenge, with a kind heart. I am certain that Matt asked me, within the first fifteen minutes we knew each other, what I thought of Fitzgerald. I had not thought very much about the translator of the Rubaiyat and knew no other Fitzgerald. In spite of Matt’s eagerness to proselytize, I resisted reading this other Fitzgerald until I was forced to prepare Gatsby for a precept in 1961. Shall we call it stubbornness or simply deferred pleasure? In any case it was my loss.
The point is not my ignorance, but the peculiar state of Fitzgerald’s reputation in 1949. I did not know him; Matt was even then more intent on the career he has pursued with spectacular success than he knew at the time. His friendship and association with Scottie during the years that she was discovering the value of her parents’ treasure-trove must have been of enormous support in dealing with the hard-nosed vagaries of the academic world. A triumph that Scottie did not consider as her own triumph was her successful implementation of her parents’ legacy for the use of the scholarly community. I remember clearly during my early years as a young assistant professor at Princeton Andrew Turnbull and Nancy Milford working on Fitzgerald in the Rare Book Room, as we used to call it. For me, working on Edmund Spenser, it was very exciting to get to know these scholars working on “the Moderns.” Scottie made all this possible.
She could not have known, and would not have suspected, that her mother’s papers, given as part of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers to Princeton, would take on such importance in the latter part of the twentieth century with the growth of feminist studies. Scottie’s Aunt Rosalind’s fears about Arthur Mizener’s account of the relationship between Scott and Zelda as a put-down of Zelda is being constantly reassessed as more accurate medical records have been added to the Princeton collection. One such folder, recently made available to the public, contains a number of wires sent by Scott to the hospital. One, in particular, conveys the pathos and unintentional humor of the Beautiful People in trouble. A wire from Zelda in Craig House to Scott, 12 March 1934:
Would Mrs Owens pack all my clothes, including riding things, tennis and golf clubs. First I want my oil paints from Hopkins. Also text books on art and the Dante. Love and thanks. This is a lovely place.
Scott wires back the same day:
PLEASE WRITE SPECIFICALLY WHAT YOU WANT, THAT IS PRACTICALLY WHAT TO SEND. ALL OUR LOVE. SCOTT
Scott’s financial sense balks at crating up and paying for expensive items to be sent expensively. This can only happen in families who can afford to buy golf clubs and a riding habit in the first place. The point is, of course, that Zelda was being well cared-for in her incarceration. She golfed, rode, and painted. A typed schedule of her daily routine, Monday through Friday, at Craig House, exists in the same file:
Afternoons to be occupied by outdoor activities—golf, tennis, swimming, riding
Prepare for dinner
Bridge, drawing, painting, reading
To room and bed
Schedule not followed Saturday nor Sunday
On the other hand, the buck stopped at Scott, and when he discovered that he could no longer keep Zelda at Craig House, he was forced to write the following pathetic request for leniency, dated 14 May 1934:
When I first put my wife in your care I was under the impression that two months might see the end of this phase of her sickness. Your letter of three weeks ago saying that I must count on several months more at least before she would be able to return to normal life gave me pause. I was uncertain at first what to do, but meanwhile the failure of any moving picture rights on my novel to materialize convinced me that I could not afford Craig House for such a long period.5
He has found that Sheppard Pratt in Baltimore will cost him only half as much, although he is appreciative of the excellent care Zelda has been given at Craig House. And then the pathetic postscript:
P. S. Will it be convenient for you if I pay $400.00 of my balance immediately, that is, before my wife leaves the clinic, $400.00 more [one] week after that, and what balance remains [one] week after that? I would appreciate your courtesy in granting this extension.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Scott’s side of the ledger has been emphasized, perhaps too much, at the expense of the recipients of Scott’s belabored life. Lanahan quotes a letter from Zelda to Scott, in which she takes the side of her seven teen-year-old daughter Scottie against an incursion of paternal advice:
I do not criticize your letter: but I believe that the only right of a parent to share his tragedies with children under age is of a most factual nature—how much money there is and the technical name of his illness is about the only fallibilities that debutantes are equipped to encompass… and it doesn’t do any good to let them know that one is harassed. Nobody is better aware than I am, and, I believe, so is Scottie, of your generosity, and the seriousness of your constant struggle to provide the best for us. I am most deeply grateful to you for the sustained and tragic effort that you have made to keep us going… I wasn’t critical, only trying to remind you of the devastating ravages that a sense of insecurity usually manages to establish when theres nothing to do about it. (pp. 106-107)
This is Southern majesty. It has the ring of Greek tragedy: no recriminations, just the etched insights of the hurt inflicted.
The spectre of Zelda haunted Scottie more than the spectre of Scott. She moved back to Zelda’s hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, after divorcing her second husband, Grove Smith, and died thirteen years later. Scottie was only too aware of the struggles that her father endured for the sake of her mother and herself; he always told her. Zelda, powerless herself, could see beyond the practical effects of their desperate situation, and at least in this letter, could interject the needed note of compassion.
Scottie’s relation to her parents is too complicated to unravel in this article, but the reason for the “blackout” to the family about those famous parents I think I can explain from two passages in Lanahan’s book. The first is a long quotation from Scottie’s introduction to a collection of short stories by both her parents, never before published, called Bits of Paradise. After a gracious compliment to the editing industry of Matthew Bruccoli, Scottie writes:
…it is I who claim the credit for the title. It’s a bit corny, but then so are some of the things in these stories, which have some mighty unbelievable heroes and heroines. The only way you’ll get through them all, I think, is to imagine my father and mother as two bright meteors streaking across a starry sky back in the days when wars and moons seemed equally far away, and then these stories as a sort of fall-out. For they all have one thing in common: a sense of breathlessness, as if even their authors still were gasping at the wonders glimpsed as they flew past Heaven.
The title has two even more personal meanings for me, however. First, it brings to mind my mother’s description of my father in her novel, Save Me the Waltz, which tells the story of their romance better than anything else which has been written: “There seemed to be some heavenly support beneath his shoulder blades that lifted his feet from the ground in ecstatic suspension, as if he secretly enjoyed the ability to fly but was walking as a compromise to convention.”
Secondly… This is the last addition to the Scott and Zelda story as told by those who lived it, and for this reason I find it a little sad, like an attic which has been emptied of all its secret treasures. (pp. 406-407)
Scottie’s pride in her tide, Bits of Paradise, already shows her view of her parents as a fallen Eden. They are two meteors streaking across the skies in a time before World War II, atomic bombs, and moonlandings. The stories are a “bit corny,” because they do not know the realities of the post-War political world that “the daughter of’ inherited; hence these stories are a “sort of fall-out” from the meteoric career and destruction of her parents. I think that the word fallout (now unhyphenated) did not become popular until after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it must be remembered that that event destroyed not only the bombs but most of the people on the ground. Scottie is telling us that she feels the pain of reassembling these Bits of Paradise after the Fall-out. She continues her introspective view of her title with two telling examples of her “distancing” her parents.
First, she cannot describe those two meteors herself. She lets Zelda’s dancerly view of her father’s heaven-supported suspension and propulsion do the job for her own feelings toward him. Second, with the publication of these stories the legend is complete, finished, “as told by those who lived it,” and Scottie, “a little sad,” converts herself into that “attic which has been emptied of all its secret treasures.” It is, of course, her house, her attic, her parents, but she never interposes herself as a part of her parents’ legend, as a part of their life, as their daughter.
It was in this mood of sentimental leave-taking that I went up to my real-life attic to see what I could find in the way of tangible mementoes still lurking about among the camp trunks and the children’s bird cages.
Going into her real-life attic, she looks for mementoes of her parents in her children’s trunks and bird cages. She has jumped a generation—herself—in this introduction, and puts a period to her involvement because the attic has really been moved to Princeton. Scottie was incredibly clever in diverting attention from her own involvement in the legend. “I find it a little sad” is all that we will know.
The second clue to the “blackout” is a quotation from Lanahan’s moving account of the family’s reaction to her brother Tim’s suicide and burial:
Except for my father [Jack Lanahan], we all returned to lives in which none of our friends had known Tim, and it was easy not to speak of him at all. But like a building, our family had collapsed, and like stunned disaster victims, we would spend years silently, separately, sifting the rubble for clues. (pp. 416-417)
Except for the meteors, Lanahan’s metaphors subscribe her mother’s introduction to Bits of Paradise. The children of “the daughter of” continue the psychological tradition of the family: silence.
But this is only the conclusion of Tim’s death. What did Scottie do when she heard the news of her son’s death in 1973? Jack Lanahan heard the news first and had to find her at some party in Montgomery to tell her, just as Harold Ober had had to seek her out at a party to tell her of her father’s death thirty-three years before.
A memorial service was planned for the next day in a small chapel of the National Cathedral. Cecilia and I met our mother at her rented house in Georgetown. The first order of business, she said, was that Cecilia and I must have our dolls repaired. For almost two decades they had sat in the attic with ignominious haircuts, and it was time to get them fixed. She did not want to discuss Tim. We drove with our dolls, which she had miraculously preserved through our many moves, to get new wigs at a doll hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. It was a gray day. We found the shop, and delivered the dolls. Subsequently the shop closed without notice, and we never saw our dolls again. (p. 414)
Scottie’s attempt to infantilize her grown daughters is astounding, and her daughters’ acquiescence to this blatant denial of her son’s death is a tribute to their love for their powerful mother. Nonetheless, Lanahan plays her trump by telling us that they never saw the dolls again. Throat-shrinking!
Scottie then dragged the daughters to look at new houses, daughters silently weeping, mother interested in each new prospect. The next day she spent looking at more houses with a friend and calling embassies to find out how to say “goodby” correctly in French, German, Gaelic, and Vietnamese, the languages her son spoke. In the midst of all this madness, Lanahan plays another trump card:
At the memorial service, as part of a short tribute, she said a respectful farewell to Tim in all the languages he had spoken. (p. 415)
I am glad that Lanahan did not quote Scottie’s tribute, even if it is extant, because nothing could top the restrained pathos of her account of her mother’s bathetic behavior or make us understand more fully why Lanahan wrote this book.
Dolls, houses, foreign languages, and a dead son. Scottie was seeking new attics to fill and she wanted to speak to her son in the languages he knew in order to be able to say goodby correctly. Why those dolls? Let us begin with the fact that Scottie had thrown all her allegiance to the Sayre side of her family in Montgomery. It was there that she wanted support for those shoulder blades after the failure of her second marriage. I would like to think this bizarre behavior was a reversion to the early love from Zelda, demonstrated in the wondrous and magical art created for her young daughter. Lanahan quotes from her mother’s unfinished memoir:
Though it was my father who had the most fun playing with my Christmas toys, it was my mother who had the most fun making them. One year it was a doll house, which was an almost exact copy of the house we lived in, including the curtains, paintings, and slip covers on the sofas. Another year it was a cardboard coach of Louis XIV, containing paper dolls of the king and such dashing members of his court as the three musketeers, complete with ruffled and lacy dress-up costumes. (p. 33)
There were also the delightful paper dolls of Mommie and Daddie and Scottie in their underwear, or Goldilocks and the three bears or the Alice in Wonderland series, and much more to enchant the heart of a young child. Images stick, and Zelda began making paper dolls again when Tim was born. In the last years of Scottie’s life, those images stuck even more. They were the glue that kept her going when she learned of Tim’s death. Dolls are always siblings—usually for the children, but in this case the dolls of the Lanahan daughters were a substitute for the dead Tim, not for the daughters but for the mother. Fix them, and he will be fine. Scottie had ceased to be Gatsby and became Zelda, mending dolls, holding on. Scottie, at the time of Tim's death, reverted to her mother's gifts to her and played through her regrets for her lost son by having the dolls of her daughters fixed. It is a horrific charade, but it worked for her.
In the early part of this essay I spoke about the spectres of Scott and Zelda that besieged Scottie, and one of the few spectres that remain for us today is the art work of Zelda. It has not yet been acknowledged as the genuine accomplishment it is, but it is all that remains in whatever attic we spectre-hunters of academe can scour to find out more about the legend of Scott and Zelda. I think the pictures and paper dolls have something to do with Scottie’s response to Tim’s death because they have something to do with Scottie’s response to her mother’s love for her and to her mother as artist. These pictures are the Rosebud of Scottie’s life, but fortunately for us they have not all been destroyed as Rosebud was in Citizen Kane.
Zelda’s painting is a constant throughout her life,6 much more important than her intrigue with the dance, of which we have no real record, and her writing. It was part of her therapy and considered of sufficient merit by Scott that he arranged an exhibition of her paintings and drawings at the Gary Ross Gallery in New York to coincide with the publication party for Tender Is the Night in April 1934. It was not a success, and Lanahan adds:
Zelda attended the opening with a private nurse from the sanatarium [Craig House]. The Murphys, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, and Maxwell Perkins were all there, and although the Murphys and Parker bought paintings, they have all vanished. (p. 66)
The spectral presence of the art work today is more than matched by the spectral disappearance of so many of the paintings. She gave many to Scottie and to her friends, and it is alleged that her sister Rosalind destroyed many on her death, whether through jealousy or an attack of housewifery. Zelda herself destroyed some in a fit of despair or largesse. Having heard that the director of Alabama's Federal Arts Program of the wpa had managed to install twelve artists at Maxwell Field Army Base but was unable to supply them with artists’ materials,
…she invited Smith to the garage behind her mother’s house, which she used as a studio. She insisted on donating a great number of paintings, done on the finest linen, and made Smith promise that the paintings would never be shown. She wanted the men to paint over her scenes of Paris or to remove the paint entirely. Smith respected her wishes, and the paintings were never seen again. (p. 156)
Throughout the years there has been sporadic interest in the paintings. In 1974 the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts put on a ret- rospective exhibition which later travelled to Mobile, and in 1980 the National Portrait Gallery in Washington mounted an exhibition entitled “Zelda and Scott: The Beautiful and the Damned,” focusing on portraits of the Fitzgeralds and their friends and including Zelda’s jacket design for The Beautiful and Damned as well as some of the paper dolls.7 In 1996 there will be a large show, “Zelda by Herself,” which will contain sixty of the paintings, watercolor and oil, as well as thirty of the paper-doll constructions, virtually all the works that remain. It is a travelling show, which will open at the Fleming Museum in Burlington, Vermont [9 January-12 March 1996), Evergreen House in Baltimore (20 March-6 May 1996), Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (21 July-8 September 1996) and Parco Gallery in Tokyo (November-December 1996), unfortunately not at Princeton. A catalogue of the exhibition will be published by Abrams.
Scott, Zelda, and Scottie are now gone, all earlier than the biblical three-score years and ten. It is to Lanahan’s credit and love that she has added her mother to the Fitzgerald legend. Scottie deserves to be there because she rounds out the story of Scott and Zelda because she is “the daughter of,” and what became of her is an equally important part of the continuing story of what it means to be American. Scottie will never be so famous as her parents, but that does not matter any more than the fact that not too many years ago very few Americans read the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Americans, I hope, are still capable of learning even painful truths about themselves, and enduring. Eleanor Lanahan, daughter of Frances Scott Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith, has bravely and beautifully told us the story of her mother and what it cost to be “the daughter of.” Another episode in what it means to be American. Floreat domus!
Book: Eleanor Lanahan, Scottie: The Daughter of… The Life of Frances Scott Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995)
2 In his earlier wire, urging her not to write the piece: “Dearest Scottie, That Mademoiselle business is a way of getting something from you for fifty dollars that they would have to pay ten times that sum for me. I have to make a living for us all and you must not write them anything without first submitting it to me. It might be an unconscious duplication of a thought of mine. If they had asked for something about Vassar that would have been your business. Love = Daddy.” (Scottie: The Daughter of, p. 103)
3 See the letter on pp. 184-186 of Scottie: The Daughter of…
4 See Matthew J. Bruccoli, “Where They Belong: The Acquisition of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers,” Princeton University Library Chronicle 50, no. 1 (Autumn 1988), pp. 30-37.
5 Craig House Files, C 745. Manuscripts Division, Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Libraries, Gift of Dr. Jonathan Slocum, Class of 1936.
6 There is a color portfolio of paintings by Zelda Fitzgerald following p. 190 in The Romantic Egoists: A Pictorial Autobiography from the Scrapbooks and Albums of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli, Scottie Fitzgerald Smith, and Joan P. Kerr (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974).
7 In the catalogue of the 1974 exhibition, Scottie wrote: “I was surprised, when Women’s Lib finally became a part of our national consciousness, to find that my mother was considered by many to be one of the more flamboyant symbols of The Movement. To a new generation, the generation of her grandchildren, she was the classic ‘put down’ wife, whose efforts to express her artistic nature were thwarted by a typically male chauvinist husband (except that authors are the worst kind, since they spend so much time around the house). Finally, in a sort of ultimate rebellion, she withdrew altogether from the arena; it’s a script that reads well, and will probably remain a part of the 'Scott and Zelda’ mythology forever, but it is not, in my opinion, accurate.” (p. 434)
Published in The Princeton University Library Chronicle magazine (Volume LVII, Number 2, Winter 1996).