Scott Fitzgerald’s Reading
by John Kuehl

Most American critics, from the publication of This Side of Paradise in 1920 through the Fitzgerald revival in the 4o’s and 50’s, agreed that Scott Fitzgerald, though possessed of a great natural talent, was lacking in intellectual ability. In 1925 Edmund Wilson said: “He has been given imagination without intellectual control of it; he has been given a desire for beauty without an aesthetic ideal; and he has been given a gift for expression without many ideas to express.”1 Two decades later Alfred Kazin wrote that Fitzgerald’s “actual intelligence was never equal to his tallent.”2 Arthur Mizener declared in 1949 that Fitzgerald “had almost no capacity for abstract ideas or arguments.”3 Malcolm Cowley went further in 1951: “He was not a student, for all the books he read; not a theoretician and perhaps one should flatly say, not a thinker.”4 Ten years earlier Glenway Wescott had been even more drastic: “Aside from his literary talent—literary genius, self-taught—I think Fitzgerald must have been the worst educated man in the world.”5

One critical voice alone was raised in opposition to this chorus of disparagement. In 1950 Lionel Trilling stated:

It is hard to overestimate the benefit which came to Fitzgerald from his having consciously placed himself in the line of the great. He was a “natural,” but he did not have the contemporary American novelist’s belief that if he compares himself with the past masters, or if he takes thought—which, for a writer, means really knowing what his predecessors have done—he will endanger the integrity of his natural gifts.6

I agree with Mr. Trilling’s analysis, feeling, as he did, that Scott Fitzgerald had “intellectual courage,” a “grasp … of the traditional resources available to him,” a “connection with tradition and with mind,” and propose, therefore, in the pages that follow, to demonstrate its rightness by examining as closely as possible the author’s reading.7

Fitzgerald had some knowledge of classical language (Latin)8 and literature (Greek and Latin) from his school and college training. At Newman he studied Latin grammar, Latin composition, Caesar, Cicero, and Vergil, courses in which he received

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ling, Crashaw, and Marvell (“To His Coy Mistress”). Here is one of the many reading lists he sent to his daughter:

Since you’ve finished the “Farewell To Arms” the second bit of reading includes only the following poems. The reference is to the index of first lines in either the Oxford Book or the Golden Treasury.

Come Unto These Shakespeare

Tell Me Where Shakespeare

Hark, Hark the Lark  Shakespeare

Take Oh TakeShakespeare

Go Lovely Rose  Waller

Oh Western WindAnon

Art Thou Poor YetDekker

Fear No More Shakespeare

My True Love  Sidney

Who Is Sylvia  Shakespeare

The question will be along about Wednesday. If you read these ten poems you can answer it in a flash.18

Clearly, Fitzgerald was drawn to the lyrical aspect of English Renaissance literature. This, of course, is consistent with his love for “pure” poetry in general, a lifelong love that unquestionably affected his prose style.

Since the lyric note was almost absent in the eighteenth century, one is not surprised to find that with the exception of Moll Flanders, which he thought of as a masterpiece,19 Benjamin Franklin’s Almanac, and Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, this period made practically no impression on him.20

Because of the resurgence of lyricism in the work of the romantic poets, one is equally well prepared to learn that the early nineteenth century was the first era, chronologically speaking, to influence Fitzgerald extensively.21 He had at least a nodding acquaintance with Chatterton, Blake, Burns, Scott, Coleridge, Landor, and Hood; he was fond of Wordsworth’s poems, especially “Ruth,” “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal,” “Elegiac Stanzas: Peele Castle”; and he recommended in one of the two surviving reading lists he composed for Miss Graham a number of Shelley pieces which she was to study in conjunction with Andre Maurois’ Ariel (see illustration).22 The other list, as its heading indicates, concerns Byron:23

Suggestions about Byron

The excerps [sic] from long poems are short because of the fine print. I have never been able to admire but five or six of his short lyrics in comparison to his contemporaries.

After Chap 224 read The Isles of Greece Ox. p. 565

After Chap 4 read  Childe Harold Canto III, Stanzas 21-28 Works

After Chap 5   readMaid of Athens   Works p. 59

After Chap 7 read  So We’ll go no more, Ox p. 564

 She Walks in Beauty Ox p. 564

After Chap  8 read Don Juan, Canto one CXIII to CXVII Works

After Chap 10  read Don Juan Canto Two  CLXXII-CLXXVII Works

and Canto Eleven LX

At End  read Once More: The First 3 Stanzas of “The Isles of Greece”

But John Keats was Fitzgerald’s favorite author. He provided Miss Graham with Sidney Colvin’s Life and a Works in which he singled out several titles.25 “Ode to a Nightingale” was “one of the greatest poems of our language,”26 and “The Eve of St. Agnes” and “Ode on a Grecian Urn” were “great English classics.”27 Once he advised his daughter, who recalls that he often went about the house reciting Keats from memory, to take the course “English Poetry: Blake to Keats” because “a real grasp of Blake, Keats, etc. will bring you something you haven’t dreamed of.”28 In This Side of Paradise, Amory “declaimed ‘The Ode to a Nightingale’ to the bushes they passed”29—the same “Ode to a Nightingale” that gave Tender Is the Night its name—and Anthony Patch in The Beautiful and Damned has “a yellowed illegible autograph letter of Keats’s.”30 Just a few months before his death, Scott Fitzgerald wrote:

Poetry is either something that lives like fire inside you— like music to the musician or Marxism to the communist—or else it is nothing, an empty, formalized bore around which pedants can endlessly drone their notes and explanations. The Grecian Urn is unbearably beautiful with every syllable as inevitable as the notes in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or it’s just something you don’t understand. It is what it is because an extraordinary genius paused at that point in history and touched it. I suppose I’ve read it a hundred times. About the tenth time I began to know what it was about, and caught the chime in it and the exquisite inner mechanics. Likewise with The Nightingale which I can never read through without tears in my eyes; likewise the Pot of Basil with its great stanzas about the two brothers “Why were they proud, etc.”; and The Eve of St Agnes which has the richest, most sensuous imagery in English, not excepting Shakespeare. And finally his three or four great sonnets, Bright Star and the others.

Knowing those things very young and granted an ear, one could scarcely ever afterwards be unable to distinguish between gold and dross in what one read. In themselves those eight poems are a scale of workmanship for anybody who wants to know truly about words, their most utter value for evocation, persuasion or charm. For awhile after you quit Keats all other poetry seems to be only whistling or humming.31

It is not surprising, then, that Fitzgerald was attracted to three late nineteenth-century French symbolist poets, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, and Jules Laforgue.32 Here is a “free translation” of Rimbaud’s “Voyelles” (“Vowels”) appearing in Miss Graham’s 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, spit blood, laughter of sweet lips
In anger—or the penitence of lushes

U—cycle of time, rythm [sic] 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.

Of French prose fiction written about this time, he especially admired Maupassant’s La Maison Tellier and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.33

In 1932 John Jamieson sent a letter to Hound if Horn, taking issue with an essay composed for that magazine by Lawrence Leighton, who had spoken of Flaubert as Fitzgerald’s “ultimate master.” Many years later, Mr. Jamieson commented to Arthur Mizener on his letter:

In my letter to the H & H, I remarked that I thought Fitzgerald owed much more to the extremely personal manner of writing generally used by English and American novelists before the advent of James and Moore, than he did to Flaubert’s rigorously impersonal manner. I argued that Fitzgerald “perhaps” owed most of all to “that least impersonal of novelists, Thackeray,” and that Nick’s reflections in The Great Gatsby were used to enrich the texture of the narrative and to focus its dramatic passages rather in the manner of the little essays and asides to the reader in Thackeray’s novels. The chapter opening containing the catalogue of Gatsby’s guests was cited as an example.34

Fitzgerald replied to Mr. Jamieson’s “Hound & Horn letter,” a copy of which he received in 1934:

I was interested also in your analysis of the influences upon my own books. I never read a French author, except the usual prep-school classics, until I was twenty, but Thackeray I had read over and over by the time I was sixteen, so as far as I am concerned you guessed right.36

But this is not the only statement that indicates his awareness of a debt to Thackeray. Corresponding with John Peale Bishop on the same day, Fitzgerald observed:

On receiving your first letter with its handsome tribute and generous praise I realized that I had been hasty in crediting that you would make such a criticism as “this book [Tender Is the Night] is no advance on Gatsby.” You would be the first to feel that the intention in [the] two books was entirely different, that to promote myself momentarily Gatsby was shooting at something like Henry Esmond wile [sic] this was shooting at something like Vanity Fair. The dramatic novel has cannons [sic] quite different from the philosophical, now called psychological novel. One is a kind of tour de force and the other a confession of faith. It would be like comparing a - sonnet sequence with an epic.36

Richard Caramel, the writer in The Beautiful and Damned, had said, “My publishers, you know, have been advertising me as the Thackeray of America,”37 and Gertrude Stein had stated in 1925:

You are creating the contemporary world much as Thackeray did his in Pendennis and Vanity Fair and this isn’t a bad compliment. You make a modern world and a modern orgy [sic] strangely enough it was never done until you did it in This Side of Paradise.38

Samuel Butler was so important to Fitzgerald that Mr. Mizener considered Butler “his favorite author.”39 Although I cannot agree with this conclusion, there is no question about Fitzgerald’s enthusiasm. Anthony of The Beautiful and Damned “had recently discovered Samuel Butler and the brisk aphorisms in the notebook seemed to him the quintessence of criticism.” Speaking from his own person, Fitzgerald characterized these same Note-Books as “the most interesting human document ever written,”40 and went so far as to compile a set for himself using Butler as his model— (unfortunately, they are what he termed them, “a leather- bound waste-basket,”41 some of the entries of which not even he could decipher).

Fitzgerald’s other reading of English writers in the Victorian period was so extensive that it must be confined to a note,42 while our discussion cites only a few relatively significant facts, comments, and markings.

In an undated letter to his daughter, he observed, “I don’t think anyone can write succinct prose unless they have at least tried and failed to write a good iambic pentameter sonnet, and read Browning’s short dramatic poems, etc.—but that was my personal approach to prose,” and in Volume II of the Poems and Plays of Robert Browning which he gave to Miss Graham, he checked eleven works.43 Among the lyrics of Swinburne, under whose spell (as well as that of Rupert Brooke) he had composed poetry during 1916 and 1917, he liked best “Atalanta in Calydon,” “Laus Veneris,” “The Garden of Proserpine,” “The Triumph of Time,” and “When the Hounds of Spring.” He said of the first: “The fullest and most talented use of beat in the English language. The dancingest poem”; and of the second: “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.” He drew a line after stanza eight of “Laus” with the marginal remark, “The rest is too long.”44 In Rudyard Kipling’s Verse; Inclusive Edition, 1885-1918, he singled out for Miss Graham more than twenty poems, and in her copy of Puck of Pook’s Hill, he called attention to six stories.

Fitzgerald’s comments in another of her books, Essays in Criticism, Second Series by Matthew Arnold, are especially meaningful in view of his vision of himself as “a spoiled priest”:

Fitzgerald (p. 100): “Later ages have entirely disagreed with this [Arnold’s opinions on the initial page of Chapter IV, “John Keats”]. It shows Victorian stiffness and primness in its most unattractive pose.”

Arnold (p. 132): “Yet I firmly believe that the poetical performance of Wordsworth is, after that of Shakespeare and Milton, of which all the world now recognises the worth, undoubtedly the most considerable in our language from the Elizabethan age to the present time.” Fitzgerald (margin): “This, with its following artillery, is a famous critical sentence. Why it is accepted with such authority is a mid- Victorian mystery. Yet—it has effected [sic] 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.”

Fitzgerald (p. 133): “Mister Arnold had not read Pushkin— nor seen evidenly [sic] that Dostoiefski (if he knew him) was a great poet. Later you must compare this essay [“Wordsworth”] with Wilson’s in The Triple Thinkers.”

Fitzgerald (p. 141): [After quoting the sentence, “Voltaire does not mean, by ‘treating in poetry moral ideas,’ ” and underlining the word, “not”] “You see this is my case against Stienbeck [sic]—or rather Mare’s case against Zola.”

Fitzgerald (p. 142): [After underlining the sentence, “The question, how to live, is itself a moral idea”] “This is Arnold at his best. Absolutely without preachment.”

Arnold (p. 143): “Poetry is at bottom a criticism of life.”

Fitzgerald (margin): “a famous line, a fine line.”

Fitzgerald (p. 144): “Pretty daring for this old boy!”

Fitzgerald (p. 145): “Now he becomes ‘moral’—nevertheless follow him because this is real ‘thinking through.’ ”

Of Dickens’ novels, Fitzgerald felt Bleak House was the finest and said in regard to Oliver Twist: “It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood.”45 Of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, a work that unquestionably affected This Side of Paradise, he remarked later, first in a letter to Max Perkins (April 33, 1938) and second in a letter to his daughter (October 5, 1940):

… looking it [This Side of Paradise] over, I think it is now one of the funniest books since “Dorian Gray” in its utter spuriousness. …

Dorian Gray is little more than a somewhat highly charged fairy tale which stimulates adolescents to intellectual activity at about seventeen (it did the same for you as it did for me). Sometime you will re-read it and see that it is essentially naive. It is in the lower ragged edge of “literature” just as Gone With the Wind is in the higher brackets of crowd entertainment.46

It was Scott Fitzgerald’s opinion that Dickens, Tennyson, Wilde, and De Musset were writers of the last century who had acquired reputations quickly, “but the reputations of Hardy, Butler, Flaubert and Conrad were slow growths. These men swam up stream and were destined to have an almost intolerable influence upon succeeding generations.”47

Among the late nineteenth-century American writers Fitzgerald read, Henry James and Frank Norris warrant individual attention. More than one critic has felt that he belongs in the Jamesian tradition of the novel. Charles Weir contended that “a progression might easily be established … from Henry James to Fitzgerald to John O’Hara,”48 and T. S. Eliot said that The Great Gatsby seemed to him “to be the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James.”49 Other critics have been more specific. Arthur Mizener tells us that Gilbert Seldes said that The Great Gatsby was written in the scenic method which was derived through Edith Wharton from James and intimates that Seldes must have known what he was talking about because he had spoken to Fitzgerald regarding the book. Mr. Mizener further states that Edmund Wilson had been urging Fitzgerald to read James.50 Since Fitzgerald thought of Daisy Miller as one of the “great English classics,”51 perhaps Malcolm Cowley is right in arguing that Daisy Buchanan was named after James’s heroine. He is wrong, however, when he hints that the technique of the single observer came from James.52 This device was directly inspired by Joseph Conrad.

Actually, one is treading on very unsure ground in making definite connections between James and Fitzgerald because Fitzgerald admired only James’s early work. He said of The Portrait of a Lady, which is commonly placed at the end of James’s “first phase,” that it was “in his ‘late second manner’ and full of mannerisms.” He advised his daughter to read Daisy Miller or Roderick Hudson instead.53 On another occasion, he referred to “the questionable later stylistics of Henry James.”54 Nor, apparently, was he satisfied with James’s approach to material:

Ever since Irving’s preoccupation with the necessity for an American background, for some square miles of cleared territory on which colorful variants might presently arise, the question of material has hampered the American writer. For one Dreiser who made a single minded and irreproachable choice there have been a dozen like Henry James who have stupid-got with worry over the matter…55

Scott Fitzgerald became conscious of the realistic-naturalistic movement in native letters when, in 1919, he read C. G. Norris's Salt, which he called “a most astounding piece of realism.”56 In 1921 he explained the impact the novel had had on him:

Although not one of the first I was certainly one of the most enthusiastic readers of Charles Norris’s “Salt”—I sat up until five in the morning to finish it, stung into alertness by the booming repetition of his title phrase at the beginning of each section. In the dawn I wrote him an excited letter of praise. To me it was utterly new. I had never read Zola or Frank Norris or Dreiser—in fact the realism which now walks Fifth Avenue was then hiding dismally in Tenth Street basements. No one of my English professors in college ever suggested to his class that books were being written in America. Poor souls, they were as ignorant as I—possibly more so. But since then Brigadier General Mencken has marshaled the critics in [an] acquiescent column of squads for the campaign against Philistia.57

The part Mencken played in introducing him to American naturalism is made clear in This Side of Paradise, where Fitzgerald says of Amory that he was

rather surprised by his discovery through a critic named Mencken of several excellent American novels: “Vandover and the Brute,” “The Damnation of Theron Ware,” and “Jenny Gerhardt.” McKenzie, Chesterton, Galsworthy, Ben- net, had sunk in his appreciation from sagacious, life-saturated geniuses to merely diverting contemporaries.58

In the words of Henry D. Piper, whose article “Frank Norris and Scott Fitzgerald”59 is a detailed account of Norris’s influence, “It is not surprising to find Fitzgerald enthusiastically proposing to Charles Norris that they do something about bringing out a memorial edition of Frank Norris’s collected works, a project which did not actually materialize until more than a half-dozen years later.”60 Charles, Frank’s brother and creator of Salt, wrote to Fitzgerald on November 15, 1920, “Your suggestion about the special edition of my brother’s books appeals but I fear you will not get very much enthusiasm out of D. P. and Co who got ‘stung’ on an edition of ‘Vandover’ of 2000 copies.”61 Mencken knew of the proposal also; he commented (probably on October 7, 1920), ‘‘The Norris scheme is excellent and it goes without saying that I’ll be glad to help it along.”62

Mr. Piper contends that Fitzgerald “borrowed more directly from Vandover and the Brute than from any of Norris’s other books” and that “this indebtedness is seen most strikingly in Fitzgerald’s second novel The Beautiful and Damned, published in 1922, and in his short story ‘May Day,’ which at one time was a discarded beginning to this novel.”63 Certainly the following letter of August 26, 1920, to Harold Loeb evinces a partiality for Vandover and McTeague:

I hope you didn’t go to much trouble to locate Blix. I went to those stores you told me of 8c in the seventh one located it in the 25 cent pile. What luck!

But its [sic] no good—not to be compared with Vandover and McTeague. But, nevertheless, thanks a lot for looking it up and letting me know.64

In a 1921 review of another of Charles Norris’s novels—Brass— he observed that by appealing “to the sense of smell or of hearing rather than by the commoner form of word painting” Frank Norris had achieved throughout McTeague an air of authenticity.65 But perhaps the inscription on the flyleaf of Miss Graham’s edition of The Octopus reveals most adequately his general and lasting respect for the work of Frank Norris:

Sheilah from Scott

Frank Norris after writing three great books died in 1902 at the age of just thirty. He was our most promising man and might have gone further than Drieser [sic] or the others. He claimed to be a disiple [sic] of Zola the naturalist, but in many ways he was better than Zola.

The time of the events is about 1880

Fitzgerald had opinions on William Dean Howells, Stephen Crane, and Mark Twain too. He once cited Howells as a figure of the Victorian era in whom “a little boy could find little that was inspiring.”66 He thought very highly of The Red Badge of Courage and considered “the great central parts of ‘Huckleberry Finn’ ” to constitute one of the “great English classics.”67 Mr. Piper commented in the Fitzgerald Newsletter:68

F, like Hemingway and many another of that generation, was a lifelong admirer of the fiction of Mark Twain. His presentation copy of Van Wyck Brooks’ The Ordeal of Mark Twain (1920), now among the other books of his library at Princeton, is underlined and annotated. And we find him writing Edmund Wilson in 1921 (CU, p. 256) that he has just finished reading Albert Bigelow Paine’s three-volume biography of Mark Twain and thinks it “excellent.” He was a member of the Mark Twain Society. And in 1935 when Cyril Clemens, president of this society, asked him for a short tribute, F sent him the following statement about Huckleberry Finn that is now published for the first time. It was read aloud during the Mark Twain Society’s banquet on Nov. 30, 1935, celebrating the centenary of his birth, and a copy is among the F papers at Princeton.

“Huckleberry Finn took the first journey back. He was the first to look back at the republic from the perspective of the West. His eyes were the first eyes that ever looked at us objectively that were not eyes from overseas. There were mountains at the frontier but he wanted more than mountains to look at with his restless eyes—he wanted to find out about men and how they lived together. And because he turned back we have him forever.”69

Mr. Piper concluded his comments by saying that Mr. Clemens described the banquet to him and then mentioned a visit to Thomas Hardy in England in 1935 during which the novelist told Clemens that “he had read and been greatly impressed by TSOP” [This Side of Paradise], a book Fitzgerald once termed “a Romance and a Reading List”70 and confessed in 1936 that “the number of subheads I used … was one of the few consciously original things” about it.71 Although Huckleberry Finn may or may not have influenced the composition of This Side of Paradise, the boy’s story genre, a type of fiction Fitzgerald referred to often while attending Princeton, certainly did—which brings us to the twentieth century.

Reviewing for The Nassau Literary Magazine Booth Tarkington’s Penrod and Sam, Scott Fitzgerald wrote:

Mr. Tarkington has done what so many authors of juvenile books fail to do: he has admitted the unequaled snobbishness of boyhood and has traced the neighborhood social system which, with Penrod and Sam at the top, makes possible more than half the stories… Where Mr. Tarkington gets his knowledge of child psychology, I am unable to understand. It has become a tradition to mention Tom Brown as an ideal boy’s story, but as a matter of fact, the heroes of Owen Johnston [sic], Compton McKenzie [sic], and Booth Tarkington are far more interesting and far truer to facts.72

In another review, this time of E. F. Benson’s David Blaize, written for the same magazine in the same year (1917), Fitzgerald observed:

Of late years there have been really good boys’ stories, with the boy treated from a subjective point of view neither cynically nor sentimentally. In the class belong The Varmint, Youth’s Encounter, Seventeen, and perhaps a new book, David Blaize, by E. F. Benson, author of Dodo… Mr. Benson’s indebtedness to Compton MacKenzie and Kipling is very great. Swinburne introduces David to literature as he did Michael in Youth’s Encounter…73

In a letter of 1950 to Carlos Baker, Christian Gauss recalled “that we one day fell into a discussion of Stevenson’s advice to young writers about playing the sedulous ape … Scott said that he had imitated Joyce, (The Portrait of the Author [sic] as a Young Man) and Compton McKenzie [sic], in parts of This Side of Paradise”74; and in a letter of 1921 to Frances Newman, Fitzgerald admitted that Mackenzie had been the major literary influence on his first novel—an influence only a few of the critics had detected:

While it astonished me that so few critics mentioned the influence of Sinister Street on This Side of Paradise, I feel sure that it was much more in intention than in literal fact. It occurred to me to write an American version of the history of that sort of young man—in which, no doubt, I was hindered by lack of perspective as well as by congenital short-comings.

But I was also hindered by a series of resemblances between my life and that of Michael Fane which, had I been a more conscientious man, might have precluded my ever attempting an autobiographical novel. I have five copies of Youth’s Encounter at present in my library, sent me by people who stumbled on the book and thought that it was an amazing parallel to my own life. When I was twenty-one and began This Side of Paradise my literary taste was so unformed that Youth’s Encounter was still my “perfect book.” My book quite naturally shows the influence to a marked degree. However, I resent your details. …

You seem to be unconscious that even MacKenzie had his sources such as Dorian Grey [sic] and None Other Gods and that occasionally we may have drunk at the same springs… I sent the novel to Mencken with the confession that it derived itself from MacKenzie, Wells and Tarkington, with half a dozen additional overtones, but there are comparisons you brought up that make me as angry as my book evidently made you.75

Fitzgerald’s reference to Wells in this letter is of particular significance since, as has been frequently pointed out, Wells was the second most important literary influence on This Side of Paradise. James E. Miller (The Fictional Technique of Scott Fitzgerald, pp. 14 and 15; see note 7) documents the author’s early reaction to the work of Wells:

In 1917, he wrote to Edmund Wilson of a Wells novel: “I think that The New Machiavelli is the greatest English novel of the century” (The Crack-Up, p. 247). But Fitzgerald’s interest in Wells was not confined to his novels. In another letter, he asked Wilson: “Have you read Well’s [sic] Boon, The Mind of the Race, (Doran—1916) It’s marvellous!” (Ibid., p. 248). … In this same letter, Fitzgerald said, “I’m rather bored here [Princeton] but I … read Wells and Rousseau. I read Mrs. Gerould’s British Novelists Limited and think she underestimates Wells but is right in putting McKenzie [sic] at the head of his school” (Ibid.)…

In the early part of 1918, Fitzgerald wrote to Wilson: “In everything except my romantic Chestertonian orthodoxy I still agree with the early Wells on human nature and the ‘no hope for Tono Bungay’ theory” (Ibid., p. 252)…

But probably the most revealing evidence concerning the influences on This Side of Paradise is in the book itself: “First, and partly by accident, they [Amory and his comrades] struck on certain books, a definite type of biographical novel that Amory christened quest books. In the quest book the hero set off in life armed with the best weapons and avowedly intending to use them as such weapons are usually used, to push their possessors ahead as selfishly and blindly as possible, but the heroes of the quest books discovered that there might be a more magnificent use for them. ‘None Other Gods,' ‘Sinister Street,’ and ‘The Research Magnificent’ were examples of such books …” (131)76

The almost unparalleled increase of power from This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Beautiful and Damned (1921-22) to The Great Gatsby (1925) would be more inexplicable than it is if it were not for our knowledge of Scott Fitzgerald’s ability to discard forces not conducive to bettering his fiction—in this case Mackenzie and Wells—and to take up new ones.

Shortly after finishing The Beautiful and Damned, the author made a list of the ten most important novels for The Chicago Tribune, calling Nostromo “the greatest novel since ‘Vanity Fair’ (possibly excluding ‘Madame Bovary’).”77 In 1922 he referred to Conrad more than once, and in 1923, he described a passage from Youth as “one of the most remarkable passages of English prose written these thirty years.”78

Conrad’s theory that art should pursue the truth—“what is enduring and essential”—had been set forth in the preface to The Nigger of the “Narcissus.” Fitzgerald wrote in his introduction to the 1934 Modern Library edition of Gatsby:

Now that this book is being reissued, the author would like to say that never before did one try to keep his artistic conscience as pure as during the ten months put into doing it. Reading it over one can see how it could have been improved—yet without feeling guilty of any discrepancy from the truth, as far as I saw it; truth or rather the equivalent of the truth, the attempt at honesty of imagination. I had just re-read Conrad’s preface to The Nigger, and I had recently been kidded half haywire by critics who felt that my material was such as to preclude all dealing with mature persons in a mature world.

That art should pursue the truth was not the only idea in the preface that Scott Fitzgerald responded to Conrad had gone on to say:

All art, therefore, appeals primarily to the senses… And it is only through complete, unswerving devotion to the perfect blending of form and substance; it is only through an unremitting never-discouraged care for the shape and ring of sentences that an approach can be made to plasticity, to colour; and the light of magic suggestiveness may be brought to play for an evanescent instant over the commonplace surface of words…

Where there were verbosity and sloppiness in the earlier books, there is, in The Great Gatsby, “care for the shape and ring of sentences”; instead of the obvious word or phrase, there is “magic suggestiveness”; whereas, previously, he had tended to be abstract, Fitzgerald now works through the senses.79 And finally, as almost all of the critics observed, Gatsby was the first (perhaps the only) Fitzgerald novel to show “the perfect blending of form and substance.”

The author benefited from Conrad’s techniques too. In 1949 John Jamieson wondered if “the conscious technical inspiration of The Great Gatsby” had come from Lord Jim.80 From external and internal evidence, surely there should be no hesitation in answering him affirmatively. During 1938 or 1939 Fitzgerald called Lord Jim “a great book,”81 and many similarities are shared by his Nick and Conrad’s Marlow. The device of the sympathetic, intelligent observer, which many critics have erroneously ascribed to the influence of James, was important for The Last Tycoon as well as for Gatsby:

This love affair is the meat of the book—though I am going to treat it, remember, as it comes through to Cecilia. That is to say by making Cecilia, at the moment of her telling the story, an intelligent and observant woman, I shall grant myself the privilege, as Conrad did, of letting her imagine the actions of the characters. Thus, I hope to get the verisimilitude of a first person narrative, combined with a Godlike knowledge of all events that happen to my characters.82

Although Tender Is the Night does not use the observer, it shows the influence of two other Conrad techniques: “the dying fall” and “lingering after-effects.” Fitzgerald remarked in a 1934 letter to John Peale Bishop that both he and Hemingway took “the dying fall”—which, in contrast to the dramatic ending, is a gradual letting down or tapering off—from Conrad. He told Bishop that this was valuable to him in Tender for the following reason: “I did not want to subject the reader to a series of nervous shocks because it was a novel that was inevitably close to whoever read it in my generation.” He went on to explain to Bishop that there was no need to use “the dying fall” in Gatsby, however, since the persons treated, bootleggers and crooks, were not close to the feelings of most human beings.83 In another 1934 letter—this one to Ernest Hemingway—he said that the “lingering after-effects” tried in Tender were also inspired by Joseph Conrad:

The theory back of it I got from Conrad’s preface to The Nigger, that the purpose of a work of fiction is to appeal to the lingering after-effects in the reader’s mind as differing from, say, the purpose of oratory or philosophy which respectively leave people in a fighting or thoughtful mood.84

Scott Fitzgerald’s new posture as (in Dean Gauss’s words) “an earnest and competent student of the art of writing”85 can be demonstrated best perhaps by examining his views on two American novelists—Hemingway, who, next to Conrad, was the most vital contemporary influence on his work, and Thomas Wolfe. Reporting on In Our Time during 1926,86 Fitzgerald said:

When I try to think of any contemporary American short stories as good as “Big Two-Hearted River,” the last one in the book, only Gertrude Stein’s “Melanctha,” Anderson’s “The Egg,” and Lardner’s “Golden Honeymoon” come to mind. It is the account of a boy on a fishing trip—he hikes, pitches his tent, cooks dinner, sleeps, and next morning casts for trout. Nothing more—but I read it with the most breathless unwilling interest I have experienced since Conrad first bent my reluctant eyes upon the sea.

He continued his remarks, stating that the stories make you “aware of something temperamentally new.” This is Hemingway’s ability to give his characters an emotion “without the aid of a comment or a pointing finger.” The reader understands the meaning without much exposition; the dialogue tells everything. Of the construction, he noted, “There is no tail, no sudden change of pace at the end to throw into relief what has gone before.” Hemingway cultivated a prose in which “there is not a bit to spare.” Fitzgerald implied his own position when he said: “Material, however closely observed, is as elusive as the moment in which it has its existence unless it is purified by an incorruptible style and by the catharsis of a passionate emotion.”

Scott Fitzgerald’s admiration for Hemingway’s work persisted throughout his life. In 1939 he called A Farewell to Arms one of the “great English classics”87; in 1940 he declared that For Whom the Bell Tolls was “a fine novel, better than anybody else writing could do” and in the same letter, said of To Have and Have Not: “There is observation and writing in that that the boys will be imitating with a vengeance—paragraphs and pages that are right up with Dostoiefski in their undeflected intensity.”88 Glenway Wescott maintained that Fitzgerald’s esteem for Hemingway was so extreme that he felt he no longer had to write serious material, that Hemingway could be entrusted with this.89 Wescott overstated the case. Still, Scott Fitzgerald did recognize the danger to his craft inherent in the enthusiasm he experienced over his friend’s efforts. He said in 1934:

I think it is obvious that my respect for your artistic life is absolutely unqualified, that save for a few of the dead or dying old men you are the only man writing fiction in America that I look up to very much. There are pieces and paragraphs of your work that I read over and over—in fact, I stopped myself doing it for a year and a half because I was afraid that your particular rhythms were going to creep in on mine by process of infiltration. Perhaps you will recognize some of your remarks in Tender, but I did every damn thing I could to avoid that.90

In the same letter, he told Hemingway that he had reinforced Conrad’s concept of lingering after-effects: “…you felt that the true line of a work of fiction was to take a reader up to a high emotional pitch but then let him down or ease him off. You gave no aesthetic reason for this—nevertheless, you convinced me.” Hemingway clearly extended Fitzgerald’s technical knowledge of writing and symbolized to him that same high ideal of art that he had found in Keats and Conrad. The author jotted down in his notebooks: “Nevertheless value of Ernest’s feeling about the pure heart when writing—in other words the comparatively pure heart, the ‘house in order.’ ”91

The fact that Thomas Wolfe was neither a “shaper” nor a “pruner,” interested neither in form nor economy, was the basis of Fitzgerald's view of his work. Wolfe poured himself out, marshaled his material in a “gawky and profuse way”92 and as a result was only “half-grown artistically.”93 In reply to Fitzgerald’s advice that he attempt to be a more conscious artist, Wolfe commented, “a great writer is not only a leaver-outer but also a putter- inner,” citing Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Dostoyevski as evidence.94 This did not lessen Fitzgerald’s antagonism toward the sprawling novel, an antagonism based on what was or was not communicated as well as on style: “… his awful secret transpires at every crevice—he did not have anything particular to say! The stuff about the GREAT VITAL HEART OF AMERICA is just simply corny.” Wolfe had recapitulated Whitman, Dostoyevski, Nietzsche, and Milton; “unlike Joyce and T. S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway,” he had “nothing really new to add.” Why? Because he had failed to find “a solid gold bar like Ernest’s courage, or Josef Conrad’s art or D. H. Lawrence’s intense cohabitations.” Instead, he had told us what we already knew, that everything was a “mess” and that it was “too bad about the individual.”95 In his copy of Of Time and the River, Fitzgerald wrote: “All this has been about as good as Dodsworth for chapter after Chapter,” and “Trite, trite, trite, trite, page after page after page.” Nevertheless, he had to admit that with all his faults Wolfe had not committed “the cardinal sin” of composing a book that did not continue “to live.”96

Of course, Scott Fitzgerald was affected by other contemporary authors and works. He said in 1940 that although Kafka would not have a “wide public,” The Trial and Amerika were two novels that writers were “never able to forget,”97 and that Mann’s Death in Venice impressed him as “art, of the school of Flaubert—yet not derivative at all.”98 T. S. Eliot seemed “a very great person”99; Gertrude Stein would belong to the ages like “Booth and Seward.”100 He considered Sister Carrie to be “almost the first piece of American realism,” a “damn good” achievement.101 He admired the New Poetry movement, John Dos Passos’ Three Soldiers, Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt, Thomas Boyd’s Through the Wheat, Woodward Boyd’s Love Legend, E. E. Cummings’ The Enormous Room, Sherwood Anderson’s Many Marriages, Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West, Edmund Wilson, Willa Cather, and Edith Wharton.102 It must be remembered, too, that Scott Fitzgerald was very much a part of the literary milieu of the time as book dedications alone would indicate. He visited John Galsworthy, James Joyce, Edith Wharton, Compton Mackenzie, Gertrude Stein, Theodore Dreiser; he knew Edmund Wilson, John Peale Bishop, H. L. Mencken, Ring Lardner, John Dos Passos, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway; he carried on sustained correspondence with between seventy- five and one hundred noteworthy men and women.

Fitzgerald’s reading though fairly wide was quite selective. He picked the periods, the artists, and the genres that were necessary to his own particular genius—the lyric poetry of the English Renaissance (Shakespeare), the early nineteenth century (romantic poets, especially Keats), the late nineteenth century (French symbolists, Browning, Swinburne, Kipling), the twentieth century (Brooke, Eliot); the novel of social realism (Thackeray, Butler, Norris, Dreiser, Proust, Wharton); the “novel of selection” (Flaubert, James, Joyce, Conrad, Cather, Hemingway). When he outgrew certain authors, for example Wilde, Wells, and Mackenzie, he found new, more helpful models. As Professor Trilling contended, “It is hard to overestimate the benefit which came to Fitzgerald from his having consciously placed himself in the line of the great.” Surely, he took thought, “which, for a writer, means really knowing what his predecessors have done.” Surely, he had “intellectual courage,” a “grasp … of the traditional resources available to him,” a “connection with tradition and with mind.”103


1 F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Man and His Work, ed. Alfred Kazin, Cleveland, P. 77.

2 Ibid., p. 179.

3 The Far Side of Paradise, Boston [1951], p. 103.

4 The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, ed. Malcolm Cowley, New York, 1951, p. xvi.

5 The Crack-Up, ed. Edmund Wilson [New York, 1945], p. 329.

6 Kazin, p. 201.

7 My main concern has not been to trace specific literary influences on Fitzgerald’s work. For two essays and one book which do this effectively, I refer the reader to Robert Wooster Stallman, “Conrad and The Great Gatsby,” Twentieth Century Literature, I, No. 1 (Apr., 1955), 5-12; Henry Dan Piper, “Frank Norris and Scott Fitzgerald,” The Huntington Library Quarterly, XIX, No. 4 (Aug., 1956), 393-400; and James E. Miller, The Fictional Technique of Scott Fitzgerald, The Hague, 1957. My sources include Fitzgerald's published canon, his notebooks, his letters, the volumes he gave to Miss Sheilah Graham during the late ’30’s (about 200), and the volumes he owned (about 1000). Let me describe the fate of these last. Shortly after the author’s death in 1940, the books in his library were deposited in the Princeton University Library. Subsequently, many of them were returned to Mrs. Samuel T. Lanahan, his daughter. Alexander D. Wainwright, Assistant Chief of the Department  of Rare Books and Special Collections, compiled two lists-one the books from Fitzgerald's library remained in the Rare Book Department at Princeton and the other the b00ks returned t0 Mrs. Lanahan. These lists appear in my dissertation, Scott Fitzgerald: Romantic and Realist, which is deposited in the Columbia University Library. A third list of Fitzgerald's books that had no markings or signs of ownership was compiled by another member of the Princeton Library staff. This list was designated “Miscellaneous” and the books tabulated were dispersed. Since the works on the “Miscellaneous” list are largely nonsignificant, I feel it necessary to mention only those of particular interest: Anthologie des Poetes Francais Contemporains (Nouvelle Edition, 1866-1926); Butler, The Authoress of the Odyssey, Conrad, Chance, Lord Jim, Nostromo, A Personal Record, The Rescue, The Rover, A Set of Six, Youth and Two Other Stories; Keats, The Complete Poetical Works and Letters (Cambridge edition), Colvin’s Life; Thackeray, The History  of Henry Esmond, Esq. Additional authors who should be mentioned; Blake, Browning, Carlyle, Flaubert, Homer, Kipling, Laforgue, Masefield, Poe, Proust, Shaw, Wells, Wharton, Wilde, Valery. I would like also to point out to the reader that my discussion of Fitzgerald’s library is, for the most part, limited to his acquaintance with literature, and even here I have been selective. Finally, to conclude a long note, allow me to express sincere thanks to Mrs. Lanahan and Miss Graham for making available unpublished materials.

8 Occasionally in the margins of the books he purchased for Miss Graham, Fitzgerald translated Latin words and phrases.

9 Fitzgerald’s scholastic record at both Newman and Princeton is on his Princeton transcript, which is in the Office of the Registrar, Princeton University. Probably because the Newman record is on the back of the Princeton record, it has not previously been noted.

10 That Fitzgerald provided Miss Graham with J. B. Bury’s A History of Greece and Outline for Review: Greek History by C. B. Newton and E. B. Treat indicates, perhaps, at least as much interest on his part in Greek civilization as in Greek literature. The inscription on the Newton-Treat volume (which forms part of the materials Miss Graham recently donated to the Princeton Library) reads: “For S. G. For her proficiency in pre-Socratic philosophy, Hellenistic anthropology and Trojan archeology from Her Loving Prof T. Themestocles Smith Olymic [sic] games, 1910.” The Bury volume, along with the other books Fitzgerald gave her, is located in Miss Graham’s personal library at Westport, Connecticut,

11 Fitzgerald to Frances Scott Fitzgerald, June 7, 1940, F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers, Princeton University Library.

12 The Nassau Literary Magazine, LXXII, No. 3 (June, 1916), [137].

13 Fitzgerald to Frances Scott Fitzgerald, November 15, 1938, Fitzgerald Papers.

14 Fitzgerald’s outline for Miss Graham’s reading in this work is quite specific and elaborate. He remarked, regarding the Fifth Story of the Fourth Day: “… inspiration of Keat's [sic] ‘Pot of Basil.' ”

15 The “Literary” section of the notebooks, Fitzgerald Papers.

16 Review of Verses in Peace and War, by Shane Leslie, The Nassau Literary Magazine, LXXIII, No. 3 (June, 1917), 153.

17 Sonnets 29, 30, 57, 94, and 116. Songs: “Blow, blow, thou winter wind”; “Come away, come away, Death”; “Crabbed age and youth”; “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun”; “Full fathom five thy father lies”; “It was a lover and his lass’’; “O Mistress mine! where are you roaming?”; “On a day, alack the day!”; “Take, O take those lips away”; “Tell me where is fancy bred”; “Under the greenwood tree”; and “When icicles hang by the wall.” The lines “Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks / Within his bending sickle’s compass come’’ in Sonnet 116 are bracketed.

18 Fitzgerald to Frances Scott Fitzgerald, November 11, 1938, Fitzgerald Papers.

19 Ibid., March 11, 1939.

20 Of The Decline and Fall, Fitzgerald said in the copy he bought for Miss Graham: “It is important to remember that Gibbon wrote this history in the late 18th century (1765-1785) before the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution when men believed that the ‘Age of Reason’ had indeed arrived. Yet the stuff is full of irony—especially when he speaks of the church and compares the rich men of antiquity to those of his time—to the pretended advantage of the latter.”

21 Besides the authors and works I discuss under the early nineteenth century, Fitzgerald probably read: Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans); Irving; Balzac (La Cousine Bette; Eugenie Grandet; Droll Stories; Pere Goriot; La Peau de Chagrin; Cesar Birotteau); Goethe (Faust; The Sorrows of Werther); Hugo (Notre-Dame de Paris); De Musset; Rousseau; Stendahl (La Chartreuse de Parme; Le Rouge et le Noir). The reader will have noticed that my listings according to literary periods are necessarily somewhat arbitrary.

22 “To Night”; “O world! O life!”; “Stanzas written in Dejection”; “One word is too often”; “To a Skylark"; “To the Moon”; “When the lamp is shattered”; “I met a traveller”; “Ode to the West Wind”; “Lines written among the Euganean Hills”; “I arise from dreams”; “Ariel to Miranda”; “The fountains mingle”; and “Music, when soft voices.” Those who have perused The Crack-Up and Beloved Infidel are aware of Fitzgerald’s practice of sending study lists to both his daughter and Miss Graham. The latter has informed me that he was seriously considering writing a book on education before his death.

23 We are told in an undated letter to Mrs. Mary Fitzgerald (Fitzgerald Papers) that “The Prisoner of Chillon” was perhaps the first poem Scott Fitzgerald ever heard:

Tell father I visited the

“—seven pillars of Gothic mould

in Chillon’s dungeons deep and old,”

& thought of the first poem I ever heard, or was [it] “The Raven.”

In addition to the works cited, he probably read Manfred and Maurois’ Life of Byron,

24. The chapters very likely refer to H. Nicolson’s Byron: The Last Journey.

25 “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”; “Isabella”; “The Eve of St. Agnes”; “Ode to a Nightingale"; “Fancy”; “Bards of Passion and of Mirth”; “Ode on Melancholy”; “When I Have Fears”; “Fragment of an Ode to Maia”; “In Drear-Nighted December"; “The Eve of St. Mark”; and “Bright Star.” Besides some of these, he also marked “To Autumn” in Palgrave’s The Golden Treasury.

26 Unaddressed, undated letter, Fitzgerald Papers.

27 Fitzgerald to Morton [----], August 9, 1939, Fitzgerald Papers. Miss Graham's enrollment in Fitzgerald's “College of One” was occasioned by his reciting “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (Beloved Infidel, New York [1958], p. 259). He inscribed a copy of The Beautiful and Damned for her in this way: ‘‘To the Beautiful from the almost damned./‘What struggle to escape.'/With love from/Scott Fitzgerald/to Sheilah Graham/New Years 1940.” That he could joke about his most cherished poem (“Grecian Urn”) both early and late is evidenced by “To My Unused Greek Book” (1916) and the following quotation taken from a blank page at the back of Palgrave’s The Golden Treasury (Miss Graham’s library): “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 names on the cup. They are sure tearing after them and the dames are trying to get away. Look—this guys [sic] got a flute, or maybe its [sic] an obo [sic] and they’re going to town. etc. etc.”

28 Fitzgerald to Frances Scott Fitzgerald, July 29, 1940, Fitzgerald Papers.

29 New York, 1920, p. 93.

30 New York, 1922, p. 8.

31 Fitzgerald to Frances Scott Fitzgerald, August 3, 1940, Fitzgerald Papers.

32 His own library contained copies of Laforgue’s Oeuvres, Rimbaud’s Oeuvres, and Verlaine’s Choix de Poesies, while Rimbaud’s Une Saison en Enfer and Poesies as well as Verlaine’s Les Plus Belles Pages are with the volumes he bought for Miss Graham. The Rimbaud poems he found most congenial were “Le Dormeur du Val,” “Bateau Ivre,” ‘‘Les Etrennes des Orphelins,” “Les Assis,” “Voyelles”; and among Verlaine’s, “Melancholia,” “Fetes Galantes,” “Clair de Lune,’’ “Romances sans Paroles,” “Il pleure dans mon coeur,” “Sagesse,” “Jadis et Naguere,” “Paysages Tristes,” “Chanson d’Automne,” “Aquarelles.” Fitzgerald received B in French A and E in French B at Newman and at Princeton 5 in French 203, 4 in French 204, 5 in French 301, 4 in French 302, 2 in French 401, and 3 in French 402.

33 Other late nineteenth-century French and European authors and works Fitzgerald probably read: Chekhov (The Cherry Orchard and Other Plays; Letters on the Short Story, the Drama and Other Literary Topics; Uncle Vanya); Dostoyevsky (Crime and Punishment; The Brothers Karamazov; The Insulted and Injured; The Possessed; E. J. Simmons’ Dostoevski, The Making of a Novelist); Flaubert (Three Tales; L’Education Sentimentale; Francis Steegmuller’s Flaubert and Madame Bovary); France (The Revolt of the Angels; The Red Lily); Gautier; Gogol (The Government Inspector and Other Plays); Hegel; Huysmans (A Rebours); Ibsen (Plays; A Doll’s House); Leblanc (Arsene Lupin); Louys (Aphrodite); Marx (Capital; The Poverty of Philosophy; Manifesto of the Communist Party); Maupassant (The Complete Short Stories); Nietzsche (The Genealogy of Morals); Renan (The Life of Jesus); Schopenhauer (Studies in Pessimism); Sudermann (The Song of Songs); Tolstoi (War and Peace; Anna Karenina; Master and Man, The Kreutzer Sonata, Dramas); Turgenev (Smoke); Zola.

34 John Jamieson to Arthur Mizener, April, 1949, Princeton University Library.

35 Fitzgerald to Jamieson, April 7, 1934, Princeton University Library.

36 Fitzgerald to Bishop, April 7, 1934, Fitzgerald Papers.

37 Page 423.

38 Wilson, p. 308. Besides the books already named, Fitzgerald had copies of Thackeray's The Virginians and The Rose and the Ring.

39 Mizener, p. 89.

40 A note in Fitzgerald’s copy of Butler's Note-Books, Mrs. Samuel J. Lanahan.

41 “One Hundred False Starts,” The Saturday Evening Post, CCV, No. 36 (Mar. 4, 1933), 13. Besides the Note-Books, the author either owned, or purchased for Miss Graham, Butler’s Erewhon and Erewhon Revisited; The Way of All Flesh; Life and Habit; Alps and Sanctuaries of Piedmont and the Canton Ticino.

42 Writers and works of the Victorian period in England that Fitzgerald probably read and are not mentioned in the discussion: Arnold (Poetical Works); J. M. Barrie; Bennett (The Old Wives’ Tale; Accident; The Pretty Lady); E. Bronte (Wuthering Heights); E. B. Browning (Sonnets from the Portuguese); Carlyle (Heroes and Hero-Worship*); Carroll (Through the Looking-Glass); Darwin (Origin of Species); Dickens (Hard Times; Barnaby Rudge; Great Expectations; The Old Curiosity Shop; The Pickwick Papers; David Copperfield; Reprinted Pieces; A Tale of Two Cities; Sketches by Boz; Nicholas Nickleby; Martin Chuzzlewit); Dowson ("Cynara”; Poems and Prose); Fitzgerald (Rubaiyat); Hardy (Tess of the D’Urbervilles); Housman (A Shropshire Lad); Kipling (“The Drums of the Fore and Aft”**; Life’s Handicap; Soldiers Three; The Story of the Gadsbys; In Black and White; Plain Tales from the Hills; The Jungle Book; Departmental Ditties and Ballads and Barrack Room Ballads; “Gunga Din”); Meredith (The Ordeal of Richard Feverel); G. Moore (Memoirs of My Dead Life; Esther Waters); Newman; Pater; Pinero; D. G. Rossetti (“The Blessed Damozel”); Shaw (Androcles and the Lion, Overruled, Pygmalion; Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant, Vols. I and II; Man and Superman; Misalliance, The Dark Lady of the Sonnets, and Fanny’s First Play; Heartbreak House; Nine Plays); Spencer; Stevenson (A Child’s Garden of Verses; Learning to Write; New Arabian Nights; The Silverado Squatters); Swinburne (The Works; Poems); Tennyson (The Poetical Works); Wilde (Salome, La Sainte Courtisane; Poems; The Ballad of Reading Gaol; Lady Windermere’s Fan; An Ideal Husband; A Woman of No Importance; Salome and Other Plays; The Harlot's House; The Happy Prince).

* In “The Spire and the Gargoyle” (The Nassau Literary Magazine, LXXII, No. 7 [Feb., 1917]), Fitzgerald wrote: “Freshman year Carlisle’s [sic] 'Heroes and Hero-Worship,’ in the hands of an impassioned young instructor had interested him particularly… his philosophy of life was molded of two elements … the other, the three or four big ideas which he found in the plain speaking Scotchman, Carlyle.”

** In a letter to Morton [----], August g, 1939 (Fitzgerald Papers), Fitzgerald called this work one of the “great English classics.”

43 Quotation from Wilson, p. 304. Works checked in Poems and Plays of Robert Browning: “My Last Duchess”; “Porphyria’s Lover”; “The Pied Piper of Hamelin ; The Lost Leader ’; “Home-Thoughts, From Abroad”; “Home-Thoughts, From the Sea"; “The Laboratory”; “Love among the Ruins”; “Life in a Love”; “The Last Ride Together”; “Youth and Art."

44. Miss Graham’s copy of Swinburne’s Poems.

45 Fitzgerald to Miss Frances Turnbull, November 9, 1938, Fitzgerald Papers.

46 Both letters in the Fitzgerald Papers. That Fitzgerald purchased a number of Wilde's plays for Miss Graham as well as works by H. G. Wells, Compton Mackenzie, etc., indicates that although he might repudiate an early influence, he could never utterly abandon an author he once liked.

47 Review of Many Marriages, by Sherwood Anderson, New York Herald, Mar. 4, 1923. Sec. 9, p. 5.

48 Kazin, p. 144.

49 Wilson, p. 310.

5o Mizener, p. 170.

51 Fitzgerald to Morton [---], August 9, 1939, Fitzgerald Papers.

52 “The Romance of Money,” Three Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, New York [1953], pp. xviii-xix.

53 Wilson, p. 288.

54 Fitzgerald to Mrs. Bayard Turnbull, September 10, 1932, Princeton University Library.

55 “How to Waste Material,” The Bookman, LXIII, No. 3 (May, 1926), 262. His own library contained copies of The Pilgrimage of Henry James (by Van Wyck Brooks) and The Art of the Novel and he gave to Miss Graham: The Portrait of a Lady; The Bostonians; Washington Square; Roderick Hudson; The Europeans; and The Aspern Papers, Louisa Pallant, The Modern Warning.

56 Fitzgerald to Alida Bigelow (later Mrs. Francis D. Butler), September 22, 1919, Princeton University Library.

57 Review of Brass, by Charles Norris, The Bookman, LIV, No. 3 (Nov., 1921), 253.

58 Page 224. The passage was composed during the summer of 1919. In a review of Prejudices: Second Series (The Bookman, LIII, No. 1 [Mar., 1921]), Fitzgerald said that Mencken had “done more for the national letters than any man alive.” In “How to Waste Material” (see note 55), he said Mencken had “always been ethical rather than aesthetic” and so had “begotten a family of hammer and tongs men—insensitive, suspicious of glamour, preoccupied exclusively with the external, the contemptible, the ‘national’ and the drab.” And in his introduction to the Modern Library edition of The Great Gatsby, New York [1934], he wrote: “… the world of imagination” was “the world that Mencken made stable in the days when he was watching over us.” Fitzgerald owned Prejudices: First Series; Prejudices: Second Series; Prejudices: Third Series; Prejudices: Fourth Series; The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche; A Book of Burlesques; Heliogabalus, A Buffoonery in Three Acts (with G. J. Nathan); In Defense of Women; Treatise on Right and Wrong; Treatise on the Gods; A Book of Prefaces; and Menckeniana, A Schimpflexikon.

59 See note 7.

60 Pages 396-397.

61 Fitzgerald Papers.

62 Mencken to Fitzgerald, October 7 [no year], Fitzgerald Papers.

63 “Frank Norris and Scott Fitzgerald,” p. 393.

64 Harold Loeb Papers, Princeton University Library.

65 See note 57.

66 “Wait till You Have Children of Your Own!” Woman s Home Companion, LI (July, 1924), 13, 105.

67 Fitzgerald to Morton [----], August 9, 1939, Fitzgerald Papers.

68 No. 8 (Winter, 1960).

69 Authors and works of the late nineteenth century in the United States that Fitzgerald probably read and are not mentioned in the discussion: Alger (half a dozen volumes, including Bound to Rise); Bierce (In the Midst of Life); Clemens (The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg, and Other Stories and Essays; The Mysterious Stranger; Sketches New and Old; The Prince and the Pauper; What is Man? and Other Essays); Dana (Two Years before the Mast); R. H. Davis; J. Fox, Jr.; Howells (Venetian Life); W. James (The Philosophy of William James); London (The Call of the Wild); Longfellow (Evangeline); Poe* (The Fall of the House of Usher; “Ulalume”; “The Raven”; “The Bells”); J. W. Riley; Thoreau; Whitman (Leaves of Grass; “Pioneers, O Pioneers").

* See note 23. Fitzgerald said in Wilson (The Crack-Up), p. i74: “Father passed on to me certain ineradicable tastes in poetry: The Raven and The Bells, The Prisoner of Chillon.” Poe probably influenced the language and tone of early stories like “The Mystery of the Raymond Mortgage” (1909) and “The Room with the Green Blinds” (1911).

70 The “Literary” section of the notebooks, Fitzgerald Papers.

71 Fitzgerald to Bennett Cerf, August 13, 1936, Fitzgerald Papers.

72 LXXII, No. 6 (Jan., 1917), [291]-292. Tipped in a copy of the Chatto & Windus (London) edition of The Great Gatsby in the Princeton University Library is a letter from Fitzgerald to Julian Street, the first part of which reads: “My best to you! My contempt for Tarkington extends only to his character of being ashamed of his early sins & thus cutting out of his experience about 1/2 of life. He woke up one morning sober & 40, and thought that no one had ever been lascivious or drunk or vain except himself, & turned deliberately back to the illusions of his boyhood.” (Probable date: 1928.)

73 LXXII, No. 7 (Feb., 1917), 343-344.

74 Private correspondence of Professor Carlos Baker, Department of English, Princeton University. In The Fictional Technique of Scott Fitzgerald (see note 7), p. 29, James E. Miller cites the following statement of Oscar Cargill (Intellectual America: Ideas on the March, New York, 1941, p. 349): “One might not suspect this [i.e. A Portrait of the Artist as model] from reading This Side of Paradise, which seems more of a travesty than a serious effort, yet such is the case.” Miller then comments: “There is indication in This Side of Paradise that Fitzgerald had read Joyce’s novel. He says at one point of Amory (This Side of Paradise, p. 224): ‘He was puzzled and depressed by “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” …’ And there are certain lines of action in the two books which are similar: the detailed account of unhappy school life, the growing interest in literature, and the rejection of religion—in both cases, Catholicism. There is even an echo of Joyce’s famous phrase (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man [‘The Modern Library’; New York: Random House, 1928], p. 299), '… to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race,’ in Fitzgerald’s novel. Amory tells Tom D’Invilliers (This Side of Paradise, p. 230) that he ‘represent[s] the critical consciousness of the race,' and he refers to himself, near the end of the book (p. 285), as ’preserved to help in building up the living consciousness of the race.’ The phrases are different, of course, but there is enough similarity to suggest unconscious borrowing. However, there is no indication that Fitzgerald was consciously imitating Joyce’s book; A Portrait was too much a novel of selection for Fitzgerald’s taste at the time. He was, like Amory, probably ‘puzzled’ by it.” On pp. 34-35 of his book, Miller asserts: “Mr. Cargill, in Intellectual America (p. 349), stated that Fitzgerald’s method of ‘writing … dialogue as in a drama’ was ‘suggested by the work of Joyce.’ This is unlikely, for Fitzgerald first used the method in ‘The Debutante,’ published in The Smart Set in September, 1919, and later incorporated in This Side of Paradise (pp. 179 ff.). Ulysses, in which Joyce first used the method, was published as a book in 1922. Although it was serialized before 1922, it seems improbable that Fitzgerald had seen it before then, especially in view of his statement in a letter to Edmund Wilson dated June 29 [June 25?], 1922 (The Crack-Up, p. 26 [p. 260?]): ‘I have Ullysses [sic] from the Brick Row Bookshop & am starting it.’ This statement implies that Fitzgerald had not seen Joyce’s novel before. Probably the method is a carry-over for Fitzgerald from the writing of dialogue and lyrics for musical comedies at Princeton.” Fitzgerald possessed copies of Dubliners (in which he checked “Two Gallants,” “Counterparts,” ‘‘The Dead,” and wrote: “I am interested in the individual only in his rel [relation] to society. We have wondered [sic] in imaginary lonliness [sic] through imaginary woods for a hundred years”), Chamber Music, Pomes Penyeach, Ulysses (in which there is a card from Joyce dated 11.7.928), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (in which Joyce has inscribed on the front flyleaf: “To Scott Fitzgerald/James Joyce/Paris/11.7.928”). On August 9, 1939, he called Dubliners one of the “great English classics” (Fitzgerald to Morton [----], Fitzgerald Papers), and on June 25, 1922, he said of Ulysses: “I wish it was layed [sic] in America— there is something about middle-class Ireland that depresses me inordinately— I mean gives me a sort of hollow, cheerless pain. Half of my ancestors came from just such an Irish strata or perhaps a lower one. The book makes me feel appallingly naked” (Wilson, p. 260). He jotted in the “Literary” section of the notebooks: “Must listen for conversation style a la Joyce” (Fitzgerald Papers), borrowed the term he used to describe Dick Diver of Tender Is the Night—“a spoiled priest”—from Ulysses (New York, 1934, p. 512), and at a 1928 dinner sketched a picture of himself kneeling before Joyce, whose head is crowned with a halo (Sylvia Beach, Les Ecrivains Americains & Paris et Leurs Amis, 1920-1930 [Paris, 1959], opposite p. 81).

75 Frances Newman’s Letters, New York, 1929, pp. 40-42. For a detailed comparison between This Side of Paradise and Sinister Street, the reader should consult Frederick J. Hoffman, The Twenties, New York, 1955, pp. 100-103. Fitzgerald's interest in boys' stories affected not only the writing of his first novel, but also the Basil pieces of 1928. In fact, Basil tells us that he “had lived with such intensity on so many stories of boarding-school life” ("The Freshest Boy,” Taps at Reveille, New York, 1935, p. 27).

76 Fitzgerald secured for Miss Graham Wells’s The Outline of History and Experiment in Autobiography and Mackenzie’s Youth’s Encounter and Sinister Street. See note 46.

77 Mizener, p. 336. Conrad’s name is mentioned on p. 233 of This Side of Paradise. For a comprehensive and convincing analysis of Fitzgerald’s shift from “the novel of saturation” (Mackenzie, Wells, R. H. Benson) to “the novel of selection” (James, Wharton, Conrad, Cather, and Joyce), the reader should consult Miller’s book. For Conrad’s influence on The Great Gatsby, he should see R. W. Stallman’s “Conrad and The Great Gatsby” (note 7), which states, among other valuable insights, “What he learned from Conrad includes not only the device of the perplexed narrator and turns of phrasing, but also themes and plot-situations, ambivalence of symbolism, etc.—in fact, the craft of the novel” (p. 5).

78 Review of Through the Wheat, by Thomas Boyd, New York Evening Post, May 26, 1923, Sec, 3, p. 715.

79 In 1933 Fitzgerald wrote that Conrad had defined “the serious business” of his profession “more clearly, more vividly than any man of our time”: “My task is by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see” (“One Hundred False Starts”; see note 41).

80 Jamieson to Mizener, April, 1949, Princeton University Library.

81 Wilson, p. 288.

82 The Last Tycoon, Three Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald (see note 52), pp. 139-140.

83 Fitzgerald to Bishop, April 7, 1934, Fitzgerald Papers.

84 Fitzgerald to Hemingway, June 1, 1934, Fitzgerald Papers.

85 Letter of 1950 to Carlos Baker (see note 74). This is the sentence from which the quotation was taken: “To a much greater degree than Arthur Mizener or most critics realize, Scott too was and remained an earnest and competent student of the art of writing and this was one of the bonds between them” [Fitzgerald and Hemingway].

86 “How to Waste Material” (see note 55), pp. 264-265. The first reference Fitzgerald made to Hemingway appears in a letter he wrote to Perkins during 1924: “This is to tell you about a young man named Ernest Hemingway, who lives in Paris … writes for the Transatlantic Review & has a brilliant future. I’d look him up right away. He’s the real thing” (quoted by R. Burlingame, Of Making Many Books, New York, 1946, p. 47). The first letter of their correspondence, which extends over the period 1925-1935, is dated by Hemingway July 1, 1925.

87 Fitzgerald to Morton [----], August 9, 1939, Fitzgerald Papers.

88 Fitzgerald to Hemingway, November 8, 1940, Fitzgerald Papers.

89 Wilson, p. 325.

90  Fitzgerald to Hemingway, June 1, 1934, Fitzgerald Papers.

91 The “Literary” section of the notebooks, Fitzgerald Papers. An analysis of Hemingway's specific influence on Fitzgerald, comparable to Piper’s work with Norris, Stallman’s with Conrad, Hoffman’s with Mackenzie, and Miller’s with the shift from the “novel of saturation” to the “novel of selection,” is needed. Because my purpose has been to explore the author’s reading, and also because of space limitations, I have tried to be only suggestive regarding literary influences.

92 Fitzgerald to Mrs. Bayard Turnbull, March 15, 1935, Princeton University Library.

93 The “Literary” section of the notebooks, Fitzgerald Papers.

94 Wilson, p. 314.

95 Fitzgerald to Frances Scott Fitzgerald, November 29, 1940, Fitzgerald Papers.

96 Ibid.

97 Fitzgerald to Perkins, December 13, 1940, Fitzgerald Papers.

98 Fitzgerald to Frances Scott Fitzgerald, October 5, 1940, Fitzgerald Papers.

99 Fitzgerald to Mrs. Bayard Turnbull [June, 1933], Princeton University Library.

100 Ibid. [September, 1933], Princeton University Library.

101 Wilson, p. 288. See references above to Dreiser on pp. 67 and 69. Andrew Turnbull, Fitzgerald's new biographer, recently sent me the following quotation from a letter Fitzgerald wrote to Perkins (February 22, 1922): “I found that thing by Anatole France very interesting. It’s the same thing that Mencken says about Hardy & Conrad & Dreiser, the thing that lives [lifts] them above the ‘cerebral’ novelists like Wells—the profound gesture of pity.” Miss Graham says in Beloved Infidel that Fitzgerald thought of Dreiser as “his greatest contemporary.”

I am also grateful to Mr. Turnbull for sending the following lists copied from Fitzgerald's Scrapbook III:


1. Samuel Butler’s “Notebooks.” The mind and heart of my favorite Victorian.

2. “The Philosophy of Frederick Nietzsche” (H. L. Mencken). A keen hard intelligence interpreting the Great Modern Philosopher.

3. “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (James Joyce). Because James Joyce is to be the most profound literary influence of the next fifty years.

4. “Zuleika Dobson” (Max Beerbohm). For the sheer delight of its exquisite snobbery.

5. “The Mysterious Stranger” (Mark Twain). Mark Twain in his most sincere mood. A book and a startling revelation.

6. “Nostromo” (Joseph Conrad), The great novel of the past fifty years, as Ulysses is the great novel of the future.

7. “Vanity Fair” (Thackeray). No explanation required.

8. “The Oxford Book of English Verse.” This seems to me a better collection than Palgraves.

9. “Thais” (Anatole France). The great book of a man who is Wells and Shaw together.

10.“Seventeen” (Tarkington). The funniest book I’ve ever read.


at 14. “The Varmint,” Owen Johnson

at 16. “The Lord of the World,” Robert Hugh Benson

at 18. “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Oscar Wilde

at 20. “Sinister Street,” Compton MacKenzie

at 22. “Tono Bungay,” H. G. Wells

at 24. “The Genealogy of Morals,” Nietzsche

at 26. “The Brothers Karamazov”

at 28. Ludendorfs “Memoirs”

at 30. Spengler’s “Decline of the West”

102 An analysis of the Fitzgerald-Wilson relationship has never been made and would no doubt prove extremely valuable. Miller (The Fictional Technique of Scott Fitzgerald) discusses Willa Cather’s influence as does Stallman (“Conrad and The Great Gatsby") Oswald Spengler’s. Twentieth-century writers and works that Fitzgerald probably read but are not mentioned in either the text or notes: Aiken; Anderson (Winesburg, Ohio); Beerbohm (Seven Men; The Happy Hypocrite; A Christmas Garland; Yet Again; More; The Works); S. V. Benet (The Beginning of Wisdom); R. H. Benson (The Coward; The Religion of the Plain. Man; Richard Raynal); Bergson; J. P. Bishop (Green Fruit; The Undertaker’s Garland; Act of Darkness); Bodenheim; E. Boyd (Ireland's Literary Renaissance; Portraits: Real and Imaginary; Appreciations and Depreciations); Brooke (The Collected Poems; 1914 and Other Poems; “The Soldier”); V. W. Brooks (The Flowering of New England); H. Broun (Pieces of Hate and Other Enthusiasms); Cabell (The Cords of Vanity; Jurgen; Beyond Life; Figures of Earth); Caldwell; Cather (Death Comes for the Archbishop); Chesterton (The Man Who Was Thursday); Conrad (The Rover; Victory; Notes on Life and Letters; Notes on My Books; The Mirror of the Sea; The Secret Agent; Under Western Eyes; Almayer’s Folly); Coward; Cummings (Tulips and Chimneys); Dos Passos (A Pushcart at the Curb); Dreiser (The Titan; The Financier; The Color of a Great City; A Traveler at Forty; An American Tragedy); Eliot (Ash-Wednesday; For Lancelot Andrewes; Poems; The Waste Land; “Portrait of a Lady”); Ellis; Faulkner (Light in August; The Sound and the Fury; Sanctuary); Ferber; Frost (North of Boston); H. B. Fuller; Gale; Galsworthy (Another Sheaf; The White Monkey); Garland; D. Garnett (Lady into Fox); Glasgow; Gide; Gorky (Days with Lenin); Hemingway (Death in the Afternoon; The Sun also Rises; Men without Women; Three Stories & Ten Poems; Winner Take Nothing; The Torrents of Spring); Hergesheimer (Cytherea); R. Herrick; S. Howard (Three Flights Up); E. W. Howe; Huxley (Point Counter Point; On the Margin); Jeffers (Roan Stallion); Jung (Psychological Types); Lardner (Round Up; The Story of a Wonder Man; Treat ’em Rough; How to Write Short Stories); Lawrence (Sons and Lovers; Lady Chatterley’s Lover; A Modern Lover; Mornings in Mexico; Sea and Sardinia); Leslie (The End of a Chapter; The Celt and the World; The Oppidan); Lewis (Main Street); Lindsay (General William Booth Enters into Heaven, and Other Poems; The Congo, and Other Poems); A. Lowell; Mackenzie (First Athenian Memories); MacLeish (The Fall of the City; Nobodaddy); Malraux (Man’s Hope); Masters (“Anne Rutledge”); Masefield (“Cargoes”; Gallipoli); Millay (The Harp- Weaver and Other Poems); O. Nash; G. J. Nathan (Comedians All; Mr. George Jean Nathan Presents; The Critic and the Drama; The Theatre, the Drama, the Girls; The Intimate Notebooks); O’Hara (Appointment in Samarra; Butterfield 8; The Doctor’s Son, and Other Stories); O’Neill (Strange Interlude; Anna Christie; Ah, Wilderness!; The Emperor Jones); D. Parker (Enough Rope; After Such Pleasures; Laments for the Living); D. G. Phillips; Poole; Proust (Time Regained; Within a Budding Grove; The Captive; Cities of the Plain; The Guermantes Way; The Sweet Cheat Gone); Pound; Radiguet (Le Bal du Comte d’Orgel); Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front; Three Comrades); Sandburg (Abraham Lincoln); Saroyan; Service; Sinclair (William Fox; The Brass Check); Stein (Three Lives; Everybody’s Autobiography; The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; Geography and Plays; How to Write; The Making of Americans); Steinbeck; A. Symons; Synge (The Playboy of the Western World; Riders to the Sea); Tarkington (Penrod; The Magnificent Ambersons; The Flirt); Tate (Mr. Pope and Other Poems); Warren; E. Waugh (Decline and Fall; Vile Bodies); Wells (God, the Invisible King); Wescott (The Apple of the Eye); J. L. Weston (From Ritual to Romance); Wharton (The Custom of the Country; Ethan Frome; The Age of Innocence; French Ways and Their Meaning); Wilder (The Cabala; The Bridge of San Luis Rey; The Angel That Troubled the Waters, and Other Plays); W. C. Williams; E. Wilson (This Room and This Gin and These Sandwiches; Axel’s Castle); Wolfe (Look Homeward, Angel); The Woollcott Reader; Yeats (Collected Poems; “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”).

Let me remind the reader that my investigation of Fitzgerald’s reading has been based on his published canon, his notebooks, his letters, the volumes he gave to Miss Graham, the volumes he owned, and selected secondary works. Unquestionably the author read books that he did not purchase or mention; conversely, the fact that he possessed a book or referred to it is not indisputable proof he read it. I have been careful to avoid citing volumes from the two lists that have markings or signs of ownership which clearly belong to other persons (mother, wife, daughter, etc.). Let me remind the reader also that my discussion has been limited to Fitzgerald’s acquaintance with literature, and even here I have been selective. He read, of course, in other fields—notably history—and in the field of literature, unlisted authors and works.

103 Kazin, pp. 201, 203.

Published in The Princeton University Library Chronicle magazine (Volume XXII, Number 2, Winter 1961).