Introduction to Scott Fitzgerald’s Trimalchio
by J. L. West III

“…I’ve shifted things around a good deal to make people wonder.”
—Jay Gatsby to Nick Carraway, Trimalchio, Chapter VIII

Reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Trimalchio, an early and complete version of The Great Gatsby, is like listening to a well-known musical composition, but played in a different key and with an alternate bridge passage. A theme that one usually hears in the middle movement is now heard in the last. Familiar leitmotifs play through the work but appear at unexpected moments. Several favorite passages are missing, but new combinations and sequences, recognizably from the hand of the composer, are present. To the knowledgeable listener it is like hearing the same work and yet a different work.

I.   History Of The Text

Fitzgerald began to think seriously about the novel that would become Trimalchio, and later The Great Gatsby, in June 1922. He was living at White Bear Lake in Minnesota, near his home town of St. Paul; he was working on the proofs for Tales of the Jazz Age, his second collection of short stories. Fitzgerald labored for short stretches on this new novel during the next two years but was dissatisfied with what he wrote. The material he was working with was different from what he eventually decided to use for Gatsby. The locale of this novel, he said, was “the middle west and New York of 1885,” and the story had “a catholic element.” Fitzgerald never completed a full text of this narrative; only two holograph leaves survive from the drafts that he did produce. From these early efforts he salvaged the short story “Absolution,” published in the American Mercury for June 1924 and collected in All the Sad Young Men.

By early April 1924 Fitzgerald had reconceived his novel. In a well-known letter, written from Great Neck, Long Island (where he and his wife Zelda were living), he told Maxwell Perkins, his editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons, that his new narrative would be “purely creative work” and that it would draw on “the sustained imagination of a sincere and yet radiant world.” Fitzgerald began setting down this novel, in holograph, sometime that spring. He continued to compose through the summer of 1924 while living in Saint-Raphael on the French Riviera; by September he had completed an initial draft. He spent the early fall putting his narrative through a succession of revised typescripts and promised to send the novel to Perkins in October. He made good on that vow: on 27 October he placed a final typescript in the transatlantic mail.

On that day Fitzgerald ceased his labors and formally moved his novel into the public phase of its existence. He submitted it to the “publication process,” a loose term for a sequence of mechanical and commercial operations which would, as he knew, transform it from a literary artifact in one copy to a saleable commodity in multiple copies. Naturally he expected to see proofs, and surely he planned to do some revising on them, but there is no evidence that, on 27 October, he contemplated major rewriting or structural revisions. He had completed this version of his novel.

As it turned out, however, Fitzgerald did make major changes inthe galleys. He decided to do so partly on his own but was influenced also by Perkins’ reactions to the typescript. These criticisms came to him in letters dated 18 and 20 November. Perkins was generous with his praise: “The novel is a wonder,” he wrote in the first letter, adding in the second that Fitzgerald had produced “an extraordinary book.” Perkins complimented Fitzgerald’s narrative approach and was much taken by the irony and symbolism of the novel. “It’s magnificent!” he wrote.

Perkins also had suggestions, however, nearly all of them centering on Jay Gatsby. The character was “somewhat vague,” he complained: “The reader’s eyes can never quite focus upon him.” Perkins asked for more physical details about Gatsby, so that he might be seen “as vividly as Daisy and Tom are, for instance.” Perkins also wanted an explanation, or at least several hints, about the sources of Gatsby’s money. Most importantly, he suggested to Fitzgerald that the story of Gatsby’s past not be withheld until nearly the end of the novel–as it was in the typescript. Perhaps Gatsby’s career could “come out bit by bit in the course of actual narrative.”

After mailing these remarks to Fitzgerald, Perkins sent the typescript to the Scribner Press for typesetting. Such a course of action seems curious to us today. If Perkins was suggesting changes, why did he not let Fitzgerald produce a revised typescript and then send that text to the compositors as setting copy? The explanations for Perkins’ behavior are several. First, he probably did not anticipate major and thoroughgoing revisions. Fitzgerald had done little revising in the proofs of his previous five books with Scribners; probably he would only shift some material about and do some stylistic tinkering. Second, Fitzgerald was in Europe and communication with him was slow. If the novel was to be ready for the spring publishing season, it needed to be moved into production immediately. Perkins began the process by having the text typeset.

Third and most important, Charles Scribner’s Sons owned and operated its own printing plant. The Scribner Press was located at311 West 43rd Street in New York City; all printing and binding for the parent firm was executed there. The editors who worked in the Scribner Building at 597 Fifth Avenue had close and immediate control over printing operations at the Scribner Press and could usually count on efficient turnaround of proofs. What is more, the costs of letterpress composition during this period of U.S. book publishing were not as large (relative to the entire expense of producing a book) as they would later become. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, for example, Perkins customarily had the novels of Thomas Wolfe typeset before he and Wolfe got down to serious editorial work on them. Perkins followed this same pattern with Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (1929), Death in the Afternoon (1932), and To Have and Have Not (1937), all produced while Hemingway was living outside the United States. Thus Perkins’ decision to put Fitzgerald’s novel immediately into galleys appears not to have been unusual for him—not greatly different from having a stenographer make a clean typescript.

The composition was done in late December, and galley proofs went to Fitzgerald in two batches. Double sets of each batch were mailed, a working set for Fitzgerald to keep and a master set to be marked and returned to Perkins. The first batch of proofs was sent to the author on 27 December, the second batch on the 30th. Fitzgerald undertook a complicated rewriting and restructuring of the novel in these proofs, once they reached him in January. He followed his own instincts for revision but also paid attention to Perkins’ advice. On his own, he rewrote Chapters VI and VII; reacting to Perkins’ suggestions, he moved much material concerning Jay Gatsby’s past to earlier positions in the novel and added short paragraphs to account for Gatsby’s wealth. He polished   the   prose   extensively   and   introduced   several   newpassages, including the memorable description of Jay Gatsby’s smile in Chapter III.

He fretted about the title as well. Throughout the making of the novel, Fitzgerald had difficulty deciding what to call it. Besides “The Great Gatsby,” he considered “Among the Ash Heaps and Millionaires,” “Trimalchio,” “Trimalchio in West Egg,” “On the Road to West Egg,” “Gold-hatted Gatsby,” and “The High-bouncing Lover.” “Trimalchio,” the title he almost chose for the published book, was the name of the ostentatious party-giver in the Satyricon of Petronius.

The typescript that Fitzgerald mailed to Perkins in late October was apparently entitled “The Great Gatsby”—though no title page survives to prove it. By early November, Fitzgerald was instructing Perkins in a letter to call the novel “Trimalchio in West Egg.” This was probably the title that Perkins sent to the Scribner Press; the typeset line at the head of each surviving galley reads “Fitzgerald’s Trimalchio.” On 18 November, however, Perkins reported to Fitzgerald that his fellow editors at Scribners did not like “Trimalchio in West Egg.” Could the author supply another title? “I’ll try my best but I don’t know what I can do,” Fitzgerald wrote back. “Maybe simply ‘Trimalchio’ or ‘Gatsby.’” In mid-December he instructed Perkins by cable to call the book “The Great Gatsby,” but he continued to waver, suggesting “Gold-hatted Gatsby” and “Under the Red, White and Blue” in later communications. Three weeks before publication he remained dissatisfied: “I feel Trimalchio might have been best after all,” he wrote. By then, however, Perkins had told him that the title must stand. The novel had been sold in advance to the trade as The Great Gatsby; that would be its name.

Fitzgerald had been on the move while working on the galleys. He had returned the master proofs to Perkins in two batches, mailed separately on 24 January, from Rome, and 18 February, from Capri. (He retained the working proofs on which he had initially inscribed his revisions; this set survives today in his papers at Princeton.) There was not enough time for Fitzgerald to see and mark page proofs if his novel were to be ready for the spring selling season, so Perkins had the revises checked separately by two different readers at Scribners, and he read them himself. A courtesy set of page proofs went to Fitzgerald, but these do not survive. The first edition of the novel, in its revised form, with the title The Great Gatsby, was formally published on 10 April 1925.

The book has since become famous. Indeed, it is probably the most widely read novel written by an American in the twentieth century. Trimalchio, however, is virtually unknown. Besides Fitzgerald and Zelda, Perkins and his wife, a few members of the Scribners firm, and a handful of literary scholars, no one has ever read it. Trimalchio is not the same novel as The Great Gatsby. They are similar: the first two chapters of both books are almost identical; both novels have nine chapters and are narrated by Nick Carraway; both explore the effects of money and social class on human behavior and morality. The green light stands at the end of the Buchanans’ dock in both novels; Dan Cody and Meyer Wolfshiem are in both texts; Jay Gatsby gives his fabulous parties and uses the term “old sport” in both narratives. Trimalchio and Gatsby both include the famous guest list for Gatsby’s parties, and there is money in Daisy’s voice in both novels.

There are crucial differences, however. Chapters VI and VII of Trimalchio, as noted, are almost entirely different from the corresponding chapters in Gatsby; elsewhere Trimalchio contains several lengthy passages that do not appear in Gatsby. Nick Carraway is not the same in Trimalchio: he is not quite so likable or self-deprecating, and he more obviously controls the narrative. His love affair with Jordan Baker is traced in greater detail, and we see more readily why they are attracted to each other. Jordan’s character is more fully drawn; she and Nick are more clearly complicit in Daisy’s affair with Gatsby, and in the wreckage that follows. The reader is more aware in Trimalchio of Gatsby’s courting of celebrities—and of Tom and Daisy’s aversion to them. Theconfrontation between Tom and Gatsby in the Plaza is handled differently in Trimalchio (Gatsby is less convincingly defeated), and the mechanics of moving the characters from Long Island to central Manhattan are managed in a less roundabout way.

Most importantly, the unfolding of Jay Gatsby’s character is timed and executed in a wholly different fashion in Trimalchio. He remains shadowy and indistinct for a longer time; he gives Nick a few hints about his background, but not many. His past is a mystery until after Daisy runs down Myrtle Wilson while driving his yellow car. Some hours later, distraught and exhausted, Gatsby reveals his past to Nick in a beautifully rendered early-morning conversation -a sort of confessional scene. In a novel as intricately patterned and skillfully written as this one, all of these differences matter.

There is a tradition in Fitzgerald studies that The Great Gatsby became a masterpiece in revision. This edition of Trimalchio does not challenge that opinion. Fitzgerald improved the novel in galleys; The Great Gatsby is a better book than Trimalchio. But Trimalchio is itself a remarkable achievement, and different enough from Gatsby to deserve publication on its own. It is now put into play, not only for comparison with The Great Gatsby but for interpretation as a separate and distinct work of art.

2.   Editorial Principles

The text of Trimalchio survives in two identical sets of galley proofs—the working set marked by Fitzgerald, which is housed in his papers at Princeton University Library, and a clean set in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Thomas Cooper Library, University of South Carolina. The printed texts of these two sets of galleys are the same; the South Carolina galleys are unmarked duplicates of the Princeton galleys. The printedtext of the Princeton galleys has been used as the basis for this edition of Trimalchio. A holograph manuscript also survives in the Princeton archive; its importance to this edition will be treated below in the discussion of accidentals.

Of the surviving texts, the galleys are nearest in substantive form to the typescript that Fitzgerald mailed to Scribners in October 1924. That typescript, which must perforce have served as setting copy for the galleys, does not survive. Perhaps it was returned to Fitzgerald with his sets of proofs; more likely it stayed at Scribners and was later discarded. In all probability Perkins made no verbal changes in this typescript. He was not an aggressive line editor; he rarely made revisions “within the sentence” for Fitzgerald or for any of his other authors. Thus the galleys are probably, in substantive form, very close to the lost typescript, and in any case are as close as the surviving evidence will allow us to come to its text.

Accidentals are another matter. The copy-editors and compositors at Scribners surely made numerous changes in the spelling, punctuation, and word division of the typescript before setting its text in type, just as they had done for Fitzgerald’s previous five books with the publisher. Scribners had a house style which was imposed on nearly every book it issued. That style can readily be detected in the galleys of this novel; it is also evident in the first editions of Hemingway, Wolfe, and other Scribners authors of the period. This was a quasi-British style of orthography and pointing, imposed so that unbound sheets or duplicate printing plates of Scribners books could be sent to British publishers. These publishers would then not have to reset the texts themselves—an important point dictated by U.S. and British copyright law of the time. This is what happened for Gatsby; the first British “edition” of the novel is in fact an impression made from duplicates or molds of the Scribners second-printing plates that had been shipped to the British publisher, Chatto and Windus.

The Scribners house style is alien to Fitzgerald’s prose. In his handwritten drafts he did not use such forms as “to-day,” “upstairs,” “clew,” “scepticism,” “centre,” “programme,” or “criticise.” His own pointing was much more free and open than the Scribners style, which involved heavy imposition of commas and creation of numerous hyphenated compounds. Fortunately this overlay of spelling and punctuation can be largely removed from the galley text by reference to the surviving holograph, which preserves the original texture of Fitzgerald’s accidentals. The holograph is not a fair copy from which the final typescript was prepared; rather, it is a composite document, representing more than one stage of composition. Still, it contains handwritten drafts of most of the passages in Trimalchio. Whenever possible, therefore, the spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and word division of this holograph have been used in this text, unless the holograph is demonstrably in error. Obvious typos or transcription errors in the galleys (“eyes” for “ice”; “oarden” for “garden”) have been corrected.

A few features of the text of Trimalchio have been regularized to Fitzgerald’s most common practice. Italics are reserved for emphasis; book, magazine, and newspaper titles are enclosed within quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points following italicized words are also italicized. Dashes are one em withinsentences and two ems at the ends of sentences or fragments. Ellipsis points are normalized: three within sentences and four at the ends of sentences. The words “Sound” and “Park”—referring to Long Island Sound and Central Park—are capitalized. Fitzgerald’s spellings of the names Wolfshiem and Epstien are permitted to stand. “East” and “West” as places are capitalized; “east” and “west” as directions are in lower case. (Fitzgerald was inconsistent, sometimes capitalizing the words and sometimes not, according to no discernible pattern.) Fitzgerald’s preferred usage in the holograph—“middle-west”—is employed throughout.

The text of Trimalchio presented here leaves undisturbed a few factual irregularities that are present in the galleys. The only corrections made are for incongruities that Fitzgerald himself recognized and mended in his set of proofs. Other possible factual corrections are left unemended but are noted in a separate table in the apparatus. It is worth noting that most of the factual and chronological errors in the first edition of The Great Gatsby entered the text when Fitzgerald revised the galleys; thus they are not present in Trimalchio. The single sentence in Trimalchio requiring significant editorial emendation occurs in the fourth paragraph of the novel: “It was only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, that was exempted from my reaction.” Since this edition is entitled Trimalchio, the sentence has been emended to read: “It was only Gatsby who was exempted from my reaction.”

Trimalchio is a notable literary achievement. It is a direct and straightforward narration of the story of Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, Jordan Baker, Myrtle and George Wilson, and Tom and Daisy Buchanan. The handling of plot details is surehanded; the writing is graceful and confident. Trimalchio will provide readers with new understanding of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s working methods, fresh insight into his creative imagination, and renewed appreciation of his genius.

Note On Trimalchio

Trimalchio, a freed slave who has grown wealthy, hosts a lavish banquet in one of the best-known chapters of the Satyricon by Petronius (c. ad 27-66). In translations, the chapter is usually entitled “The Party at Trimalchio’s” or “Trimalchio’s Feast”; it is one of the best accounts of domestic revelry to survive from the reign of the emperor Nero. The chapter is narrated by Encolpius, an observer and recorder rather than a participant.

Banquet scenes were conventions of classical literature (e.g., the Symposia of Plato and Xenophon). They were occasions for mild jesting and for conversations about art, literature, and philosophy. Trimalchio’s party is a parody of this convention: most of the guests are inebriated and are disdainful of learning; their crude talk, in colloquial Latin, is largely about money and possessions.

Trimalchio himself is old and unattractive, bibulous and libidinous. His house, though, is spacious; his dining-room contains an impressively large water-clock; his servants are dressed in elaborate costumes. The banquet he hosts is ostentatious, with entertainments carefully rehearsed and staged. There are numerous courses of food and drink and several rounds of gifts for the guests, many of whom do not know Trimalchio and speak slightingly of him when he leaves the room.

The banquet becomes progressively more vinous; it ends with a drunken Trimalchio feigning death atop a mound of pillows, his hired trumpeters blaring a funeral march. The noise brings the city’s fire crew; they kick in the door and cause chaos with water and axes. Encolpius and his friends escape into the night without bidding farewell to their host.

Perkins letters

Nov. 18, 1924

Dear Scott:

I think the novel is a wonder. I’m taking it home to read again and shall then write my impressions in full;—but it has vitality to an extraordinary degree, and glamour, and a great deal of underlying thought of unusual quality. It has a kind of mystic atmosphere at times that you infused into parts of “Paradise” and have not since used. It is a marvelous fusion, into a unity of presentation, of the extraordinary incongruities of life today. And as for sheer writing, it’s astonishing.

Now deal with this question: various gentlemen here don’t like the title,—in fact none like it but me. To me, the strange incongruity of the words in it sound the note of the book. But the objectors are more practical men than I. Consider as quickly as you can the question of a change.

But if you do not change, you will have to leave that note off the wrap. Its presence would injure it too much;—and good as the wrap always seemed, it now seems a masterpiece for this book. So judge of the value of the title when it stands alone and write or cable your decision the instant you can. With congratulations, I am,

Yours, [Maxwell E. Perkins]

November 20, 1924

Dear Scott:

I think you have every kind of right to be proud of this book. It is an extraordinary book, suggestive of all sorts of thoughts and moods. You adopted exactly the right method of telling it, that of employing a narrator who is more of a spectator than an actor: this puts the reader upon a point of observation on a higher level than that on which the characters stand and at a distance that gives perspective. In no other way could your irony have been so immensely effective, nor the reader have been enabled so strongly to feel at times the strangeness of human circumstance in a vast heedless universe. In the eyes of Dr. Eckleberg various readers will see different significances; but their presence gives a superb touch to the whole thing: great unblinking eyes, expressionless, looking down upon the human scene. It’s magnificent!

I could go on praising the book and speculating on its various elements, and meanings, but points of criticism are more important now. I think you are right in feeling a certain slight sagging in chapters six and seven, and I don’t know how to suggest a remedy. I hardly doubt that you will find one and I am only writing to say that I think it does need something to hold up here to the pace set and ensuing. I have only two actual criticisms:—

One is that among a set of characters marvelously palpable and vital—I would know Tom Buchanan if I met him on the street and would avoid him—Gatsby is somewhat vague. The reader’s eyes can never quite focus upon him, his outlines are dim. Now everything about Gatsby is more or less a mystery i.e. more or less vague, and this may be somewhat of an artistic intention, but I think it is mistaken. Couldn’t he be physically described as distinctly as the others, and couldn’t you add one or two characteristics like the use of that phrase “old sport”,—not verbal, but physical ones, perhaps. I think that for some reason or other a reader—this was true of Mr. Scribner and of Louise—gets an idea that Gatsby is a much older man than he is, although you have the writer say that he is little older than himself. But this would be avoided if on his first appearance he was seen as vividly as Daisy and Tom are, for instance;—and I do not think your scheme would be impaired if you made him so.

The other point is also about Gatsby: his career must remain mysterious, of course. But in the end you make it pretty clear that his wealth came through his connection with Wolfsheim. You also suggest this much earlier. Now almost all readers numerically are going to be puzzled by his having all this wealth and are going to feel entitled to an explanation. To give a distinct and definite one would be, of course, utterly absurd. It did occur to me though, that you might here and there interpolate some phrases, and possibly incidents, little touches of various kinds, that would suggest that he was in some active way mysteriously engaged. You do have him called on the telephone, but couldn’t he be seen once or twice consulting at his parties with people of some sort of mysterious significance, from the political, the gambling, the sporting world, or whatever it may be. I know I am floundering, but that fact may help you to see what I mean. The total lack of an explanation through so large a part of the story does seem to me a defect;—or not of an explanation, but of the suggestion of an explanation. I wish you were here so I could talk about it to you for then I know I could at least make you understand what I mean. What Gatsby did ought never to be definitely imparted, even if it could be. Whether he was an innocent tool in the hands of somebody else, or to what degree he was this, ought not to be explained. But if some sort of business activity of his were simply adumbrated, it would lend further probability to that part of the story.

There is one other point: in giving deliberately Gatsby’s biography when he gives it to the narrator you do depart from the method of the narrative in some degree, for otherwise almost everything is told, and beautifully told, in the regular flow of it,— in the succession of events or in accompaniment with them. But you can’t avoid the biography altogether. I thought you might find ways to let the truth of some of his claims like “Oxford” and his army career come out bit by bit in the course of actual narrative. I mention the point anyway for consideration in this interval before I send the proofs.

The general brilliant quality of the book makes me ashamed to make even these criticisms. The amount of meaning you get into a sentence, the dimensions and intensity of the impression you make a paragraph carry, are most extraordinary. The manuscript is full of phrases which make a scene blaze with life. If one enjoyed a rapid railroad journey I would compare the number and vividness of pictures your living words suggest, to the living scenes disclosed in that way. It seems in reading a much shorter book than it is, but it carries the mind through a series of experiences that one would think would require a book of three times its length.

The presentation of Tom, his place, Daisy and Jordan, and the unfolding of their characters is unequalled so far as I know. The description of the valley of ashes adjacent to the lovely country, the conversation and the action in Myrtle’s apartment, the marvelous catalogue of those who came to Gatsby’s house,—these are such things as make a man famous. And all these things, the whole pathetic episode, you have given a place in time and space, for with the help of T. J. Eckleberg and by an occasional glance at the sky, or the sea, or the city, you have imparted a sort of sense of eternity. You once told me you were not a natural writer—my God! You have plainly mastered the craft, of course; but you needed far more than craftsmanship for this.

As ever, [Maxwell E. Perkins}

P.S. Why do you ask for a lower royalty on this than you had on the last book where it changed from 15% to 17 1/2 % after 20,000 and to 20% after 40,000? Did you do it in order to give us a better margin for advertising? We shall advertise very energetically anyhow and if you stick to the old terms you will sooner overcome the advance. Naturally we should like the ones you suggest better, but there is no reason you should get less on this than you did on the other.

Chronology Of Composition And Publication

June 1922 Fitzgerald conceives ideas and themes for a third novel while correcting proofs for Tales of the Jazz Age at White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Summer 1923 He produces 18,000 words; most of this material is later discarded, but he salvages the short story ”Absolution,” published in June 1924.

April 1924 Fitzgerald reconceives the novel; he tells Maxwell Perkins, his editor at Scribners, that it will be a “consciously artistic achievement.”

Summer 1924 Fitzgerald completes the first draft of the novel in France and begins revising the text.

October 1924 He finishes the novel and mails it to Scribners on 27 October; its title is “The Great Gatsby.”

November 1924 Perkins sends criticisms to Fitzgerald in letters dated 18 and 20 November. Fitzgerald changes the title to “Trimalchio in West Egg.”

December 1924 Two sets of galley proofs are mailed to Fitzgerald at the end of the month; he reverts to “The Great Gatsby” as his title.

January-February 1925 Fitzgerald revises galleys in Rome and Capri; he returns master proofs to Perkins and continues to suggest other titles, including “Trimalchio.”

March 1925 Resetting, corrections, and checking at Scribners. The title is fixed as “The Great Gatsby.”

10 April 1925 Publication of the first edition.

The Best Gatsby
by Budd Schulberg

If you seek an antidote to the image of F. Scott Fitzgerald the playboy, Fitzgerald the spoiled brat of American letters, or Fitzgerald the careless genius, you may now go to the source, the facsimile of the hand-written manuscript of “The Great Gatsby,” recently published by Matthew Bruccoli, editor of the Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual.

Throughout the manuscript (and on through the galley revisions) one follows Fitzgerald’s tireless quest for the mot juste as he changes shadow to silhouette, quickly to vigorously, he interrupted to he suggested, a sort of joy to a joyous exaltation, looked to glance, My house was on the tip of West Egg to the more direct I lived at West Egg. We could fill this column with such examples. But still more provocative are the block cuts, long passages of lovely writing surgically removed because they interfere with the narrative flow or because they tell too much too soon about the Buchanans instead of allowing them to define themselves in dialogue and action.

In telling us of the Buchanans’ symbolic move from the Middle West to the East, for instance, Fitzgerald first had Nick saying: “Why they came East I don’t know—perhaps for the same reason I did, searching among unfamiliar surroundings for that vague lost stimulus of the war. Everybody knew Tom Buchanan, of course, east and west, and they had lived almost everywhere for a while, at least everywhere horses are ridden and polo is played in a fashionable sense. And for a little while for no particular reason, except perhaps the recurrent fascination of the war, they [Line drawn through italicized words in original].”

There Fitzgerald stopped, crossed out all of the above and started again: “Why they came east I don’t know—perhaps they too were searching among unfamiliar surroundings for that vague lost stimulus of war. They had spent a year in France, for no particular reason and they drifted here and there unrestfully wherever horses were ridden in the fashionable sense and polo was played and people were rich together. [Line drawn through italicized words in original].” Finally, in print, it boils down to: “Why they came East I don’t know. They had spent a year in France for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together.”

The next, 16-line paragraph—gracefully describing Nick’s eccentricity in driving with the top down, how people in passing cars stare at him, how he smiles encouragingly back, how they look alarmed and turn away—is omitted. Able to scrap a passage most novelists would indulge, Fitzgerald recaptures the tone and economy of the Why they came east paragraph and simply opens the one to follow with: “And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove over to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all.”

The cut is a nice example of the philosophy of editing appalled throughout the manuscript to maintain a delicate balance between Nick’s and Fitzgerald’s material. The telling of this short, intensive novel through the eyes of Nick Carraway is flawless because Fitzgerald is always on guard against the self-indulgence of first-person narration.

We find an intriguing example at the end of the first chapter of the manuscript. Nick, just returned from dinner with the Buchanans, looks out from “my wretched lovely house at West Egg” (changed to “my estate at West Egg” in the published novel) and sees his mysterious neighbor (Gatsby) “stretch out both his arms hands toward the sky and in a curious way—far as I was from him I could have sworn they were he was trembling. Involuntarily I looked up. When I lowered my eyes looked down again he was gone, and I was left to wonder whether it was really the sky he had come out to measure with the compass of those aspiring arms.

The sense of being in a strange an unfamiliar place deepened on me and as the moon rose higher the unessential houses seemed to melt away until I was aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors eyes—a fresh green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the very trees that had made was for Gatsby’s house, had pandered once with whispering leaves pandered once in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams -and for a transitory and enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate with his capacity for wonder. [line drawn through italicized words in original].” In the published version, Chapter I ends fastidiously: “…he stretched his arms out toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.”

So the revised chapter closes on just the right note of quiet mystery. Let the story unfold, let it create its own myth. But, when the story is finished, when Gatsby is buried and the Buchanans have retreated “back into their money or their vast carelessness,” then it is time for Nick Carraway to sound the coda. And so we find the elegiac passage, “…as the moon rose higher the unessential houses seemed to melt away,’ originally written for the end of Chapter I, moved all the way to the closing pages of the published book. There it seems neither rhetorical nor anticipatory, but eminently fitting, relating Gatsby’s loss of Daisy to the American dream once so full promise but now corrupted by the Buchanans, whose wealth is license to use other people’s lives for their playthings.

Thus, the perfection of the published novel is found to be the result of a self-critical writer who could complete the hard work of this hand-written manuscript and then write in his ledger: “Now the had work begins.”

(New York Times, May 18, 1975)

Первая редакция «Великого Гэтсби»

В 2000 году в Америке появилось несколько интересных изданий произведений Фрэнсиса Скотта Фицджеральда. Наиболее заметными из них можно назвать сборник ранних рассказов и повестей писателя, написанных в 1920-1922 гг., и публикацию ранней версии романа «Великий Гэтсби». Один из самых знаменитых американских романов ХХ века первоначально назывался «Тримальхион» — по имени одного из персонажей «Сатирикона» Петрония, богача, славившегося своими роскошными пирами. Теперь «Тримальхион» вышел в двух вариантах: один, тиражом 500 нумерованных экземпляров, для исследователей — это факсимильное издание гранок с правкой Фицджеральда, подготовленное крупнейшим исследователем творчества писателя и его биографом профессором Мэтью Брукколи; второй — публикация «Тримальхиона» с комментариями профессора Джеймса Уэста.

Благодаря этим изданиям можно проследить историю создания романа «Великий Гэтсби». Уже в раннем рассказе Фицджеральда «Зимние мечты» появился мальчик, в воображении видящий себя богатым и сильным. Мальчик этот влюбился в дочь богача, и мечта о счастье с ней никогда больше не оставляла его. Со временем мальчик вырос, сколотил состояние, но самое главное его желание так и осталось неосуществленным — возлюбленная вышла замуж, нарожала детей и потеряла все свое очарование. Многие сцены из этого рассказа практически в неизменном виде перекочевали в роман «Великий Гэтсби». Приблизительно в то же время, когда писатель закончил работу над «Тримальхионом», был опубликован и один из самых знаменитых рассказов Фицджеральда «Отпущение грехов». Идею этого рассказа Фицджеральд сформулировал в письме: «Священник отпускает мальчику грехи (конечно, не в обрядовом смысле), показывая ему, что он (священник) находится в еще более жутком состоянии ужаса и отчаяния». Ужас, отчаяние и мечты, которым не суждено сбыться, неизменно преследуют людей, живущих в открытый Фицджеральдом «век джаза» — атмосфера эта является фоном, на котором впоследствии развернутся события «Великого Гэтсби».

«Тримальхион» — следующая ступень в творчестве Фицджеральда. Замысел романа пришел к писателю весной 1924 года на Лонг-Айленде, а большую часть его он написал, находясь на французской Ривьере. Из Европы он отправил текст в Нью-Йорк своему издателю Максуэллу Перкинсу, откуда тот, в свою очередь, прислал его обратно уже в виде корректурных гранок — для окончательной проверки. Такое поведение было само по себе неслыханной любезностью: набор текста в то время был делом дорогостоящим и трудоемким, а потому издатели предпочитали, не консультируясь лишний раз с автором книги, сразу отдавать ее в печать; и Перкинс уж никак не ожидал, что Фицджеральд внесет в текст столько исправлений. В процессе правки «Тримальхиона» возник «Великий Гэтсби».

Разница между «Тримальхионом» (в то время Фицджеральд еще настаивал на этом названии) и «Великим Гэтсби» весьма значительна: писатель убрал некоторые эпизоды, в результате чего, по мнению ряда исследователей, усилилась эмоциональная напряженность повествования; отказался от излишней прямолинейности в некоторых сценах (например, когда Ник упрекает Гэтсби в том, что «как только он получил Дэзи, она стала ему не нужна»). Однако повествовательная манера, большинство сюжетных коллизий и проблематика остались прежними.

Сам Фицджеральд был весьма доволен своим произведением: нередко он в шутку называл его «самым лучшим романом из всех романов, написанных в Америке».

(Курьер «Иностранной Литературы», № 11, 2000)

Прототипы героев

Прототип Тома: Томми Хичкок (Tommy Hitchcock), один из лучших американских игроков в поло того времени. Скотт общался с ним в период проживания на Лонг-Айленде (1923-1924).

Прототип Джордан: Эдит Каммингс (Edith Cummings), одноклассница Джиневры Кинг. Фото 1923 года.