The Claims of the Lit
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Editor of
The Alumni Weekly,
Dear Sir: I read with interest the letter of Mr. Edmund B. Wilson, Jr., ’16, in The Alumni Weekly for Feb. 25, and I most heartily concur in his plea that the claims of the Nassau Literary Magazine to endowment should be prior to those of the Philadelphian Society. A scant fourth of every class, the more immature, impressionable, and timid fourth, are swept up yearly by the drag-net of the Philadelphian Society. By senior year most of them realize that the point of view therein camouflaged under the name of “social service” has little connection with modern life and modern thought—except with the present kill-joy spirit sweeping the Chautauquas—and the swarm of earnest youths diminishes to a mere scattering of mild and innocuous uplifters. But I believe that during the first three years inestimable harm is done to the impressionable fourth. Nothing could be less stimulating to that quickening of interest and intellectual curiosity which is the aim of all education than the depressing conviction of sin distilled by those prosperous apostles who go the rounds of the colleges frightening amiable freshmen. That a man such as the famous “bad example” should be permitted to sit smugly upon a Princeton lecture platform to be pointed at by the raucous lecturer as a reformed rake, and hence as an ideal, is a custom too ridiculous to be disgraceful but also too absurd to be endowed.

It seems inevitable that this herd of blue-nosed professional uplifters, at present at large in America appealing to the intellect of farmers’ wives and pious drug-clerks, shall have a breeding place in Princeton, but that men to whom such ideas are distasteful and revolting should have to contribute to keep it alive and bawling when the Lit. goes unendowed is really too much.

It is an unnecessary truckling to the mediocre religious fanaticism of a dull and earnest minority. Princeton lives by its statesmen and artists and scientists—even by its football teams—but not by its percentage of puritans in every graduating class.

F. Scott Fitzgerald ’17.

Published in The Princeton Alumni Weekly magazine (Vol. XX, No. 22, 1920 March10).

Illustrations by (unknown Esquire artist N).