“The Last of the Novelists”: F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Last Tycoon
by Matthew J. Bruccoli

6/ The Book

Sheilah Graham sent the unfinished novel to Maxwell Perkins on 11 January 1941, shortly after Fitzgerald’s death.

I have today sent air mail and registered a copy of Scott’s unfinished novel. It is hard to know where to begin in talking about it. There are masses and masses of notes, which you will probably want to see as well; but Scott’s secretary has all these, and she only has one copy of them. When and if you want to see them, I will have her make copies if you think it necessary.

I don’t know whether you knew that the hero of Scott’s book was suggested strongly by Irving Thalberg, who died in the summer of 1936. And I am enclosing a copy of a letter which Scott had penciled with the probable intention of writing it to his wife, Norma Shearer, when he had completed the novel. We also found a fragment addressed to himself, which is so very sad. I thought you would like to see it now.

With the book you will find a large sheet of paper on which, right at the beginning, he wrote down his plan for the book. He had changed some of it, of course, but not basically. As you see at the bottom, he was writing the book for two people—for Seventeen as symbolized by Scottie, and for Edmund Wilson at forty-five. His idea was to interest both generations.

I don’t know whether Scott had discussed titles with you. At first for quite a while, he was going to call it STAHR—which is the nameof the book’s hero. But about three weeks before he died, he said to me, with a grin— “What do you think of this title?—THE LOVE OF THE LAST TYCOON.” My first reaction was “I’m not sure.” And he wasn’t sure either. But he was going to sit on it, and then submit it to you and see what you thought. In his papers he had written it down as follows:

A Western By F. Scott Fitzgerald

The title has grown on me quite a bit. He wanted it to sound like a movie title and completely disguise the tragi-heroic content of the book.

When you have finished reading it and you want to know how it was going to end, I will get together again with his secretary, and we can put together his latest ideas for the rest of the book. I am aching to know what you think of it. As you know, he would not let me read it—until he had polished the first draft. But he read from day to day the words he had written, and it seemed pretty good then; but not nearly as good as I found it when I actually did read it, which I have just done. Don’t forget this was the first draft.

Here are some odd notes that you might want to know. In the early part of the book he mentions ’Cecelia’ as having gone to Smith College. Later he changed it to Bennington, and it was the latter that he wanted.

The time of the book’s action was most important to Scott. I don’t know whether this appears in his notes, but he wanted it to be as of five years ago. He places the period with the songs of 1934-5 and by the mention of a few people who were alive or prominent at that time. When I asked him why he had put the novel back a little in the past, he said it would have been quite a different story if he had written of Hollywood today—and that with the death of Thalberg, the last of the Princes had departed. There weren’t many others, but I think he regarded D. W. Griffith as one.

You will find he mentions the near-future death of ’Stahr’ in two places. He was going to eliminate one of the references when he hadcompleted the first draft. He wanted it to be where it would have most shock effect.

In Episode #8, page 5.—he substituted the name ’Brady’ for ’Bradogue.’ And when I told him that I thought Bradogue was a much better name, suggesting something rather harsh and ruthless, he said that was why he had changed it. As he went on writing the novel, he apparently decided that Bradogue should not be quite the horror he had intended him to be at the beginning.

The longest episode in the book deals with Stahr’s Day. He was not altogether satisfied with what he had done on this, and was going to work it over and possibly cut and change it a great deal.

In Episode #8 and #9—there is a repetition of his description of ’Rose Meloney.’ He intended cutting it out from Episode #9.

He was far from satisfied with all of Episode #11, and was going to work quite a bit on that too.

In Episode #16—First Part—Page 3, he wanted the word turkey spelt ’tuhkey’—as it is typed.

About ’Schwartze’ in the first episode of the book. Scott told me he would either have to cut him out completely or find some way of bringing him into the rest of the book… On page 19 in the first part, where he describes ’Stahr’ as being the head of his gang when he was a boy, a similar idea appears in Budd Schulberg’s book, which is coming out in a couple of months, and Scott was going to eliminate this.

There may be quite a few errors on the movie production stuff, but he was going to check all this very thoroughly before sending the book to you.

And that is all. Except here’s a copy of the plan he had for Stahr’s Day.

P. S. I have initialed the few pencil marks I have done on the copy. Everything else is in Scott’s handwriting—with the exception of the word ’English’ for British. I was his technical adviser on the English stuff and would have told him to make that change.

Perkins consulted with the executor of Fitzgerald’s estate, John Biggs, and with Harold Ober about publication. Although Perkins seems to have initially had reservations about the wisdom of salvaging the work-in-progress on The Last Tycoon, it was decided that the material should be published in a collection of Fitzgerald’s work. Some consideration was given to the plan of having another writer complete the novel. John O’Hara and Budd Schulberg were tentatively approached by Perkins; both declined. At one point Perkins seems to have considered asking Ernest Hemingway, but Zelda Fitzgerald firmly resisted the suggestion—without mentioning Hemingway’s name in her letter: “May I suggest that rather than bringing into play another forceful talent of other inspiration it would be felicitous to enlist a pen such as that of Gilbert Seldes, whose poetry depends on concision of idea and aptitude of word rather than on the spiritual or emotional transport of the author.” Then Edmund Wilson agreed to edit the work-in-progress without recompense, contributing his editorial fee to the estate for the benefit of Zelda and Scottie. While Wilson was editing the material he was in touch with Sheilah Graham, who shared with him her knowledge of Fitzgerald’s plans. Her 6 March 1941 letter about the ending of the novel was supplemented by her visit to Wilson on Cape Cod.

If Scribner’s publish the unfinished manuscript, it should be trimmed a little, don’t you think? There are some parts—particularly parts in the Producer’s Day that Scott was going to cut down. The manuscript is 37,000 words now, of which Scott would have cut about 6 or 7,000 words. As I wrote to Max Perkins, I could perhaps help on this in pointing out just where he had planned the cuts. Or is it better for someone who doesn’t know Hollywood at all—someone who would only know what was interesting from an outsider’s point of view to do that?

This is how it was going to end:

Brady was out to ruin Stahr in the same way that at one time, and perhaps all the time, L. B. Mayer was out to wrest control of Metro from and/or to ruin Irving Thalberg. Stahr was almost kicked out and decided to remove Brady. He resorted to Brady’s own gangster methods—he was going to have him murdered.

On a ’plane flying back to Hollywood Stahr decides not to go through with the murder, which has already been planned and which other people are doing for him—if he did, he would be as bad as theBrady crowd. So at the next airplane stop he plans a cancellation of orders. I imagine the murder was to take place within a few hours. Before the next stop, however, the ’plane crashes, and Stahr is killed. Which left the murder to go through.

I think the final scene of all was to have been Stahr’s funeral. And Scott was going to use an actual incident that happened at Thalberg’s funeral. Harry Carey, a well-known actor in the old silents and popular in the early talkies, had been unable to get a job in pictures for several years before Thalberg died. He did not know Thalberg and was surprised to receive an invitation to act as pallbearer at his funeral. It was considered a great honor and only the most important and most intimate of Thalberg’s friends (all of them important) were asked to be pallbearers. Harry Carey—slightly dazed, accepted and big-shots at the funeral were amazed when they saw Carey, presuming he had an inside track of some sort with Thalberg, and as a direct result he was deluged with picture offers and has been working ever since. The invitation was a mistake. It was meant for someone else, whom Scott told me about but whose name I have forgotten.

Scott was going to have at the funeral all the Hollywood hypocrites assembled in full force. I had told him of the Marx Brothers sobbing their eyes out on the day Thalberg died—always making sure they were within crying distance of the ’right’ people. Scott was going to have Stahr’s spirit say, “Trash!”

The English girl was to remain an outsider in Hollywood—I think one of Scott’s notes has that she would never get inside a studio (although that is where Stahr first saw her on that idol floating down with the flood). Cecelia, the narrator, is writing her story in a sanitarium for T.B.’s, and this, of course, would be revealed at the end.

At the point where Scott left off things were to go badly for Stahr in business and love. Many things, although in the plan, would have been changed in the same way that he deviated within the structure of the plot on what he had already written and the plan. In the plan he had the American man the English girl married, a technician or something in the studio. But I think he was going to change that—make him more powerful, put him in the position of damaging Stahr.

I am coming to New York again for a week at the beginning of May. Perhaps by that time something will have been decided about the manuscript. If some or all of it is published, Scott’s dying won’tbe quite so awful. He worked hard and desperately and hopefully on the book, and it would be terribly sad if it were lost.

Most of Wilson’s correspondence with Perkins is missing from the Scribners Archives at the Princeton University Library; and his letters to Miss Graham have not been located.

Miss Graham and Frances Kroll, Fitzgerald’s secretary, both responded to Wilson’s summary of the novel’s unfinished parts on 11 June 1941.

[Frances Kroll]
I’ve read and reread your synopsis. I think you’ve developed a wonderfully clear plot line, considering the mass of notes you had to wade through. However, I do hope you will not consider me audacious if I make a criticism. Believe me, I only venture to do this because STAHR so completely filled those last months. I feel that after reading the book, to plunge into several pages of outline will not carry through to the end any emotional contact with STAHR. Of course, I realize that the purpose of the synopsis is to give the reader an idea of the way the novel might have continued, but I strongly felt the need of a little padding of Stahr even in a synopsis. The story of Hollywood is not as important as is the conception of Stahr, the man.

Although Scott definitely told me he did not want to make Stahr a hero in the conventional sense of the word and did not want to justify Stahr’s manner of thinking, he did want to present it thoroughly and show the cause of Stahr’s reactions. Stahr truly believed that because he quickly climbed the ladder from office boy to executive that all other people had the same chance for success—that the day of individual success was still flourishing. I believe that is why Scott satirically considered the alternate title for the book “The Last of the Tycoons.” Despite Stahr’s genius and artistry he did not “come along” politically.

He believed in infinite loyalty—if you gave people a chance they should play along with you no matter what opposition they might have to your tactics. That was why he quarrelled with Wylie White, whom he had repeatedly given a chance despite White’s pranks and drunken habits and who turned after the pay cut even though Stahr had not instigated this cut.

I think, too, it should be emphasized how badly Stahr felt about the pay cut. Brady took advantage of Stahr’s absence from the studio to call a meeting of the writers. With a tearful speech he told them that he and other executives would take a cut if the writers consented to take one. If they did, it would not be necessary to reduce the salaries of the stenographers and other low salaried employees. The writers agreed to take the cut and Brady about-faced and slashed the stenographers’ salary to a new low anyhow. These are tactics which Stahr’s sense of fair play would never have allowed.

You mention something about Stahr’s change in status as a producer. Unless this is specified in the notes, I don’t think this is so. From what I remember of our discussions, Stahr, inherently the artist, was to make one artistic flop—the kind of picture that would not be a movie “box office hit” but one that would be an artistic achievement. It was to be a picture in good taste and perhaps filled with all the ideas Stahr, the artist has always wanted to see realized on the screen, but which Stahr, the Hollywood producer could not very well make because such a film would not be money-making. It was to be a picture he knew from the start would “lose a couple of million” but which he nevertheless makes to satisfy himself despite opposition from other studio financial heads. (This, I believe, was to be the picture followed in the other “day at the studio).

Forgive me for running on like this, but I truly think a few colorful background facts will make STAHR more memorable even though so much of the novel has to peter out in synopsis form.

If my suggestion has no merit, please just forget it, and if you think it might help, I know your expert critical hand will simmer this letter down to a few sentences rightly inserted.

Many thanks for letting me see the synopsis and if I can be of further help do let me know. With very best wishes.

P.S. I believe Kathleen and Cecelia were to have a scene, a rather friendly one, after Stahr’s death, although just how or where I do not know. Is it specified anywhere?

About the ending—the airplane sequence was not definitely set as an epilogue, but was as probable as any other. I believe it was in the original outline of the novel submitted to Mr. Perkins. Are you going to use it at all?

[Sheilah Graham]
Max Perkins sent your notes on how the story ends.

Mark #1. What about the name Smith? That’s Kathleen’s name—isn’t it?[Kathleen’s last name is Moore. Her friend is named Edna Smith.] And it is also the name of her future husband—W. Bronson Smith. At first, as you know by the notes, Kathleen was to have been a married woman when she met Stahr. Now she is unmarried when they meet, but still called Smith. Is it confusing to have Kathleen have the same surname as the man she is going to marry? Or doesn’t it matter? It probably doesn’t.

Mark #2. You say, “A wage cut threatened at Universal.” This is the name of a studio in Hollywood, and Scott was anxious to avoid the impression of any particular studio as the place of his story. I don’t remember his using the word “Universal” in his story. It might be better in your notes to say “Stahr’s Studio” or something like that.

Mark #3. Was it clear that Stahr and Brady were trying to blackmail each other? I thought the purpose of wire-tapping was for each to get the goods on the other and that Brady would use it to kick Stahr out of the studio. But Stahr would only use his information to retain his command of studio production. Or is that blackmail anyway?

Mark #4. Did Brady decide to bump Stahr off? Is that in the notes? I didn’t know that. I thought Scott had just meant that Brady was a killer when he decided that Stahr should consider using Brady’s own weapon—murder—to get his way. On the separate page—which I found a few days ago, there is reference to Brady’s past “the affair of the girl’s husband murdered.” This, I imagine, refers to the philandering of Brady with a woman whose husband he had murdered. Does it sound confused and too melodramatic that Brady should decide to murder Stahr, then Stahr decide to murder Brady—unless, of course, you have notes to this effect—and you indicate this on page 171. through Pete Zavras? Stahr, of course, was going to have Brady murdered, until he decided in the plane against using Brady’s own despicable methods and was going to stop it but the plane crashes.

Mark #5. I can’t quite remember this, but I thought Cecilia went to see her father in his office to try to get a job for that broken-down actress who knew Kathleen—not for Johnny Swanson—or did she try for both?

And finally, Scott did not altogether have that feeling of hopelessness about the movies as an instrument for reflecting American life and ideals. True, Stahr and Thalberg died—Thalberg because of over-working and straining against enormous odds—and Fleishacker is sort of left in control. But I know for a fact that Scott felt that the day would come when another great figure—another Thalberg or Griffith—would succeed in again doing something fine with the movie medium. Scott, himself, wanted to be a movie director because of what he thought could be done.

Perkins’ correspondence with John Biggs shows that Wilson’s original plan was to publish The Last Tycoon with “The Crack-Up” essays and perhaps the Pat Hobby stories. Perkins opposed this plan, feeling that Fitzgerald had done himself a disservice with “The Crack-Up” and that the Hobby stories were far below Fitzgerald’s best short fiction.

The title of the volume published by Scribners on 27 October 1941 read: THE LAST TYCOON / AN UNFINISHED NOVEL / BY / F. SCOTT FITZGERALD / TOGETHER WITH / THE GREAT GATSBY / AND SELECTED STORIES.’

The stories were “May Day,” “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” “The Rich Boy,” “Absolution,” and “Crazy Sunday.” The size of the first printing is unknown, but it was less than 5,000 copies. The book sold steadily but slowly. A second printing was required in 1941; it was reprinted in 1945, 1947, and 1948.

The reviews were good, with many critics taking their lead from Wilson’s assertion that The Last Tycoon is Fitzgerald’s “most mature” work. The statement that it would have been Fitzgerald’s masterpiece was not unusual. Stephen Vincent Benet’s assessment in The Saturday Review of Literature attracted considerable attention: “You can take off your hats now, gentlemen, and I think perhaps you had better. This is not a legend, this is a reputation—and, seen in perspective it may well be one of the most secure reputations of our time.”

THE LAST TYCOON IS THE most promising unfinished work in American literature and the one that has received the most serious critical attention. Indeed,  the appreciation of this fragment hastended to obscure its fragmentary nature. On 21 December 1940, the day of his death, Fitzgerald had written about half of a working draft, for he had completed the 17th episode of a 30-episode outline; however, at this point he had consumed 44,000 words of his 51,000-word projection. Many structural problems remained unsolved. The amount of plot action still to be developed in the unwritten portions—the double blackmail, the Washington trip, the resumption of Stahr’s affair with Kathleen, the union struggle, the studio pay cut, the plane crash, the funeral—strongly suggests that Fitzgerald would have needed another 50,000 words to complete his plan.

The only published text of The Last Tycoon is still the one Edmund Wilson edited in 1941. At that time he was performing an act of friendship on behalf of a writer who was generally regarded as a failure. Wilson’s edition was adequate for its time and purpose: to salvage Fitzgerald’s literary remains and bring in a little money for the estate. Now Fitzgerald is a major figure whose final work-in-progress merits careful study. A definitive edition of The Last Tycoon is overdue.

The editorial problem for a definitive edition of The Last Tycoon involves two concerns: preparing a text of the work that preserves Fitzgerald’s intentions, and identifying Wilson’s emendations. The second concern is important because the Wilson text is the only text that has been available for thirty-five years; therefore all of the criticism of The Last Tycoon has been based on Wilson’s emended text, which has shaped the evaluation of the novel.

The editorial situation for The Last Tycoon is obviously different from that of novels which their authors saw into print in that we simply don’t know what Fitzgerald’s final intentions would have been. We can only determine what his intentions were in the latest drafts—which are not final drafts. Fitzgerald’s writing habits required layers of revision, but it is a relatively clear-cut matter to establish the sequence of drafts and to identify the latest one.

Even in a work which the author saw through the press we can have little confidence in the accidentals (spelling and punctuation)—which include a quantity of house styling, since normally the author has to accept most of the accidentals imposed on his work in the proofs. But at least we know that the author saw theproofs and had the opportunity to act on any serious distortions of his style. For an unfinished work like The Last Tycoon we can only guess at the texture of pointing the author would have sought. The problem is particularly difficult in the case of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was accustomed to accepting certain kinds of styling—but who also was an inveterate reviser in proof. Indeed, Fitzgerald seems to have regarded proofs as a kind of typescript which afforded him the opportunity to revise and rewrite: The Great Gatsby did not achieve its final structure until Fitzgerald reworked it in galleys.

Fitzgerald’s punctuation presents a serious editorial problem in The Last Tycoon. He never learned the rules of punctuation, and depended on his editors to attend to purely formal matters of punctuation. For example, he did not know how to punctuate dialogue, habitually using commas instead of periods before a new sentence of speech—thus: “It’s my busy day, Red,” said Stahr tensely, “You lost interest about three days ago.” Such matters require emendation and present no difficulty. But Fitzgerald’s punctuation within sentences is a difficult problem. He punctuated by ear and had what has been called perfect pitch for the sound or rhythm of a sentence. His manuscripts show that he always punctuated lightly to preserve the flow of his sentences—omitting the commas that other writers would use. Nevertheless, Fitzgerald rarely insisted on his own punctuation. He was amenable to house styling and routinely accepted Maxwell Perkins’—and other editors’—alterations of his pointing. The matter is delicate and far from simple. Although Fitzgerald was an unorthodox punctuator who expected styling, he nevertheless seems to have had a system. Unlike his spelling, which was simply bad, Fitzgerald’s punctuation probably does represent his preference. Wilson repunctuated The Last Tycoon according to the rules; but a case can be made for preserving Fitzgerald’s punctuation when it is not demonstrably wrong or confusing. The principle for editing The Last Tycoon in 1977 should be to present a conservatively-emended text that reflects the work-in-progress nature of the material—with all emendations from the copy-text stipulated in apparatus.

Wilson did not deliberately exaggerate the completeness of the manuscript, and he carefully noted in his Foreword that “the text which is given here is a draft made by the author after considerablerewriting; but it is by no means a finished version.” Yet Wilson’s edition distorts the state of Fitzgerald’s progress by treating the material as chapters. For example, Wilson comments that at the time of his death Fitzgerald “had written the first episode of Chapter 6.” Fitzgerald’s outline for his novel breaks it down into 30 episodes forming 9 chapters (outline episode 17 is the opening of outline Chapter 6); but after Chapter 1 Fitzgerald stopped writing complete chapters. Thereafter the novel exists only in episodes or sections that Wilson assembled into 6 chapters on the basis of the author’s outline. This point is worth stressing, for it shows that Fitzgerald was having structural difficulties and intended to shape the chapters in a later revise.

The novel will always be known as The Last Tycoon, but a symptomatic problem is that there is no authorial source for this title. The only title page included with the manuscripts reads “Stahr / A Romance.” Another title in Fitzgerald’s notes is “The Love of the Last Tycoon / A Western”—which Wilson may have modified. Sheilah Graham’s memory of the title is not clear, but she thinks she may have told Wilson that “The Last Tycoon” was one of the titles Fitzgerald was considering; however, it is not mentioned in her 11 January 1941 letter to Perkins. Sheilah Graham to Bruccoli, 15 August 1975: “THE LAST TYCOON title. It was a temporary title but he might have used it for the final. Or STAHR or THE LOVE OF THE LAST TYCOON: A Western. He really wasn’t sure. It’s my belief that THE LAST TYCOON would be the title-It has the same sort of rhythm as THE GREAT GATSBY. THE L.T. was SCOTT’S, NOT EDMUND WILSON’S.” Frances Kroll Ring wrote Wilson that “The Last of the Tycoons” was “the alternate title.” In any case, Wilson provides no source for The Last Tycoon title, and there is no evidence that it was Fitzgerald’s final choice.

The key decision for any edition is selection of copy-text—the form of the work which is the basis for the edited text, the text which the editor will emend. For The Last Tycoon the selection of the copy-text involves a choice between Fitzgerald’s manuscripts and Fitzgerald’s revised secretarial typescripts. Given Fitzgerald’s habits of composition, the decision is clear: copy-text for The Last Tycoon should be the latest revised typescripts. The manuscript drafts are not to be disregarded, however, for they should be checked for whatever evidence they can provide about cruces in the typescript. Although Fitzgerald revised each level of draft, he did not collate them; and some typing errors were not corrected.

There is no problem about Edmund Wilson’s selection of copy-text for The Last Tycoon.  He correctly used the latest correctedtypescripts for his edition. One does not have to be a disciple of Sir Walter Greg to make obvious decisions about copy-text. Since Wilson was preparing a text for the general reader, he freely emended Fitzgerald’s typescript drafts. Some of his emendations were necessary—such as the regularization of names. Brady is named Bradogue in the early episodes, but Fitzgerald’s notes make it clear that Brady was his final decision. Pete Zavras, the cameraman, who, though clearly Greek, is named Pedro Garcia in all drafts. (Only Fitzgerald could have named a Greek character Pedro Garcia.) In his notes Fitzgerald reminded himself to change Garcia’s name, but he provided no substitute for it. It seems clear that the name Pete Zavras was supplied by Wilson. It is a suitable name, but the reader ought to know its source. At one point Wilson emended a Zavras speech in a way that can be challenged. In the typescript he says to Stahr, “You are the Aeschylus and Diocanes of the moving picture…Also the Esculpias and the Minanorus.” Wilson emended the speech to: “You are the Aeschylus and the Euripides of the moving picture …Also the Aristophanes and the Menander.” But Wilson’s confidence in his erudition betrayed him. Diocanes indicates that Fitzgerald was trying to write Diogenes—not Euripides. One might contend that Fitzgerald was merely listing names from classical civilization for their sound, but the emendation of Esculpias to Aristophanes destroys the point of Zavras’ elaborate compliment. Esculpias was Fitzgerald’s spelling for Aesculapius, the god of medicine. Since Stahr has determined that there is nothing wrong with Zavras’ eyes, it is proper for Zavras to compare him with Aesculapius. Fitzgerald knew exactly what he was doing in this case. In this same passage Wilson interpolated the phrase “the Oedipus who solved the riddle” after Zavras has referred to Stahr as “The Delphic oracle.”

Although Wilson’s substantive emendations are not wholesale, some are clearly unjustified. His edition omits phrases and entire sentences; for example, this description of the effect of Stahr’s voice: “He was like a brazier out of doors on a cool night.” The Wilson text alters—probably unintentionally—Kathleen’s “opalescent brow—the coco-colored curly hair” to “opalescent brown, the cool-colored curly hair.” Fitzgerald’s “closer than an embrace” becomes”slower than an embrace.” None of the emendations in the Wilson text is identifiable by the reader. An editorial apparatus for The Last Tycoon has been deposited at the Princeton University Library, the Library of Congress, the British Library, the Caroliniana Library (University of South Carolina), and the Lilly Library (Indiana University). However, the emendations in the published form of The Last Tycoon are not necessarily all Wilson’s. After Wilson corrected and revised Fitzgerald’s typescripts, a new typescript was prepared for printer’s setting copy. Further departures from Fitzgerald entered the book text in the retyping and proofing stages—and may well be the result of independent emendation or inattention by the Scribners copy-editors. The setting-copy typescript survives, but the proofs do not.

The kind of edition Edmund Wilson delivered in 1941 as a labor of friendship was determined by two factors. First, there was the nature of the job that Scribners expected: a reading text for a popular audience. A definitive edition was not wanted and would not have been published. Indeed, it would have seemed absurd under the circumstances. The second factor was Wilson’s confidence—often indistinguishable from arrogance—in his abilities. He felt superior to Fitzgerald, whom he had patronized for more than twenty years. This attitude made Wilson less than the perfect editor for The Last Tycoon.

F. Scott Fitzgerald left 17 episodes or sections for a novel that was still evolving: not 5 complete chapters; not two-thirds of a novel. Yet Edmund Wilson’s treatment of the manuscript obscures the gestational nature of Fitzgerald’s work and misleads readers into judging work-in progress as completed stages. Some of the critics who have protested that The Last Tycoon has been overpraised have perhaps reacted from a sense that the published text does not represent Fitzgerald’s final decisions. The best way to assess The Last Tycoon is to read it as Fitzgerald left it—or in a printed edition that preserves the work-in-progress nature of that form.

What is needed is an edition of The Last Tycoon that emulates Samuel Johnson’s claim for his edition of Shakespeare: “I have rescued many lines from the violations of temerity and secured many scenes from the inroads of correction.”


I could not have written this  study without help. My greatest debt is to Scottie Fitzgerald Smith. After that I am indebted to Alexander Clark, Curator of Manuscripts at the Princeton University Library and to his superb staff. Sheilah Graham, Budd Schulberg, Frances Kroll Ring, and Samuel Marx patiently answered question after question. Claudia Drum and her colleagues in the Interlibrary Loan Department of the University of South Carolina Library were marvels of patience and competence.

Some of the travel for this project was made possible by grants from the American Philosophical Society and the University of South Carolina Department of English; and I am particularly grateful to Professor William Nolte, Head of the Department, for making research funds available at two key points.

I am also obliged to Joseph Bryan III, Margaret Duggan, Muriel Hamilton, Burroughs Mitchell, Charles Scribner III, R. L. Sam-sell, Jeanne Bennett, the microfilm staff at the New York Public Library, Frances Ponick, Peter Shepherd, and Cara White.

I am indebted to the admirable people at the Southern Illinois University Press. The organization of this study owes much to the advice of Vernon Sternberg, Director of the Press.

I greatly benefited from the readings of my Arlyn.

Once again I am grateful to be at the University of South Carolina, where I can get my work done.

The End.