A Brief Life of Fitzgerald – University Libraries
francis scott key fitzgerald was born in st. Paul, Minnesota, on September 24, 1896, namesake and thrice-removed second cousin of the author of the national anthem. Fitzgerald’s given names indicate his parents’ pride in his father’s ancestry. His father, Edward, was from Maryland, true to the old south and his values. Fitzgerald’s mother, Mary (Mollie) Mcquillan, was the daughter of an Irish immigrant who became wealthy as a wholesale grocer in St. Paul. both were Catholic.
edward fitzgerald failed as a wicker furniture maker in st. Paul, and became a salesman for Procter & gamble in upstate new york. After he was fired in 1908, when his son was twelve, the family returned to St. paul and lived comfortably on the estate of mollie fitzgerald. fitzgerald attended the st. paul academy; His first writing to appear in print was a detective story in the school newspaper when he was thirteen years old.
during 1911-1913 he attended newman school, a catholic preparatory school in new jersey, where he met father sigourney fay, who encouraged his ambitions for distinction and personal achievement. As a member of the Princeton class of 1917, Fitzgerald neglected his studies for literary learning from him. He wrote the scripts and lyrics for the Princeton Triangle Club Musicals and was a contributor to the Princeton Tiger Humor Magazine and the Nassau Literary Magazine. Friends of his from college included Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop. On academic probation and unlikely to graduate, Fitzgerald joined the Army in 1917 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry. Convinced that he would die in the war, he quickly wrote a novel, “The Selfish Romantic”; The rejection letter from the children of Charles Scribner praised the originality of the novel and asked that it be resubmitted when revised.
in june 1918, fitzgerald was assigned to camp sheridan, near montgomery, alabama. There he fell in love with a celebrated beauty, eighteen-year-old Zelda Sayre, the youngest daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court Justice. The romance heightened Fitzgerald’s hopes for the success of his novel, but after review it was rejected by the writers a second time. the war ended just before he was sent abroad; after his discharge in 1919 he went to new york city to seek his fortune to marry. Unwilling to wait while Fitzgerald made it big in the advertising business and unwilling to live on her small salary, Zelda Sayre broke off her engagement.
fitzgerald quit his job in july 1919 and returned to st. Paul to rewrite his novel as This Side of Paradise. He was accepted by Scribners editor Maxwell Perkins in September. Set primarily in Princeton and described by its author as “a quest novel,” This Side of Paradise tracks the career aspirations and romantic disappointments of Amory Blaine.
In the fall-winter of 1919, Fitzgerald began his career as a story writer for mass-circulation magazines. Working through agent Harold Ober, Fitzgerald interrupted work on his novels to write lucrative popular fiction for the rest of his life. the saturday evening post became the top marketplace for fitzgerald stories, and he was considered a “post writer.” His early commercial stories of young love introduced a new character: the determined, independent young American who appeared in “The Pirate of the Shore” and “Bernice Gets a Haircut.” Fitzgerald’s more ambitious stories, such as “May Day” and “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” were published in the Smart Set, which had small circulation.
The publication of This Side of Paradise on March 26, 1920 made 24-year-old Fitzgerald famous almost overnight, and a week later he married Zelda Sayre in New York. they embarked on an extravagant life as young celebrities. fitzgerald strove to build a solid literary reputation, but his playboy image prevented proper appreciation of his work.
After a riotous summer in Westport, Connecticut, the Fitzgeralds rented an apartment in New York City; There she wrote his second novel, La bella y maldita, a naturalistic chronicle of the dissipation of Anthony and Gloria Patch. When Zelda Fitzgerald became pregnant, they made their first trip to Europe in 1921 and later settled in St. Paul for the birth of their only child, Frances Scott (Scottie) Fitzgerald, who was born in October 1921.
the fitzgeralds hoped to become prosperous with their game, the vegetable. In the fall of 1922 they moved to Great Neck, Long Island, to be near Broadway. The political satire subtitled “From the President to the Postman” failed its test in November 1923, and Fitzgerald wrote his way out of debt with short stories. Big Neck and New York distractions kept Fitzgerald from advancing on his third novel. during this time his alcohol consumption increased. he was an alcoholic, but he wrote sober. zelda fitzgerald got “tight” regularly, but she was not an alcoholic. there were frequent domestic quarrels, usually triggered by drunkenness.
Literary opinion makers were reluctant to give Fitzgerald full marks as a serious craftsman. his fame as a drinker inspired the myth that he was an irresponsible writer; however, he was a painstaking reviewer whose fiction went through layers of drafts. Fitzgerald’s clear, lyrical, colorful, and witty style evoked the emotions associated with time and place. When critics objected to Fitzgerald’s preoccupation with love and success, his response was: “But, my God! it was my material, and it was all I had to deal with.” The main theme of Fitzgerald’s work is aspiration, the idealism that he considered to define the American character. another major issue was mutability or loss. As a social historian, Fitzgerald identified with the Jazz Age: “It was an age of miracles, it was an age of art, it was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire,” he wrote in “Echoes of the Jazz Age.”
Seeking quiet for their work, the fitzgeralds went to france in the spring of 1924. he wrote the great gatsby during the summer and fall in valescure near st. Raphael, but the marriage was damaged by Zelda’s relationship with a French naval aviator. the extent of the matter, if it was in fact consummated, is unknown. On the Riviera, the Fitzgeralds formed a close friendship with wealthy and educated American expatriates Gerald and Sara Murphy.
the fitzgeralds spent the winter of 1924-1925 in rome, where they reviewed the great gatsby; They were on their way to Paris when the novel was published in April. The Great Gatsby marked a startling advance in Fitzgerald’s technique, using complex structure and controlled narrative point of view. Fitzgerald’s achievement received critical acclaim, but Gatsby’s sales were disappointing, though theatrical and film rights brought in additional revenue.
In Paris, Fitzgerald met Ernest Hemingway, then unknown outside expatriate literary circles, with whom he developed a friendship based largely on his admiration for Hemingway’s personality and genius. The fitzgeralds remained in france until the end of 1926, alternating between paris and the riviera. Fitzgerald made little headway on his fourth novel, a study of American expats in France tentatively titled “The Boy Who Killed His Mother,” “Our Guy” and “The World’s Fair.” During these years, Zelda Fitzgerald’s unconventional behavior became increasingly eccentric.
The fitzgeralds returned to america to escape the distractions of france. After a brief unsuccessful stint as a screenwriter in Hollywood, Fitzgerald rented “Ellerslie,” a mansion near Wilmington, Delaware, in the spring of 1927. The family remained in “Ellerslie” for two years interrupted by a visit to Paris in the summer of 1928, but Fitzgerald was still unable to make significant progress on his novel. At this time, Zelda Fitzgerald began training in ballet, intending to become a professional dancer. The Fitzgeralds returned to France in the spring of 1929, where Zelda’s intense ballet work damaged her health and contributed to the couple’s estrangement. in April 1930 she suffered her first breakdown. She was treated at the Prangins Clinic in Switzerland until September 1931, while Fitzgerald lived in Swiss hotels. her work on the novel was put on hold again while she wrote short stories to pay for psychiatric treatment.
the $4,000 fitzgerald story top fee from the saturday night post may have had in 1929 the purchasing power of $40,000 in today’s dollars. however, the overall view of his wealth is distorted. fitzgerald was not among the highest paid writers of his time; His novels earned comparatively little and most of his income came from 160 magazine stories. During the 1920s, his income from all sources averaged less than $25,000 a year, good money at a time when the average annual salary for a schoolteacher was $1,299, but not a fortune. scott and zelda fitzgerald spent money faster than they earned it; the author who wrote so eloquently about the effects of money on his character was incapable of managing his own finances.
The Fitzgeralds returned to the United States in the fall of 1931 and rented a house in Montgomery. Fitzgerald made a second unsuccessful trip to Hollywood in 1931. Zelda Fitzgerald suffered a relapse in February 1932 and was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. she spent the rest of her life as a resident or outpatient in sanitariums.
in 1932, while a patient at johns hopkins, zelda fitzgerald quickly wrote save me the waltz. Her autobiographical novel generated considerable bitterness among the Fitzgeralds, because he felt that he was appropriating the material he was using in his novel in progress. Fitzgerald rented “la paix,” a house outside Baltimore, where she completed her fourth novel, Tender Is the Night. Published in 1934, her most ambitious novel was a commercial failure, and its merits were the subject of critical controversy. Set in France during the 1920s, Tender Is the Night examines the deterioration of Dick Diver, a brilliant American psychiatrist, during the course of his marriage to a wealthy mentally ill man.
The period 1936-1937 is known as “The Break” from the title of an essay Fitzgerald wrote in 1936. Ill, drunk, in debt, and unable to write business stories, he lived in hotels in the nearby Asheville, South Carolina region. North, where in 1936 Zelda Fitzgerald entered Highland Hospital. After Baltimore, Fitzgerald did not maintain a home for Scottie. when he was fourteen he went to boarding school and the obers became his surrogate family. Nonetheless, Fitzgerald functioned as a concerned mail-order parent, trying to oversee Scottie’s upbringing and shaping her social values.
Fitzgerald went off to Hollywood alone in the summer of 1937 on a six-month contract as a screenwriter for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $1,000 a week. He received his only screen credit for adapting Three Comrades (1938), and his contract was renewed for one year at $1,250 a week. The $91,000 he made from MGM was a lot of money during the late Depression years when a new Chevrolet coupe went for $619; but although fitzgerald paid off most of his debts, he failed to save. His trips east to visit his wife were disastrous. in california fitzgerald fell in love with film columnist sheilah graham. their relationship endured despite their teachers. After MGM dropped his option in late 1938, Fitzgerald worked as a freelance screenwriter, writing short stories for Esquire. He began his Hollywood novel, The Last Mogul’s Love, in 1939 and had written more than half of a working draft when he died of a heart attack in Graham’s apartment on December 21, 1940. Zelda Fitzgerald perished in a Highland Hospital fire in 1948.
f. scott fitzgerald died believing himself a failure. the obituaries were condescending and he seemed destined for literary obscurity. The first phase of Fitzgerald’s resurrection “renaissance” does not adequately describe the process that occurred between 1945 and 1950. By 1960 he had achieved a secure place among America’s enduring writers. A work that seriously examines the theme of aspiration in an American setting, The Great Gatsby defines the classic American novel.