Wednesday, 11 January 2012
F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald was one of the best known American authors of the 1920s and 1930s and is closely linked with the sanguinity and immoderation of that era's "Jazz Age." Fitzgerald was born on the 24th of September, 1896, to parents Mollie and Edward Fitzgerald in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His first literary effort at the age of thirteen was a detective story and it was published in a school newspaper. When he was 16, he was expelled from St. Paul Academy for neglecting his studies. He attended Newman School, a prep school in Hackensack, New Jersey, in 1911–1912 after having left two others. He later entered Princeton University in 1913 as a member of the Class of 1917. There he became friends with future critics and writers Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop and wrote for the ‘Princeton Triangle Club’ and the ‘Princeton Tiger’. This led to his submission of a novel to ‘Charles Scribner's Sons’, where the editor praised the writing but ultimately rejected the book. He was a member of the University Cottage Club, which still displays Fitzgerald's desk and writing materials in its library. An ill-fated student, Fitzgerald left Princeton to enlist in the US Army during World War I; however, the war ended shortly after Fitzgerald's enlistment.
While working in adverting and writing short stores, Fitzgerald feel in love for a young woman named Zelda Sayre. He proposed marriage to her but she was unconvinced that he would be able to support her so she broke off the engagement. Fitzgerald returned to his parents' house at 599 Summit Avenue, on Cathedral Hill, in St. Paul, to revise ‘The Romantic Egoist’ which was renamed ‘This Side of Paradise’, it was accepted by Scribner's in the fall of 1919. After which himself and Zelda resumed their engagement. The novel was published on March 26, 1920, and became one of the most popular books of the year. Fitzgerald and Zelda were married in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral. Their only child, Frances Scott "Scottie" Fitzgerald, was born on October 26, 1921.
Fitzgerald accomplished great success in the 1920s, decade which proved great development. The Great Gatsby, considered his masterpiece, was published in 1925. Fitzgerald made several excursions to Europe, mostly Paris and the French Riviera, and became friends with many members of the American expatriate community in Paris, notably Ernest Hemingway. Fitzgerald’s friendship with Hemingway was quite vigorous, as many of Fitzgerald’s relationships would prove to be. As did most professional authors at the time, Fitzgerald supplemented his income by writing short stories for such magazines as The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's Weekly, and Esquire, and sold his stories and novels to Hollywood studios. This “whoring”, as Fitzgerald and, subsequently, Hemingway called these sales, was a sore point in the authors’ friendship. Fitzgerald claimed that he would first write his stories in an authentic manner but then put in “twists that made them into saleable magazine stories.”
Although Fitzgerald's passion lay in writing novels, only his first novel sold well enough to support the opulent lifestyle that he and Zelda adopted as New York celebrities. Because of this lifestyle, as well as the bills from Zelda's medical care when they came, Fitzgerald was constantly in financial trouble and often required loans from his literary agent, Harold Ober, and his editor at Scribner's, Maxwell Perkins. When Ober decided not to continue advancing money to Fitzgerald, the author severed ties with his longtime friend and agent. Fitzgerald offered a good-hearted and apologetic tribute to this support in the late short story "Financing Finnegan".
In the late 1920s, Fitzgerald began working on his fourth novel but was sidetracked by financial difficulties that necessitated his writing commercial short stories, and by the schizophrenia that struck Zelda in 1930. Her emotional health remained fragile for the rest of her life. In 1932, she was hospitalized in Baltimore, Maryland. He husband rented the "La Paix" estate in the suburb of Towson, Maryland to work on his latest book which was about the rise and fall of Dick Diver, a promising young psychiatrist who falls in love and marries Nicole Warren, one of his patients. The book went through many versions, the first of which was to be a story of matricide. Some critics have seen the book as a thinly-veiled autobiographical novel recounting Fitzgerald's problems with his wife, the corrosive effects of wealth and a decadent lifestyle, his own egoism and self-confidence, and his continuing alcoholism. Indeed, Fitzgerald was extremely protective of his ‘material’. When Zelda wrote and sent to Scribner's her own fictional version of their lives in Europe, “Save Me the Waltz”, Fitzgerald was angry and was able to make some changes prior to the novel's publication, and convince her doctors to keep her from writing any more about what he called his ‘material,’ which included their relationship. His book was finally published in 1934 as “Tender Is the Night”. Critics who had waited nine years for the follow-up to “The Great Gatsby” had mixed opinions about the novel. Most were thrown off by its three-part structure and many felt that Fitzgerald had not lived up to their expectations. The novel did not sell well upon publication, but like the earlier “the Great Gatsby”, the book's reputation has since risen significantly. In the 1930s, Fitzgerald and Zelda became estranged, she continued living in mental institutions on the East Coast, while he lived with his lover Sheilah Graham, the gossip columnist, in Hollywood.
Fitzgerald had been an alcoholic since his college days, and but it took a whole other toll in the 1920s for his extraordinarily heavy drinking, leaving him in poor health by the late 1930s. According to Zelda's biographer, Nancy Milford, Fitzgerald claimed that he had contracted tuberculosis, but Milford dismisses that it was a ploy to cover his drinking problems. However, Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli contends that Fitzgerald did in fact have recurring tuberculosis and Nancy Milford reports that Fitzgerald biographer Arthur Mizener said that he suffered a mild attack of tuberculosis in 1919, and in 1929 he had “what proved to be a tubercular hemorrhage”. Fitzgerald suffered two heart attacks in late 1940. After the first, he was ordered by his doctor to avoid strenuous exertion. He moved in with Sheilah Graham, who lived in Hollywood on North Hayworth Ave. On the night of December 20, 1940, Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham attended the premiere of ‘This Thing Called Love’. As he and Sheilah were leaving the theater, Fitzgerald experienced a dizzy spell and had trouble leaving the theater. He became upset set that bystanders may have thought he was drunk.
According to Wendy Fairey, author of "The Recollection of Sheilah Graham," the following day, as Fitzgerald ate a candy bar and made notes in his newly arrived Princeton Alumni Weekly, Ms. Graham saw him jump from his armchair, grab the mantelpiece, gasp, and fall to the floor. She ran to the manager of the building, Harry Culver, founder of Culver City. Upon entering the apartment and assisting Fitzgerald, he pronounced him dead. Fitzgerald had died of a massive heart attack. His body was moved to the Pierce Brothers Mortuary. His body was shipped to Baltimore, Maryland, where his funeral was attended by twenty or thirty people in Bethesda, among the attendants were his only child, and his editor, Maxwell Perkins. Fitzgerald was originally buried in Rockville Union Cemetery. Zelda died in 1948, in a fire at the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. Frances "Scottie" Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith worked to overturn the Archdiocese of Baltimore's ruling that Fitzgerald died a non-practicing Catholic, so that he could be buried at the Roman Catholic Saint Mary's Cemetery where his father's family was interred. Both Scott's and Zelda's remains were moved to the family plot in Saint Mary's Cemetery, in Rockville, Maryland, in 1975.
Fitzgerald died before he could complete ‘The Love of the Last Tycoon’. His manuscript, which included extensive notes for the unwritten part of the novel's story, was edited by his friend, the literary critic Edmund Wilson, and published in 1941 as ‘The Last Tycoon’. In 1994 the book was reissued under the original title ‘The Love of the Last Tycoon’, which is now agreed to have been Fitzgerald’s preferred title. He was a true talent that was so clever in his literary skills which he used well to develop and produce wonderful novels and short stories, his legacy will surely live on.