Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2013 Issue

Forget the Movie – Here is a Revealing Look at Gatsby Author F. Scott Fitzgerald's Real Life

Fitzearn1919

Scott's earnings were still small in 1919.

As the years roll on, the entries become more cryptic. There are often just a few words, evidently to jog his memory for a more detailed biography. “Intimacy with Sap,” he writes at age 16, with no further explanation. A one-word comment in 1913 says, “Writing,” probably something significant considering his later career. During the war years, many of his friends die, Scott has relationships with various women, though we cannot tell how seriously. Then, among the listing of events for July 1918, we have the one-word entry, “Zelda.” She came right after the name of May Steiner. She stayed longer.

On September 7, Scott tells us he “fell in love,” without bothering to say to whom. We will guess Zelda. He does note she was voted prettiest in her class. In December, for the first time the word “drinking” appears, his other vice besides his relationship with Zelda. “Drinking” will appear many more times before this journal is complete. By January he mentions both “quarrels” (without specifying with whom though we may guess), and “Disastrous drunk.” One wonders about the meaning of his April comment, “I used to wonder why they locked Princesses in towers.”

In 1919, he writes, “Novel accepted,” meaning This Side of Paradise, and he begins to sell stories for cash. By the 10th of January, 1920, he mas made $1,700 and the following month he sells his first movie. Come March, we hear “Book published in 26th,” and in April, “Married the 3d Biltmore. Parties.” The coming years are now very different, with more references to parties, drinking, and living the high life, with trips to Europe and names of celebrities bandied about. This should be a great time, and yet for all the success, Scott sounds less and less happy, describing the year after his 26th birthday as “comfortable but dangerous and deteriorating.” The year after birthday 27 is “full of terrible failures and acute miseries.” At age 29 his comment is “Futile, shameful useless but the $30,000 rewards of 1924 work. Self disgust. Health gone.”

As the years go forward and his marriage deteriorates, Scott surprisingly has little negative to say about Zelda. It is mostly references to her being sick, improving, seeking help and the like, but non-judgmental. He begins his 35th year with the comment, “Zelda Well, Worse, Better.” In January 1932 he writes of her becoming sick and in February, “Zelda in Hopkins,” and “preliminary warnings to family.” That was Johns Hopkins hospital, Zelda being diagnosed with schizophrenia. In March, “everything worser & worser,” “strained situation,” and in April “Zelda strange.” In January 1933, Scott refers to “Constant visits to Hopkins.” She gets out but by January 1934, she is back in Hopkins and Scott is writing about his own “ill health.”

The time line ends in early 1935. Scott is now 38 years old. Much is depressing. Scott writes, “Debt bad,” “Sickness and debt. Zelda seems less well,” and in March, the last month covered, “Zelda very bad on return. Terrible worry.” It is just as well it ends here. Neither Scott nor Zelda's life would get better from here on. Scott would have just five more years of an increasingly frustrating life, while Zelda would be mostly institutionalized. A life that started with the excitement of youth, and reaches great success in his 20s, falls apart just when everything should be a fairy tale. The dichotomy is clear in the time line. The first half is full of fun and humor, the second trouble and depression. It is the reverse of what you would expect. This is a story fit for a novel.

You can learn about and search the ledger at library.sc.edu/digital/collections/fitzledger.html or go directly to it at library.sc.edu/digital/collections/Fitzgerald_Ledger_-_USC_Transcription_2013.pdf

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Spring Auction. March 3, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Copper Printing Plate for "Marshall's Household Engraving of Washington." $500 to $1000
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Important Documentary Painting Showing Baseball Great Ty Cobb in Cuba. $1,000 to $2,000
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> <i>Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age</i>, Inscribed by Bill Wilson. $500 to $1,000
    <b>Leland Little: Important Spring Auction. March 3, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893-1983), <i>Prise à l'hameçon.</i> $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Maurice Dufrène (French, 1876-1955), <i>Rayon des Soieries</i>. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> William Pope.L (American, b. 1955), <i>Intimacy Project</i>. $2,000 to $4,000
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions