F. Scott Fitzgerald drops a letter to Ernest Hemingway

The friendship/rivalry between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway is perhaps one of the most famous in American literature. As I continue to work my way through The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1963), today I’d like to look at some great quotes from letters Fitzgerald sent to Hemingway. First, a brief recap of their relationship –

Meeting in Paris in the early 1920s, Fitzgerald was taken with Hemingway’s prose, as well as the man himself, so much so that he continually implored his editor, Maxwell Perkins, to take on Hemingway, which he ultimately did, beginning his literary career. During the 20s they continued to hang out in France but their relationship soon became fraught, with Hemingway disparaging Fitzgerald publicly as well as in his own writings. Despite this their correspondence continued throughout the years.

While much more of their correspondence has since been published, the letters in this book are few. Still, with the limited number, they are a very interesting read, highlighting all of the early help and suggestions he offered on where and how Hemingway could place stories. Also noteworthy is how different his tone is in these letters then to his other friends, much more “manly” as if he’s trying to keep up with Hemingway. He also offers up several apologies for things he did while drinking. Here is a sampling:

“‘In the fall the war was always there but we did not go to it any more’ is one of the most beautiful prose sentences I’ve ever read.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, postmarked April 18, 1927

“If you write anything in the line of an ‘athletic’ story please try the Post or let me try them for you, or Reynolds. You were wise not to tie up with Hearst’s. They are absolute bitches who feed on contracts like vultures, if I may coin a neat simile.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, December 1927

“‘Now I Lay Me’ was a fine story – you ought to write a companion piece, ‘Now I Lay Her.’ Excuse my bawdiness but I’m oversexed and am having saltpeter put in my Pate de Foie Gras au Truffles Provencal.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, December 1927

“Please write me at length about your adventures–I here you were seen running through Portugal in used B.V.D.s, chewing ground glass and collecting material for a story about boule players; that you were publicity man for Lindbergh; that you finished a novel a hundred thousand words long consisting entirely of the word ‘balls’ used in new groupings; that you have been naturalized a Spaniard, dress always in a wine-skin with ‘zipper’ vent and are engaged in bootlegging Spanish Fly between St. Sebastian and Biarritz where your agents sprinkle it on the floor of the Casino. I hope I have been misinformed but, alas!, it all has too true a ring.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, December 1927

“It’s been gay here but we are, thank God, desperately unpopular and not invited anywhere.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, August 23, 1929

“In the 2 ½ months I’ve been here I’ve written 20,000 words on it and one short story, which is superb for me of late years. I’ve paid for it with the usual nervous depressions and such drinking manners as the lowest bistro (bistrot?) boy would scorn.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, September 9, 1929

“My latest tendency is to collapse about 11:00 and, with the tears flowing from my eyes or the gin rising to their level and leaking over, tell interested friends or acquaintances that I haven’t a friend in the world and likewise care for nobody, generally including Zelda, and often implying current company–after which the current company tend to become less current and I wake up in strange rooms in strange places.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, September 9, 1929

“I think it is obvious that my respect for your artistic life is absolutely unqualified, that save for a few of the dead or dying old men you are the only man writing fiction in America that I look up to very much.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, June 1, 1934

“There are pieces and paragraphs of your work that I read over and over–in fact, I stopped myself doing it for a year and a half because I was afraid that your particular rhythms were going to creep in on mine by process of infiltration.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, June 1, 1934

“I have honestly never gone in for hating. My temporary bitternesses toward people have all been ended by what Freud called an inferiority complex and Christ called ‘Let him without sin’– I remember the day he said it.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, June 1, 1934

“Going South always seems to me rather desolate and fatal and uneasy. This is no exception. Going North is a safe dull feeling.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, June 5, 1937

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