The miscellaneous letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald

I finally made it through The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1963) and so this is likely to be the last post about this book, at least for some time. Today want to look at the last section of the book, which is a collection of Fitzgerald’s miscellaneous letters to friends, family, acquaintances, admirers, and detractors.

In certain ways these perhaps give a better portrait of him than the individual sections of this book that are dedicated to letters to one person. In these there are a number of letters where he gives advice to young writers, a number of apology letters normally apologizing for things done while he was drinking, and a number of letters to random people who asked him for advice. All of these he takes seriously and put effort into instead of dashing off a response, even when he’s mocking the person. A highlight among these is when a woman asked for a reading list about his life and he sent her a series of made up titles.

Let’s just dive into some great quotes from these letters:

“About the Army, please let’s not have either tragedy or Heroics because they are equally distasteful to me. I went into this perfectly cold-bloodedly and don’t sympathize with the ‘Give my son to country’ etc. etc. etc. or ‘Hero stuff’ because I just went and purely for social reasons.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his mother, November 14, 1917

“To a profound pessimist about life, being in danger is not depressing.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his mother, November 14, 1917

“A good mind has a good separator and can peck the good from the bad in all it absorbs.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Sally Pope, March 10, 1918

“Before we meet again I hope you will have tasted strong liquor to excess and kissed many emotional young men in red and yellow moonlights–these things being chasteners of those prejudices which are as gutta percha to the niblicks of the century.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Alida Bigelow, September 22, 1919

“I want you to meet Zelda because she’s very beautiful and very wise and very brave as you can imagine–but she’s a perfect baby and a more irresponsible pair than we’ll be will be hard to imagine.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ruth Sturtevant, March 26, 1920

“An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to The Booksellers’ Convention, April 1920

“People don’t seem to realize that for an intelligent man writing down is about the hardest thing in the world.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to H. L. Mencken, May 4, 1925

“I have met most of the American literary world here (the crowd that centers around Pound) and find them mostly junk-dealers; except a few like Hemingway who are doing rather more thinking and working than the young men around New York.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to H. L. Mencken, Fall 1925

“America’s greatest promise is that something is going to happen, and after awhile you get tired of waiting because nothing happens to people except that they grow old, and nothing happens to American art because America is the story of the moon that never rose.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Marya Mannes, October 1925

“The young people in America are brilliant with second-hand sophistication inherited from their betters of the war generation who to some extent worked things out for themselves. They are brave, shallow, cynical, impatient, turbulent and empty. I like them not.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Marya Mannes, October 1925

“America is so decadent that its brilliant children are damned almost before they are born.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Marya Mannes, October 1925

“The history of men’s minds has been the concealing of them, until men cry out for intelligence, and the thing has to be brought into use.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Andrew Turnbull, August 8, 1933

“The mouth tight, and the teeth and lips together are a hard thing, perhaps one of the hardest stunts in the world, but not a waste of time, because most of the great things you learn in life are in periods of enforced silence.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Andrew Turnbull, August 8, 1933

“The only thing that I ever told you definitely was that popularity is not worth a damn and respect is worth everything, and what do you care about happiness–and who does except the perpetual children of this world?” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Andrew Turnbull, August 8, 1933

“You were the same fine fire to everyone who sat upon your hearth–for it was your hearth, because you carry home with you wherever you are–a home before which we have all always warmed ourselves.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Gertrude Stein, December 29, 1934

“I am feeling somewhat plucked and old as I approach forty. I have been for some time a teetotaler with the chief intention of fooling the kind friends who predicted for me an alcoholic grave.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Alexander Woollcott, April 24, 1935

“I wish there was something to do except read. Women and liquor take up so much time and get you into so much trouble.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Arnold Gingrich, May 11, 1935

“I am still swollen up like a barrel but have reduced my beer consumption to nine bottles today. My spots are fading, but I still have a faint hope they may turn out to be leprosy and end of my exigent private life forever so I can go on writing unperturbed.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Margaret Case Harriman, August 1935

“God, what a hell of a profession to be a writer. One is one simply because one can’t help it.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to James Boyd, August 1935

“The utter synthesis between what we want and what we can have is so rare that I look back with the sort of wonder on those days of my youth when I had it, or thought I did.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to a woman he was having an affair with, September 1935

“It was wonderful to sit with her head on my shoulder for hours and feel as I always have even now, closer to her than to any other human being.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Laura Guthrie, September 23, 1935

“Too often literary men allow themselves to get into internecine quarrels and finish about as victoriously as most of the nations at the end of the World War.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Beatrice Dance, September 15, 1936

“A writer not writing is practically a maniac within himself.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Pete and Peggy Finney, Spring 1937

“My God, where have these six years gone–whole months go by and nothing seems to happen. Is that just middle-age? I’d like to do a lot of leisurely things now but there seems to be no time.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Corey Ford, April 1937

“The human machinery which controls the sense of right, duty, self-respect, etc., must have conscious exercise before adolescence, because in adolescence you don’t have much time to think of anything.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Helen Hayes, September 16, 1937

“A nightmare has its compensations but you wake up at the end of it feeling that life has moved on and left you standing still with ever greater problems to meet than before.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Pete and Peggy Finney, October 8, 1937

“I know this: that it is impossible to write without hope.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Roger Garis, February 22, 1938

“The necessity of the artist in every generation has been to give his work permanence in every way bias safe shaping and a constant pruning, lest he be confused with the journalistic material that has attracted lesser men.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Dayton Kohler, March 4, 1938

“… life promises so very much to a pretty girl between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five that she never quite recovers from it.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Pete and Margaret Finney, March 16, 1938

“In This Side of Paradise I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Frances Turnbull, November 9, 1938

“Nothing is more fatuous than the American habit of labeling one of their four children as the artist on a sort of family tap day as if the percentage of artists who made up any kind of go of the lousy business was one to four. It’s much closer to 1 to 400,000.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to John Biggs, Jr., Spring 1939

“I am so tired of being old and sick–would much rather be a scared young man peering out over a hunk of concrete or mud towards something I hated than be doing this here stuff.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Edgar Poe, September 18, 1939

“Isn’t Hollywood a dump–in the human sense of the word? A hideous town, pointed up by the insulting gardens of its rich, full of the human spirit at a new low of debasement.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Alice Richardson, July 29, 1940

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