Quotes from letters between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his daughter

The following quotes from letters between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his daughter Frances Scott “Scottie” Fitzgerald are extracted from The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1963).

F. Scott Fitzgerald, June 4, 1937
F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1937

“I am glad you are happy – but I never believe much in happiness. I never believe in misery either. Those are things you see on the stage or the screen or the printed page, they never really happen to you in life.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, August 8, 1933

“I didn’t know till 15 that there was anyone in the world except me, and it cost me plenty.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, Summer 1935

“I don’t want to force you but it does please me when you can make a connection between the Louisiana Purchase and why Fred Astaire lifts up his left hind foot for the world’s pleasure. I want you to be among the best of your race and not waste yourself on trivial aims. To be useful and proud – is that too much to ask?” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, July 1936

“Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one. If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blended as one matter– as indissolubly as if they were conceived together.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, October 20, 1936

“A whole lot of people have found life a whole lot of fun. I have not found it so. But, I had a hell of a lot of fun when I was in my twenties and thirties; and I feel that it is your duty to accept the sadness, the tragedy of the world we live in, with a certain esprit.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, November 17, 1936

“Hollywood made a big fuss over us and the ladies all looked very beautiful to a man of thirty. I honestly believed that with no effort on my part I was a sort of magician with words –an odd delusion on my part when I had worked so desperately hard to develop a hard, colorful prose style.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, July 1937

“You have got to devote the best and freshest part of your energies to things that will give you a happy and profitable life. There is no other time but now.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, October 8, 1937

“She [Ginevra King] was the first girl I ever loved and I have faithfully avoided seeing her up to this moment to keep that illusion perfect, because she ended up by throwing me over with the most supreme boredom and indifference.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, October 8, 1937

“If you will trust my scheme of making a mental habit of doing the hard thing first, when you are absolutely fresh, and I mean doing the hardest thing first at the exact moment that you feel yourself fit for doing anything in any particular period, morning, afternoon or evening, you will go a long way toward mastering the principle of concentration.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, April 18, 1938

“When I’m talking to you, you think of me as an older person, an ‘authority,’ and when I speak of my own youth what I say becomes unreal to – for the young can’t believe in the youth of their fathers.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, July 7, 1938

“There is not enough energy, or call it money, to carry anyone who is dead weight and I’m angry and resentful in my soul when I feel that I am doing this.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, July 7, 1938

“Everything you are and do from fifteen to eighteen is what you are and will do through life.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, September 19, 1938

“I never blame failure – there are too many complicated situations in life – but I am absolutely merciless toward lack of effort.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, November 25, 1938

“In one way you are like me – that when things seemed to be going oh so smoothly they were really slipping from underneath subtly and surely. But on the other hand remember that when you are struggling and fighting and perhaps feeling you are getting nowhere, maybe even despairing – those are the times when you may be making slow, sure progress.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, December 1938

“You are the first woman on either side of your family to try for a higher education – though many of them have been well-read. If you get to know a little bit you will combine a great deal of latent power in yourself, and be able to live more fully and richly than the majority of pretty girls whose lives in America are lop-sided, backward-looking and wistful.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, January 1939

“I felt all my life the absence of hobbies except such, for me as abstract and academic ones, as military tactics and football. Botany is such a definite thing. It has its feet on the ground. And after reading Thoreau I felt how much I have lost by leaving nature out of my life.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, March 11, 1939

“I don’t drink. I am not a great man, but sometimes I think the impersonal and objective quality of my talent and the sacrifices of it, in pieces, to preserve its essential value has some sort of epic grandeur. Anyhow after hours I nurse myself with delusions of that sort.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, October 31, 1939

“I can understand the overconfidence – God haven’t I had it? But it’s hard as hell to recognize it in oneself – especially when time’s so short and there’s so much we want to do.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, March 27, 1940

“Often I think writing is a sheer pairing away of oneself leaving always something thinner, barer, more meager.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, April 27, 1940

“Try something hard and new, and try it hard, and take what marks you get.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, June 12, 1940

“What little I’ve accomplished has been by the most laborious and uphill work, and I wish now I’d never relaxed or looked back – but said at the end of The Great Gatsby: ‘ I’ve found my line – from now on this comes first. This is my immediate duty – without this I am nothing.’” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, June 12, 1940

“Isn’t the world a lousy place? – I’ve just finished a copy of Life and I’m dashing around to a Boris Karloff movie to cheer up. It is an inspirational thing called The Corpse in the Breakfast Food.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, July 12, 1940

“The talent that matures early is usually of the poetic [type], which mine was in large part. The prose talent depends on other factors –assimilation of material and careful selection of it, or more bluntly: having something to say and an interesting, highly developed way of saying it.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, July 18, 1940

“A good style simply doesn’t form unless you absorb half a dozen top-flight authors every year. Or rather it forms but, instead of being a subconscious amalgam of all that you have admired, it is simply a reflection of the last writer you have read, a watered-down journalese.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, July 18, 1940

“Anybody that can’t read modern English prose by themselves is subnormal – and you know it.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, July 29, 1940

“Poetry is either something that lives like fire inside you – like music to the musician or Marxism to the Communist – or else it is nothing, an empty, formalized bore around which pedants can endlessly drone their notes and explanations.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, August 3, 1940

“Advertising is a racket, like the movies and the brokerage business. You cannot be honest without admitting that its constructive contribution to humanity is exactly minus zero. It is simply a means of making dubious promises to a credulous public.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, August 24, 1940

“Stories are best written in either one jump or three, according to the length. The three-jump story should be done on three successive days, then a day or so for revise and off she goes.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, September 5, 1940

“Once one is caught up into the material world not one person in ten thousand finds the time to form literary taste, to examine the validity of philosophic concepts for himself, or to form what, for lack of a better phrase, I might call the wise and tragic sense of life.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, October 5, 1940

“I think it’s a pretty good rule not to tell what a thing is about until it’s finished. If you do you always seem to lose some of it. It never quite belongs to you so much again.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, December 7, 1940

“You have got two beautiful bad examples for parents. Just do everything we didn’t do and you will be perfectly safe.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, December 1940

“All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, undated

“So much writing nowadays suffers both from lack of an attitude and from sheer lack of any material, save what is accumulated in a purely social life. The world, as a rule, does not live on beaches and in country clubs.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, undated

See also

%d bloggers like this: