Quotes from letters between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Maxwell Perkins

The following quotes from letters between F. Scott Fitzgerald and longtime editor and friend Maxwell Perkins are extracted from The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1963).

“I’ve made half a dozen starts yesterday and today and I’ll go mad if I have to do another debutante, which is what they want.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, December 31, 1920

“I’m feeling rather tired and discouraged with life tonight and I haven’t the energy to use ink–ink, the ineffable destroyer of thought, that fades an emotion into that slatternly thing, a written-down mental excretion.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, August 25, 1921

“I’m having a hell of a time because I’ve loafed for 5 months and I want to get to work. Loafing puts me in this particularly obnoxious and abominable gloom.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, August 25, 1921

“I should like to sit down with ½ dozen chosen companions and drink myself to death but I am sick alike of life, liquor and literature. If it wasn’t for Zelda I think I’d disappear out of sight for three years.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, August 25, 1921

“I’m still a socialist but sometimes I dread that things will grow worse and worse the more the people nominally rule. The strong are too strong for us and the weak too weak.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa March 5, 1922

“The last four months of course I’ve worked but in the two years–over two years–before that, I produced exactly one play, half a dozen short stories and three or four articles–an average of about one hundred words a day. If I’d spent this time reading or traveling or doing anything–even staying healthy–it’d be different, but I spent it uselessly, neither in study nor in contemplation but only in drinking and raising hell generally.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, before April 16, 1924

“I feel I have an enormous power in me now, more than I’ve ever had in a way, but it works so fitfully and with so many bogeys because I’ve talked so much and not lived enough within myself to develop the necessary self-reliance. Also I don’t know anyone who has used up so much personal experience as I have at 27.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, before April 16, 1924

“It’s been a fair summer. I’ve been unhappy but my work hasn’t suffered from it. I am grown at last.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, before August 27, 1924

“This is to tell you about a young man named Ernest Hemingway, who lives in Paris (an American), writes for the Transatlantic Review and has a brilliant future. Ezra Pound published a collection of his short pieces in Paris, at someplace like the Egotist Press. I haven’t it here right now but it’s remarkable and I’d look him up right away. He’s the real thing.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, before October 18, 1924

“Under separate cover I’m sending you my third novel,The Great Gatsby. (I think that at last I’ve done something really my own, but how good “my own” is remains to be seen.)” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, October 27, 1924

“I know Gatsby better than I know my own child. My first instinct after your letter was to let him go and have Tom Buchanan dominate the book (I suppose he’s the best character I’ve ever done – I think he and the brother in Salt and Hurstwood in Sister Carrie are the three best characters in American fiction in the last twenty years, perhaps and perhaps not) but Gatsby sticks in my heart.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa December 20, 1924

“I think (for the first time since The Vegetable failed) that I’m a wonderful writer and it’s your always wonderful letters that help me to go on believing in myself.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa December 20, 1924

“I’m returning the proof of the title page, etc. It’s O.K. but my heart tells me I should have named it Trimalchio. However against all the advice I suppose it would have been stupid and stubborn of me. Trimalchio in West Egg was only a compromise. Gatsby is too much like Babbitt and The Great Gatsby is weak because there’s no emphasis even ironically on his greatness or lack of it. However let it pass.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, January 24, 1925

“I enclose you a picture of a naked woman, which you may add to your celebrated pornographic collection from Sumatra, Transylvania, and the Polynesian Islands.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, March 31, 1925

“Hemingway is a fine, charming fellow and he appreciated your letter and the tone of it enormously. If Liveright doesn’t please him he’ll come to you, and he has a future. He’s twenty-seven.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa April 22, 1925

“There is no point in trying to be an artist if you can’t do your best. I had my chance back in 1920 to start my life on a sensible scale and I lost it, and so I’ll have to pay the penalty. Then perhaps at 40 I can start writing again without this constant worry and interruption.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa April 24, 1925

“[Sherwood] Anderson is a man of practically no ideas –but he is one of the very best and finest writers in the English language today. God, he can write.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa June 1, 1925

“Don’t say ‘Fitzgerald has done it!’ and then in the next sentence that I am an artist. People who are interested in artists aren’t interested in people who have ‘done it.’” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa June 1, 1925

“I wish I were twenty-two again with only my dramatic and feverishly enjoyed miseries. You remember I used to say I wanted to die at thirty–well, I’m now twenty-nine and the prospect is still welcome.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa December 27, 1925

“My work is the only thing that makes me happy–except to be a little tight–and for those two indulgences I pay a big price in mental and physical hangovers” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa December 27, 1925

“The more I get for my trash, the less I can bring myself to write.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa December 30, 1925

“We’re coming home in the fall, but I don’t want to. I’d like to live and die on the French Riviera.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, February 20, 1926

“Why shouldn’t I go crazy? My father is a moron and my mother is a neurotic, half insane with pathological nervous worry. Between them they haven’t and never had the brains of Calvin Coolidge.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, February 20, 1926

“In fact with the play going well and my new novel growing absorbing and with our being back in a nice villa on my beloved Riviera (between Cannes and Nice) I’m happier than I’ve been for years. It’s one of those strange, precious, and all too transitory moments when everything in one’s life seems to be going well.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa February 25, 1926

“God, how much I’ve learned in these two and a half years in Europe. It seems like a decade and I feel pretty old but I wouldn’t have missed it, even its most unpleasant and painful aspects.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa August 10, 1926

“All the world seems to end up in this flat and antiseptic smelling land–with an overlay of flowers. Tom Wolfe is the only man I’ve met here who isn’t sick or hasn’t sickness to deal with. You have a great find in him–what he’ll do is incalculable. He has a deeper culture than Ernest and more vitality, if he is slightly less of a poet that goes with the immense surface he wants to cover.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, circa September 1, 1930

“The Jazz Age is over. If Mark Sullivan is going on, you might tell him I claim credit for naming it and that it extended from the suppression of the riots on May Day 1919 to the crash of the stock market in 1929–almost exactly one decade.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, before May 21, 1931

“Found New York in a high state of neurosis, as does everybody else, and met no one who didn’t convey the fact to me: it possibly proves that the neurosis is in me.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, January 19, 1933

“Am going on the water-wagon from the first of February to the first of April but don’t tell Ernest because he has long convinced himself that I am an incurable alcoholic due to the fact that we almost always meet on parties. I am his alcoholic just like Ring is mine and do not want to disillusion him, tho even Post stories must be done in a state of sobriety.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, January 19, 1933

“A decision to adopt Communism definitely, no matter how good for the soul, must of necessity be a saddening process for anyone who has ever tasted the intellectual pleasures of the world we live in.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, January 19, 1933

“After all, Max, I am a plodder. One time I had a talk with Ernest Hemingway, and I told him, against all the logic that was then current, that I was the tortoise and he was the hare, and that’s the truth of the matter, that everything that I have ever attained has been through long and persistent struggle while it is Ernest who has a touch of genius which enables him to bring off extraordinary things with facility. I have no facility.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, March 4, 1934

“I have lived so long within the circle of this book and with these characters that often it seems to me that the real world does not exist but that only these characters exist, and, however pretentious that remark sounds (and my God, that I should have to be pretentious about my work), it is an absolute fact–so much so that their glees and woes are just exactly as important to me as what happens in life.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, March 4, 1934

“Each of us has his virtues and one of mine happens to be a great sense of exactitude about my work.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, August 24, 1934

“I throw out most of the stuff in me with delight that it is gone. That statement might be interesting to consider in relation with Ernest’s article last month’s Esquire; an unexpressed idea is often a torment, even though its expression is liable to leave an almost crazy gap in the continuity of one’s thoughts.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, November 26, 1934

“A short story can be written on a bottle, but for a novel you need the mental speed that enables you to keep the whole pattern in your head and ruthlessly sacrifice the sideshows as Ernest did in A Farewell to Arms. If a mind is slowed up ever so little it lives in the individual part of a book rather than in a book as a whole; memory is dulled.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, March 11, 1935

“Thanks for the message from Ernest. I’d like to see him too and I always think of my friendship with him as being one of the high spots of life. But I still believe that such things have a mortality, perhaps in reaction to their very excessive life, and that we will never again see very much of each other.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, April 15, 1935

“Somehow I love that man [Hemingway], no matter what he says or does, but just one more crack and I think I would have to throw my weight with the gang and lay him. No one could ever hurt him in his first books but he has completely lost his head and the duller he gets about it, the more he is like a punch-drunk pug fighting himself in the movies.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, September 19, 1936

“He [Hemingway] is living at the present in a world so entirely his own that it is impossible to help him, even if I felt close to him at the moment, which I don’t. I like him so much, though, that I wince when anything happens to him, and I feel rather personally ashamed that it has been possible for imbeciles to dig at him and hurt him.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, September 3, 1937

“I know to the younger generation it [This Side of Paradise] is a pretty remote business, reading about the battles that engrossed us then and the things that were startling. To hold them I would have to put in a couple of abortions to give it color (and probably would if I was that age and writing it again).” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, April 23, 1938

“I wish I was in print. It will be odd a year or so from now when Scottie assures her friends I was an author and finds that no book is procurable.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, May 20, 1940

“You (and one other man, Gerald Murphy) have been a friend through every dark time in these five years. It’s funny what a friend is–Ernest’s crack in “The Snows,” poor John Bishop’s article in the Virginia Quarterly (a nice return for ten years of trying to set him up in a literary way) and Harold’s sudden desertion at the wrong time, have made them something less than friends.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, May 20, 1940

“Would the 25-cent press keep Gatsby in the public eye–or is the book unpopular? Has it had its chance? Would a popular reissue in that series with a preface not by me but by one of its admirers–I can maybe pick one–make it a favorite with classrooms, profs, lovers of English prose–anybody? But to die, so completely and unjustly after having given so much!” – F. Scott Fitzgerald to Maxwell Perkins, May 20, 1940

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