Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald

Welcome to the official home of Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald

To speak of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald is to invoke the Jazz Age, romance, and outrageous early success with all its attendant perils. Their names summon flappers, reckless spending, gleaming hotel lobbies, smoky speakeasies, ocean journeys, white suits, smart dresses, and a nostalgia for lost innocence. In spite of leading short, nomadic lives they defined an era and left an abundance of artistic achievements.

In this site, we, their family, present Scott and Zelda's meteoric rise, their tragic tumble, their enduring romance and their brilliant legacy, told in Scott and Zelda's own words as much as possible, as they tell it best. Besides, wrote their daughter Scottie, "they were a couple of very honest people."

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St. Paul, MN

1896

September 24 1896 Francis Scott Fitzgerald is born in St. Paul, Minnesota. He shows exceptional literary talent in grade school; he’s a precocious observer of money, power and character.

Princeton

1913

Scott enters Princeton University with the class of 1917.

“From the first he loved Princeton — its lazy beauty, its half-grasped significance, the wild moonlight revel of the rushes, the handsome, prosperous big-game crowds, and under it all the air of struggle that pervaded his class.” This Side of Paradise, 1920

Montgomery

1900

July 24, 1900 Zelda Sayre is born in Montgomery, Alabama. Her father is a judge and a pillar of the community. As the youngest of five children, Zelda's enthusiasms are indulged by her devoted mother.

Montgomery

1918

Zelda graduates from Sidney Lanier High School. She is a wildly popular belle of regional renown, and a talented dancer, painter, and writer.

"I did not have a single feeling of inferiority, or shyness, or doubt, and no moral principles." –Zelda 1930

Montgomery

1918

Scott is stationed at Camp Sheridan near Montgomery. Expecting to die in the trenches of Europe, he hurriedly writes his first novel, The Romantic Egoist, about his education and personal awakening. He submits it to Scribner’s. It is rejected but the editors would like to see revisions.

Montgomery

1918

Scott and Zelda meet at a country club dance in Montgomery. Scott is captivated by Zelda although she keeps several suitors on a string.

“The night you gave me my birthday party... you were a young Lieutenant and I was a fragrant phantom, wasn't I? And it was a radiant night, a night of soft conspiracy and the trees agreed that it was all going to be for the best.” Zelda, letter to Scott

Montgomery

1919

Zelda writes to Scott about an afternoon she spends in the Oakwood Cemetery. He attributes her musings to Amory Blaine, his novel’s protagonist.

"Why should graves make people feel in vain? I can’t find anything hopeless in having lived —all the broken columnes and clasped hands and doves and angels mean romances and in a hundred years I think I shall like having young people speculate on whether my eyes were brown or blue—of course, they are neither. Old death is so beautiful—so very beautiful— We will die together—I know—Sweetheart." —Zelda, letter to Scott 1919
"There seemed to be some heavenly support beneath his shoulder blades that lifted his feet from the ground in ecstatic suspension, as if he secretly enjoyed the ability to fly but was walking as a compromise to convention." —Zelda, Save Me The Waltz, 1932

New York

1919

The Great War has ended and Scott is discharged from the army. He finds employment in New York City at an advertising agency. He makes three visits to Montgomery. Scott, a penniless Yankee and unpublished writer, does not win the approval of Zelda’s parents. When he proposes marriage, Zelda declines.

"I was in love with a whirlwind and I must spin a net big enough to catch it out of my head, a head full of trickling nickels and sliding dimes, the incessant music box of the poor."—Scott, Early Success, 1937
"Then the postman rang, and that day I quit work and ran along the streets, stopping automobiles to tell friends and acquaintances about it-- my novel This Side of Paradise was accepted for publication. That week the postman rang and rang, and I paid off my terrible small debts, bought a suit, and woke up every morning with a world of ineffable toploftiness and promise." —Scott, Early Success, 1937

New York, NY

1919

When This Side of Paradise is accepted by Scribner’s, Zelda accepts Scott’s proposal of marriage.

“I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity and her flaming self-respect and it's these things I'd believe in even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn't all that she should be.... I love her and that's the beginning and end of everything." —Scott, letter to Isabelle Amore

New York, NY

1920

A week before their wedding, Scott’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, is published to instant acclaim. Zelda’s painting commemorates their wedding on April 3, 1920. The entire city seems to celebrate. A magnanimous hand showers theater tickets on the crowd, as the wedding party merges with an Easter parade. Scott and Zelda are overnight celebrities and spokespeople for their generation. Scott chronicles the dawn of the Jazz Age (a term he invents) --"the greatest, gaudiest spree in history."

"We felt like small children in a great bright unexplored barn." —Scott, My Lost City, 1935
"Twilights were wonderful just after the war. They hung above New York like indigo wash, forming themselves from asphalt dust and sooty shadows under the cornices and limp gusts of air exhaled from closing windows, to hang above the streets with all the mystery of white fog rising off a swamp." — Zelda, The Millionaire's Girl 1930
"New York had all the iridescence of the beginning of the world. The returning troops marched up Fifth Avenue, and girls were instinctively drawn east and north toward them—we were, at last, admittedly the most powerful nation, and there was gala in the air." — Scott, My Lost City, 1935

New York, NY

1920

Scott publishes his first collection of short stories, Flappers and Philosophers

Zelda is his highly quotable side-kick, the quintessential flapper, his accomplice in high-jinx and the model for most of his romantic heroines. They are reckless with their resources and they party with the abandon. Throughout, Scott remains productive. Early in the marriage, when Scott felt compelled to find them a permanent home, Zelda talked him right out of it.

"My whole theory of writing I can sum up in one sentence. An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next and the schoolmasters of ever afterward." — Scott, Author’s apology, This Side of Paradise, 1920

Westport & Montgomery

1920

Zelda and Scott take a road trip from their rented house in Westport, CT to Alabama. The resulting story, Cruise of The Rolling Junk , was published in Motor Magazine.

Europe & St. Paul

1921

Scott & Zelda travel to Europe before the birth of their baby.

"We were too superior at that time to use the guide books and wanted to discover the ruins for ourselves, which we did when we had exhausted the night-life and the market places and the campagna...It was exciting being lost between centuries in the Roman dusk and taking your sense of direction from the Colosseum." -Zelda Fitzgerald, "Show Mr. and Mrs. F to number -"

St. Paul

1922

Scott and Zelda’s only child, Frances Scott Fitzgerald, is born October 26, 1921. in St. Paul, Minnesota. They call her Scotty (and later, Scottie). A nanny now joins the family entourage. March 1922 Scott’s second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, is published. Zelda reviews the book, claiming parts of it were poached from her diaries — the first sign of their struggles to come.

"The compensation for a very early success is a conviction that life is a romantic matter. In the best sense one stays young…" —Scott, Early Success 1937

Long Island

1922

The family settles on Long Island where Scott observes the privileged through his moral mid-western lens. Here he conceives The Great Gatsby. This iconic American novel embodies the American Dream. Gatsby, a self-made man, is a romantic who invents his past and hopes to recapture his first love.

"There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams -- not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart." —Scott, The Great Gatsby, 1925

Long Island

1922

Scott’s story, The Diamond as Big As The Ritz is published in Smart Set. Sometimes accused of being an apologist for the rich, Scott’s relationship to the rich is far more complex.

"That was always my experience-- a poor boy in a rich town; a poor boy in a rich boy's school; a poor boy in a rich man's club at Princeton... However, I have never been able to forgive the rich for being rich, and it has colored my entire life and works." —Scott to Anne Ober September 1922

Long Island

1922

Scott publishes Tales Of The Jazz Age, his second collection of short stories. He also writes a play, The Vegetable, that flops when it opens in Atlantic City. Zelda and Scott spend his earnings like millionaires, squandering their funds.

Long Island

1923

Although The Great Gatsby is conceived on Long Island, frequent parties and excessive drinking encroach on Scott’s work. In 1923 he makes a serious appraisal of their finances. This year he has earned $28,000 but has spent $36,000. Either they can budget for half a nanny, Scott writes, a one-legged butler, or they can move to Europe.

Europe

1924

The Fitzgeralds steam to France on the Minnewaska, - escaping prohibition, the high cost of living in America, and, they hope, their own bad habits. "Besides," says Zelda, "I hate a room without an open suitcase in it -- it seems so permanent."

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French Riviera

1924

The Fitzgeralds rent the Villa Marie in Saint-Raphaël. Scott writes the Great Gatsby.

French Riviera

1924

Through their expatriate friends, Sara and Gerald Murphy, Scott and Zelda join the Lost Generation, mingling with Fernand Leger, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein. Zelda's ambitions are sparked and she begins to seek an artistic identity of her own

“One could get away with more on the summer Riviera and whatever happened seemed to have something to do with art." —Scott , The Crack-Up, 1936

Rome

1924

Scott makes final revisions to The Great Gatsby in Rome. Zelda takes her first painting lessons on the Island of Capri.

Paris

1925

The family travels through France and settles in Paris. They will spend their lives in hotels and rentals, never owning a home.

“At the Ruhl in Nice we decided on a room not facing the sea… not being able to afford it even out of season. During dinner on the terrace, stars fell in our plates... we were alone with the deep blue grandeur and the filet de sole Ruhl and the second bottle of champagne...It was like the good gone times when we still believed in summer hotels and the philosophies of popular songs. Another night we danced a Wiener waltz and just simply swep' around." --- Zelda (shared byline with Scott for financial purposes), Show Mr. and Mrs. F. to Number— , 1934

The Great Gatsby

1925

The Great Gatsby is published, greeted by tepid reviews and disappointing sales. The Fitzgeralds spend the summer of 1926 at Villa St. Louis in Juan-les-Pins. The Great Gatsby is followed by publication of a story collection, All The Sad Young Men.

"The author would like to say that never before did one try to keep his artistic conscience as pure as during the ten months put into doing it." — Scott's Introduction to Modern Library Edition of The Great Gatsby, 1934

Return To America

1927

The Fitzgeralds return briefly to America on the Conte Biancamano. They settle in a rented house in Wilmington, Delaware where Zelda begins dance lessons. In January Scott works on the film script for Lipstick in Hollywood. He and Zelda stay at the Ambassador Hotel.

France

1928

Scott & Zelda return to France. Zelda, age 28, begins rigorous ballet training with Lubov Egorova in Paris. After a year Zelda is invited to dance Aida with the Royal Ballet of Italy, an offer she declines. She also writes several short stories for College Humor.

France

1929

Scott, always a heavy drinker, has become an alcoholic. Just as the stock market crashes in America, Scott and Zelda's fairy tale lives are becoming a cautionary tale.

"It was a trying winter and to forget bad times we went to Algiers. The Hotel de l’Oasis was laced together by Moorish grills; and the bar was an outpost of civilization with people accentuating their eccentricities. Beggars in white sheets were propped against the walls, and the dash of colonial uniforms gave the cafes a desperate swashbuckling air. -Zelda, "Show Mr. and Mrs. F. to number—"

Switzerland

1930

Zelda, after a manic period of ballet training, is hospitalized for nervous exhaustion. Soon after, she is diagnosed with schizophrenia. In June she enters Prangins clinic in Switzerland. Scottie remains in school in Paris. Scott visits when doctors allow it. He is mired in financial troubles. His 4th novel, Tender is the Night, is stalled for seven years.

"I wish I could feel your fuzzy neck and watch you put on your finest shirt and pretend to be a worldly author of renown. Your things, when they smell of you, smell so warm and friendly like a clean open fire in a peasant mountain cottage." — Zelda to Scott, in letters from the Swiss clinic 1930

Switzerland

1930

The Great Depression brings smaller fees for Scott’s short stories, the family's only reliable income. They are broke, with mounting medical expenses. A cycle begins of Scott borrowing money from his agent and publisher, then trying to write himself out of debt. Zelda and Scott’s love endures these calamities.

"Wasn’t it fun to laugh together over the phone? You are so infinitely sweet and dear—O my dear—my love, my infinitely inexpressible sweet darling dear, I love you so much... If all the kisses and love I’m sending you arrive at their destination you will be as worn away as St. Peter’s toe and by the time I arrive have practically no features left at all—but I shall know you always by the lilt in your darling person." — Zelda to Scott, in letters from the Swiss clinic 1930

Montgomery

1931

With Zelda in remission, the Fitzgeralds return to Montgomery. Scott spends months in Hollywood working on a script for Red-Headed Woman. While he’s gone, Zelda begins a novel and writes several short stories.

Baltimore

1932

Zelda relapses and enters the Phipps Psychiatric clinic in Baltimore. Scott and Scottie rent a house nearby. Within a couple of months at Phipps, Zelda completes her novel, Save Me The Waltz. Before it is published, Scott and Zelda fiercely dispute their rights to their shared autobiographical material. Scott, as the breadwinner, lays claim to parts of their history for his novel Tender Is the Night.

"Yes - but David, it's very difficult to be two simple people at once, one who wants to have a law to itself and the other who wants to keep all the nice old things and be loved and safe and protected." — Zelda, Save Me the Waltz, 1932

Baltimore

1933

Zelda’s play, Scandalabra, is produced in Baltimore. At her doctors’ urging, she turns her talents from writing to painting and is an out-patient at John’s Hopkins Hospital. Scott, feeling emotionally bankrupt, drinks heavily and goes deeper into debt. He moves into an apartment in Baltimore. Zelda enters Craig House, a clinic in Beacon, N.Y

I wish we could spend July by the sea, browning ourselves and feeling water-weighted hair flow behind us from a dive. I wish our gravest troubles were the summer gnats...it would be nice to smell the starch of summer linens and the faint odor of talc in blistering bath-houses....We could lie in long citroneuse beams of the five-o’clock sun on the plage at Jean-les-Pins and hear the sound of the drum and piano being scooped out to sea by the waves. -Zelda to Scott 1934

Tender Is The Night

1934

Tender Is The Night, Scott’s fourth novel, is published, followed, in 1935 by a story collection, Taps At Reveille. 1935-36 Scott writes The Crack-Up essays, published serially in Esquire Magazine. These confessional writings reinforce the public perception that he’s washed up as a writer.

"…the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise…" —Scott, The Crack-Up 1936

Asheville

1936

Zelda enters Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. Scott lives partly in Tryon & Asheville, and partly in Baltimore where Scottie, age 15, attends school. When Scottie enters boarding school, Scott’s literary agent, Harold Ober, and his wife Anne, become her surrogate parents.

Hollywood

1937

In the depths of the Depression, Scott accepts work as a screenwriter for Metro Goldwyn Mayer in Hollywood. Now sober, he hopes this will be his Second Act. Scott develops a tempestuous relationship with Hollywood gossip columnist, Sheilah Graham, which she later chronicles in her book, The Beloved Infidel. Scott repays his debts and writes a now-famous series of letters to Scottie, in an attempt to parent long-distance.

"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." Scott to Scottie, 1939

Hollywood

1938

When MGM doesn't renew Scott’s contract, he turns to creating the brilliant and humorous Pat Hobby Stories, about a deadbeat screenwriter. He draws on his own experience in the movie industry. In New York, Scottie enters Vassar College.

Cuba

1939

Zelda's last glimpse of Scott is when they take a brief trip to Cuba. He drinks so heavily that Zelda has to make arrangements for him to be hospitalized. She returns to Highland Hospital alone, making no mention of her chaperon’s behavior to hospital authorities, and for this discretion Scott thanks her.

"you are the finest, loveliest, tenderest, most beautiful person I have ever known, but even that is an understatement because the lengths that you went to there at the end would have tried anybody beyond endurance." — Scott to Zelda 1939

Hollywood

1940

Dec 21, 1940 Scott dies suddenly of a heart attack, age 44. Still the bench mark for talent and elegant prose, Scott’s literary legacy includes 5 novels and 170 short stories which are enjoyed the world over. The Last Tycoon, Scott’s unfinished novel about Hollywood, is published posthumously, in 1941.

"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..." Scott to Scottie, October, 1939
"You can take off your hats now, gentlemen, and I think perhaps you’d better. This is not a legend, this is a reputation- and seen in perspective, it may well be one of the most secure reputations of out time." Stephen Vincent Benet, Review of The Last Tycoon

New York City

1943

Scottie marries ensign Jack Lanahan. Zelda is not well enough to attend the wedding.

"There isn’t any real reason sheets should be white: pink sheets would be most entertaining and one could sew the strips together with narrow embroidery...Don’t buy all the spoons and sauce pans which one always seems to need...They breed under the kitchen sink if left to themselves" -- Zelda to Scottie 1943
"Giving Scottie away must have brought back the excitement of those days twenty-years ago when there was so much of everything adrift on the micaed spring time and so many aspirations afloat on the lethal twilights that one’s greatest concern was which taxi to take and which magazine to sell to." - Zelda to Scott’s literary agent, Harold Ober

Asheville

1946

Zelda finds inspiration with the birth of her grandson, Tim. She makes him a portfolio of paper dolls, fairy tales and Biblical illustrations. From memory, she also paints many of the places she lived with Scott. For months at a time, Zelda is able to live quietly at her mother’s home in Montgomery, working in her garden, and painting in a studio she sets up in the garage.

Asheville

1948

Zelda dies in a fire at the Highland Hospital in Asheville. Her vibrant paintings are among the few tangible mementos of Scott & Zelda’s lives.

A fragment of Zelda's fiction, begun in 1942, after Scott's death, sings the last refrain. "Nobody has ever measured, even the poets, how much a heart can hold, though much poetic resource has been dedicated to its running over... tomb-stones tell the story of a really broken heart..."

The End