F. Scott Fitzgerald

About the Author

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in St Paul, Minnesota. His parents were middle class, but not particularly wealthy and had to save to put Fitzgerald through private school and Princeton University. Ambitious to become a writer, Fitzgerald neglected his studies, was put on academic probation, and in 1917 left Princeton to join the army. Shortly before his posting, he submitted his first manuscript, The Romantic Egotist, to Scribners; it was rejected, but with a letter encouraging him to rework and resubmit the story.

 

In 1918, Fitgerald was posted to Camp Sheridan in Alabama. He was never sent abroad on active service, but during his time in the South, he met and fell in love with Zelda Sayre, the eighteen-year-old daughter of a local judge. They became engaged, and when Fitzgerald’s manuscript – now titled This Side of Paradise – was finally accepted by Scribners in 1919, they married. The novel dealt with the boredom and disillusionment of the social elite at Princeton after the war, and brought Fitzgerald immediate acclaim. The Fitzgeralds embarked on a life of social excess in New York, and though a number of short stories and a second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), followed in the next two years, Fitzgerald’s public image was compromised by their extravagant lifestyle.

 

The Fitzgeralds moved back to Minnesota for the birth of their daughter Frances Scott Fitzgerald in 1921, but the social life of New York remained a distraction and hampered Fitzgerald’s attempts at writing. Finally in 1924, the family moved to France, seeking a more subdued atmosphere, and here, in Valescure on the Côte d’Azur, Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby. This novel, widely considered his masterpiece, deals with his perennial themes of money, class, and jazz-age social degeneration, and has been hailed as a candidate for the ‘great American novel’.

 

The Fitzgeralds remained in France for the next three years, alternating between the Riviera and Paris, where Fitzgerald met the then little-known Ernest Hemingway, but the atmosphere of France proved damaging to the Fitzgeralds' writing and Zelda’s mental health. After a brief return to America, Zelda suffered her first breakdown in 1930 and was moved to a Swiss clinic for treatment, which Fitzgerald financed with the proceeds of new short stories.

 

His fourth novel was finally finished in 1934. Tender is the Night was the story of a psychologist and his damaging marriage to a schizophrenic and reflected his unease with his own marriage to Zelda, who was now frequently in and out of mental institutions and had penned her own autobiographical novel, Save Me the Waltz, in 1932. The new novel was not a commercial success and, by the mid-1930s, Fitzgerald was in serious financial difficulty. After a period spent in hotels in North Carolina, where Zelda was in Highland Hospital, he moved to Hollywood to work on film adaptations and screenplays. His final novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, was inspired by his experiences in Hollywood, but was left unfinished when he died of a heart attack in 1940.

Books by the author