"ALL THE OBVIOUS STUFF OF ROMANCE & MYSTERY, WHILE IT IS AT THE SAME TIME THE BEST STUFF, HAS IN THE LAST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS BEEN PRETTY WELL PAWED OVER BY NEWSPAPER FEATURE WRITERS AND DETECTIVE STORY SHAKESPEARES": FINE 1922 SIGNED AUTOGRAPH LETTER FROM F. SCOTT FITZGERALD TO AN EDITOR AT COLLIER'S REGARDING "BENJAMIN BUTTON" THREE WEEKS BEFORE PUBLICATION
FITZGERALD, F. Scott. Autograph letter signed. St. Paul, Minnesota, circa May 9, 1922. Two sheets of unlined wove paper, measuring 8-1/2 by 11 inches, penned on the rectos for two pages. $22,000.
Exceptional signed two-page autograph letter with excellent literary content, written entirely in F. Scott Fitzgerald's hand, to Harford Powell, an editor at Collier's, concerning mystery stories and publishing "Benjamin Button," along with other novelettes and his earlier collection Flappers and Philosophers. Accompanied by Powell's typed one-page letter in response.
The letter, written entirely in F. Scott Fitzgerald's hand, reads: "Your letter was very interesting. The trouble is this: all the obvious stuff of romance & mystery while it is at the same time the best stuff has in the last twenty five years been pretty well pawed over by newspaper feature writers and detective story Shakespeares not to mention people like Doyle, Haggard, Wilkie Collins and Bulwer Lytton and the haute dime novelists. They've done their pawing with such clumsy hands that they've taken the color pretty much off the near east and the far east and the whole criminal world—and so to the sophisticated mind, as you know yourself, the appearance of Paw-paw, the three eyed with his relentless secret including Constantinople and Patterson New Jersey, bound in boards at $1.75, is apt to be the signal for hilarious mirth. The jewel business has fascinated me too and in fact I have done a satirical story on almost the materials you suggest. It appears as a novelette in the next Smart Set & wish that you'd read it. It's the second of a series of such stories of which the first was The Russet Witch in the Metropolitan & the third was Benjamin Button.
"Did you ever read my story The Cut Glass Bowl, just published in the Metropolitan and later in Flappers & Philosophers? That works out the curse idea. I will certainly keep in mind what you say and if some plan occurs to me to give an entirely new & un-shop-worn twist I'll write it up and send it to you. Sincerely, F. Scott Fitzgerald." Powell's response concedes, in the first line, "On second thoughts, I imagine you are right. All the same, we don't usually shy at an idea because of Wilkie Collins, Bulwer Lytton, etc. I suppose in the long and serried list of their works, pretty nearly all stories are told—with the remarkable exception of 'Benjamin Button.'" "Fitzgerald wrote only one story in the first half of 1922, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,' which traces the life of a man who is born old and grows up into infancy. The story was hard to place, but Collier's took it for $1000" (Bruccoli, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur, 197).
Powell's typed letter has a flattened mail fold and some light edge-wear, mild toning. Fitzgerald's letter with evidence of a removed paper clip along with several pinholes from removed staples, small hole to page one, signature bold and clear.