"DURING THE LONG ENFORCED SECLUSION OF WRITING TENDER IS THE NIGHT I DEFLATED MY HORIZON SO MUCH… THERE IS A LIMIT… TO WHAT ONE CAN DREDGE OUT OF THE DOMESTIC RACKET": FASCINATING TYPED LETTER WRITTEN, HAND-CORRECTED, AND SIGNED BY F. SCOTT FITZGERALD, WITH A FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE COPY OF ALL THE SAD YOUNG MEN BEARING THE BOOKLABEL OF THE LETTER'S RECIPIENT
FITZGERALD, F. Scott. Typed letter signed. WITH: All the Sad Young Men. Baltimore, Maryland, February 28, 1935 and New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926. Two sheets of unlined paper, each measuring 8-1/2 by 11 inches; pp. 2. WITH: Octavo, original dark green cloth rebacked with original spine laid down. $17,000.
Exceptional signed typed letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Dean Stewart of Independence, Kansas discussing tuberculosis, the challenges of his home life during the writing of Tender is the Night, and the difficulty of getting paid for his short stories, accompanied by a first edition, first issue copy of All the Sad Young Men bearing Stewart's personal booklabel.
The signed typed letter, dated "February 28, 1935" from Baltimore, reads in full: "Dear Dean: It seems to me that somebody in the Little Colonel books, was it Joyce's mother, had to go to Kansas on account of weak lungs and from the reference in your letter I gather that you or one of your family has been similarly afflicted. I went through that mill in undergraduate days and I can deeply sympathize—if I am right in my guess.
You have a good critical mind, young lady, and your observations upon the undersigned were sharp and perhaps too much to the point to make me entirely confortable [hand-corrected: "n" to "m"] During the long enforced seclusion of writing 'Tender is the Night' I deflated my horizon so much that in the last few months it seemed I could hardly breathe in it; lately I've been going out a little more because there is a limit, as you suggest, to what one can dredge out of the domestic racket, especially as mine has been quite as melancholy as is called for by the general specifications for life.
The Redbook [hand-corrected: line between "Red and "book," "b" capitalized] story was an escape. Since you seem interested it was the beginning of a series for the Post and was prompted by the escape complex. The idea was to publish eight or ten episodes of Phillippe's youthful career and then evolve that into a novel, a perfectly serious novel. The obstacle was the Post who were not interested. The Redbook [hand-corrected: line between "Red and "book," "b" capitalized] paid only half the price and I was on rather a financial spot and had to write Post stories so it was four months before the next story reached the Redbook [hand-corrected: line between "Red and "book," "b" capitalized]. However, they now have three more and will be getting on with them shortly. They have been fun to write and I do them with none of the strain that accompanies the Post stories of youth and life [hand-corrected: "love"]. So much for your guesses being right and half right. I am awfully glad that you saw Philippe was a perfectly honest beginning of something.
I hope to the devil this isn't a Greely letter. I don't write those to such as you, lady, and I do honestly hope we meet. Faithfully, [signed: "F. Scott Fitzgerald"].
The letter is addressed to a woman named "Dean M. Stewart," whose relationship to Fitzgerald remains unknown. ("Dean" was once 15 times more popular as a woman's name than it is today). It begins with a veiled reference to tuberculosis. Fitzgerald mentions a vague memory of tuberculosis in the "Little Colonel" series. The author of the "Little Colonel" series for children, Annie Fellows Johnston, wrote the books while traveling with her son through the West, attempting to cure his tuberculosis. Events in her life frequently covered the narrative. Fitzgerald is also believed to have had tuberculosis, a situation to which he alludes. While his wife's biographer, Nancy Milford argued that Fitzgerald was claiming tuberculosis to hide his drinking problems, Fitzgerald's own biographers disagree. Matthew Bruccoli, the leading Fitzgerald expert, believed Fitzgerald to have had recurring tuberculosis. Likewise, biographer Arthur Mizener identified a specific 1919 attack of tuberculosis followed by a tubercular hemorrhage ten years later.
Next, Fitzgerald mentions the unpleasant seclusion and melancholy home life he faced while writing Tender is the Night, his final novel. During the lengthy period in which Fitzgerald wrote Tender is the Night, his marriage to Zelda hit its nadir. The Great Depression hit, threatening their already tenuous existence. Zelda was hospitalized for schizophrenia and was in and out of psychiatric care thereafter, particularly after the death of her father. Fitzgerald's alcoholism only grew worse. While Zelda was in the hospital she wrote her acclaimed novel Save Me the Waltz, a largely autobiographical work focusing on her deteriorating marriage. Fitzgerald was furious—largely due to the fact he had planned to use some of the same material in Tender is the Night that she had already used. Mostly, Fitzgerald felt that Zelda "swallowed him up, or more precisely that he had allowed himself to be swallowed" (Turnbull, 241). Fitzgerald viewed her as a cursed Ophelia, ruining his creative life and exacerbating the downhill slide of his health and happiness. Upon reading Tender is the Night, Hemingway offered, "Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously." In the same poorly received letter, he also noted that "Zelda was crazy the first time I met her and you complicated it even more by being in love with her." Fitzgerald spent the months after the publication of Tender is the Night falling ever deeper into his alcoholism, even giving his daughter to friends so that he could struggle through a tuberculosis flare and bury himself in illicit sex and drinking in a hotel room. In the late summer, he finally began to climb out of the hole he'd created, leaving his room, going outdoors, and even experimenting with simple activities like buying ice cream. However, by 1936, the year after this letter was written, Zelda had again become unstable and violent. Again, she was hospitalized. When they were both well enough to manage a vacation together in 1938, it was an absolute disaster. The couple never saw each other again and Fitzgerald died of a heart attack in 1940 at age 44, blaming Zelda for his creative failures until the end.
In the letter, Fitzgerald then turns to the so-called "Philippe stories." In an article about the publication of Fitzgerald's short stories, The Guardian criticized the first of the Philippe stories stating that stories such as "the risible 'Philippe, Count of Darkness'—based on the berserk idea of turning Ernest Hemingway into a tough-talking French nobleman in the ninth century—have never been collected and don't merit reading, much less republishing." Fitzgerald wrote fine novels and many fine stories, but his attempts to write for publication had mixed success. At the time of this letter, Fitzgerald was trying desperately to make money, but no one would buy his stories. The situation with The Post and Redbook (Fitzgerald's hand-correction is incorrect throughout the letter) was typical of Fitzgerald's experiences at the time.
In closing, Fitzgerald expresses his hope that he hasn't written a Greeley letter, referring to Horace Greeley's acerbic letter to Abraham Lincoln demanding that he end slavery. Lincoln's measured response pointed out the many flaws with Greeley's argument and intentionally failed to mention that he had drafted the Emancipation Proclamation shortly before receiving Greeley's letter. As a result, Greeley's letter is known to history as something of an embarrassment, too brash, too uninformed, and too late.
This letter is accompanied by a first edition, first issue of All the Sad Young Men. All the Sad Young Men "was Fitzgerald's strongest collection, with four major stories ('The Rich Boy,' 'Winter Dreams,' 'Absolution,' and 'The Sensible Thing') as well as five commercial stories… As was his custom, Fitzgerald polished the magazine texts of these stories. He was convinced that the book publication of stories affected his reputation, whereas the magazine appearances were ignored by the critics" (Bruccoli, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur, 272). First issue of All the Sad Young Men, with unbattered type on pages 38, 90, and 248
. Bruccoli A13.1.a.
Letter with only a few tiny spots of faint soiling and original mailing creases. Book very good with expert restoration to original cloth.