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Edmund Wilson’s Letters: To and About F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald; drawing by David Levine


November 21, 1919
114 West Twelfth Street, N.Y.

Dear Fitz:

I have just read your novel [This Side of Paradise] with more delight than I can well tell you. It ought to be a classic in a class with The Young Visiters.1 Amory Blaine should rank with Mr. Salteena. It sounds like an exquisite burlesque of Compton Mackenzie with a pastiche of Wells thrown in at the end. I wish you hadn’t chosen such bad masters as Mackenzie and the later Wells: your hero is an unreal imitation of Michael Fane, who was himself unreal and who was last seen in the role of the veriest cardboard best-seller hero being nursed back to life in the Balkans. Almost the only things of value to be learned from the Michael Fane books are pretty writing and clever dialogue and with both of these you have done very well. The descriptions in places are very nicely done and so is some of the college dialogue, which really catches the Princeton tone, though your hero as an intellectual is a fake of the first water and I read his views on art, politics, religion, and society with more riotous mirth than I should care to have you know.

You handicap your story, for one thing, by making your hero go to the war and then completely leaving the war out. If you thought you couldn’t deal with his military experiences, you shouldn’t have had him go abroad at all. You make him do a lot of other things that the real Amory never did, such as getting on The Prince and playing on the football team, and thereby you produce an incredible monster, half romantic hero and half F. Scott Fitzgerald. This, of course, may be more evident to me than it would be to some reader who didn’t know you, but I really think you should cultivate detachment and not allow yourself to drift into a state of mind where, as in the latter part of the book, you make Amory the hero of a series of dramatic encounters with all the naïve and romantic gusto of a small boy imagining himself as a brave hunter of Indians.

The love affairs seem to me the soundest part of the book as fiction; the ones with Isabelle and Rosalind are the realest. I was, of course, infinitely entertained by the Princeton part: but you put in some very dubious things—the party at Asbury Park, for example, where they beat their way through the restaurants. If you tell me that you have seen this happen, I point to the incident in which the Burne brothers, who are presumably not supposed to be cads, are made to play an outrageous and impossible practical joke on the girl who comes down for the game. I was also very much shocked when poor old John Bishop’s hair stands up on end at beholding the Devil.

I don’t want to bludgeon you too brutally, however, for I think that some of the poems and descriptions are really exceedingly good. It would all be better if you would tighten up your artistic conscience and pay a little more attention to form. Il faut faire quelque chose de vraiment beau, vous savez! something which the world will not willingly let die! I feel called upon to give you this advice because I believe you might become a very popular trashy novelist without much difficulty.

The only first-rate novel recently produced in this genre is James Joyce’s book and that is one of the best things in English because of its rigorous form and selection and its polished style and because the protagonist is presented with complete detachment, with the ugly sides of his life as accurately depicted as the inspired and beautiful ones. But what about the ugly and mean features of Amory’s life! You make some feeble attempts to account for them in the beginning, but on the whole your hero is a kind of young god moving among demi-gods; the Amory I hear about in the book is not the Amory I knew at Princeton, nor at all like any genuine human being I ever saw. Well, I concede that it is much better to imagine even a more or less brummagem god and strike off from him a few authentic gleams of poetry and romance than to put together a perfectly convincing and mediocre man who never conveys to the reader a single thrill of the wonder of life, like Beresford’s Jacob Stahl and a lot of other current heroes, but I do think the most telling poetry and romance may be achieved by keeping close to life and not making Scott Fitzgerald a sort of super-Michael Fane. Cultivate a universal irony and do read something other than contemporary British novelists: this history of a young man stuff has been run into the ground and has always seemed to me a bum art form, anyway, at least when, as in Beresford’s or Mackenzie’s case, it consists of dumping all one’s youthful impressions in the reader’s lap, with a profound air of importance. You do the same thing: you tell the reader all sorts of stuff which has no bearing on your story and no other interest—that detail about how Amory’s uncle gave him a cap, etc.

I really like the book, though; I enjoyed it enormously, and I shouldn’t wonder if a good many other people would enjoy it, too. You have a knack of writing readably which is a great asset. Your style, by the way, has become much sounder than it used to be. Well, I hope to see you here soon. Thanks for the novel.2

Yours always,
Edmund Wilson, Jr.


July 3, 1921

Dear John:

…The Fitzgeralds have recently been here and tried to get hold of me, but, to my infinite regret, couldn’t. I didn’t know about it until after they had gone back to London. It seems they hate Europe and are planning to go back to America almost immediately. The story is that they were put out of a hotel because Zelda insisted upon tying the elevator—one of those little half-ass affairs that you run yourself—to the floor where she was living so that she would be sure to have it on hand when she had finished dressing for dinner….

Yours always,


September 22, 1922
Vanity Fair, New York

Dear John:

…The only exciting recent event is the sudden arrival of the Fitzgeralds, who decided that they could stand the Middle West no longer and immediately came on. They are at present, of course, at the Plaza but are going to get a house out at Rye and live East permanently. The most extraordinary thing is that they are both in the most wonderful form—partly owing to a summer in the country—and have resolved to begin a new phase of their life. Fitz has not let anybody but me know he is in the city and, though they have been here several days, they have not had one drink! Both are wonderful-looking physically (Zelda has lost her fat) and are functioning so rationally that I can hardly believe my eyes. Fitz goes about soberly transacting his business and in the evenings writes at his room in the hotel. I had a long conversation with him last night and found him full of serious ideas about regulating his life. He has hit upon a modus vivendi for preventing Zelda from absorbing all his time, emotion, and seminal juice: they have made a compact for the purpose of obviating the wasteful furies of jealousy, by which each is bound not to go out alone with another member of the other sex. I don’t know how long it will last but I have never seen Fitz present a more dignified appearance than during this brief interregnum. I suppose that when the hyenas find out that he is in town they will all be on his neck—he has not even told Townsend and Alec. He is busy negotiating about his play….



April 11, 1925
3 North Washington Square, N.Y.

Dear Scott:

Your book [The Great Gatsby] came yesterday and I read it last night. It is undoubtedly in some ways the best thing you have done—the best planned, the best sustained, the best written. In fact, it amounts to a complete new departure in your work. The only bad feature of it is that the characters are mostly so unpleasant in themselves that the story becomes rather a bitter dose before one has finished with it. However, the fact that you are able to get away with it is the proof of its brilliance. It is full of all sorts of happy touches—in fact, all the touches are happy—there is not a hole in it anywhere. I congratulate you—you have succeeded here in doing most of the things that people have always scolded you for not doing. I wish, in your next, you would handle a more sympathetic theme. (Not that I don’t admire Gatsby and see the point of the whole thing, but you will admit that it keeps us inside the hyena cage.) [Paul] Rosenfeld has an essay about you in his new book, just out. I’ll urge him to send you a copy if he hasn’t done so, as he tells me you have sent him yours. Mary wants to send her best love to you both. I would give anything to have you here this spring. Let me hear from you—my best to Zelda. I hope she is over her peritonitis—she owes me a letter, if she is.

Yours as ever,

I particularly enjoyed the man who takes the oculist’s advertisement for the eyes of God.


May 9, 1929
The New Republic

Dear Ham:

…Don’t buy my novel, I’ll send you a copy. I was rereading The Great Gatsby last night, after I had been going through my page proofs, and thinking with depression how much better Scott Fitzgerald’s prose and dramatic sense were than mine. If I’d only been able to give my book the vividness and excitement, and the technical accuracy, of his! Have you ever read Gatsby? I think it’s one of the best novels that any American of his age has done. Of course, he’d had to pass through several immature and amateurish phases before he arrived at that one, and writing, like everything else, is partly a matter of expertness—so I’m glad to hear you’re launched on a second novel—good luck to you! Keep at it, in spite of hell!

As ever,


December 4, 1933
314 East 53rd Street, NY

Dear Scott:

I’m sorry about the other day, but you are sometimes a hard guy to get along with and I’m told I’m not wonderful in this respect either. What I object to is precisely the “scholar and vulgarian,” “you helped me more than I helped you” business. I know that this isn’t entirely a role you’ve foisted on me: I’ve partly created it myself. But don’t you think at our present time of life we might dispense with this highschool (Princeton University) stuff? I’ve certainly laid you under contribution in the past in the concoction of my literary personae and I don’t blame you or object a bit if you do the same with me. But just don’t make yourself disagreeable about it after asking me to lunch, you mug, if you expect me to eat any with you.

Hope you’re recuperating in Bermuda. I’m looking forward to your book. Love to Zelda.

As ever,


December 4, 1934
Red Bank [New Jersey]

Dear Phelps:

…As for literature, I didn’t think Scott’s novel [Tender Is the Night] quite as bad as you seem to: the characters and the story are cockeyed, but I thought he got something real out of the marriage relationship—a kind of situation which in less aggravated forms is not uncommon among people of that kind nowadays. He claims to have improved it a lot in rewriting it for the book. Have you heard about the young guy named Paul Engle from the West who has been setting the front page of the Times Book Review section and other similar places all agog? I wasn’t so much surprised when Archie Mac-Leish vulgarized Eliot and Pound enough to get himself the Pulitzer Prize, but I never expected to see the day when they would be practically hooked up with Edwin Markham and James Whitcomb Riley. As for Archie himself, after repeatedly declaring his belief in the duty of the artist to stand clear from politics, etc., he has not been able to restrain himself from sticking his finger uneasily into almost every political pie that seemed respectable enough and was not long ago delivering after-dinner speeches on Major Douglas’s Social Credit. A young Yale3 boy named James Agee, though, sponsored by Archie, has done some quite fine and original lyrics in a book which the Yale Press has brought out.4

As ever,
Bunny W


December 27, 1940
Stamford [Connecticut]

Dear Zelda:

I have been so terribly shocked by Scott’s death. I had had two letters from him lately, in which he had sounded as if he were getting along well with his book. Though I hadn’t seen much of him of recent years, we had a sort of permanent relationship, due to our having known one another at college and having started in writing at the same time. It has brought so many things back—the days when you and he arrived in New York together—and I have been thinking about you a lot these last few days. I know how you must feel, because I feel myself as if I had been suddenly robbed of some part of my own personality—since there must have been some aspect of myself that had been developed in relation to him. You must let me know if there is ever anything that I can do for you or for Frances. Max Perkins tells me that she is a very fine girl. All my love and sympathy, Zelda. I hope I shall see you sometime before too long. We have been hoping to take a trip South some winter, and shall look you up when we do.

As ever,
Bunny Wilson


April 17, 1942
Wellfleet [Massachusetts]

Dear Miss Stein:

Thank you very much for your letter. I am having Scribner’s send you a copy of Scott’s unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon, which you may not have seen. Scottie is in her last year at Vassar. She looks like Scott and Zelda in about equal proportions. Zelda lives with her mother and sister in Montgomery. The tragedy is so complete. Scott, you know, had stopped drinking and was working very hard at the time of his death. He had a British girl friend who—though not brilliant—appreciated him and took very good care of him. His serious literary ambitions had reasserted themselves, and he was working on a book about Hollywood, which I believe would have been one of his best things. He had had a heart attack a few weeks before his death. The doctor hadn’t taken it particularly seriously; but one afternoon, when he had been sitting talking, he got up and suddenly fell dead. He had been feeling rather happy about the progress he was making with his book. I think you are right: that he had the constructive gift that Hemingway doesn’t have at all—and I feel sure that some of his work will last.

Yours sincerely,
Edmund Wilson


November 10, 1949

Dear Arthur:

I have just remembered an anecdote about Scott that you may not know. 5 It was told me years ago by the Gormans (Herbert Gorman, who wrote the book about Joyce). Scott called on Joyce in Paris and was as usual when meeting writers he admired thrown off his balance by awe. He addressed Joyce as “sir” and asked him whether it didn’t make him feel very proud to realize what he had done. Joyce replied that he was sometimes tempted to be proud, but that he tried to suppress this tendency. Scott then announced that, as a tribute to Joyce’s genius—to show his abasement in its presence—he was going to jump out the window. Joyce caught hold of him and held him back as he was going over the window-sill—and said afterwards: “That young man must be mad—I’m afraid he’ll do himself some injury!”

And here are two other literary stories which Scott told me himself. He met Galsworthy at some party that was given for him in London. “I said to him: ‘Mr. Galsworthy, you are one of the three living writers that I admire most in the world: you and Joseph Conrad and Anatole France!’ ” I asked what Galsworthy had said to that. “I don’t think he liked it much,” he said. “He knew he wasn’t that good.” He had described Galsworthy to me as “just what you’d think: a fine quiet reticent English gentleman,” and I am sure that Scott had interpreted as a reaction against his own insincerity, about which he had a bad conscience, what would really have been simply the cool response of an Englishman to a gross public compliment.

When he [Fitzgerald] was in Capri, he went to see Compton Mackenzie. I asked about their conversation. “I asked him,” he said, “why he had petered out and never written anything that was any good since Sinister Street and those early novels.” “What did he say to that?” “He said it wasn’t true.” Scott then went on to tell me his theory that the trouble with Mackenzie was that he had missed the great experience of the war. I have thought about this recently since I have been reading up Mackenzie’s books from the point where we all dropped him. It is not true at all that he missed the war. He was physically in such bad shape that nobody would accept him for service till Sir Ian Hamilton, who liked his novels, heard that he wanted to get into the service and gave him a job in the Gallipoli campaign, which enabled him, without actually fighting, to see a certain amount of fighting. When Mackenzie’s health broke down, Hamilton sent him to Athens, where he had a very lively and rather dangerous career as head of the British Secret Service. He has written four volumes of memoirs and several novels about it, though I don’t believe any of them had yet come out at the time that Scott himself felt that he had missed the war. It was as if, when he came later to read books about it, he decided that he had been greatly to blame for not having had any real idea of what had been going on at that time, and he suddenly produced his old trench helmet which had never seen the shores of France and hung it up in his bedroom at Wilmington and would surprise his visitors there by showing them, as if it were a revelation, a book of pictures of horribly mutilated soldiers.

I suppose you have looked into the early Mackenzie, whose influence on Scott can’t be overestimated. (The curious thing is that Zelda wrote like Mackenzie, too. I don’t know whether she got it at firsthand or through Scott or what.) But what strikes me, in reading Mackenzie today, is that, much better educated though he was than Scott, Scott’s best is far better than Mackenzie’s. Mackenzie is a very odd literary case. I may write something about him someday. He gets less attention now than he deserves. He has been—except perhaps in Carnival and Grey and Pauline—completely lacking in intensity and almost completely extroverted. I have a theory—his mother, I believe, was an American woman from the South and his father a Scottish actor—that he represents a peculiar breed: romantic but extroverted, intelligent but superficial, quixotic but rather mild—that is due to this mingling of strains and that doesn’t find any appropriate role in the English public school system in which he was brought up. His reminiscences of the war—so full of the enjoyment of adventure and moving quickly through foreign lands and so critically detached toward the British cause, which he is supposed to be there to serve—might almost have been written by an American. In his later years, he went to live in Scotland and interested himself in Scotch affairs—is now doing a series of Scotch novels. He is, as I say, an anomalous case. His career has been disappointing, but I would rather read him than Somerset Maugham, for he seems to me a real and rather remarkably gifted writer. I met him in London four years ago at a rather dreary literary gathering and, unexpectedly, enjoyed him more than anybody else that evening. I was astonished, among all the limp and the dim, to find him so cheerful and brisk, small and wiry and full of energy and delighted with himself.

I hadn’t meant to go on at this length—it seems to be turning into notes for my Mackenzie essay.

As ever,
Edmund W.


December 27, 1949

Dear Arthur:

The only one of these excerpts from my letters to Scott that I don’t care to have printed is that one that begins, “I’m sorry about the other day,”—which requires too much explanation. I had been seeing him during those years only at long intervals and we were rather out of joint with one another. We had both been having our troubles and were touchy. The incident mentioned here was due to a misunderstanding on my part, but it had been brought on by Scott’s habit of needling his friends when he had passed a certain point of alcoholic consumption. On previous occasions when I had seen him he had presented one with writings of his, pointing out passages, sometimes highly invidious, which he would tell me were based on me. On this occasion, he wrote me to clear the situation up and afterwards came round to see me in New York to be sure things were all right between us. But he handled it with his usual lack of tact, and I received him rather coldly. I think that that was the last time I saw him till after I was married to Mary [McCarthy] and he had taken up with Sheila Graham, and he came out to see us at Stamford. He was not drinking and everything was amiable, but, in this final reformed phase, he seemed like a different person—had lost his brilliance along with his malice. This was the last time I ever saw him. You can put in about our generally strained relations if it is of any interest to you.

Greetings of the season to you both.

Edmund W


January 13, 1950

Dear Arthur:

Your account of this incident is misleading. Scott did not “quarrel with me viciously.” He did not quarrel at all. I became offended and walked out. My letter to him may sound vicious, but there was nothing of the kind on his side. This whole thing was due to a misunderstanding on my part, my own self-confidence at the time being probably in as bad shape as his. What had led up to the incident was his habit of needling one—which he would alternate with an admiration even more annoying. John Bishop told me that he did this with him, and I have seen him do it with Hemingway. We did not “spend an evening together discussing Tender Is the Night in the old way.” He came to see me without warning one night when I was working on an article. I received him, as I wrote you, rather coldly, and he only stayed a few minutes. He did blame himself, but it was probably as neurotic for him to do so as it had been of me to take offense. When I see you again, I’ll tell you about all this in more detail….

As ever,


February 24, 1950
17 East 84th Street, NY

Dear Christian:

…I am glad to hear from Katherine that you are doing well. I have been trying to imagine you in Florida. I had never been there till just before Christmas, when I went through and spent a night in Miami on my way to Haiti. I thought the bird life was fascinating but the vacationers insipid to the point of horror. Miami is truly appalling—it is on such a gigantic scale! But the country and the water, when you get away from all that, must be very pleasant.

I have just read the whole of the manuscript of Arthur Mizener’s book on Scott and am very much worried about it. He has assembled in a spirit absolutely ghoulish everything discreditable or humiliating that ever happened to Scott. He has distorted the anecdotes that people have told him in such a way as to put Scott and Zelda in the worst possible light, and he has sometimes taken literally the jokes and nonsense that Scott was always giving off in letters and conversation and representing them as sinister realities. On the other hand, he gives no sense at all of the Fitzgeralds in the days when they were soaring—when Scott was successful and Zelda enchanting. Of course, Mizener is under a disadvantage in not having known them or their period, but his book is a disconcerting revelation of his own rather sour personality. I am disturbed about it because I am, I suppose, partly responsible for his having undertaken it, and his brief biography of Scott in that book about eminent Princetonians and one or two other things had led me to think that he would be a good person. (The worst of it is that I have also an uncomfortable feeling that he is exploiting to some extent my own technique of emphasizing the miseries of a writer’s life in order to bring out the glories of his work—because he does praise Scott as a writer, though in rather a woolly and boring way.) I am going to remonstrate with him about it. Please don’t say anything about all this.

We are down here in New York for a few weeks. Cape Cod is bleak and deserted at this time of the year.—The T.S. Eliot play is really very good—you ought to see it when you get back.6 It has even, apparently, been a success and ought to be still going. I had just been getting rather discouraged with him—I thought his Notes toward a Definition of Culture was twaddle, and was getting ready to contribute my obol to condemning him to the fate of Aristides, which Allen Tate says he is ripe for. I have just written a play myself, which I am publishing in the spring [The Little Blue Light].

I have been reading up Haitian literature at a great rate. It is relatively enormous: they have published more books in Haiti in proportion to the population than any other American country with the exception of the United States. The standard is very high. They have written an enormous amount of poetry, much of it very accomplished. Some of this is a pale imitation of French, reflecting everything from Romanticism to Surrealism; but the remarkable thing is that they have produced some very original—and often very curious—work, especially the novels of the Marcelin brothers and the poetry of Emile Roumer. Do you know the work of Aimé Césaire, the Martinique Negro poet?—now the deputy to the French Chamber from Martinique, since the island has been given the status of a department. I think that his Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, discovered and reprinted by André Breton, is probably (though I don’t necessarily take Breton’s opinions seriously) the best thing that has been done in its genre of the declamatory full-length prose poem since Une Saison en enfer. I have found a copy of this at Brentano’s and am going to send it to you. The emergence of these West Indian Negro writers represents a new flowering of French that may have some even more interesting future.

To go back to Arthur Mizener: reading his books has given me new insight into how literary biographies are written—makes me understand the biographer’s misunderstanding of what happened and his ignorance of important things that people close to his subject knew but that nobody would have been willing to tell him. It is queer to find one’s own day before yesterday turning up as literary history. I thought that Arthur, having been to Princeton, would be good on the Princeton part; but he is actually rather misleading. He once told me of his permanently gnawing chagrin at not having made the right kind of club, and he seems to suppose that in our time there was a social life and a literary life that was something quite different. I am apparently represented as having written the Triangle play in my senior year in order to acquire prestige.

I suppose that you are depressed, as I am, by the deadlock that Russia and the U.S. have reached. Of course, these enormous wars promote all kinds of technical progress, and this is one of the elements of civilization; but I wish we could work round to a phase that would bring into prominence again the elements that I have more personal interest in. The kind of thing that is going on makes a writer feel so helpless—especially if he has spent years on The New Republic and celebrated the makers of the Russian Revolution.

Don’t bother to acknowledge this letter, as I’m sure you oughtn’t to bother with correspondence. I hope to see you when you get back to Princeton. I often think of you and continue to count on you even when I don’t see you often.

…As ever,
Edmund Wilson


April 4, 1950

Dear Arthur:

I have badgered you enough about the Fitzgerald book but I had been thinking of sending you some general tips and your last letter encourages me to do so.

It is important, in writing a biography, to remember that you are telling a story and that the problems of presenting the material are in many ways just the same as those of presenting a subject of fiction. You cannot take for granted, on the part of the reader, any knowledge whatever of your particular subject. You have to introduce it to him so that he will understand it every step of the way, and you have to create your characters and background and situations just as you would those of fiction. You must put yourself in the reader’s place. The Kenyon Review and the rest of them are not a particularly good school for this, because they are always making allusions to writers and movements and books without explaining what these things mean to them (very often they don’t quite know). They assume that the reader will have read the same books and assign the same significance to them that they do.

And the biographer has not only to choose and place every detail of his picture, but to calculate the tone of every sentence. It is quite obvious that, in dealing with Scott, you have produced, by not hitting the tone, an effect you didn’t intend. This has sometimes happened to me when some completely irrelevant feeling has got into something I was writing. To correct it, you have to approach the thing in a perfectly objective way and readjust it step by step, systematically, so as to put it in a different light. In spite of the fact that the biographer is given his materials in the shape of letters, memoirs, etc., he is just as much responsible for the portrait that emerges as Scott was for the Great Gatsby.

But, in dealing with the given data, you do have a different problem from the writer of sheer fiction, because you have to have some principles for deciding what constitutes evidence. Biographers, of course, have dealt with this problem in a variety of different ways. It is always a lot of trouble to check on facts, and in the case of an amusing or romantic character, anecdotes grow rapidly into legends. I recommend, in this connection, that book about Henry James called The Legend of the Master,7 in which the author tries to run down the truth about some of the most famous James anecdotes. When I was writing about Lenin in the Finland Station, I tended to accept the memoirs published in the Soviet Union. I hadn’t realized how early the deliberate mythmaking had been begun. Now I am not at all sure that some of my details of Lenin’s return to Russia were not made up out of the whole cloth for the purposes of a certain volume of eulogies, of the authenticity of which I was convinced by the proletarian status of the people who were supposed to be writing it, but by which I may well have been taken in. Trotsky, whose first volume of a life of Lenin is one of the best things on the subject, does not even believe in the memoir published by Lenin’s sister, which I decided to accept. You don’t have any such baffling problem in finding out about Scott, but it is always an awful nuisance to try to get at the truth behind conflicting accounts, and though you are scrupulous and scholarly with texts, you have not had any occasion before to train yourself in examining evidence. In regard to the nut-kicking incident, for example, (if it was nuts: I thought it was something else, which shows how legends vary) I suggest that you write to John Dos Passos…explaining that you have heard several versions and asking him exactly what happened. He was there and he is an accurate observer and is likely to tell you the truth.

Well, I seem to be having a field day as an Elder Biographer giving advice. Don’t feel, by the way, that you are bound to accept all my or anybody else’s suggestions about the MS.

As ever,
Edmund W.


September 3, 1951

Dear Malcolm:

I was interested in this introduction.8 I have never really read Tender Is the Night, since it first came out in Scribner’s—though Scott told me that he thought he had much improved it when he revised it for the book. Maybe I’ll read this new edition. Do have them send me a copy. Scribner’s proofreading (in our time) has always been terrible. When they republished Paradise lately, they left some of the misspellings of the original edition. Max Perkins couldn’t spell himself and couldn’t be made to take proofreading seriously.

I have always felt that the weakness of Tender Is the Night was that Scott, when he wrote the first part, was thinking only about Gerald Murphy and had no idea that Dick Diver was a brilliant psychiatrist. It is hard to believe in him as a scientist—and also, I think, hard to believe that such a man as Scott tries later to imagine should eventually have sunk into obscurity instead of becoming a successful doctor with a fashionable practice in New York or attached to an expensive sanatorium. Except for the movies, Scott never had any kind of organized professional life. It is, of course, a remarkable book just the same….

As ever,

(This is the first part of a three-part series of Edmund Wilson’s letters.)

Thanks and acknowledgments are given to the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale University for the letters to Hamilton Basso, Phelps Putnam, and Gertrude Stein: to the Newberry Library, University of Chicago, for the letter to Malcolm Cowley; to the University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, for the letters to Arthur Mizener; to the Princeton University Library for the letters to John Peale Bishop, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Christian Gauss; and to Nancy Milford for the copy of the letter to Zelda Fitzgerald.

  1. 1

    A novel by Daisy Ashford, purporting to be written by a pre-adolescent English girl. 

  2. 2

    Inscription on a copy of This Side of Paradise, published on April 20, 1920: 

  3. 3


  4. 4

    Permit Me Voyage

  5. 5

    Mizener was working on The Far Side of Paradise. Wilson had written to him: “I’ll be glad to read the MS.” 

  6. 6

    The Cocktail Party

  7. 7

    A collection of memoris of Henry James compiled by Simon Nowell-Smith. 

  8. 8

    Malcolm Cowley’s introduction to a new edition of Tender Is the Night