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About the Author
Zelda Fitzgerald (1900-1948) was a socialite, a novelist, a painter, and the wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Throughout their marriage, Zelda inspired her husband's novels and their characters. She also authored several short stories and novels, including Save Me the Waltz.
Mike Chamberlain is an actor and voice-over performer, as well as an AudioFile Earphones Award-winning audiobook narrator. Along with animation and video game characters, Mike performs narration and voices promos for television. He lives with his wife and daughter in Southern California.
Amy Landon is a classically trained actress with numerous off-Broadway, film, and television credits. Her voice can also be heard on many television and radio commercials. She has an easy facility with dialects, and she is happy to find that her lifelong obsession with books is matching up with her acting and vocal work.
Date of Birth:September 24, 1896
Date of Death:December 21, 1940
Place of Birth:St. Paul, Minnesota
Read an Excerpt
Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda
Scott and Zelda first met in Montgomery, Alabama, Zelda’s hometown, in July 1918, probably at a country club dance. Zelda, who had just graduated from high school and was still the town’s most popular girl, turned eighteen that month; Scott, who had attended Princeton and was now a lieutenant in the infantry, would be twenty-two that fall. In her autobiographical novel, Save Me the Waltz (1932), Zelda recalled that Scott, so handsome in his tailor-made Brooks Brothers uniform, had “smelled like new goods” as she nestled her “face in the space between his ear and his stiff army collar” while they danced (Collected Writings 39). Just two months later, Scott recorded in his Ledger the event that would shape the rest of his life and much of his work: “Sept.: Fell in love on the 7th”(Ledger 173). That same month, Scott summed up his twenty-first year: On his birthday, he wrote, “A year of enormous importance. Work, and Zelda. Last year as a Catholic” (Ledger 172). The major decisions that a young man coming of age makes—matters of vocation, love, and faith—had been decided.
Scott, although still untried and immature in many ways, had adamantly committed himself to becoming “one of the greatest writers who ever lived” (as he told his college friend Edmund “Bunny” Wilson) and to having the “top girl” at his side to share the storybook life he envisioned. During his years at Princeton University, his academic life had taken a backseat to his social ambitions; realizing that he probably would never graduate, Scott had enlisted in the army in October 1917. His military training eventually brought him to Camp Sheridan, near Montgomery, and to Zelda—the most beautiful, confident, and sought-after girl in town. Scott then devoted himself to becoming the “top man” among her many suitors, intending to vanquish the other young college boys and soldiers by marrying this most desirable girl.
Zelda, being younger, was less clear about particulars, but she certainly shared Scott’s romantic sense of a special destiny. Other than teaching, careers for women were still discouraged. Courtship and marriage were the areas in which young women such as Zelda, the daughter of a prominent judge, were expected to achieve distinction. Her three older sisters, Marjorie, Rosalind, and Clothilde, were already married; Zelda intended to make the absolute most of her own days as a southern belle, relishing her role in the spotlight. Montgomery may have been a small, provincial city, but it was surrounded by college towns, as well as being crowded with young soldiers from nearby training camps. The war imbued the local courtship rituals with an even greater sense of urgency and romanticism than usual. The crowds of young people necessitated numerous forms of entertainment—parties, dances, sports, plays, and Friday-night vaudeville shows—to keep them occupied. The Sayres’ front porch, replete with every sort of southern flower and a porch swing for Zelda and her beaux, was locally famous. Zelda had already filled a glove box with the small colorful badges of masculine honor the young soldiers took from their uniforms and gave to her as tokens of their affection. Scott soon added his own insignia to this collection. Young aviators from Taylor Field executed dangerous stunts as they flew their airplanes over Zelda’s house to impress her. Scott competed with such exploits by bragging about the famous writer he was going to become. Although Scott did not “get over” to fight the war, that summer and fall, as he vied for Zelda’s heart, the two no doubt believed that he would be sent overseas and perhaps face death. He continued to write, hoping that in the event of his death, he would become the American counterpart of Rupert Brooke, the handsome young English poet, who in death had become the romantic hero— forever young, beautiful, and full of promise.
The war, however, ended just as Scott was preparing to embark for France. When he was discharged in February 1919, he went to New York City to find a job and to become a famous living writer, instead of a dead one. He hoped to find work with a newspaper but had to settle for a low-paying job with an advertising firm. He missed Zelda terribly, told his family about her, and asked his mother to write to Zelda, which she did. Then, on March 24, Scott sent Zelda the engagement ring that had been his mother’s. Zelda couldn’t have been more thrilled. But although her letters are full of enthusiastic assurances of her love, her life in Montgomery continued pretty much the same as before—a whirlwind of social engagements, which included continuing to go out with other boys—and she wrote Scott all about it. Zelda especially loved the rounds of college parties, dances, and commencement activities beginning in May and the exciting football weekends in the fall. Scott’s daily life, on the other hand, was at total odds with his idealized conception of himself. He hated his job, hated having so little money, and especially hated how his clothes were becoming threadbare. And, worse yet, his stories weren’t selling. Later, in “My Lost City” (1936), he would look back and write, “. . . I was haunted always by my other life . . . my fixation upon the day’s letter from Alabama—would it come and what would it say?—my shabby suits, my poverty, and love. . . . I was a failure— mediocre at advertising work and unable to get started as a writer” (Crack-Up 25–26).
Despite his sense of failure, Scott was actually quite productive. Although he sold only one story in the spring of 1919—“Babes in the Woods,” for which The Smart Set paid him thirty dollars—he continued his apprenticeship and produced over nineteen stories that winter and spring. All were rejected by the magazines to which he submitted them; many, however, were later revised and published. Although Scott was being unrealistic in his expectations of immediate fame—who, after all, is a blazing success at the age of twenty-two?—his sense of failure, anxiety, and loss was keen and would remain with him the rest of his life. When Scott visited Zelda in Montgomery in mid-April, he was depressed and losing confidence in himself. Zelda tried to reassure him in her letters, but she also continued to report on all the fun she was having.
By June 1919, Scott and Zelda’s engagement was in serious jeopardy. When Scott received a note that Zelda had written to another suitor and then accidentally put into the wrong envelope, one addressed to Scott, he was enraged and ordered her never to write to him again. But as soon as he received Zelda’s brief explanation, he went to Montgomery and begged her to marry him right away. Zelda cried in his arms, but she turned him down and broke the engagement. Scott returned to New York feeling utterly defeated as a writer and a lover. He wrote to a friend: “I’ve done my best and I’ve failed—it’s a great tragedy to me and I feel I have very little left to live for. . . . Unless someday she will marry me I will never marry” (Letters 455–456). He quit his job, went on a three-week bender, returned to his parents’ home in St. Paul, and went to work revising “The Romantic Egotist,” the novel that had been rejected by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1918. During this period of a little over two months, Scott and Zelda exchanged no letters. But when Scribners accepted his novel, now entitled This Side of Paradise, on September 16, 1919, Scott immediately wrote to Zelda again and planned a visit to Montgomery; the couple soon resumed their engagement. More letters and visits to Montgomery followed, and Zelda and Scott were married the following April, only one year after Scott had first sent Zelda the engagement ring.
In his imagination, Scott attached the acquisition of Zelda to the acquisition of material success, thereby identifying what were already the twin themes of his writing—love and money—as the twin themes of his life, as well. Later, he looked back on the summer of his broken engagement in “Pasting It Together” (1936) and wrote, “It was one of those tragic loves doomed for lack of money” and that although when he became “the man with the jingle of money in his pocket,” he “married the girl” after all, he would never trust either money or love—the same elements of life to which he was most drawn (Crack-Up 77). Zelda’s imagination, however, was committed solely to the enchantment of love. Her letters from this period offer evidence that dispels two enduring but misleading myths about her marriage to Scott: first, that Zelda would not marry him until he had money; second, that one of the reasons Scott interested her was because she was eager to leave her small town for the larger social stage of New York City. It is true that Zelda’s parents certainly had reservations about their daughter marrying a young man with no secure prospects for the future, but Zelda repeatedly reassures Scott in these letters that love, not money, is what she wants most out of life. Although they resumed their engagement after Scribners accepted Scott’s novel, it hadn’t been published yet and there was no assurance that it would be a moneymaker. Once the engagement was settled, Zelda eagerly anticipated joining Scott in New York, but her enthusiasm again was for being with Scott and not the larger possibilities the so-called glittering city offered. Zelda loved Montgomery, especially its beautiful flowers, and she knew she would miss the way of life she had always known.
While these letters challenge the myths, they also offer a vivid portrait of Zelda at eighteen—a flirtatious, audacious young woman, whose life was full of friends, practical jokes, and parties. Her letters indicate that although she believed that provoking jealousy was an important ritual in courtship, she did not feel that she was being unfaithful to Scott by dating other men; they also reveal that she felt no hesitation in reporting it all to him. In addition to telling Scott about an endless stream of social engagements, she also articulated her ideas about life and love—that women were intended be “a disturbing element among” men and that even though she loved to appear all “pink and helpless,” the men who thought her “purely decorative” were “fools for not knowing better” (letters 16 and 28). Scott, who had a wonderful ear for words, freely borrowed passages from these letters for his fiction.
Certain themes emerge from the events and letters of this period that foreshadow characteristics and conflicts that will persist throughout the Fitzgeralds’ lives together. Jealousy was certainly a factor. According to Fitzgerald biographer Arthur Mizener, when Scott and Zelda first started seeing each other, she pulled another date into a lighted phone booth and initiated a spirited kissing session, which ended when she said, “Scott was coming and I wanted to make him jealous” (83). As Scott Donaldson and others have suggested, one of the reasons Scott was attracted to Zelda (as well as to earlier girlfriends, such as the Chicago socialite Ginevra King) was because of their many suitors. In order to be the “top girl” he wanted, she had to be popular with other men. Yet when Scott tried to play the same game and wrote to her from New York that he found a young woman very attractive, Zelda called his bluff, giving him the go-head to kiss the girl, a response guaranteed to turn the tables and make Scott worry even more about what Zelda herself might be doing in Montgomery. When Scott looked back on this period in “Early Success” (1937), he recalled that some of his friends had “arrangements with ‘sensible’ girls,” but he noted, “Not I—I was in love with a whirlwind and I must spin a net big enough to catch it . . .” (Crack-Up 86). The great paradox of their love affair is that the same traits that attracted them to each other would also create chaos and conflict in their lives. Just as the jealousies so playful during courtship would take on a more destructive role in their marriage, alcohol, considered a harmless rite of passage for the young, would become an increasingly destructive factor, one that would continue to haunt them.
In addition to jealousy and alcohol as troubling factors in their relationship, each had a distinct personality sharply divided and pulled in opposing directions. The split in Scott’s personality has been thoroughly analyzed and much written about. His contemporary Malcolm Cowley perceptively argued that Scott possessed a “double vision,” by which he meant that he had the ability to throw himself wholeheartedly into dissipation, despite his deeply embedded puritanism. Scott gave Nick Carraway, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, this trait, as well: “I was within and without,” states Nick, “simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life” (40). Such double vision would help make Scott a great writer, but it would also allow him to become an emblem of the material excesses and moral corruption of the 1920s, at the same time that his writing provided a prophetic judgment against the period. The divided aspect of Zelda’s personality, however, has not been adequately recognized or analyzed.
Zelda most aptly described her own divided personality in Save Me the Waltz, saying that it was “very difficult to be two simple people at once, one who wants to have a law to itself and the other who wants to . . . be loved and safe and protected” (Collected Writings 56). Although Zelda, age thirty at the time she wrote the novel, was looking backward at the young girl she had once been, this conflicting pull between dependency and independence also emerges vividly in the letters she wrote at eighteen, in passionate declarations of love expressed by a willful, spirited young woman, but one who, in the ardor of youth, desired to merge with the beloved as closely and completely as possible. These expressions, along with her equally passionate expressions of independence, also represent a more deeply embedded aspect of Zelda’s personality, one that will reemerge in her letters in the 1930s, in which she vacillated between valiant struggles to establish herself as a writer (and therefore create economic independence) and her deeply felt gratitude for and need of Scott’s continued provisions for her care.
Sadly, Scott’s letters to Zelda from this period do not survive. We have only urgent telegrams he sent to Zelda (which she pasted in her scrapbook), announcing the numerous visits he hurriedly planned to make to Montgomery, afraid that if he was not around, another suitor would win her. Scott did express his view of her in a letter to a friend; writing in February 1920, just before his marriage, he admitted, “My friends are unanimous in frankly advising me not to marry a wild, pleasure loving girl like Zelda so I’m quite used to it.” Notwithstanding such warnings, Scott, in this same letter, clearly expressed his understanding of Zelda’s temperament and his commitment to her:
No personality as strong as Zelda’s could go without getting critisisms and as you say she is not above approach. I’ve always known that. . . . But . . . I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity and her flaming self respect and its these things I’d believe in even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all that she should be.
But of course the real reason . . . is that I love her and that’s the beginning and end of everything. (Correspondence 53)
While the loss of Scott’s courtship letters to Zelda is a great one, perhaps there are some advantages to be gained from Zelda’s letters standing nearly on their own here. We know so much about Scott from his published correspondence, from his insightful essays of self-analysis collected in The Crack-Up, and from the numerous biographies and scholarship his life and work have justifiably generated. Zelda, on the other hand, has too often remained a cultural icon, cast in a series of feminine roles: first as a tempestuous and beautiful southern belle, then as a trendsetting flapper of the twenties, and ultimately as a woman who has gone mad (another myth, as her later letters will attest). In these letters, however, Zelda emerges as a wonderfully vivacious and articulate young woman, someone with interesting and original things to say.
1. TO ZELDA
ALS, 1 p. Scrapbook Hq. 67th
[Camp] Sheridan[, Montgomery, Alabama]
Here is the mentioned chapter . . . . . a document in youthful melancholy . . . . .1
However . . . . . the heroine does resemble you in more ways than four . . . . .
Needlessly I may add that the chapter and the sending of it are events for your knowledge alone . . . . —Show it not to man woman or child.
I am frightfully bored today—
F. Scott Fit—
Courtesy of Princeton University Library
2. TO ZELDA
CHARLOTTE NC 122 AM FEB 21ST 1919
MISS TELDA FAYRE2
CARE FRANCES STUBBS3
YOU KNOW I DO NOT [DOUBT?] YOU DARLING
Auburn football star Francis Stubbs; Zelda pasted this picture in her scrapbook. Courtesy of Princeton University Library
3. TO ZELDA
[After February 22, 1919]
[New York City]
MISS SELDA SAYRE
6 PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALA DARLING HEART AMBITION ENTHUSIASM AND CONFIDENCE I DECLARE EVERYTHING GLORIOUS THIS WORLD IS A GAME AND WHITE [WHILE] I FEEL SURE OF YOU LOVE EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE I AM IN THE LAND OF AMIBITION AND SUCCESS AND MY ONLY HOPE AND FAITH IS THAT MY DARLING HEART WILL BE WITH ME SOON.
4. TO SCOTT
ALS, 3 pp.
I drifted into school this morning, and delivered a most enlightening talk on Browning. Of cource I was well qualified, having read, approximately, two poems. However, the class declared themselves delighted and I departed with honors—I almost wish there were nothing to think of but to-morrow’s lessons and to-day’s lunch—I’d feel so to-no-purpose if it werent for you—and I know you wouldnt keep going just as well without me—that damn school is so depressing—
I s’pose you knew your Mother’s anxiously anticipated epistle at last arrived—I really am so glad she wrote—Just a nice little note— untranslatable, but she called me “Zelda”—
Sweetheart, please dont worry about me—I want to always be a help—You know I am all yours and love you with all my heart. Physically—I am prone to exaggerate my sylphiness—I’d so love to be 5 ft 4” × 2”—Maybe I’ll accomplish it swimming. To-morrow, I’m breaking the ice—I can already feel the icicles. But the creek is delightfully clean, and me and the sun are getting hot—
Last night a small crowd of practical jokers reversed calls to University, Sewanee and Auburn4—telegraphed collect all over the U.S., and were barely restrained by me from getting New York on the wire—O, you’re quite welcome—It would’ve been a good joke, but I couldn’t see the point—
5. TO SCOTT
ALS, 7 pp.
Darling, I’ve nearly sat it off in the Strand to-day and all because W. E. Lawrence of the Movies is your physical counter-part.5 So I was informed by half a dozen girls before I could slam on a hat and see for myself—He made me so homesick—I thought at first waiting must grow easier later—but every day I want you more—
All these soft, warm nights going to waste when I ought to be lying in your arms under the moon—the dearest arms in all the world—darling arms that I love so to feel around me—How much longer—before they’ll be there to stay? When I do get home again, you’ll certainly have a most awful time ever moving me one inch from you—
I’m glad you liked those films6—I wanted them to serve as maps of your property—The best is being finished for you—Monday—but if you’re going to be so flattering, my head’ll be swelled so big then, it won’t look like me—Anyway, I am acquiring myriad wrinkles pondering over a reply to your Mother’s note—I’m so dreadfully afraid of appearing fresh or presuming or casual—Most of my correspondents have always been boys, so I am at a loss—now in my hour of need—I really believe this is my first letter to a lady—It’s really heart-rending—my frenzied efforts—Mid-night oil is burning by the well-full—O God!
An old flame from the Stone Ages is calling to-night—He’ll probably leave in disgust because I just must talk about you—I love you so, and I’m so lonesome—
Tilde7 leaves to-morrow at 6. A.M.—It seems as though I should be going too—I’m sure she isnt half as anxious to leave as I am—O Lover, lover you are mine—and before long—I’ll be coming to you because you are my darlin husband, and I am
6. TO SCOTT
AL, 8 pp.
They’re the most adorably moon-shiny things on earth8—I feel like a Vogue cover in ’em—I do wish yours were touching—But I feel sure I’ll never be able to keep off the street in ’em—Does one take a lunch to bed with one in one’s pockets? One has always used her pockets for biscuit—with butter! It was waiting for me when I came home from Selma to-day—What is it? It feels like a cloud and looks like a dream—Thanks, darling—
There are two or three nice men in New York, and he is expecting me near the 11th—so I am going—travelling—I shall probably arrive with a numerous coterie collected en route, but when my husband meets me, it will dissolve, and I shall dissolve, too, in his arms—and we shall live happily ever after—I don’t care where.
“My Soldier Girl” was playing in Selma—so my male escort and I attended a rehearsal. I taught the chorus how to sling [swing?] a little, and so visited upon myself the profuse thanks of the manager— But the pool I went particularly to swim in, was closed—
Aint no use in livin’—
Aint no use in eatin’—
Aint no use in kissin’—
Aint no use in nothin’—
You really mustn’t say short hair thrills you—Just after I’ve lived in Vaseline, thereby turning mine dark, to make it long like you wanted it—But anyway, it didn’t grow, so I really am glad you’re becoming reconciled to the ways of convenience—I still think how nice the back of my neck would feel—Then, I think of Porphuria’s Lover—and between the two, I am remaining somewhat sane—
Darling, I guess—I know—Mamma knows that we are going to be married some day—But she keeps leaving stories of young authors, turned out on a dark and stormy night, on my pillow—I wonder if you hadn’t better write to my Daddy—just before I leave—I wish I were detached—sorter without relatives. I’m not exactly scared of ’em, but they could be so unpleasant about what I’m going to do—
But you know we will, my Sweetheart—when you’re ready—your funny little pants sorter are coming home—for you to wrinkle with the dearest arms I know—I hope you squeeze me so hard, I’ll be just as full of wrinkles as it—I hope so—
I dont see how you can carry around as much love as I’ve given you—
7. TO SCOTT
ALS, 11 pp.
Please, please don’t be so depressed—We’ll be married soon, and then these lonesome nights will be over forever—and until we are, I am loving, loving every tiny minute of the day and night—Maybe you won’t understand this, but sometimes when I miss you most, it’s hardest to write—and you always know when I make myself—Just the ache of it all—and I can’t tell you. If we were together, you’d feel how strong it is—you’re so sweet when you’re melancholy. I love your sad tenderness—when I’ve hurt you—That’s one of the reasons I could never be sorry for our quarrels—and they bothered you so— Those dear, dear little fusses, when I always tried so hard to make you kiss and forget—
Scott—there’s nothing in all the world I want but you—and your precious love. All the material things are nothing. I’d just hate to live a sordid, colorless existence—because you’d soon love me less—and less—and I’d do anything—anything—to keep your heart for my own—I don’t want to live—I want to love first, and live incidentally—Why don’t you feel that I’m waiting—I’ll come to you, Lover, when you’re ready—Don’t—don’t ever think of the things you can’t give me. You’ve trusted me with the dearest heart of all—and it’s so damn much more than anybody else in all the world has ever had—
How can you think deliberately of life without me—If you should die—O Darling—darling Scot—It’d be like going blind. I know I would, too,—I’d have no purpose in life—just a pretty—decoration. Don’t you think I was made for you? I feel like you had me ordered—and I was delivered to you—to be worn. I want you to wear me, like a watch-charm or a button hole boquet—to the world. And then, when we’re alone, I want to help—to know that you can’t do anything without me.
I’m glad you wrote Mamma. It was such a nice sincere letter—and mine to St Paul was very evasive and rambling. I’ve never, in all my life, been able to say anything to people older than me. Somehow I just instinctively avoid personal things with them—even my family. Kids are so much nicer. Livye9 and a model from New York and I have been modelling in the Fashion Show—I had a misconceived idea that it was easy work—Two hours a day exhausts the most pig-iron of females—after twenty minutes, you feel like ten cents worth of fifty-dollar a yard lace—Some old fool had the sheer audacity to buy my favorite dress, so now what’ll I do to-morrow? I’ve discovered something very, very comforting by this attempt at work—that I’m really smaller than average, and I am delighted!
I mailed your picture to-day—It’s not a very characteristic pose, but maybe, if you look hard enough, there will be a little resemblance between me and the madonna—
This is Thursday, and the ring hasn’t come—I want to wear it so people can see—
All my heart—
I love you
8. TO ZELDA
[New York City]
Miss Lelda Sayre10
Six Pleasant Ave Montgy-Ala.
Sweetheart I have been frightfully busy but you know I have thought of you every minute will write at length tomorrow got your letter and loved it everything looks fine you seem with me always hope and pray to be together soon good night darling.
9. TO ZELDA
NEWYORK NY MAR 22 1919
MISS LILDA SAYRE
6 PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALA
DARLING I SENT YOU A LITTLE PRESENT FRIDAY THE RING ARRIVED TONIGHT AND I AM SENDING IT MONDAY11 I LOVE YOU AND I THOUGHT I WOULD TELL YOU HOW MUCH ON THIS SATURDAY NIGHT WHEN WE OUGHT TO BE TOGETHER DONT LET YOUR FAMILY BE SHOCKED AT MY PRESENT SCOTT
10. TO ZELDA
[March 24, 1919]
AN,12 1 p. Scrapbook
[New York City]
Darling: I am sending this just the way it came—I hope it fits and I wish I were there to put it on. I love you so much, much, much that it just hurts every minute I’m without you—Do write every day because I love your letters so—Goodbye, my own wife.
Courtesy of Princeton University Library
11. TO SCOTT
ALS, 8 pp.
Tootsie13 opened it, of cource, and I wanted to so much. She says she wants Cappy Tan14 to give her one like it. Scott, Darling, it really is beautiful. Every time I see it on my finger I am rather startled—I’ve never worn a ring before, they’ve always seemed so inappropriate—but I love to see this shining there so nice and white like our love—And it sorter says “soon” to me all the time— Just sings it all day long.
Thank goodness, the Fashion Show is over—wearing $500 dresses is the most strenuous task I’ve ever performed—There’s always so much hanging on to be switched around—Aren’t you glad I look like Hell in trains and slick jet dotties? Seems to me it’d be a constant source of pleasure to you that I am pink and blue.
Auburn has turned loose her R.O.T.C. with 60 loves in Montgomery—May’s is completely devastated as the result. People may be thrown out of New York restaurants for squirmy dancing, but absolutely, those boys must have studied “Popular Mechanics” for months to be able to accomplish some of their favorite feats—Can’t even be called “Chimey”—And every night I get very loud and coarse, and then I always wish for you so—so I wouldn’t be such a kid—
Darlin, I don’t know whether I exactly like the fact of having aged so perceptibly in one year. But, if you do, cource I’m glad—I’m glad “Peevie”15 is back, too, because I’ve always thought I’d like him best of all the people you know—
Your feet—that you liked so much—are ruined. I’ve been toe-dancing again, and nearly broke my right foot—The doctor is trying, [of] cource, but they’ll always look ugly, I guess—and I’d give half my life to have even little things like toes please you—I love you so—Sweetheart—so—
Hank Young arrived yesterday—to see me parade around in fine feathers. He was just telling me how proud of me you’d be—then May16 dragged him away.
12. TO SCOTT
AL, 9 pp.
I like your letter to A. D.17 and I’m slowly mustering courage to deliver it—He’s so blind, it’ll probably be a terrible shock to him but it seems the only straight-forward thing to do—I dont see how you can write such nice family letters—and really, your mother was just sparing your feelings, or else she isn’t a literary critic—I hope she’ll like me—I’ll be as nice as possible and try to make her—but I am afraid I’m losing all pretense of femininity, and I imagine she will demand it. Eleanor Browder18 and I have formed a syndicate— and we’re “best friends” to more college boys than Solomon had wives—Just sorter buddying with ’em and I really am enjoying it— as much as I could anything without you—I have always been inclined toward masculinity. It’s such a cheery atmosphere boys radiate—And we do such unique things—Yesterday, when the University boys took their belated departure, John Sellers wheeled me thru a vast throng of people at the station, crying intermittently “The lady hasn’t walked in five years”—“God bless those who help the poor,” the lady would echo, much to the amazement and amusement of the station at large—We had collected fo’bits when our innocent past-time was rudely interrupted by a somewhat brawny arm-of-the-law being thrust between me and the rolling-chair—I was rather vehemently denounced by the police force—In fact, we are tinting the town a crimson line—and having a delightful time acquiring a bad name—and Ed Hale has left us his cut-down Flivver while he pursue[s] educational muses at Auburn. Of cource, our lives are in continual danger, and our mothers are frantic, but Eleanor and I are enjoying the sensations we create immensely—
I guess you can tell it’s turned colder’n Blackegions by my Spencerian method—That scrawly, wiggly fist seems so inappropriate for winter. I labored for quite a while accomplishing a sunburned, open-air looking script, and almost forgot my cold-weather hand mean-time—
The fire burning again, and the old bench looking so lonesome without us, make things mighty hard—If I weren’t so sure—If I didn’t know we just had to have each other—I think I’d cry an awful lot—I can just feel those darling, darling hands—and see your shiny hair— not slick, but wrinkled, like I did it—
Good night, Sweetheart—
13. TO SCOTT
AL, 3 pp.
I am about to sink into a sleep of utter exhaustion—Eleanor B. and I have been actually running the Street-Car all day—We were quite a success in our business career until we ran it off the track. Then we got fired—but we were tired, anyway! Mothers of our associates just stood by and gasped—much to our glee, of cource— Things like the preceeding incident are our only amusement—
Darling heart, I love you—truly. You are my sweetheart—and I do—I do
I must leave or my date (awful boob) will come before I can escape—
Good Night, Lover
Courtesy of Princeton University Library
This is the biggest kiss of any on earth—because I love you
14. TO SCOTT
AL, 4 pp.
[Montgomery, Alabama] Sunday—
Darling, darling I love you so—To-day seems like Easter, and I wish we were together walking slow thru the sunshine and the crowds from Church—Everything smells so good and warm, and your ring shines so white in the sun—like one of the church lillies with a little yellow dust on it—We ought to be together [in] the Spring—It seems made for us to love in—
You can’t imagine what havoc the ring wrought—a whole dance was completely upset last night—Everybody thinks its lovely—and I am so proud to be your girl—to have everybody know we are in love. It’s so good to know youre always loving me—and that before long we’ll be together for all our lives—
The Ohio troops have started a wild and heated correspondence with Montgomery damsels—From all I can gather, the whole 37th Div will be down in May—Then I guess the butterflies will flitter a trifle more— It seems dreadfully peculiar not to be worried over the prospects of the return of at least three or four fiancées. My brain is stagnating owing to the lack of scrapes—I havent had to exercise it in so long—
Sweetheart, I love you most of all the earth—and I want to be married soon—soon—Lover—Don’t say I’m not enthusiastic—You ought to know—
15. TO ZELDA
[New York City]
MISS TELDA SAYRE
SIX PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALA TELDA FOUND KNOCKOUT LITTLE APARTMENT REASONABLE RATES I HAVE TAKEN IT FROM TWENTY SIXTH SHE MOVES INTO SAME BUILDING19 EARLY IN MAY BET-
TER GIVE LETTER TO YOUR FATHER IM SORRY YOURE NERVOUS DONT WRITE UNLESS YOU WANT TO I LOVE YOU DEAR EVERTHING WILL BE MIGHTY FINE ALL MY LOVE
16. TO SCOTT
ALS, 7 pp. 6 Pleasant Ave., Montgomery, Ala.
Your letters make things seem so close—and you always said I’d wire I was “scared, Scott”—I’m really not one bit afraid—I love you so—and April has already started!
I’m glad you went to see Tilde—I guess you are too, now that it’s over—she already writes Mamma of moving—says she never sees a single tree from her windows, and it makes her homesick—This end of the family just sits around straining their ears for Miss Bootsie’s20 little grunts and squeals—the Judge has relapsed into his usual grouch since she left—I guess they’ll be pretty lonesome without me to disturb them—Toots21 is taking an uproarious departure in about a week—She certainly makes life obnoxious sometimes. I hate people who can’t do anything calmly. When I meet persons who act as if everything, anything, were exactly what they expected and wanted, I always gasp with admiration—They always make me feel so irresponsible—and rather objects to be pitied— they love to fancy themselves suffering—they’re nearly all moral and mental hypo-crondiacs. If they’d just awake to the fact that their excuse and explanation is the necessity for a disturbing element among men—they’d be much happier, and the men much more miserable—which is exactly what they need for the improvement of things in general.
I’ve just found, in Major Smith’s22 old books a Masonic Chart, in hieroglyphics, of cource, which is puzzling me sorely—It’s a very queer—religion?—and with the help of pencilled notes, I am about to fathom unfathomable secrets—If I could just stop reading “Scott” in every line I’d make more progress—
Kiss me, Lover—one darling kiss—I need you so—
17. TO ZELDA
S1 NEWYORK NY 250PM APRIL 14 1919
MISS TELDA SAYRE
6 PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALA
AM TAKING APARTMENT IMMEDIATELY RIGHT UNDER
TILDES NEW APARTMENT LOVE
18. TO SCOTT
ALS, 8 pp.
I feel like a full-fledged traveller—by the 18th I’ll be well qualified for my trip—In desperation, yesterday Bill LeGrand and I drove his car to Auburn and came back with ten boys to liven things up—Of cource, the day was vastly exciting—and the night more so—Thanks to a jazz band that’s been performing at Mays between Keith shows. The boys thought I’d be a charming addition to their act, and I nearly entered upon a theatrical career—
Scott, you’re really awfully silly—In the first place, I haven’t kissed anybody good-bye, and in the second place, nobody’s left in the first place—You know, darling, that I love you too much to want to. If I did have an honest—or dishonest—desire to kiss just one or two people, I might—but I couldn’t ever want to—my mouth is yours. But s’pose I did—Don’t you know it’d just be absolutely nothing— Why can’t you understand that nothing means anything except your darling self and your love—I wish we’d hurry and I’d be yours so you’d know—Sometimes I almost despair of making you feel sure—so sure that nothing could ever make you doubt like I do—
Charlie Johnson has arisen from the depths of oblivion—I thought he was dead—and he’ll be home Easter. Seems almost like old times again—I wish you could get a glimpse of Montgomery like it really is—without the camp disturbing things so—and you’d know why I love it so—
We are donning men’s clothing to-night—to take in some picture on Commerce St. It promises disaster, but it’s by far the most madcap of my escapades, so I’m looking forward to the dusk with great excitement. We are dragging Willie Persons along for protection—he’s effeminate—and won’t show us up so much. I could knock him out in one round—but my fertile brain is certainly being cooked over-time thinking up sure-deaths to reputations—
Darling—darling I love you so—and I’m going to—all my life—
19. TO ZELDA
NEWYORK NY APRIL 15 1919 3AM
MISS TILDA SAYRE
SIX PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALA
ARRIVE MONTGOMERY WEDNESDAY EVENING
20. TO SCOTT
[After April 15, 1919]
AL, 8 pp.
Scott, my darling lover—everything seems so smooth and restful, like this yellow dusk. Knowing that I’ll always be yours—that you really own me—that nothing can keep us apart—is such a relief after the strain and nervous excitement of the last month. I’m so glad you came—like Summer, just when I needed you most—and took me back with you. Waiting doesn’t seem so hard now. The vague despondency has gone—I love you Sweetheart.
Why did you buy the “best at the Exchange”? 23—I’d rather have had 10¢ a quart variety—I wanted it just to know you loved the sweetness—To breathe and know you loved the smell—I think I like breathing twilit gardens and moths more than beautiful pictures or good books—It seems the most sensual of all the sences. Something in me vibrates to a dusky, dreamy smell—a smell of dying moons and shadows—
I’ve spent to-day in the grave-yard. It really isn’t a cemetery, you know,—trying to unlock a rusty iron vault built in the side of the hill. It’s all washed and covered with weepy, watery blue flowers that might have grown from dead eyes—sticky to touch with a sickening odor— The boys wanted to get in to test my nerve—to-night—I wanted to feel “William Wreford, 1864.” Why should graves make people feel in vain? I’ve heard that so much, and Grey is so convincing, but somehow I can’t find anything hopeless in having lived—All the broken columnes and clasped hands and doves and angels mean romances— and in an hundred years I think I shall like having young people speculate on whether my eyes were brown or blue—of cource, they are neither—I hope my grave has an air of many, many years ago about it—Isn’t it funny how, out of a row of Confederate soldiers, two or three will make you think of dead lovers and dead loves—when they’re exactly like the others, even to the yellowish moss? 24 Old death is so beautiful—so very beautiful—We will die together—I know—
21. TO SCOTT
AL, 5 pp.
Those feathers—those wonderful, wonderful feathers are the most beautiful things on earth—so soft like little chickens, and rosy like fire-light. I feel so rich and pompous waving them around in the air and covering up myself with ’em. Darling, it is the prettiest thing in the world, and you were so sweet to send it—That color is rather becoming.25
Aunt Annabel26 is certainly a procrastinator—I was wondering if pop-calls were hereditary, but I guess you just acquired the fancy. I don’t s’pose now, tho, her visit’s very momentous—except, of cource, that you’ll be glad to see her. I know, Sweetheart, that we aren’t going to need her—Don’t ask me to have more faith—I love you most of everything on earth, and somehow you[r] visit made things so much saner, and I do believe in you—Just the wild rush and knowing what you did was distasteful to you made me afraid—I’d die rather than see you miserable, and you know you hated looking incessantly at banannas and ice-cream before lunch.
I want to go to Italy—with you, Darling—It seems so yellow— dull, mellow yellow—and that’s your color—and I’d feel so like there was nobody else is [in] existence but just you’n me—
Les Mysterieurs27 is holding a rehearsal on me—I think I’m going [to] look cute in my ballet-dress—
I love you, Scott, with all my heart—
22. TO SCOTT
ALS, 8 pp.
Sweetheart, Sweetheart, I love you so—and I get so lonesome when I never get a letter—you were very sweet and thoughtful to send the music—but I wish you had just scribbled on the cover what I live to hear you say. I can ’t tell you in “ten words”—or ten volumes, or ten years. I can’t even tell you a new way—But, please, Darling, try not to get tired of the old one—
We’re having the Vaudeville28 to-night—and I’m leading “Down on the Farm”—in overalls—And, thank Goodness I’ve lost my sandals, so I guess I’ll have to dance bare-foot—and probably suffer more injuries thereby. I think I could do so much better if you were in the audience—Everytime I look nice—or do anything I mentally applaud, I always wish for you—just to hear you say you like it—
“Marcus Aurelius”29 is my literature in the absence of your letters—Tootsie thinks he’s most remarkable. I guess he was, for his day, but now it’s all just platitudes. All philosophy is, more or less—It seems as if there’s no new wisdom—and surely people haven’t stopped thinking. I guess morality has relinquished it’s claim on the intellect—and the thinkers think dollars and wars and politics—I don’t know whether it’s evolution or degeneration—
Look at this communication from Mamma—all on account of a wine-stained dress—Darling heart—I won’t drink any if you object—Sometimes I get so bored—and sick for you—It helps then—and afterwards, I’m just more bored and sicker for you—and ashamed—
When are you going to marry me—I don’t want to repeat those two months—but I’ve just got to have you—when you can—because I love you, my husband—
If you have added whiskey to your tobacco you can substract your Mother. I am no Mrs. Guinvan however much you are like Susie. If you prefer the habits of a prostitute don’t try to mix them with gentility. Oil and water do not mix.
23. TO SCOTT
ALS, 8 pp.
T. G. that’s over! The vaudeville, I mean, and I am a complete wreck—but everybody says the dance was a success. It nearly broke my heart to take off those lovely Oriental pants—Some actor with this week’s Keiths tried to take me and Livye on the road with him— but I can’t ignore physical characteristics enough to elope with a positive ape. And now I’ve got just two weeks to train a Folly Ballet for Les Mysterieurs—
“Plasher’s Mead”31 has been carefully perused—Thanks awfully for it. I haven’t read in so long—but I don’t really like it—People seldom interest me except in their relations to things, and I like men to be just incidents in books so I can imagine their characters. Nothing annoys me more than having the most trivial action analyzed and explained. Besides, Pauline is positively atrociously uninteresting— I’ll save the book and re-read it in rainy weather in the Fall—I think I’ll appreciate it more—
Scott, you’ve been so sweet about writing—but I’m so damned tired of being told that you “used to wonder why they kept princesses in towers”32—you’ve written that verbatim, in your last six letters! It’s dreadfully hard to write so very much—and so many of your letters sound forced—I know you love me, Darling, and I love you more than anything in the world, but if its going to be so much longer, we just can’t keep up this frantic writing. It’s like the last week we were to-gether—and I’d like to feel that you know I am thinking of you and loving you always. I hate writing when I haven’t time, and I just have to scribble a few lines. I’m saying all this so you’ll understand—Hectic affairs of any kind are rather trying, so please let’s write calmly and whenever we feel like it.
I’d probably aggravate you to death to day. There’s no skin on my lips, and I have relapsed into a nervous stupor. It feels like going crazy knowing everything you do and being utterly powerless not to do it—and thinking you’ll surely scream next minute. You used to blame it all on poor Bill—and all the time, it was just my nastiness—
Mamma gave me this33 to-day—I s’pose it’s another of her subtle suggestions—
All my love
24. TO SCOTT
AL, 8 pp.
The Fourth Alabama34 arrives Tuesday, and town looks like Mardi Gras—Perry St. is just one long booth with flags and confetti everywhere—The houses for three blocks around the Governor’s are open—or will be—and everybody’s dragging out old costumes and masks—and Good Lord, it’s hot! Commerce St. is just a long arch— Rosemont Garden’s has turned over it’s greenhouse for a flowerbarage. I wish you could see it—but, of cource, everybody’s asleep all up and down the streets. Everything is so delightfully slow, even now. Major Smith’s company that he took over is going to march with the ranks unfilled—Twenty-three men—It almost makes me cry35—I would if I weren’t expending all my energy on gum—I’ve started a continuous chew again. Your disapproval used to put me on the wagon, but now I’ve got the habit again—
To-morrow, a man’s going to make some Kodak snaps of me in my Folly dress,36 and cource I’ll send them to you—Mamma gets rather annoying about her rose-bushes at times, so I s’pose I’ll be perched on the topmost thorn on one of ’em. She bids me tell you how beautiful they are—Even if you didn’t go into ecstacies over Mrs. McKurneys when they weren’t bloomed—
My poor limbs have suffered another accident. Jumping off a sandbank tall as the moon—nearly—and landing in a pile of rocks almost makes me wish them amputated. Little boys are almost too strenuous for my old age. Darling Sweetheart, I’ll be so glad to see you again—
Are you coming on the 20th, or had you rather wait till early June when I’ll be going to Georgia Tech commencement and can go as far as Atlanta with you on your way back? The family threatens to depart for Asheville, N.C.37 in July—Wouldn’t it be nice if you needed a rest about then and spent a week or two in the mountains with me? However, I cordially loathe consumptives and babies with heat, which constitu[t]e one’s circle of acquaintances there—
Zelda in her costume for the “Folly Ball”—photo she sent to Scott. Courtesy of Princeton University Library
I’ve tried so many times to think of a new way to say it—and its still I love you—love you—love you—my Sweetheart—
25. TO SCOTT
AL, 9 pp.
A beautiful golden kitty would be nice—but I wouldn’t swap my cat for two of ’em, and he would probably kill the new one—Besides, I lost my brush and mirror at Cobb’s Ford, and I’d love to have one with pink flowers around the edge. Just so you come, Darling—
Mrs. Francesca—who never heard of you—got a message from Ouija38 for me. Nobody’s hands were on it but her’s—and it told us to be married—that we were soul mates. Theosophists think that two souls are incarnated to-gether—not necessarily at the same time, but are mated—since the time when people were bi-sexual, so you see “soul-mate” isn’t exactly Snappy-Storyish,39 after all. I can’t get messages, but it really moved for me last night—only it couldn’t say anything but “dead, dead”—so, of cource, I got scared and quit. It’s really most remarkable, even if you do scoff. I wish you wouldn’t, it’s so easy, and believing is much more intelligent.
We are going to Asheville in July—definitely—but we’ll have some trouble over the “thirty moonlights”—I’m afraid some of the nights may be lacking the moon—But, Sweetheart, we’ll be to-gether a whole month,—and moons dont really matter, anyway. I think I’m going to bob my hair, and that may evoke a furor. I wish you’d tell me if you’ll like it—Everybody’s so discouraging—but think how good it’d feel in the water! I’ll probably look like Hell.
“Red” said last night that I was the pinkest-whitest person he ever saw, so I went to sleep in his lap. Of cource, you dont mind because it was really very fraternal, and we were chaperoned by three girls—
Darling Scott—please come—I love you with all of me—and I’ll be so very, very glad to see you—We’re going to repeat the Vaudeville on the 20th—maybe you’d like to see it—but we’re in the midst of terrible upheaval—The cast is being revised—and I dont think they’re going to let me sing—It’s funny, but I really do think I sing well—
Look at this fist—It’s grown rusty and dreadfully spasmodic— Just translate it into what I’m always thinking—Sweetheart—
26. TO SCOTT
[Late May 1919]
ALS, 8 pp.
One more afternoon as strenuous as this, and I’ll be [a] fit inmate for the morgue—Having seen the Vaudeville last night, Livye and I went again to-day to see the dance in the last act so we could put it on for the League show—We were discussing the costumes—very calmly and not one bit drunk or disorderly, when a howling hussy over the foot-lights stopped the orchestra, and demanded in her loudest voice whether “she was going to talk, or we were”—Of cource, the audience went into an uproar instantly, and pandemonium broke loose—After glaring at us for five minutes, she continued the song—to the best of her ability above the noise. The first three rows are already bought for to-morrow’s matinée— the boys are indignant, and I am expecting no less than a ten-round bout—Here’s the point to the joke: We really weren’t annoying a soul. May was back of us, and even she says she couldn’t hear us talking.
She asked me to say she’d be in New York the end of this week, and that she’d call you up. All her beautiful hair came out when she had Flu, and she’s coming up to have it treated. It makes me sorter sick at heart to see her head. It used to be so pretty and curly.
Joel Massie, too, is sending his utmost. He makes a desperate effort at ragging me—as if I could be teased—you’d probably like this now—lots of boys like Jo are back, and things seem more dignified.
Toots is packing her truck—nearly—Cincinnati the first week in May—then New York—Please hurry—I want so much to come— and if that man feels that he must bust loose, for Lawd’s sake shield our timidity from his generosity—He evidently isn’t acquainted with my habits, or he’d realize that meals by lamp-light aren’t exactly breakfasts—
I love you, Darling—and I’m waiting—
Please—please—aren’t you ever going to learn that boys never appreciate things other men tell them on their girls? At least five men have suffered a bout behind the Baptist Church for no other offense than you are about to committ, only I was the lady concerned—in the dim past—Anyway, if she is good-looking, and you want to one bit—I know you could and love me just the same—
27. TO ZELDA
Newyork May 14–19
Miss Lelda Sayre
6 Pleasant Ave MONTGY ALA
Arrive Montgomery eight thirty thursday night love
28. TO SCOTT
AL, 8 pp.
Darling Scott, you don’t know how I miss your letters—This morning, I thought you’d written me such a nice fat one, and it was your story—I haven’t heard but once since you left—But I like the little tale40—“Clayton” has just been here with Keith’s and even the stage-setting was identical. He suffered a broken head and a hasty departure from here by shrieking, in answer to Mrs. Byar’s question “Is my daughter all right” that her daughter was three months all wrong. The town has been in a dreadful uproar. I think he’s fine, tho, cause he said I’d be in New York before October—It seems so far away, and I love you so—
The sweater is perfectly delicious—and I’m going to save it till you come in June so you can tell me how nice I look. It’s funny, but I like being “pink and helpless”—When I know I seem that way, I feel terribly competent—and superior. I keep thinking, “Now those men think I’m purely decorative, and they’re just fools for not knowing better”— and I love being rather unfathomable. You are the only person on earth, Lover, who has ever known and loved all of me—Men love me cause I’m pretty—and they’re always afraid of mental wickedness—and men love me cause I’m clever, and they’re always afraid of my prettiness— One or two have even loved me cause I’m lovable, and then, of cource, I was acting. But you just do, darling—and I do—so very, very much—
I think I’m beginning to realize the seriousness of us—Little things, like41 and small familiarities—I used to do them thoughtlessly—and now I can’t, because I love you, so I’ve quit Chummying. I’ll never learn the combination.42 Maybe I’m getting tired—I can’t think of anything but nights with you—I want them warm and silvery—when we can be to-gether all our lives—Which will probably be long, as I’ve recovered from the cough, much to my disgust. I don’t want you to see me growing old and ugly—I know you’ll be a beautiful old man—romantic and dreamy—and I’ll probably be most prosaic and wrinkled. We will just have to die when we’re thirty. I wish your name were Paul—or Jacquelyn. I’m going to name all our children that—and Peter—yours and mine—because we love each other—
29. TO SCOTT
AL, 4 pp.
No wonder I never hear from you—The New York post-office has been communicating wildly regarding two letters with no postage. Circumstantial evidence against you—looks like wild nights and headachy mornings—I was scared you had forgotten me—It’s been so long since I had a letter. I’ve been seeking consolation in a perfectly delightful golf-tournament—Perry Adair and all the Atlanta celebrities were over, so of cource, I wouldn’t miss Tech commencement for a million. I’ll be in Atlanta till Wednesday, and I hope—I want you to so much—you’ll come down soon as I get back. Darling heart, I love you—It’s been so long since you left me—much more than the three weeks you promised—and sometimes I feel like I’ll die without you—But you’re coming—and please take me with you.
Your pictures are ready—but I haven’t got any money, as usual, so I wish you’d send for ’em.
I do—hope I get a letter to-morrow—and
I do—love you with all my heart.
30. TO SCOTT
ALS, 6 pp.
Dearest Ole Dear—
I’m back home again—and, as usual, had the most fun I ever had. God, Scott, if you waited till I got tired we’d certainly both be bachelors—Every time, it improves, and I’ll never feel grown. I absolutely despair of it. But if I wait much more I’d have to go in a wheel-chair and return in a hearse. This time the casualty list was unusually long—both eyes and a leg, a couple of tonsils and a suit-case full of clothes: all lost in action. And still I’m so mighty happy—It’s just sort of a “thankful” feeling—that I’m alive and that people are glad I am.
There’s nothing to say—you know everything about me, and that’s mostly what I think about. I seem always curiously interested in myself, and it’s so much fun to stand off and look at me—
I know you’ve worried—and enjoyed doing it thoroughly—and I didn’t want you to because something always makes things the way they ought to be—Even this time—and its all right—Somehow, I rather hate to tell you that—I know its depriving you of an idea that horrifies and fascinates—you’re so morbidly exaggerative—Your mind dwells on things that don’t make people happy—I can’t explain, but its rather kin to the way kids 13 feel when everybody goes off and leaves them at home—if they aren’t scary, of cource. Sort of deliberately experimental and wiggly—
In Tuscaloosa I saw Katherine Ellesberry’s baby. It’s darling and it’s gotten round. I’m so glad—I hate long children. I felt like I’d sorter like to have it.
Scott, dear boy, I love you—and, thank Heavens, events can take a natural cource—
Write me, please—
31. TO SCOTT
ALS, 5 pp.
I certainly appreciated your last letter. It must have been a desperate struggle to write it, but your efforts were not wasted on an unreceptive audience. Just the same, the only thing that carried me thru a muddy, rainy, boring Auburn commencement was the knowledge that I’d have a note, at least, from you when I got home—but I didn’t. I was so sure—because I left Wed. and you hadn’t written in a week—Not that letters make so much difference, and if you don’t want to write we’ll stop, but I love you so—and I hate being disappointed day after day.
I’m glad you’re coming. Make it any time except the week of June 13. I’m going to Georgia Tech to try my hand in new fields—You might come on the 20th and stay till we go to North Carolina—or come before I go to Atlanta, only I’ll be mighty tired, and they always dance till breakfast.
The picture in the hat is an awful bother—Tresslar won’t make less than three, and won’t send a fifteen-dollar bill to New York, so please remit, and I’ll send my beaming likeness when I get it—next week.
32. TO SCOTT
ALS, 2 pp.
You asked me not to write—but I do want to explain—That note belonged with Perry Adair’s fraternity pin which I was returning. Hence, the sentimental tone. He has very thoughtfully contributed a letter to you to the general mix-up. It went to him, with his pin.43
I’m so sorry, Scott, and if you want the pictures, I’ll mail them to you.
33. TO SCOTT
ALS, 8 pp.
Nov. 1—Columbus—sponsor Auburn-Ga. game THANKSGIVING—ATLANTA ditto AUBURN-TECH—
So, you see, you’ll be down just about the right time. It’s awfully hard to do everything by a foot-ball schedule, but I’ve been making a frantic effort at it for the last month. Between the games and my piano-lessons I’ll probably be a mere shadow of the girl I once was by the time you come, but I guess you’ll recognize me. Anyway, in case of emergency, you can notify my parents at the same old Six Pleasant.
I’m mighty glad you’re coming—I’ve been wanting to see you (which you probably knew) but I couldn’t ask you—and besides Mrs. McKinney has run me positively crazy planning weddings in her atrocious magnolia hall until I was almost wishing you’d never come anymore. It’s fine, and I’m tickled to death.
And another thing:
I’m just recovering from a wholesome amour with Auburn’s “starting quarter-back” so my disposition is excellent as well as my health. Mentally, you’ll find me dreadfully detiorated—but you never seemed to know when I was stupid and when I wasn’t, anyway—
Please bring me a quart of gin—I haven’t had a drink all summer, and you’re already ruined along alcoholic lines with Mrs. Sayre. After you left, every corner the nigger started cleaning was occupied by a bottle (or bottles). Tootsie, of cource, is largely responsible—but it was just one of those incidents that cant be explained. She thought you drank at least 12 qts. in two days.
‘S funny, Scott, I don’t feel a bit shaky and “do-don’t” ish like I used to when you came. I really want to see you—that’s all—
Beautiful color scheme—n’est-ce pas? [I’m a madamoiselle]44
34. TO SCOTT
AL, 8 pp.
I am very proud of you—I hate to say this, but I, don’t think I had much confidence in you at first—I was just coming anyway—It’s so nice to know that you really can do things—anything—and I love to feel that maybe I can help just a little—I want to so much—Don’t ask Mr. Hooker about me—I might try and be dreadful and then you’d be so ashamed of me—Why don’t you write the things? Lyrics sound easy—but you know best, of cource. I’m so damn glad I love you—I wouldn’t love any other man on earth—I b’lieve if I had deliberately decided on a sweetheart, he’d have been you—I thought that at first when we couldn’t find each other—Years ago, when you wouldn’t pretend, and I called you Don Juan—and you thought I was Eleanor—and discovered that I really wasn’t a thing on earth but your own true sweetheart—
Don’t—please—accumulate a lot of furniture. Really, Scott, I’d just as soon live anywhere—and can’t we find a bed ready-made? Someday, you know we’ll want rugs and wicker furniture and a home—I’m terribly afraid it’ll just be in the way now. I wish New York were a little tiny town—so I could imagine how it’d be. I haven’t the remotest idea of what it’s like, so I am afraid to make any suggestions—What became of the apartment the men decorated? I liked that—I was picturing walls covered with huge orange and black fruit—and yellow ceilings—
Mrs Hayden is bringing her daughter, Edwine, down Easter— Tilde and Tootsie have both visited them, and, of cource, we’re obligated—Toots is threatening to go with Mrs. DeFuniac to Michigan—She leaves Friday—If she does, I’ll have to stay and entertain Edwine—Then, when they leave, I could come North with them— That’s why I wanted you to write Mamma. You see, I can’t tell them why Tootsie just can’t go to Michigan—What must I do?
Craighead telegraphed he was coming from Gordon for the weekend. I’ll be glad to see him—There’re absolutely no males in this vicinity and, besides, I can tell him about you. I love talking of you— Darling—you’re all—everything in the world—I love you so—
In case of, emergency—
520 W 124th St Apt. 51
Lover—lover—I want you—always—
35. TO SCOTT
ALS, 9 pp.
I’m writing on this beautiful paper which everybody thinks is so awful and which I hate to use for fear it’ll use up to thank you—so you know how much I like the “two little junks”—But I’m so distressed over not finding a place to put the picture in the case that I’m going to glue it somewhere even if it’s on the outside. Please don’t look so horrified. It’s a company case, anyway—The chain is just like a hat on a lady, shrieking “take me somewhere—take me somewhere,” and I do love to take it—You know how I like things that nobody around’s ever had, and the tassel on the other thing has elevated me to a most superior position.
Yesterday I almost wrote a book or story, I hadn’t decided which, but after two pages on my heroine I discovered that I hadn’t even started her, and, since I couldn’t just write forever about a charmingly impossible creature, I began to despair. “Vamping Romeo” was the name, and I guess a man would have had to appear somewhere before the end. But there wasn’t any plot, so I thought I’d ask you how to decide what they’re going to do. Mamma answered my S.O.S. with one of O. Henry’s, verbatum, which I discarded because he never created people—just things to happen to the same old kind of folks and unexpected ends, and I like stories with all the ladies like Constance Talmadge and the men just sorter strong, silent characters or college boys—but I know I’m going to be rather fond of Margery See45 and maybe she’ll fire me with enough ambition to carry Romeo thru two more pages—And so you see, Scott, I’ll never be able to do anything because I’m much too lazy to care whether it’s done or not—and I don’t want to be famous and fêted—all I want is to be very young always and very irresponsible and to feel that my life is my own—to live and be happy and die in my own way—to please myself.
And, Scott, Darlin’ don’t try so hard to convince yourself that we’re very old people who’ve lost their most precious possession. We really havent found it yet—and only weaklings like the St. Paul girl you told me about who lack courage and the power to feel they’re right when the whole world says they’re wrong, ever lose—All the fire and sweetness—the emotional strength that we’re capable of is growing—growing and just because sanity and wisdom are growing too and we’re building our love-castle on a firm foundation, nothing is lost—That first abandon couldn’t last, but the things that went to make it are tremendously alive—just like blowing bubbles—they burst, but more bubbles just as beautiful can be blown—and burst— till the soap and water is gone—and that’s the way we’ll be, I guess— so don’t mourn for a poor little forlorn, wonderful memory when we’ve got each other—Because I know I love you—and you’ll come in January to tell me that you do—and we won’t worry any more about anything—Zelda
36. TO ZELDA
[Before January 9, 1920]
[New York City]
I FIND THAT I CANNOT GET A BERTH SOUTH UNTIL FRIDAY OR POSSIBLY SATURDAY NIGHT WHICH MEANS I WON’T ARRIVE UNTIL THE ELEVENTH OR TWELFTH PERIOD AS SOON AS I KNOW I WILL WIRE YOU THE SATURDAY EVENING POST HAS JUST TAKEN TWO MORE STORIES PERIOD ALL MY LOVE.
37. TO ZELDA
STPAUL MINN 254P 10
MISS LELDA SAYRE
6 PLEASANT AVE. MONTGOMERY ALA.
38. TO ZELDA
NEWORLEANS LA46 1213P JAN 19 1920
MISS ZELDA SAYRE
SIX PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALA
SEND MANUSCRIPT47 SPECIAL DELIVERY LOVE
39. TO ZELDA
NEWORLEANS LA 530P JAN 29 1920
MISS ZELDA SAYRE
6 PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALA
COMING UP SATURDAY AND SUNDAY WIRE ME ONLY IF
40. TO ZELDA
NEWYORK NY FEB 24 1920
MISS LIDA SAYRE
SIX PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALA
I HAVE SOLD THE MOVIE RIGHTS OF HEAD AND SHOULDERS TO THE METRO COMPANY FOR TWENTY FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS I LOVE YOU DEAREST GIRL
41. TO SCOTT
AL, 6 pp.48
Darling Heart, our fairy tale is almost ended, and we’re going to marry and live happily ever afterward just like the princess in her tower who worried you so much—and made me so very cross by her constant recurrence—I’m so sorry for all the times I’ve been mean and hateful—for all the miserable minutes I’ve caused you when we could have been so happy. You deserve so much—so very much—
I think our life together will be like these last four days—and I do want to marry you—even if you do think I “dread” it—I wish you hadn’t said that—I’m not afraid of anything. To be afraid a person has either to be a coward or very great and big. I am neither. Besides, I know you can take much better care of me than I can, and I’ll always be very, very happy with you—except sometimes when we engage in our weekly debates—and even then I rather enjoy myself. I like being very calm and masterful, while you become emotional and sulky. I don’t care whether you think so or not—I do.
There are 3 more pictures I unearthed from a heap of débris under my bed. Our honored mother had disposed of ’em for reasons of her own, but personally I like the attitude of my emaciated limbs, so I solict your approval. Only I waxed artistic, and ruined one.
Sweetheart—I miss you so—I love you so—and next time I’m going back with you—I’m absolutely nothing without you—Just the doll that I should have been born. You’re a necessity and a luxury and a darling, precious lover—and you’re going to be a husband to your wife—
42. TO SCOTT
AL, 8 pp.
O, Scott, its so be-au-ti-ful49—and the back’s just as pretty as the front. I think maybe I like it a little better, and I’ve turned it over four hundred times to see “from Scott to Zelda.” I try to feel so rich and fine but I’m so tickled I can’t feel any way but happy—happy enough to bubble completely over and flow away into a sweet-smelling nothing. And I’ve decided, like I do every night before I go to sleep, that you’re the dearest, dearest man on earth and that I love you even more than this delicious little thing ticking on my wrist.
Mamma came in with the package, and I thought maybe it might interest her to know, so she sat on the edge of the bed while I told her we were going to marry each other pretty soon. She wants me to come to New York, because she says you’d like to do it in St. Patrick’s. Now that she knows, everything seems mighty definite and nice; and I’m not a bit scared or shaky—What I dreaded most was telling her—somehow I just didn’t think I could—Both of us are very splashy vivid pictures, those kind with the details left out, but I know our colors will blend, and I think we’ll look very well hanging beside each other in the gallery of life [This is not just another one of my “subterranean river” thoughts]50
And I love you so terribly that I’m going to read “McTeague”51—but you may have to marry a corpse when I finish. It certainly makes a miserable start—I don’t see how any girl could be pretty with her front teeth lost in action, and besides, it outrages my sense of delicacy to have him violently proposing when she’s got one of those nasty rubber things on her face. All authors who want to make things true to life make them smell bad—like McTeague’s room—and that’s my most sensitive sense. I do hope you’ll never be a realist—one of those kind that thinks being ugly is being forceful—
When my wedding’s going to be, write to me again—and if you’d rather have me come up there I will—I told Mamma I might just come and surprise you, but she said you mightn’t like to be surprised about “your own wedding”—I rather think it’s my wedding—
“Till Death do us part”
43. TO SCOTT
ALS, 4 pp.
I wanted to for your sake, because I know what a mess I’m making and how inconvenient it’s all going to be—but I simply can’t and won’t take those awful pills52—so I’ve thrown them away. I’d rather take carbolic acid. You see, as long as I feel that I had the right, I don’t much mind what happens—and besides, I’d rather have a whole family than sacrifice my self-respect. They just seem to place everything on the wrong basis—and I’d feel like a damned whore if I took even one, so you’ll try to understand, please Scott—and do what you think best—but don’t do anything till we know because God—or something—has always made things right, and maybe this will be.
I love you, Darling Scott, and you love me, and we can be thankful for that anyway—
Thanks for the book—I don’t like it—
44. TO ZELDA
[PRI]NCETON NJ 1117AM MAR 23 1920
MISS ZELDA SAYRE
6 PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALA
GOOD MORNING ZELDA DEAR YOU KNOW I DO
45. TO ZELDA
[Princeton, New Jersey]
MISS ZELDA SAYRE
SIX PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALA DEAR YOUR LETTER JUST CAME I HAD COUNTED ON YOUR LEAVING MONTGOMERY ON THE THIRTIETH OF THIS MONTH BUT IF YOU ARE READY TO COME EARLIER SAY ON THE TWENTIETH WIRE ME TODAY YOU KNOW I WANT YOU ALL THE TIME DEAREST GIRL YOUR PICTURE HAS NOT COME AM WRITING
46. TO ZELDA
PRINCETON NJ 1042A 17
MISS TILDA SAYRE
SIX PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALA
THE PICTURE IS LOVELY AND SO ARE YOU DARLING
47. TO ZELDA
PRINCETON NJ MARCH 28 1920
MISS ZELDA SAYRE
6 PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALABAMA YOUR TELEGRAM CAME TONIGHT I HAVE TAKEN ROOMS AT THE BALTIMORE [BILTMORE?] AND WILL EXPECT YOU FRIDAY OR SATURDAY WIRE ME EXACTLY WHEN WILL CALL TOOTSIE TOMORROW MORNING BOOK SELLING53 ALL MY LOVE
48. TO ZELDA
NEWYORK NY MAR 30 1920
MISS TILLA SAYRE
6 PLEASANT AVE MONTGOMERY ALA TALKED WITH JOHN PALMER AND ROSALIND54 AND WE THINK BEST TO GET MARRIED SATURDAY NOON WE WILL BE AWFULLY NERVOUS UNTIL IT IS OVER AND WOULD GET NO REST BY WAITING UNTIL MONDAY FIRST EDITION OF THE BOOK IS SOLD OUT ADDRESS COTTAGE UNTIL THURSDAY AND SCRIBNERS AFTER THAT
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations xi
Editors' Note xvii
Introduction Eleanor Lanahan xxiii
Part I Courtship and Marriage: 1918-1920 1
Part II The Years Together: 1920-1929 49
Part III Breaking Down: 1930-1938 75
Les Rives de Prangins, June 1930-August 1931 77
Montgomery, November and December 1931 112
The Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic of Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, February-April 1932 145
La Paix, 1932-1933 169
Craig House, Beacon, New York, March-May 1934 177
Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, Towson, Maryland, May 19, 1934-April 7, 1936 197
Highland Hospital, Asheville, North Carolina, April 1936-December 1938 217
Part IV The Final Years: 1939-1940 267