The New Yorker’s 1926 Profile of F. Scott Fitzgerald
This week, The New Yorker publishes “Thank You for the Light,” a 1936 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald that was originally rejected by the magazine decades ago. Fitzgerald’s work did not always meet with rejection from The New Yorker’s editors: between 1929 and 1937, he published three short stories and two poems in our pages. The stories were brief and humorous in nature. Perhaps the most notable was “A Short Autobiography,” in which Fitzgerald gave a chronology of his life in terms of alcoholic beverages imbibed. Here’s a taste:
The Sazzarac Cocktails brought up from New Orleans to Montgomery to celebrate an important occasion.
Red wine at Mollat’s. Absinthe cocktails in a hermetically sealed apartment in the Royalton. Corn liquor by moonlight in a deserted aviation field in Alabama.
Leaving our champagne in the Savoy Grill on the Fourth of July when a drunk brought up two obviously Piccadilly ladies. Yellow Chartreuse in the Via Balbini in Rome.
Kaly’s crème de cacao cocktails in St. Paul. My own first and last manufacture of gin.
Three years before his first byline in The New Yorker, Fitzgerald was the subject of a Profile by John C. Mosher titled “That Sad Young Man.” (In those early years, the magazine’s Profiles were much shorter than those published today—Mosher’s piece on Fitzgerald is just two pages long.) The pleasures of the bottle are referred to by Mosher at the opening of his piece, as he describes the arrival of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald on the Riviera for the summer season: “There were rumors that Scott had had a sip or two of something up in Paris, and had come South to rest.” Mosher’s primary concerns, however, were the Fitzgeralds’ money and celebrity:
[His] popularity on two continents may explain something of the financial mystery which so appals him. Ever since “This Side of Paradise,” money has poured in upon this young couple, thousands and thousands a month. And just as fast it has poured out. Where it goes, no one seems to know. Least of all evidently, the Fitzgeralds. They complain that nothing is left to show for it. Mrs. Fitzgerald hasn’t even a pearl necklace.
The Profile was published a year after “The Great Gatsby” appeared to critical praise but disappointing sales. That novel, which we now think of as Fitzgerald’s signature achievement, is referred to only obliquely by Mosher, who can’t help taking a dig at the famous author’s spendthrift ways:
Very deliberately he has taken as the field for his talent the great story of American wealth. His research is in the chronicles of the big business juntos of the last fifty years; and the drama of high finance, with the personalities of the major actors, Harriman, Morgan, Hill, is his serious study. He saw how the money was being spent; he made it his business to ferret out how it was being cornered.
Although Mrs. Fitzgerald once bought a bond, no young people, with such an income, are more far removed from the ordinary affairs of business. A twenty-dollar-a-week clerk must know more of the practical business world than Scott Fitzgerald who can not live on thirty thousand a year.