LLR Books

F. Scott Fitzgerald's Letter to a Fellow Author: Compliments, Criticism, and Applejack

This 1927 letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Charles Green Shaw, held in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, offers commentary on Shaw’s recently published novel Heart in a Hurricane.
Fitzgerald, who had already published This Side of Paradise (1920), The Beautiful and Damned (1922), and The Great Gatsby (1925), was younger than Shaw, but more successful. The letter is an exercise in constructive criticism, offering compliments layered with gentle recommendations.
Fitzgerald posted this letter from Ellerslie, a mansion on the Delaware River north of Wilmington where the Fitzgeralds lived for two years from 1927-1929.
The postscript is mysterious. Did Fitzgerald forget to send this letter, and add a note before mailing it “years later’? Regardless, his list of rustic alcohols followed by a prayer is not to be missed.
Fitzgerald died in Hollywood in 1940. Charles Green Shaw lived until 1974, and had a long and varied career, publishing children’s books and poetry and working as an abstract painter.

June 21st, 1927
Ellerslie, Edgemoor, Delaware
Dear Charlie: My reason for the long delay is the unusual one. That, owing to a review I’d read, I didn’t approach “Heart in a Hurricane” with high expectations. I’m happy to say that I was absolutely wrong. It is a damn good piece of humorous writing from end to end —much better than anything of its sort I’ve read in years. The character is quite clear—clearest, if I may say so, when his tastes are least exhaustively cataloged. And the three girls are all recognizable and thoroughly amusing. Best of all is the background. I liked the scene in the Colony, in the tough dive and at the houseparty—and forgave such episodes as the false [thug?] and such epigrams as—but looking over the pages I don’t find any that are so bad! I wish you’d try something with a plot, or an interrelation between two or more characters, running through the whole book. Episodes held together an “idea,” in its fragilest sense, don’t give the opportunity for workmanship or for really effective effects. I take the liberty of saying this because there is so much talent and humor and discernment in the book as a whole.
Remember, if George comes down here we’d love to have you too. This sounds rude—but you know what I mean. Sorry I was so drunk & dull the other night.
With Many Congratulations and Cordial Good Wishes,
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Years Later: Dear Charlie: We are at last at peace in the wilderness with nothing to drink but rasberry shrubb, medeaeval mead and applejack. Pray gravity to move your bowels. Its little we get done for us in this world. F.S.F.

Live like F. Scott Fitzgerald: Buy his Baltimore town house

 Bathtub gin? A Victrola playing the Charleston? How about their very own Baltimore town house?
F. Scott Fitzgerald's town house at 1307 Park Ave. in Baltimore is up for sale. For $450,000, it could be yours.
From the photographs, it looks as if the town house has retained many of its early 20th century appointments. It's easy to imagine that it looks much as it did in the 1930s when Fitzgerald lived there; it was his home from 1933-35.
Zelda was with him only part of the time. It was their second home in Baltimore, where they had moved so she could receive psychiatric treatment -- the first was damaged in a fire Zelda set when burning papers in a fireplace.
Fitzgerald was also in a bad place; living in Baltimore meant he could dry out at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which he tried to do more than once.
While Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" is often called the Great American Novel, at the time Fitzgerald was feeling a failure. When his follow-up, "Tender is the Night," was published in 1934, it didn't sell as well and wasn't well-received by critics. Around that time, Fitzgerald wrote to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, “I have drunk too much and that is certainly slowing me up. On the other hand, without drink I do not know whether I could have survived this time.”
The Park Avenue town house carries more Depression-era heritage -- to say nothing of depression -- than Fitzgerald's earlier high-flying Jazz Age party life. Nevertheless, it was a home where he lived, and a fairly grand one.
Built in 1900, the town house has four bedrooms over four levels, including a basement. It has porches in the front and back, two full bathrooms, two half baths, at least three decorative fireplaces, a carriage house/garage, built-in bookshelves and a decorative plaque that notes F. Scott Fitzgerald lived there.
The house has been on the market for four days. There will be an open house Feb. 3.