F. Scott Fitzgerald

On this date in 1896, celebrated novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald was born into a Roman Catholic family in St. Paul, Minn. He was named for Francis Scott Key, a second cousin three times removed. He went to Princeton, where he cut short a lackluster record there to join the army in 1917. The second lieutenant was posted to Camp Sheridan, Ala., where he met Zelda Sayre, 18, a Southern belle from a well-to-do family. Zelda broke off their engagement over money. Fitzgerald, who briefly worked for an advertising business in New York, wrote This Side of Paradise, and began a successful career writing short stories, such as "Bernice Bobs her Hair," for the Saturday Evening Post and other periodicals. This Side of Paradise was published in 1920, when Fitzgerald was only 24. He and the book became an overnight sensation. The couple married a week later. (Zelda's Episcopalian family was unhappy about the "intermarriage." ) They had their only child, a daughter, Frances Scott "Scotty," in 1921. Fitzgerald followed his successful first novel with The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), The Great Gatsby (1925) and Tender is the Night (1934). The couple was renowned for their high-living, fast-spending, hard-drinking lifestyle. Moving to France for a time, where he wrote The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald became friends with Ernest Hemingway. Zelda had her first breakdown in 1930. From 1932 on, she spent the rest of her life as a resident or outpatient of various sanitariums, her madness taking a religious turn. His own health broken by alcoholism, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood in 1937 as a screenwriter to help subsidize the cost of Zelda's care. He met and had a love affair with columnist Sheilah Graham, and died at age 44 of a heart attack at her apartment. Her book about the relationship, Beloved Infidel, was a bestseller in 1958. D. 1940.

“But be sweet to your mother at Xmas despite her early Chaldean rune-worship which she will undoubtedly inflict on you at Xmas.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, letter to his daughter "Scottie," 1940. Source: Who's Who in Hell edited by Warren Allen Smith.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

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