September 24

There are 1 entries for this date: F. Scott Fitzgerald

    F. Scott Fitzgerald

    F. Scott Fitzgerald

    On this date in 1896, novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald was born into a Catholic family in St. Paul, Minn. He was named for Francis Scott Key, a second cousin three times removed. He attended Catholic elementary and high schools, then enrolled at Princeton University, where he focused on writing but not his other coursework and was placed on academic probation. He dropped out to join the U.S. Army in 1917 and was commissioned a second lieutenant. Posted to Camp Sheridan, Ala., he met Zelda Sayre, 18, a Southern belle from a well-to-do family. Her Episcopalian family was unhappy about the “intermarriage.” They had their only child, a daughter, Frances Scott “Scottie,” in 1921. 

    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. He 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 and tuberculosis, 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 in 1940 of a heart attack at her apartment. Her book about the relationship, Beloved Infidel, was a best-seller in 1958. The Catholic Church denied the Fitzgerald family’s request that he be buried in the family plot at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Rockville, Md., because he hadn’t practiced his faith as an adult.

    After Zelda died in a fire in 1948 while awaiting electroshock treatment in a North Carolina hospital (one of nine women killed in the fire), she was buried next to him at Rockville Union Cemetery. In 1975 their daughter Scottie successfully petitioned the church to reverse its burial denial and they were moved to the St. Mary’s plot. Scottie, who died at age 64 in 1986 of throat cancer, is buried next to them. (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.”

    —Fitzgerald letter to his daughter "Scottie" c. 1940. "Collected Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald" (2015)
    Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

Freedom From Religion Foundation