F. Scott Fitzgerald Quotations

The following quotes are by or about F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath."

-F. Scott Fitzgerald, from an undated letter to his daughter Scottie.

Fitzgerald's letters to his daughter are filled with discussions of writing and literature. These are what he knew best. For Fitzgerald, writing required total immersion in his work and strenuous exertion for as long as he was able or allowed to "hold his breath."

submitted by: Michael Cody

"That was always my experience-- a poor boy in a rich town; a poor boy in a rich boy's school; a poor boy in a rich man's club at Princeton ... . However, I have never been able to forgive the rich for being rich, and it has colored my entire life and works."

-"F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters," ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York: Scribners, 1994. pg. 352.

As this bit from a 1938 letter to Anne Ober (wife of Fitzgerald's literary agent, Harold Ober) shows, Fitzgerald did not have the blind admiration for the rich that Ernest Hemingway attributed to him. Feeling himself an outsider, he was distrustful of the rich, and criticized the effects of wealth on character, as seen in stories such as "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz."

submitted by: Tracy Bitonti

"He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete."

-The Great Gatsby (1925), ch. 6.

The passage records Jay Gatsby's ill-fated courtship of Daisy, a captivating yet selfish and amoral woman. After renewing their tragic romance years later, Daisy proves to be the unworthy receptacle of Gatsby's idyllic dream and subsequently serves as the agent of his death.

submitted by: Park Bucker

"People read him now for clues and guidelines, as if by understanding him and his beautiful and damned period, they could see more clearly what's wrong."

-Smith, Scottie Fitzgerald. "Notes About My Now-Famous Father." Family Circle (May 1974): 118-20.

Smith wrote this article in response to the renewed interest in the 1920s that occurred in the mid-1970s. She introduces the discussion by saying that she writes the article for the 25th anniversary of first being asked about the revived attention to her father's work. The article asserts that World War II destroyed a former feeling of idealism in the country. She concludes by borrowing the title of Fitzgerald's second novel to sum up her father's era and the revived interest.

submitted by: Catherine Lewis

"You can take off your hats now, gentlemen, and I think perhaps you had better. This is not a legend, this is a reputation-- and seen in perspective, it may well be one of the most secure reputations of our time."

-Stephen Vincent Benét in his review for The Saturday Review of Literature (6 November 1941) of Edmund Wilson's edition of The Last Tycoon (1941).

Benét's comment is an accurate prediction made while Fitzgerald's reputation was still in decline. It is especially interesting when seen against the obituaries of Fitzgerald, many of which focused shortsightedly on Fitzgerald's drinking and his alleged irrelevance to post-twenties America. Fitzgerald's last, unfinished, novel began the process of erasing such misconceptions.

submitted by: Cy League

"My whole theory of writing I can sum up in one sentence. An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next and the schoolmasters of ever afterward."

An ambitious, twenty-three-year-old Fitzgerald penned this "Author's Apology" for his first novel, This Side of Paradise.

submitted by: Mary Sidney Watson

"The extraordinary thing is not that people in a lifetime turn out worse or better than we had prophesied; particularly in America that is to be expected. The extraordinary thing is how people keep their levels, fulfill their promises, seem actually buoyed up by an inevitable destiny."

This quotation-- from the opening passage of the short story "Majesty" (Saturday Evening Post 13 July 1929) offers a concise statement of one of the most important themes in Fitzgerald's writing: American aspiration. In addition, it illustrates the neglected point that even Fitzgerald 's minor short stories contain remarkable lines and paragraphs and therefore merit more careful scholarly consideration.

submitted by: Robert F. Moss

"A writer can spin on about his adventures after thirty, after forty, after fifty, but the criteria by which these adventures are weighed and valued are irrevocably settled at the age of twenty-five."

-- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Ring," October 1933. (Rpt. in The Crack-Up.)

Although these lines were written specifically about Ring Lardner, they apply equally well to Fitzgerald himself, whose values and instincts were shaped by his childhood in St. Paul and his experiences at Newman and Princeton.

submitted by: Robert F. Moss

Fitzgerald Centenary Comments

This page updated 28 January 1997.
Copyright 1997, the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.
URL http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/quotes/quotes1.html