Zelda’s Diaries

According George Jean Nathan, Fitzgerald once told that him had planned to write a novel about Nathan – which became The Beautiful and Damned . Fitzgerald then proceeded to not do so, telling Nathan he found himself unable to write a heroic character beside himself and that he had to be the hero of any novel he undertook. (1). Fitzgerald relentlessly and without fail used his acquaintances, friends and personal experiences in nearly all of his works. In reading Fitzgerald one reads a veritable list of all of his friends and acquaintances as well in his life. Nathan regretted that the Fitzgeralds indulged in all to many “booze binges” he was one of the first to send congratulations on The Great Gatsby (2) . After one particularly drunken party in Westport George Jean Nathan  found himself in the basement of the Fitzgerald house, where he discovered Zelda’s diaries. Fitzgerald flatly refused as he was using so much of her material.

“Once when I was spending a week-end with him and Zelda in their Connecticut house, the racket made  by the house party lasted so long into the night that I had to get up at dawn and, seeking quiet, went down in the cellar. Rummaging about, I came upon some notebooks named “Zelda’s Diary” and looked through them. They interested me so greatly that in my capacity as a magazine editor I later made an offer for them. When I informed her husband, he said that he could not permit me to publish them, since he had gained a lot of inspiration from them, and wanted to use parts of them in his own novels and short stories, as for example, “The Jelly Bean.” (3).

Fitzgerald plagiarized Zelda’s letters and ‘lost ‘diaries. Like Scott, Zelda was never averse to recycling a witty phrase…Scott often repeated hers. Lawton Campbell recalled  “He would hang on her words and applaud her actions, often repeating them for future reference…jot[ing] down Zelda’s remarks on odd pieces of paper or on the back of envelopes” (4).

In The Beautiful and Damned Scott incorporates whole chapters of his wife’s writing into his own book (as well as many others). He stole Zelda’s ideas for short stories and wrote them as his own (5). Zelda wrote a review in the New York Tribune where she asserted “Mr. Fitzgerald…seems to believe plagiarism begins at home” by his use of her diaries and letters. Zelda’s determination to pick a husband so impressed Fitzgerald that he incorporated entire sections devoted specifically to that from her diary on this topic into the novel.

1. Nathan Reader, p. 22.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Taylor, 103.

5. Meyers, 59.

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