The romance between Zelda Sayre, later Zelda Fitzgerald, American socialite and novelist, and her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, who dubbed her “the first American flapper,” was tumultuous to say the least. Zelda’s personality was the inspiration for many of her husband’s female characters – notably Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby,” and also the heartbreaking, but eventually triumphant Nicole Diver in “Tender Is the Night,” whose struggle with mental illness mirrors Zelda’s own. Fitzgerald also used many of his wife’s real life remarks and diary entries in his work.
Zelda Sayre met F. Scott Fitzgerald in a similar way to that in which Daisy Buchanan met Jay Gatsby, in July 1918, when he, having volunteered for the army, was stationed outside her native city of Montgomery, Alabama. Although courted by many suitors, Zelda fell in love with the writer and the two became inseparable. This letter was written by Zelda in 1919, the year Fitzgerald established himself in New York.
Please, please don’t be so depressed – We’ll be married soon, and then these lonesome nights will be over forever – and until we are, I am loving, loving every tiny minute of the day and night – Maybe you won’t understand this, but sometimes when I miss you most, it’s hardest to write – and you always know when I make myself – Just the ache of it all – and I can’t tell you. If we were together, you’d feel how strong it is – you’re so sweet when you’re melancholy. I love your sad tenderness – when I’ve hurt you – That’s one of the reasons I could never be sorry for our quarrels – and they bothered you so – Those dear, dear little fusses, when I always tried so hard to make you kiss and forget –
Scott – there’s nothing in all the world I want but you – and your precious love – All the material things are nothing. I’d just hate to live a sordid, colorless existence – because you’d soon love me less – and less – and I’d do anything — anything — to keep your heart for my own – I don’t want to live – I want to love first, and live incidentally – Why don’t you feel that I’m waiting – I’ll come to you, Lover, when you’re ready — Don’t don’t ever think of the things you can’t give me — You’ve trusted me with the dearest heart of all — and it’s so damn much more than anybody else in all the world has ever had —
How can you think deliberately of life without me – If you should die – O Darling – darling Scott – It’d be like going blind. I know I would, too, – I’d have no purpose in life – just a pretty – decoration. Don’t you think I was made for you? I feel like you had me ordered – and I was delivered to you – to be worn – I want you to wear me, like a watch – charm or a button hole boquet – to the world. And then, when we’re alone, I want to help – to know that you can’t do anything without me.
All my heart –
I love you”
The pair married on April 3rd, 1920, after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, “This Side of Paradise,” was published and had a daughter, named Scottie. Zelda Fitzgerald’s own creative talent was largely ignored during her lifetime and her husband was furious when she went from muse to creator, authoring the novel “Save Me the Waltz” during a stay at a sanatorium. The novel used autobiographical material that Fitzgerald himself was planning to use in “Tender Is the Night.”
As Zelda’s mental illness – diagnosed as schizophrenia but now thought to have, in fact, been bipolar disorder – took over her life, she moved in and out of sanatoriums and Fitzgerald began an affair with movie columnist Sheilah Graham. He died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940. Zelda died on March 10, 1948 in a fire that broke out at the hospital where she was receiving treatment.
The tombstone of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in Rockville, Maryland, bears the famous final line of “The Great Gatsby:”
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Anca Rotar is a Romanian-born writer, over-thinker and caffeine addict. She is the author of two books, Hidden Animals and Before It Sets You Free, both available from Amazon.com. Among her interests, which she finds it hard to shut up about, she counts fashion, yoga, city breaks and deadpan sarcasm. She is also currently studying Japanese, so wish her luck. You can sample bits of Anca’s creative writing here.