July 24th – Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda Fitzgerald was born Zelda Sayre on July 24, 1900, in Montgomery, Alabama. Known for her beauty and personality, Zelda is remembered for much more than simply the wife of a famous writer. 

In 1918 Zelda met her future husband as a young Lieutenant, recently dropped out of Princeton to enlist during WWI. F. Scott Fitzgerald had ambitions to be a famous author and Zelda agreed to marry him once his first book was published. He wasted no time, finishing his first novel, This Side of Paradise by September 1919. This Side of Paradise was published March 26, 1920, and the couple was married on April 3rd at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. With the publication of the novel This Side of Paradise Zelda and Scott became celebrities, and icons of the Jazz Age. 

After the publication of Scott’s second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned the New York Tribune asked Zelda to write a review of her husband’s book. In the review Zelda called out Scott’s liberal borrowing of material from her letters and diaries:

In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald — I believe that is how he spells his name — seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.

The New York Tribune piece led to other offers from magazines, including the 1922 “Eulogy on the Flapper” forMetropolitan Magazine. 

The couple moved to Paris, in 1924, where her husband wrapped himself up in writing and alcohol and Zelda took up painting and dancing while struggling with mental exhaustion. As the 1920s progressed their relationship was strained and their creativity hurt by mental and emotional struggles and addictions. By 1930 Zelda was admitted into a sanitarium in France, where she was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

In 1932, while admitted to another clinic. Zelda wrote a novel in six weeks and sent it to Scott’s publisher at Scribner’s Maxwell Perkins without telling her husband. When Scott found out he was furious, and had her rewrite parts of the novel that were autobiographical, and that he planned on using in Tender is the Night which would be published in 1934. 

First British edition of Save Me The Waltz from Burnside Rare Books on Biblio.com

The first edition of Save Me the Waltz was published October 7th, 1932 in a print run of just 3010 copies. It sold only 1,392 copies, for which she earned $120.73. Between the poor sales and her husband’s criticism of the work, Zelda’s spirit was crushed. It was the only work of fiction she would publish. 

On March 10th, 1948 a fire broke out at Highland Hospital, in Asheville, NC, where Zelda was being treated on and off since 1936. She was locked in a room for electroshock therapy, and unable to get out, perished in the fire, along with eight other patients.

Lessons from Zelda:

Bob your hair. Write and paint and dance. Let Love be your inspiration, not your stumbling block. 

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