Fine Books and Manuscripts
Fine Books and Manuscripts
December 16, 09:10 PM GMT
10,000 - 15,000 USD
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
An archive including an early partial typescript of The Romantic Egotist and an autograph letter signed, among others
Typescript, being part of The Romantic Egotist. Three leaves (280 x 214 mm), typed on rectos, annotated in pencil in left margins; the third leaf inexpertly laid down on a leaf of construction paper, each leaf tipped on to each other at head, leaves curled, old creases, one or two tiny edge tears, toned and with stray spot the first leaf. — Autograph letter signed, to Harry Keller, Camp Taylor, Louisville, Kentucky, 18 March 1918. Two pages on one leaf (200 x 126 mm), signed twice ("F Scott Fitz" and "Scott Fitz"), with postmarked envelope addressed in Fitzgerald's hand; old horizontal folds, five short closed tears (three at folds, two at the foot) just affecting a few letters, remnants of adhesive along left margin, envelope inexpertly laid down on a leaf of construction paper. — Typescript of "Embarking at Night." One page (262 x 197 mm), four corrections in black ink, with "F. Scott Fitzgerald" in manuscript below the poem; inexpertly laid down on a leaf of construction paper, old folds and creases, a few spots and minor soiling. [With:] Autograph letter from Harry Keller, 5 March 1918. Four pages on two leaves (277 x 214 mm), with the postmarked envelope; old folds.
A remarkable archive, containing an evidently unrecorded portion of Fitzgerald's first novel.
The owner of these documents was Harry Keller, a friend of Fitzgerald's from Princeton. In a letter included in the present archive, dated 5 March 1918, and sent by Keller to his parents while he was at college, he writes:
Scott Fitzgerald since he came down from Kansas for a short furlough after getting his 1st Lieut's commission has been living here at the club working on a book he's been writing there his three months' training in camp. It's an autobiographical novel — and remarkably good & clear & well-written — so it seems to me, after reading most of it through in manuscript. Yesterday he & I got together & spent the afternoon and evening boiling down the first three rambling chapters into one concise one — I read these three and marked out what I thought could be eliminated and then we went over it together and he decided what to cut out — and we got it down to about half its original volume. The rest I've been reading since — sat up til 3 last night with it. If it is published — as it seems probable of being — for Leslie at Scribners likes it and thinks Scribner will take it — I'll feel a peculiar sense of proprietorship in it. It's called 'the Romantic Egotist' — (Scott all over). He leaves tomorrow and probably will sail for France within a month.
Indeed, the present letter sent by Fitzgerald to Keller just over a week later confirms his account:
Your letter received and I'm obliged for the litt — but most of all for your help on the novel — so you've started writing again! Well, you ought to be able to scribble violently in the loneliness of deserted gothic. ...
Shane Leslie likes the novel and is waiting for the missing chapters which that damned O'Sullivan wont send—says he's sick. Such are the vicisitudes [sic] — as soon as it comes I'll send you those three or four chapters you haven't read. ...
Shane Leslie, referenced in both letters, was an Irish writer and lecturer whom Fitzgerald had first met at the home of Father Fay in Washington in November 1912. Leslie was instrumental in getting This Side of Paradise published: he corrected the typescript of The Romantic Egotist for grammar and spelling, and then forwarded it to Scribner’s with a letter recommending its publication. He would later be one of the three dedicatees of Fitzgerald next novel, The Beautiful and Damned (1922).
Notably, Fitzgerald's letter is sent from Camp Taylor, in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was stationed after enlisting in the army at Fort Leavenworth (the latter also being mentioned in Keller's letter, as he writes that Fitzgerald has come to visit from Kansas). The novelist would later set a pivotal moment of The Great Gatsby at Camp Taylor—it is there that Jay Gatsby first meets Daisy Fay. Letters from this period of Fitzgerald's life are rare in the market: we can trace no other letters sent while he was stationed at Camp Taylor in the standard auction records.
The present typescript is presumably one of the sections that Keller encouraged Fitzgerald to cut while they edited the manuscript together, and these three pages do not appear in the typescripts of The Romantic Egotist held in the archives at Princeton. As with those, the novel is written in the first person—a change that Fitzgerald would make when he revised the prose that would become part of This Side of Paradise. The protagonist here, as in the other extant typescripts, is Stephen Palms, evidenced on the third page when Mr. Durwent addresses George Lacy (two other characters who appear in known typescripts of the work) and the narrator:
"'I want to say,' said Mr. Durwent, that, that this is no way for anyone to act. I don't know who is to blame, but if scenes like this are to take place, you boys wont be allowed to run your own games. As to this meeting which Caspar Wharton asked me to call, I think we'd better have it another time when you're all calmer and Palms and Lacy can behave themselves.' I was so delighted to hear him include Lacy among the misbehaviors that my wrath disappeared, and when he added that no one could leave the room until George and I had shaken hands, I fairly glowed, and only appeared stern and unrelenting by the greatest effort. ..."
These pages also include within them an unrecorded poem—both This Side of Paradise and The Romantic Egotist featured Fitzgerald's own early poetry, diffused through the writing of his protagonists—which was clearly still in-progress, as it contains what must be unfinished lines. The poem is titled "The Cavalier in Canada," and it, Stephen Palms says, "made the tour of most of magazines of North America and each came back with a printed form ... it was something, I thought, to have a poem considered enough to be even rejected." The poem reads:
Would I were back in the city of light
Back in the land of the fair:
Back where the balls and the music of night
Bask in the there
Oh for the clash and the ring of the foils
For a midnight sail in the silvery bark
Oh for the glass and the mask and the plume
France and the night and the lure of the dark
The archive contains another typescript of a poem, separate from the pages of The Romantic Egotist: "Embarking at Night," which would appear in This Side of Paradise; it was never published by Fitzgerald in its own right, but is a poem of Amory's in the novel. The present typescript contains several differences from the text that appears in the This Side of Paradise, including being written in the third person, along with several entirely different lines. Further, it is corrected by hand in four instances. Given these features, it is exceedingly unlikely that this is either a fair copy or a transcription of the poem by a reader of the novel. The signature below the typescript, however, is dissimilar to most examples of Fitzgerald's own; it may be that the signature is in another hand, attributing the poem to him.
All together, the condition of the documents notwithstanding, this is an exceptional archive of early Fitzgerald material—none of which, to our research, has been previously identified. That the typescript of Fitzgerald's first novel survives at all is remarkable, having been discarded by the author at a pivotal moment in revising his work. A fantastic glimpse into the early career of one of the greatest American novelists.
Harry Keller, thence by descent