“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, August 16, 1920, Westport, Connecticut

It’s been a wild summer, thank God.”

Zelda Fitzgerald, 20, is writing to a friend.

Her husband, F. Scott, 23, has been spending long hours working on his second novel, The Flight of the Rocket. He has described it to his publisher, Charles Scribner, II [“Old C. S.”], 65,

How [the hero] and his beautiful young wife are wrecked on the shoals of dissipation is told in the story….I hope [it] won’t disappoint the critics who liked my first one [This Side of Paradise].”

Zelda manages to drive into New York City fairly often, with and without her husband. And carry on a bit of an affair with Smart Set magazine co-editor, George Jean Nathan, 38, whose specialties are absinthe cocktails and married women.

Mencken and Nathan

Smart Set editors H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan

Recently, Nathan had invited both Fitzgeralds to a midweek party at his West 44th Street apartment at the Royalton Hotel, so Scott could meet Nathan’s fellow editor, H. L. Mencken, 39. The young novelist was thrilled to get to know one of his literary heroes, who rarely shows up at these midtown Manhattan parties. Nathan had managed to procure three cases of bootleg gin for the occasion.

Zelda is describing what she remembers of the party to her friend,

I cut my tail on a broken bottle and can’t possibly sit on the three stitches that are in it now—The bottle was bath salts —I was boiled—The place was a tub somewhere.”

Zelda has no idea how she ended up in Nathan’s tub, but she has been known to take impromptu baths at parties before.

A few weeks ago, Scott had written to his agent,

I can’t seem to stay solvent—but I think if you can advance me $500…I’ll be able to survive the summer.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

This fall I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University.

My presentation, “Such Friends”:  Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, is available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre. The program begins at the 11 minute mark, and my presentation at 16 minutes.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

6 thoughts on ““Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, August 16, 1920, Westport, Connecticut

  1. Well, it’s often said – write about what you know … Zelda going wild and Scott asking for money – pretty much business as usual then!

  2. Nice, but it’s time to stop muckin’ around in the early 20thC and get back to the 19th!!


    Going to work on the Plato piece after I insert the fns in the Helen piece. I will try to take care of the fns issue before you have to deal with that essay. Should make it easier for you.

    OF the one’s you have, the “Tribute to Van” should be simple. No fns as I recall.

    More essays coming in a bit.



    James L. Spates, Ph.D
    Professor of Sociology Emeritus
    Hobart and William Smith Colleges

    Web: https://whyruskin.online

    Address: 715 South Main Street
    Geneva, New York 14456

    Cell: 315-521-2805 (preferred)
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    “In the short time you have, be kind, and do all the sure good you can.”

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