Item #2820 Typed Letter Signed [TLS]. F. SCOTT FITZGERALD.
Typed Letter Signed [TLS]
Typed Letter Signed [TLS]
Typed Letter Signed [TLS]
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Typed Letter Signed [TLS]


It is rare that we get to read first hand about a writer’s influences, especially during the formative years, but in answer to a letter from the scholar Egbert S. Oliver, Fitzgerald – with his characteristic wit – offers us details about his early literary education.

The letter, partially quoted in Matthew Bruccoli’s definitive biography, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur, reads in full:

1307 Park Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland
January 7, 1934

Mr. Egbert S. Oliver
Willamette University
Salem Oregon

Dear Mr. Oliver:

The first help I ever had in writing in my life was from my father who read an utterly imitative Sherlock Holmes story of mine and pretended to like it.

But after that I received the most invaluable aid from Mr. C. N. B. Wheeler then headmaster of the St. Paul Academy now the St. Paul Country Day School in St. Paul, Minnesota. 2. From [a] Mr. Hume, then co-headmaster of the Newman School and now headmaster of the Canterbury School. 3. From Courtland Van Winkle in freshman year at Princeton — now professor of literature at Yale (he gave us the book of Job to read and I don't think any of our preceptorial group ever quite recovered from it.) After that comes a lapse. Most of the professors seemed to me old and uninspired, or perhaps it was just that I was getting under way in my own field.

I think this answers your question. This is also my permission to make full use of it with or without my name. Sorry I am unable from circumstances of time and pressure to go into it further.

[signed] F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald attended the St. Paul Academy from 1908 - 1911 (from the ages of 12 to 16) and Broccoli underscores the influence in particular of C.N.B. Wheeler on Fitzgerald, noting that he was the only one of his teachers who encouraged him to write. (Fitzgerald published his first work of fiction in the school newspaper.) Fitzgerald’s note that after Courtland Van Winkle in his freshman year at Princeton he “was getting under way in my own field” was certainly true, for it was shortly after his class with Van Winkle that Fitzgerald began work on what would become his sparkling debut novel, This Side of Paradise.

The “circumstances of time and pressure” Fitzgerald mentions at the end of the letter were very real. This letter was written in January 1934 just as Tender is the Night was beginning to appear serially in Scribner’s Magazine, and then in book form on April 12, 1934. The letters surrounding the Oliver letter in Fitzgerald’s collected letters are frantic letters to his editor Max Perkins working out details for the first edition of Tender is the Night.

The recipient, Egbert S. Oliver, was a prominent scholar of American literature. He was Professor of American Literature at Willamette University and Portland State University and wrote numerous books on American literature and American life. The Egbert S. Oliver papers now reside at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University.

Provenance: Listed in F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Marketplace (Bruccoli and Baughman, 2009, p.31) as having been sold at Charles Hamilton Auction, 14 September, 1972.

Typed letter signed with two hand-corrections in ink. Baltimore, Maryland, 1934. Two pages, 8.5'' x 11’’ each; attractively matted and framed alongside a photo of Fitzgerald to an overall size of 32'' x 17.5''. Usual folds, paperclip imprint at top left of first page; otherwise fine.


–Matthew J. Bruccoli, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981.

– Matthew J. Bruccoli, ed. F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Life in Letters, Scribner, 2010. (Published in full).

–Matthew J. Bruccoli and Judith S. Baughman, editors. F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Marketplace, University of South Carolina Press, 2009.

Price: $35,000 .

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