A Brief Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1896 to an upper middle class family. The Fitzgerald family moved often and he spent his childhood in Saint Paul, Buffalo, and Hackensack, New Jersey. In Saint Paul, he attended the Saint Paul Academy and saw his first published story appear in the school newspaper. In 1913, Fitzgerald enrolled in Princeton University. At Princeton, Fitzgerald’s literary ambition developed as he wrote scripts for musicals, humor publications, and literary magazines.

After college, Fitzgerald served in the army and was stationed in Alabama.  Later, he worked as an advertising copywriter in New York City, and eventually returned to Saint Paul, where he finished his debut novel, This Side of Paradise. The novel catapulted Fitzgerald into fame, helping Fitzgerald win Alabama beauty Zelda Sayre’s hand in marriage. Scott and Zelda returned to live in Saint Paul and area briefly, and their daughter Scottie was born in Saint Paul. The Fitzgeralds’ last year in Saint Paul was 1922. Together, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald moved through life as part of a glamorous circle of writers, artists and celebrities.

Fitzgerald published numerous short stories in magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, pausing to work on his acclaimed novels. Yet his literary aspiration often took a backseat to his extravagant, party-filled lifestyle, and critics of literature doubted his value. After living in Saint Paul, New York, and Connecticut, the Fitzgerald family eventually moved to Europe, settling on the French Riviera, in Paris, and in Rome. It was in Europe that Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, published in 1925 and considered his best novel and a masterpiece of American literature.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fame grew, his life began to fall apart. Zelda’s mental health deteriorated, putting stress on Fitzgerald’s already strapped finances as Zelda spent time in expensive treatment centers. Plagued by alcoholism, Fitzgerald continued to write, earning income from magazine stories and publishing his fourth novel, Tender Is the Night, in 1934. The novel was a commercial failure, and Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood to pursue work as a film screenwriter. In Hollywood, Fitzgerald began his fifth novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon. It was half-complete when he died of a heart attack in 1940, physically frail, in debt, and unaware of the literary acclaim his works would achieve and sustain in future years.

There are many excellent biographies of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but the definitive scholarship is found in the biography by Matthew J. Bruccoli, Some Epic Sort of Grandeur (University of South Carolina Press, revised edition, 2002).