September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940 (Scott)
July 24, 1900 – March 10, 1948 (Zelda)
Francis Scott Key ‘Scott’ Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald (nee Sayre) were American novelists and icons of the Jazz Age.
Scott was born to an upper-middle-class family in Buffalo, New York. Zelda was born to a prominent and rich family in Montgomery, Alabama. Scott was educated in Princeton, but dropped out to join the army for World War I. He and Zelda met at a country club while he was stationed in Alabama.
Their courtship was on-and-off, and they only married after Scott published his first book, This Side of Paradise, which was inspired by Zelda. Their marriage was famously tempestuous and unfaithful on both sides, and they were soon known for both the success of their books and their wild and uncontrolled behaviour. They lived for some time in both New York and Paris.
Scott was an alcoholic, and Zelda’s behaviour became increasingly erratic and self-destructive. Zelda was admitted to a sanatorium. She remained living mostly in treatment for the rest of her life.
While Zelda was in the sanatorium, Scott’s reputation as a writer was decreasing. Zelda wrote the only novel with her name on it — Save Me the Waltz — about the Fitzgerald’s life in Paris. Despite Scott having taken material from Zelda’s personal journals and life for his previous novels, he considered the book to be ‘third-rate’ and ‘plagiaristic’ of his writing. He convinced Zelda’s doctors to not allow her to write anymore.
Scott blamed Zelda for his career decline and lack of inspiration. Zelda also blamed Scott for her own lack of success, as a ballerina, writer, and social icon. Financially and socially, they were suffering. As the rifts in the marriage worsened and Zelda remained in treatment, Scott began a long-term affair. Scott’s long-term alcoholism was left untreated.
Scott died of a heart attack, likely brought on by alcohol abuse, at age 44. Zelda died in a fire at the sanatorium, awaiting treatment, at the age of 47, seven years after Scott. They were survived by once child — their daughter, Frances Scott ‘Scottie’ Fitzgerald.
Scott and Zelda as a Unit
Though most of their novels were written by Scott, the Fitzgeralds are inextricable from one another. Zelda served as character inspiration for nearly all of Scott’s novels and Scott often took passages directly from Zelda’s diary. Both wrote novels and short stories, and their reputation as les enfants terribles of the Jazz Age stemmed as much from Scott’s behaviour as Zelda’s — though Zelda is usually the only one who receives that blame.
Since their writing, lives, and fates were so intertwined, I’ve chosen to list them together as the co-creators they were.