A few months before he died aged 44 in December 1940, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote what now seems an astonishing, deeply ironical letter to his old friend and editor Maxwell Perkins at the press of Charles Scribner’s Sons in New York. It tells of how completely he felt he had been forgotten by his readership in that final year of his life, and also shows him taking the measure of his place in American letters. The tone is strangely valedictory, and yet amidst the sad recognition that his public appreciation has dwindled away to nothing, there is a residual defiance, a refusal to allow his reputation to be extinguished:
I wish I was in print … Would the 25 cent press keep
in the public eye—or
is the book unpopular.
its chance? Would a popular reissue … make it a favorite with class rooms, profs, lovers of English prose—anybody. But to die, so completely and unjustly after having given so much. Even now there is little published in American fiction that doesn’t slightly bear my stamp—in a
way I was an original … I have not lost faith. (
Life in Letters