According to many of the numerous biographies written about him, F. Scott Fitzgerald was handy with a pen even as a youngster, and his adoring mother, noticing her baby boy’s intelligence, made sure that his talent was fostered even if it meant spending beyond the Fitzgeralds’ means.
Starting a month before his 14th birthday in 1910, Fitzgerald began to write his Thoughbook, a memoir of sorts, documenting his daily life and thoughts as a teenager growing up in prewar St. Paul, Minnesota.
Published by the University of Minnesota Press, The Thoughtbook of F. Scott Fitzgerald offers a rare glimpse into the early mind of one of America’s greatest literary figures. We’re excited to present you with these exclusive excerpts from the book.
August, 1910 My Girls
My recollections of Nancy are rather dim but one day stands out above the rest. The Gardeners had their home three miles out of town and one day James Imham, Inky for short, my best friend, and I were invited out to spend the day. I was about nine years old Nancy about eight and we were quite infatuated with each other. I was in the middle of the winter so as soon as we got there we began playing on the toboggan. Nancy and I and Inky were on one toboggan and Ham (Nancies big brother came along and wanted to get on. He made a leap for the toboggan but I pushed off just in time and sent him on his head. He was awful mad. He said he’d kick me off and that it wasn’t my toboggan and that I couldn’t play. However Nancy smoothed it over and we went into lunch.
Kitty Williams is much plainer to my memory. I met her first at dancing school and as Mr. Van Arnumn (our dancing teacher) chose me to lead the march I asked her to be my pardner. The next day she told Marie Lautz and Marie repeated it to Dorothy Knox who in turn passed it on to Earl, that I was third in her affections. I dont remember who was first but I know that Earl was second and as I was already quite overcome by her charms I then and there resolved that I would gain first place. As in the case of Nancy there was one day which was preeminent in my memory. I went in Honey Chilenton’s yard one morning where the kids usually congregated and beheld Kitty. We talked and talked and finally she asked me if I was going to Robin’s party and it was there that my eventful day was. We played postoffice, pillow, clapp in and clapp out and other foolish but interesting games. It was impossible to count the number of times I kissed Kitty that afternoon. At any rate when we went home I had secured the coveted 1st place. I held this until dancing school stopped in the spring and then relinquished it to Johnny Gowns a rival. On valentines day that year Kitty received no less than eighty four valentines. She sent me one which I have now as also one which Nancy gave me. Along in a box with them is a lock of hair—but wait I’ll come to that. That Christmas I bought a five pound box of candy and took it around to her house. What was my surprise when Kitty opened the door. I nearly fell down with embarrassment but I finally stammered “Give this to Kitty,” and ran home.
Indians and Violet Sept 1910
Violet Stockton was a niece of Mrs. Finch and she spent a summer in Saint Paul. She was very pretty with dark brown hair and eyes big and soft. She spoke with a soft southern accent leaving out the r’s. She was a year older than I but together with most of the other boys liked her very much. I met her through Jack Mitchell who lived next door to her. He himself was very attached as was Art. Foley and together they sneaked up behind her and cut off her hair that is a snip of it. We had a game we played called Indians which I made up. One side were the Indians and went off and hid somewhere. The cowboys then started off to find them and when the Indians saw their chance they would jump out and take them by surprise. We were all armed with croquet mallets. There were about fifteen of us. Kitty Shultz, Betty Mudge, Betty Foster, Elenor Mitchell, Marie Hersey, Dorothy Green, Violet Stockton and Harriet Foster. The boys were Adolph Sholtz, Wharton Smith, Jack Mitchell, Arthur Foley, Archer Mudge and Roger Foster. Every day for a month we played this and then we turned into truth. At that time I was more popular with girls than I ever have been befor. In truth Kitty Shultz, Dorothy, Violet, Marie and Catherine Tre all liked me best. At the present moment it is the reverse with probably most of these; with at least two, Kitty Shultz and Katherine Tre. However I am wandering from the subject. Finally Violet had a party which was very nice and it was the day after this that we had a quarrel. She had some sort of book called flirting by sighns and Jack and I got it away from Violet and showed it too all the boys. Violet got very mad and went into the house. I got very mad and therefor I went home. Imediatly Violet repented and called me up on the phone to see if I was mad. However I did not want to make up just then and so I slammed down the receiver. The next morning I went down to Jacks to find that Violet had said she was not coming out that day. It was now my turn to repent and I did so and she came out that evening befor, however I had heard several things, and as I found afterwards so had Violet and I wanted to have justified. Violet and I sat down on the hill back of Shultze’s a little away from the others.
“Violet,” I began, “Did you call me a brat.”
“Did you say that you wanted your ring and your picture and your hair back.”
“Did you say that you hated me”
“Of course not, is that what you went home for”.
“No but Archie Mudge told me those things yesterday evening.”
“He’s a little scamp” said Violet Indignantly.
At this juncture Elenor Mitchell almost went into hysterics because Jack was teasing her, and Violet had to go home with her. That afternoon I spanked Archie Mudge and finished making up with Violet.