F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 1919-20 Pandemic

Filed in Archive, Blog by on March 30, 2020 1 Comment
F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

The following is a letter written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1920 while he was quarantined in the south of France during the Spanish influenza pandemic, which sounds very familiar even though he is more concerned with his stock of alcohol than food, let alone toilet paper.

Dearest Rosemary,

It was a limpid dreary day, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter. Outside, I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are that empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so.

At this time, it seems very poignant to avoid all public spaces. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that, he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why, he considers the virus to be just influenza. I’m curious of his sources.

The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.

You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand.

In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.


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  1. Eroia says:

    One hundred years on and it speaks so true! The loneliness, despair and isolation were best versed with alcohol then as they are now (I view from my window the wine delivery van for my neighbours house – note to self I must put my wine order in). The better morrow he speaks of will come again and when it does I’m sure will wipe the collective global memory clean like a child’s slate of yesteryear. Ahh well.

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