Zelda Fitzgerald – a synonym for charisma, beauty, and eccentricity


Zelda Fitzgerald: the iridescent, eccentric character of the roaring 1920’s. Fitzgeralds: the emblems of the Jazz Age. Zelda: the muse, the artist, the social entertainer. It is difficult to reduce her to words as her name itself became the synonym of an inexplicable mixture of charisma, beauty, eccentricity, talent, and irresistibility. F. Scott Fitzerald wrote great stories that we still praise today, but his part is the writing of a story. Zelda might be credited for their virtuosity.

Born in 1900, in Montgomery, Alabama, Zelda Sayre was a wild, beautiful, and adventurous child who loved to dance ballet and to spent her time outdoors. In her teenage years, she was the epicenter of the social life in her school. It had been noted that she didn’t care much for anything except for swimming and boys. Zelda was a wild child who sneaked out of her parents’ house to spend time with boys.

Zelda Sayre at age 17

She was 18 when she first met the young F. Scott Fitzgerald who volunteered for the army and in 1918 was stationed at Camp Sheridan, outside Montgomery. He was one of the many enchanted by Zelda’s beauty and character and started calling her daily and spending his free days in Montgomery to be near her. He was writing This Side of Paradise at the time and was so taken by Zelda that he redrafted the character of Rosalind Connage to resemble her. At the time Scott only imagined becoming famous.

Scott was later summoned north to Camp Mills, Long Island for a month, but returned to the base near Montgomery as soon as he could. By December that same year, Scott and Zelda were inseparable. Later, he would later refer to this period as “sexual recklessness.” In February 1919, Scott was discharged from the military and went to New York City to establish his writing career. They wrote to each other for a year, and in March 1920, Zelda received Scott’s mother’s ring in the mail, and the two were engaged.

Zelda Sayre at about 16, in dance costume


Zelda in 1922

Zelda agreed to marry Scott only when the book was published and indeed, four days after This Side of Paradise reached the bookstores she arrived in New York City and the two were married. The Fitzgeralds’ tempestuous marriage was a synonym for love, inspiration, and tumultuary.

Scott and Zelda were also both sharing a mutual addiction – alcohol. Alcohol was their morning coffee, and drunkness was their state at all parties in New York City and Paris. They both contributed to the growth of bitterness between them with their addiction, mutual infidelity, and jealousy.

F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1921, by Gordon Bryant for Shadowland magazine


Zelda couldn’t leave Scott but was addicted to drama, and as she was a compulsive attention seeker, the thing she needed most was Scott’s attention. When he was dedicated to his work, Zelda was bored.

When he socialized with other people at parties, she was jealous. When he published The Beautiful and the Damned, she was offended because Scott had borrowed characters from her diary. In her review, Zelda wrote: “In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald—I believe that is how he spells his name—seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.”

The first edition dust cover of The Beautiful and Damned with the main characters of Anthony and Gloria drawn to resemble Scott and Zelda

And Scott couldn’t abandon her because he was as much addicted to her drama as he despised it. She was too much of a muse for him. They had a daughter in 1921, Frances Scott “Scottie” Fitzgerald, but parenthood is not a value for which either of them is remembered.

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