F. Scott Fitzgerald: a letter to Frances Turnbull

Published in F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters. Hat tip to Brain Pickings via The Passive Voice.

I should like to call particular attention to the last sentence of the P.S.:

You have talent — which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.

This is perhaps the best definition of talent, that obscure and much-abused term, that I have ever read. —T. S.


November 9, 1938

Dear Frances:

I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell. [Read more…]

C. S. Lewis on ‘Kelsie’

Excerpt of a letter from C.S. Lewis to his brother Warnie, 1 July 1921, as printed in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, vol. I, p. 561:

Saturday evening . . . I dined alone with Kelsie. She always had her on days and her off days: and for many years now there have been times when I found têtes a têtes with her longer by mental measurement than the clock would vouch for. But on this occasion, honestly it was so boring that there was an air of insanity about it all: connected perhaps with the terrible heat and with that crowded tiny dining room at the Mitre. She never paused. Stories that I have heard from those same lips so often before followed one another: somebody was engaged and somebody else had broken off an engagement: the inevitable discussion of the Greeves’s: had I heard about so and so: did I remember what Willie Jaffé had done on such and such an occasion?

When we went up to the private room again, I could do no more. Wrapping my gown round her head to stifle her cries, I seized our cousin by the left ankle and precipitated her from the window. She flew out over the High in a great arc: the strolling butties and undergraduates looked up and shouted. But to my horror, just as she descended on one of the pinnacles of St. Mary’s spires, her dress developed a certain balloon like quality: instead of breaking into a thousand pieces she rose up on the giddy ledge and, just as I lost consciousness, I could hear her proclaim distinctly to the whole town ‘I once saw an awfully funny thing happen to a girl at Aldershot — .’ I can’t quite swear to all this having happened exactly as it is here set down: but something like it must have taken place, since the undoubted fact remains that I did get away.

Wendy Delmater explains admirably where Lewis went wrong:

He had no idea that seizing the offending drone by the left ankle always has that unfortunate effect. However, should one seize a bore by the right ankle and dangle him or her while making suitable threats, one might walk away with a pair of tickets to the theater. Even if one is forced to take the bore to the theater, good manners will suffice to keep the person quiet (except for intermission).

Do not ask me how I came by this clandestine knowledge. It is sufficient that I know.