There is something in the broken lives of Scott and Zelad Fitzgerald that reaches a dark place in each of us where we remember how it feels to be out of place. We absorb the intimate deatils of their biographies and become oddly possessive of this information available to anybody who can read. It is as if we were somehow to blame for his poverty and her mental illness, as if we must be protective of their names because we must be protective of their names because we are secret sharers in their failures and disappointments.
No such friends make their way to Hemingway's grave (for example) as those who have gone to the trouble to find the place in Rockville, Md., where the Fitzgeralds are buried. Their single grave is situated, as it has been for the past three years, in a tiny Catholic cemetery that justs into a maze of traffic in the would-be metropolis that was a mere village of 2,047 when the author was first buried there in a different grave in 1940.
One cannot help but wonder how and why the golden couple of the Jazz Age came to be buried in such a decidedly unromantic spot. And none of their several biographers has ever fully or accurately explained it. However, there are records that tell the story and there are enough people, such as Fitzgerald's college roommate, still around who remember what happened and why.
The story of Scott's and Zelda's last and longest journey is as complicated by miscues and wrong turns as by anything that every happened to them in life. But that story has a happy ending, thanks to a nice lady in the Woman's Club of Rockville who was desperate for a project to enter, in of all things, the 1976 Community Improvement Program of Sears, Roebuck & Co. She, of course, had found that the Fitzeralds had been buried in the wrong place.
Scott and Zelda ended up in Rockville because they made no plans to be buried anywhere, a common failing adressed by the editors of Consumer Reports in a how-to book on dying in American: "In a society that places great value on youth and good health, death becomes real only when it directly affects us or those close to us... Perhaps, it could be argued, mature people ought to assume the resposibility for making plans for their own disposition, if only to spare their survivors some of the confusion and expense that so often follows death."
But nobody ever accused the Fitzgeralds of being mature. He was 23 and she not yet 20 when they were married in April 1920, a month after his first novel -- This Side of Paradise -- was publicshed to rave reviews.
They were instantly famous and comparatively rich. In a review of The Beautiful and Damned , published in 1922, Zelda said she hoped everybody would go out and buy her husband's book so she could get a new platinum ring and a dress made of cloth of gold.
A world stimulated by the end of war embraced the two of them as "eternally young and hopelessly beautiful." They drank tumblers full of raw gin and provided an endless run of stories in the newspapers and magazines about their reckless lives. Fitzgerald said he invented the word "flapper" to describe a "woman who loves life" the way Zelda did.
One night in Pairs, Fitzgerald commandeered a hearse and careered about Lee Halles singing the college-boy chant mocking death: "The worms crawl in and the worms crawl out..." They were never going to grow up, much less grow old and die.
But the seriousness, and tawdriness, of real life soon caught up with them, seemed to crush them even more brutally because of the joy they had known. Fitzgerald's two finest novels -- The Great Gatsby (1925) and Tender Is the Night (1934) -- were commercial failures. And Zelda's health deteriorated until she had to commit herself to a succession of mental hospitals. In addition to his wife's medical bills, Fitzgerald also had their daughter, Scottie (Frances Scott Fitzgerald, born in 1921) to support. He was forced to move to Hollywood and try his hand at screenwriting.
Fitzgerald's failure at screenwriting is reflected in two changes he made in the will he wrote when he first arrived there in 1937. He first wrote: "Part of my estate is first to provice for a funeral and burial inkeeping with my station in life." Later, he changed "funeral" to "the cheapest funeral" and added. "The same to be without undue ostentation or unnecessary expense."
Still, he didn't plan on dying just because he had written a will. Fitzgerald wrote his daughter in the spring of 1940 that he was asstounded she was thinking of writing his and Zelda's biographies: "... since I am 43 and may still have a lot to say for myself, I think you'd be somewhat premature."
Eight months later, Dec. 21, 1940, Fitzgerald died of a heart attack in the Hollywood apartment he shared with movie columnist Sheilah Graham. But that time most of his fans and party friends had deserted him. All of his books were out of print; the second printing of The Great Gatsby had never even left the publisher's warehouse. The obituary writers described him not as a great literary figure, but as "the spokesman of the Jazz Age."
Scottie says in the introduction to Scott Fitzgerald, Letters to His Daughter : "A sick wife, poverty, bad luck -- we all have to contend with some of these things, and Daddy had helped to bring on a good bit of it himself. But the writing part wasn't fair; God had played one of those trump cards which can defeat even the most valiant of us."
At an unfashionable branch of the Pierce Brothers funeral home in downtown Los Angeles, they put Fitzgerald's body in a small back room called the "Wordsworth Room." His hands were the only visible part of him that looked his age. His hair had been dyed and his face made up to look like a dime-store mannequine's.
Dorothy Parker was one of the few people who stopped in to pay her last respects. She is supposed to have taken one look at him and said what old "Owl-eyes," says of Gatsby: "The poor son of a bitch."
Every one of Fitzgerald's biographers states as fact that he "wished" to be buried beside his father in St. Mary's churchyard in Rockville. However, that was not specified in his will and there is no record anywhere he ever said or wrote down exactly where he wanted to be buried. He did write to his friend and secretary, Laura Guthrie: "I belong here [in Maryland], where everything is civilized and gay and rotted and polite. And I wouldn't mind a bit if in a few years Zelda and I could snuggle up together under a stone in some old graveyard here. That is really a happy thought and not melandcholy at all." But the contents of that letter were known only to her at the time of Fitzgerald's death.
The one thing Sheilah Graham knew for certain was that Fitzgerald hated California and wouldn't want to be stuck in some grotesque garden of movie stars. In his notes on her telephone call about Fitzgerald's death, Harold Ober wrote that Graham "thinks he would like to be buried where his father is buried because he admired him." Ober, Fitzgerald's agent, made the notes for Scottie (then 18 and a Cristmas house guest of the Obers'), but she says now that she did not make the decision about where to bury her father.
This posthumous suggestion that Fitzgerald's father was all that important to him introduces a fascinating enigma in the very public life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. For his father, Edward, still looms unexplained in the life, work and letters of Fitzgerald -- despite the author's practice of using up every real character in his experience -- even with the publication of dozens and dozens of books and articles about him and his family. Gerald and Sara Murphy once almost stopped speaking to Fitzgerald because of his persistent questioning of them as souce material for Tender Is the Night . His after obviously did not have that problem.
Edward Fitzgerald was born in 1853 in a small house on a small farm (called "Glenmary" because all plots of land in Maryland were given names) near %Rockville. His father, Michael, died when he was 2 and Edward was raised by his mother and grandmother. He would tell Fitzgerald about helping Confederate spies when he was 9 and about sitting on a fence watching Jubal Early's battalions moving toward Washington. After completing the equivalent of three years of high school, he went west and in St. Paul, Minn., met and married Mary "Mollie" McQuillan, the daughter of a wealthy merchant.
Part of the romanticisim about Fitzgerald is that all of the class came from his father and all of the money from his mother. Her people were genuine "potato famine Irish," and her grandmother was an illiterate immigrant who arrived in this country with no husband and eight children to raise. Those are among the new facts about the family tha Scottie Fitzgerald Smith recently unearthed in several months of genealogical research. (She's doing it mostly for her three children and three grandchildren, but she'll make it available for publicaiton "if anybody's just dying to have it.")
Fitzgerald's grandparents may have lived in near poverty (according to Smith) in Rockville, but they were related to several prominent families, including the Dorseys, the Scotts and the Keys, who produced the author of "The Star Spangled Banner."
Scottie has discovered that her father was notably misinformed about his ancestors. Not only did he underplay their importance, she says, he had no diea how interesting and important they really were "or he would have been writing about them instead of wasting his time with those medieval stories which really are inferior."
Scottie says it makes sense that her newly rich grandmother would want to reach out to a famous -- although distant -- relatvie in Maryland in choosing a name for her only son. (She also feels that "the self-consciousness of the new rich" explains Fitzgerald's motivation and his wide appeal.) But there is no explanation why Fitzgerald claimed closer kinship with Francis Scott Key than he had. In all the biographies (including Scottie's own.The Romantic Egoists ) Francis Scott Key is named as Fitzgerald's "great-great-uncle." In fact, Scottie has found that Key was a distant cousin.
That tenuous connection to fame adds another poignant footnote to Edward Fitzgerald's life and it is a wonderful irony that a great literary figure carried on the name of a small-town lawyer who also indulged in some amateur songwriting. Francis Scott Key had the misfortune to get detained overnight (while negotiating a prisoner release) on a British frigate involved in the bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry. He scribbled the words to "The Defense of Fort McHenry" on an envelope and he was humming them to a then-popular melody by the time he got back to Baltimore to get it published. It was immediately popular, but not exactly an overnight institution. Some people objected to its glorification of war, others to the ridiculous range of the melody, which is explanied in its originas as "an old French drinking song which had been popularized on a greater scale by a social club of bibulous rounders in London." It was not until 1916 that the song became the offical anthem of the Army and Navy; it was not officially adopted as the National Anthem until March 3, 1931.
There are inherent contradictions in all of this. For it Fitzgerald's father was related to prominent people, that only emphasized his own failure. If he was gentle, he was also weak. If the mother was brash, she was also strong. The father suffered a terrible humiliation early in Fitzgerald's life when he was fired from his Procter & Gamble job in Buffalo, N.Y., and had to go back and work for his wife's family.
Fitzgerald apparently adhered to something he wrote Scottie the year he died: "I'll always agree with myself that I would never write anything about my own father and mother till they had been at least 10 years dead." (His father had been dead nine year when Fitzgerald wrote those words.) There was little, except for manners and breeding, Fitzgerald could find to "admire" in his father's life.
In one of the remarkably few mentions of his father in his published letters, Fitzgerald says: "His own life after a rather brillian start back in the '70s has been a 'failure' -- he's lived always in mother's shadow and he takes an immense vicarious pleasure in any success of mine."
The father becomes significant in the author's life for all that was never said about him. Perhaps his drinking was a more severe problem than anyone had indicated.Granddaughter Scottie has no idea what it was, but she knows there was something about him that was never mentioned. "I just can't get a reading on him," she says now.
The one rough story Fitzgerald specifically wrote about his father is titled "The Death of My Father." In it, Fitzgerald says his father "came from fond old stock with very little left of vitality and mental energy, but he managed to raise a little for me." He also says: "I loved my father -- always deep in my subconscious I have referred judgement back to him, what he would have thought or done."
Those words, it seems, spring more from pity than respect and admiration. The most often quoted lines about Fitzgerald and his father involve the scene in Tender Is the Night in which Dick Diver goes to his father's funeral. It is clearly based on Fitzgerald's own return from Europe to attend his father's funeral in St. Mary's Churchyard in Rockville.
Recently, an earlier version of this sequence was found in an unpublished Fitzgerald manuscript among his papers at Princeton. It was presented to the university in 1962 by a woman named Bert Barr -- and therein lies a romance and a mystery.
Fitzgerald met Bert Barr in January 1931 aboard the S.S. New York when he was coming to his father's funeral. She was a vivacious young blonde who captivated him with a tale of being a young innocent who had to make her living at cards. That is all that has ever been published about her and Fitzerald and it is in Andrew Turnbull's biography of Fitzerald. The notes on Turnbull's interview with the woman might explain how she came into possession of the story along with all of the other manuscripts of stories Fitzgerald had sold to Esquire magazine. But, Turnbull's papers were sealed for 20 years when he killed himself 12 years ago.
Esquire's editors were more than a litle curious about the story because the manuscripts technically were the property of Esquire Magazine, Inc. They still don't know how she got them, but they did find photographs of Barr (who became Mrs. Louis Goldstein) that show her to have been an international beauty. They also know she died ("romantically enough," says Esquire's fiction editor, Rust Hills) aboard the S.S. France in 1973.
The one unpublished story will be in the Jan. 30 Esquire. It was first called "Home to Maryland" and then changed by Fitzgerald to "On Your Own." In the fictional story, it is a young American actress coming home to her father's funeral in "Rocktown," Md. On the ship home, she meets and becomes i nvovled witha successful young lawyer, also from Maryland, and they meet after the funeral.
Parts of theshort story resurfaced in other Fitzgerald works, most memorably in Tender Is the night when Dick Diver goes home to Maryland to his father's funeral:
"Next day at the churchyard his father was laid among a hundred Divers, Dorseys and Hunters. It was very friendly leaving him there with all his relations around him. Flowers were scattered on the brown unsettled earth. Dick had no more ties here now and did not believe he would come back. He knelt on the hard soil. These dead, he knew them all, their weatherbeaten faces with blue flashing eyes, the spare violent boides, the souls made of new earth in the forest-heavy darkness of the 17th century.
"Goodbye, my father -- goodbye, all my fathers." (This last line appears in both the short story and the novel.)
These words of fiction are always cited by those who claim Fitzgerald's lifelong wish was to be buried beside his father. (Arthur Mizener in The Far Side of Paradise even quotes part of it as Fitzgerald's actual words instead of fiction.) But what they all seem to ignore is that this character stands by the grave with no thoughts whatever of joining his father in death; having said goodblye, he sees no reason ever to return.
The confusion surrounding Fitzgerald's burial is recorded in the papers on file at the Pumphrey Funeral Home in Bethesda. When Scottie Fitzgerald Smith discovered two letters from her mother in the file along with numerous unpublished details about the Fitzgerald's funerals, she asked if she could buy them and put them with the rest of their papers. But Robert A. Pumphrey, fourht-generation owner of the company, said the records should stay with the company files.
Pumphrey is now 58 but he has been a licensed funeral director in the District of Columbia since he was 12 and in Montgomery County since he was 18. The family business is 168 years old and there have been Pumphreys (from the English "Pomfret") in Maryland "since 12 years after the first whites settled here."
Fitzgerald's body was shipped to the wrong place for some reason that is not known and was never explaned by Pumphrey's, father, the late William Reuben Pumphrey, who was the actual director in charge of both Fitzgerald funerals. There was a funeral home in Rockville and the body should have been shipped to the train station there. However, it was shipped to Baltimore instead and apparently the wire services announced that Fitzgerald's funeral was to be held there. H. L. Menchken reportedly tried in vain to find out from the newspapers where the funerl was to be.
Pumphrey's sent a hearse from Bethesda and the body was taken to Rickville. There was no official escort for the body, but Sheilah Graham says by conincidence she rode the same train to New York. She also says it carried the remains of Nathanael West and his wife, who were killed in a car wreck within a few hours of Fitzgerald's death.
Graham writes that she cried when Scottie told her it wouldn't be proper for her to go to the funeral, but she accpeted it because she knew Fitzgerald himself would have said: "Sheilo, you cannot come to my funeral."
She didn't like funerals anyway. She wrote, "I prefer to remember those I love as I have seen them alive, not being lowered into the ground or in an incinerator."
Scottie says that although her mother was too sick to come to the funeral, the choice about where to bury Fitzgerald was made by Zelda.
The actual decisions were made by John Biggs Jr., a federal judge who had been Fitzgerald's roommate at Princeton. "I was editor of the Tiger and we would write songs together for the Triangle," Biggs recalls now. "I used to think of myself as quite as much a genius as he was -- that seems funny to think about now. I'm old now -- 83 -- but I still hold one court." He lives in Wilmington, Del., and is the senior judge on the Third Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
With a pencil, Fitzgerald had crossed out the names of his editor, Maxwell Perkins, and his agent, Ober, and written in Biggs' name as his executor.
Why did he do that? "I'll tell you exactly why," snaps Biggs "He wanted somebody to take care of his family and he knew I'd do it."
That assignment from the grave brought one unpleasant chore after another into Biggs' life. (He had a terrible fight with Zelda's doctors over her bill not long after Fitzgerald's funeral.) But Biggs would surely have been involved even if he hadn't been named executor. He and Fitzgerald's other close friends soon found out that there not only was no money for the funeral ("It was some time, but the bill was paid," recalls Pumphrey), there was none to keep Scottie in Vassar or provide for Zelda's continuing medical expenses. Through Bigg's guidance, the money was provided. "and every penny was paid back," he says with pride (in himself and his friend the author), once Fitzgerald's books started earning moneh again.
Biggs recalls that Zelda "would come and go -- sometimes coherent, sometimes not" when he would talk to her by telephone about the funeral and burial. He says she insisted that Fitzgerlad be buried with his family in the Catholic cemetery. (Since they had made no other plans, there was no other choice, Scottie says now.) But a parish parish priest told Biggs that was impossible.
Biggs remembers that the priest "was very unpleasant." The main reason he gave was that Fitzgerald had not done his "Easter duties" (gone to confession and taken communion at least once a year) and he was by definition unfit to be buried alongside good Catholics in consecrated groun. (The ground was blessed because the body, once baptized, was considered sacred -- at least as long as one took communion every year.) Biggs does not recall the name of the priest he talked to and there are no records in the church about any of this.
After the parish priest's refusal, Biggs went to Baltimore "to see the bishop -- and he was almost as unpleasant about it as the priest was." Again, Biggs does not recall the bishop's name (it should have been Archbishop Milchael Curley) and there are no records in diocesan headquarters.
Although he was almost never involved with the church as an adult, Fitzgerald's inbred Catholicism kept surfacing. He and Zelda were married in the rectory fo St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and their daughter Scottie was duly bapitzed a Catholic. Although numerous church leaders spoke out against Fitzgerald's books and This Side of Paradise was banned in Catholic Ireland, his books were never officially "proscribed" by the church as many writers have claimed. Arthur Mizener in The Far Side of Paradise and many others have said that was why Fitzgerald couldn't be buried in the Catholic cemetary in Rockville.
For his part, Fitzgerald had plenty of "forewarning, CAPTION: Picture 1, The Unguiet Grave of Scott and Zelda, The color cover photo is by Bill Snead; Picture 2, A young Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald and his father, Edward, circa 1899.; Picture 3, no caption; Picture 4, Matthew Bruccoli, Scottie Fitzgerald Smith and Father William Silk at reburial services in November 1975.; Picture 5, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald attending the theater in Baltimore in 1932.; Picture 6, La Paix, near Baltimore, where Fitzgerald worked on Tender Is the Night.; Picture 7, Cover of Zelda's novel, finished while she was at Phipps Clinic. Photographs from The Romantic Egoists: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Copyright (c) 1974, by Frances Scott Fitzgerald Smith, reprinted by permission of Charles Scribner's Sons. The editors thank Charles Scribner III for his assistnce. six weeks between his first heart attack and the one that killer him -- ample time for him to get back in the good graces of the church if he had wanted to. His daughter is adamant in saying her father would never have been such a hypocrite.
What it comes down to is this: Fitzgerald was denied a Catholic funeral and burial which he wouldn't have wanted anyway.
The funeral director, William Reuben Pumphrey, noted that he was able to buy a single grave, half a lot, for $40 in the Union Cemetery owned by the town, "known as the east half of a lot called 'Harding,' the same being Lot No. 11, in Range 2 of Section C."
Pumphrey's son says, "At the time there was no thought that Zelda would be buried there -- because it is a single lot and the grave was dug at a single depth."
Pumphrey was also able to get the new young rector at his own Episcopal church to agree to read the service for the dead from the Book of Common Prayer. His son says it was felt that the Rev. Raymodn Black was right for the service because he had been trained to be a Catholic priest and changed over when he decided to get married. Black, who is now dead, had only been at Christ Episcopal Church for two weeks at that point.
Black was inexplicably nonchalant about the services in the two or three published stories that have quoted him. He told one reporter he knew it was the writer Fitzgerald he was burying, "but it made no particular difference to me." He said he did it simply because he "would not refuse a Christian burial to any man."
Of course he had heard of Fitzgerald and read his books, "but the funeral was nothing big to me. I was bombarded with questions from those who thought I should have been excited; but I was merely performing my duty." He also noted that "friends from all over the country called then next day to tell me I had made the New York Times." It was a simple paragraph saying the Jazz Age spokesman had been buried and services were conducted by... The priest got as much space as the author.
There was no eulogy or anything personal in the services at the Pumphrey Funeral Home in Bethesda. The service was at 4:30 p.m., unusually late for a funeral, and apparently so Scottie and others would have time to get there. The Washington Star reported the daughter and her friends chatted among themselves and Andrew Turnbull says in his biography of Fitzgerald that the girls looked as if they were on their way from one party to another.
"I was criticized for not making a public show of grief at Daddy's funeral," says Scottie now, "but I don't believe in that. Of course, I was upset that my father was dead. And of course my friends were concerned and supportive of me, or they wouldn't have gone to the trouble to go with me. But I don't believe in any kind of public show of grief. I like it the way the Irish do it; I intend to leave instructions for a big party when I go."
Turnbull (who was there) described the funeral service this way: " it was a meaningless occasion, having no apparent connection with the man, save as one of life's grim jokes designed to make us think,"
It was nearly dark and raining by the time the small group of family and friends gathered for the burial services. And then they left him there among strangers in Rockville, of all places.
The reason Scottie Smith was so happy to find the two letters from her mother to William Reuben Pumphrey is that they show her mother was actively involved in the decisions about her father's burial and about his grave. ("She wasn't always out of it, you know," she says.)
The first letter, dated April 30, 1941, reads as follows:
Gentlemen: Will you kindly send me tstimates on :
1. A marble slab to be inscribed according to the enclosed dictation ;
2. Granite slab, similarly inscribed ;
3. Marble headstone thus inscribed ;
4. A granite headston bearing the same epitaph .
If this work is not within your field, will you mail this letter to the proper sources? Also, I am most anxious that Mr. Fitzgerald's grave receive proper attention while awaiting the markings. Is there in your service a capable worker who may see that the grave is not washed or sunken in ?
Thanking you, I am very truly yours .
Zelda Fitzgerald .
The epitaph she enclosed was the following:
"Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald
"Born St. Paul, Minn. Setp. 24, 1896
"Newman School, Princeton University
"Lt., aide-de-camp, U.S. Army, 1917-1920
"Author This Side of Paradise
"Died Hollywood, California Dec. 21, 1940."
The stone actually erected contained only the author's name, birth and death dates (with space for Zelda's). It was a case of proverty exercising its restraint on vulgarity; Judge Biggs said the wordy inscription Zelda ordered was just too expensive.
Zelda's letter was sent on the Hammaker Brothers, who had offices in Washington and Frederick. But Zelda's carbon copy of this transaction hadn't reached her and she wrote again on May 19: Lee than two weeks ago I worte asking your courtesy as to information concerning the installation of a headstone over the grave of F. Scott Fitzgerald at Rockville. Would you be knid enough to address me to whoever takes care of such service in case this is out of your line. Meantime, would it be possible to have the grave attended to lest the spring rain should have washed it out? I will greatly appreciate a reply to this urgent request as soon as you are able .
Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald .
Pumphrey then wrote her and explained that a stonecutter had been notified and that "perpetual care" was included in the cost of the grave.
The next time Zelda Fitzgerald's name appears in the records at the Pumphrey Funeral Home it involves the hideous details of her own death.
In early March of 1948, Zelda wrote her mother from her top-floor room in Highland Hospital at the north edge of Asheville, N.C. She said a few crocuses were in bloom there in the mountains, but she longed for the warmer weather -- and the lilies and larkspur -- of Montgomery, Ala.
On March 9, she wrote Scottie that there was a "promise of spring in the air and an aura of sunshine over the mountains; the mountains seem to hold more weather than elsewhere and time and retrospect flood roseate down the long hillsides..." At midnight the next night a fire broke out in the kitchen of the building and quickly spread (through a dumbwaiter shaft) throughout the building. Zelda and eight other women were trapped in the flames.
Some have written that Zelda's remains were never positively identified; Mancy Milford says in Zelda she was identified by a slipper found under her body, which seems unlikely considering the intensity of the blaze. The most logical explanation is found in the notes William Reuben Pumphrey kept on his telephone conversations with a director of Morris-Gearing Black Funeral Home in Asheville: "They cannot get the bodies out of the ruins before Friday p.m. Two bodies were removed Thursday night during the fire. They were only identified by jewelry they had on at that time. There is going to be a question on the identities of the remaining seven bodies still in the ruins unless there is jewelry or other means of identification... Received call Mrs. Zelda Fitzgerald's body has been positively identified by dental work. The body will be shipped Sunday, March 14 and arrive at Union Station in Washington at 4:45 p.m. March 15, Due to disfiguration casket cannot be opened."
The simple service for Zelda was held in the same room of the same funeral home and conducted by the same Episcopal priest who had read the service for Fitzgerald. Pumphrey's records indicate that there were 17 baskets and sprays of flowers and the music included the simple hymns of the faith Zelda had embraced in her last years: "Safe in the Arms of Jesus," "Sweet Hour of Prayer," "Lead Kindly Light," "Abide With Me." and finally, "Peace, Perfect Peace."
Because they had only bought one grave -- half a lot -- Fitzgerald's casket had to be removed so that the grave could be deepened to allow for Zelda being buried on top. Not by design, but by accidents largely dictated by poverty, they were "snuggled up" in a single grave as Fitzgerald had wished. But, for some reason, Turnbull and every newspaper reporter who has visited the site reported that they were buried side by side.
Milford concludes her book about Zelda by saying that she and Scott "were at last in peace" in the Rockville Union Cemetery. While that was not to be true, there were many years of quiet neglect. In that time, Robert A. Pumphrey says he would go to the cemetery and find that "heppies or people who had read the books" would have borrowed fresh flowers from a burial in another part of the cemetery and taken them to the Fitzgerald's grave.
In these same years, F. Scott Fitzgerald has been elevated to a position f eminence in American letters that wouls surely astonish him. Zelda, too, has come into her own largely due to Milford's biography, whic h documented once and for all that many of Fitzgerald's finest lines were taken from Zelda's letters and diaries. ("Plagiarism begins at home," Zelda wrote in her review of The Beautiful and Damned .)
Fitzgerald's books now sell in the hundreds of thousands every year and are part of the curriculum in every college that has an American literature course. In his lifetime, only The Great Gatsby was translated -- inyo French, German and Swedish. Since 1950 there have been more than 150 Fitzgerald books translated into 35 different languages.
Thirty-eitht years after she though she would have to drop out of college because of her father's impoverished estate, Frances Scott Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith is a wealthy woman, thanks to the earnings on that very same estate.
"I think it's really wonderful for Daddy to be considered one of the great writers in America. I think he always knew he deserved a certain respect, but it would surprise even him to see what has happened in so short a time."
Her wry smile masks the shaky times before as she admits, "It certainly has been a well-paying part-time job being Scott Fitzgerald's daughter." It has also imposed certain serious obligations on her as the curator of memorabilia and documents, the grantor of permissions to quote from unpublished and published works of her parents. Whereas Mary Hemingway almost never grants such permissions (especially from letters), Scottie almost never refuses. (Hw is quick to add that she might behave differently if it were her husband instead of her father.)
Scottie has been especially close to the work of Matthew J. Bruccoli of the University of South Carolina. Bruccoli, who edits the Hemingway /Fitzgerald Annual , has already published 14 books about Fitzgerald, has a 15th (a new edition of letters) in progress and plans to publish a major new biography within three years. His critics allege that the sheer volume of Bruccoli's output diminishes its importance.
But Scottie has cooperated fully with Bruccoli, and she speaks admiringly when she says, "He knows more than anybody ever has or ever will -- more than Daddy ever knew about himself."
It's impossible to say how one might have turned out if something hadn't happened to change one's life, and Scottie won't speculate on how the new eminence of her parents has changed her own attitude of herself. She was a dazzling strawberry blonde, true child of her striking parents, and as a young woman she moved in the most beautiful circles of Washington and New York. Both of her husbands (Jack Lanahan, a Washongton lawyer, and Grove Smith) were famous for their good looks.
Some of Scottie's old friends feel she has become too serious; they feel she spends too much time with the dead and not enough going to parties. Even her looks have changed, they say. She is 57 years old, after all, but her hairstyle, dress and manners are those of a woman one would expect to be spending her time doing genealogical research at libraries instead of making the social scene in Georgetown.
But she's not really living among the dead. Her old vivacity returns as she tells of some new discovery in her "ancestor hunting." (Consider Kenelyn Cheseldyne ("Isn't that a wonderful name?") who was involved in a briefly successful revolt against the Lords Baltimore. "He later turned into a drunk and was divested of his office," she says, as if she'd just met the guy at a party.
Scottie Smith doesn't believe in statues and she finds graveyards depressing. A living monument -- such as a library or a scholarship -- is how she may honor her father someday (in addition to the very important work she has already done by collecting and depositing all the papers at Princeton).
With all the public interest in her parents, Scottie couldn't help but think about the place where her parents are buried. She was beginning to feel guilty that she had never done anything for the grave as it was, much less done anything about moving it to the Fitzgerald family plot at St. Mary's.
That's when the phone rang -- "Like a call from heaven" -- and it was Evelyn Fox of the Woman's Club of Rockville asking if the club could beautify and improve the Fitzgeralds' grave. Mrs. Fox had been named to the C.I.P. (Community Improvement Program) Committee and she had no idea what to do when someone at city hall told her about the Fitzgeralds' grave, that here these famous people were buried right here in Rockville and nobody knew how to get there.
Fox came to visit Scottie in Georgetown and they spent the afternoon taling and visiting some of the graves of the famous people in Oak Hill cemetery to see what sort of stones or markers had been erected. In the course of their talks, Scottie happened to mention that her parents were actually buried in the wrong place. And Fox said they should see if they couldn't have the graves moved.
When they called the Rev. William Silk at St. Mary's Church, he said he wouldn't object to moving the grave if his superiors in the archdiocese didn't care. Silk had read The Great Gatsby in college and once permission for the re-burial was granted (almost casually this time around) he enthusiastically joined in the preparations.
Scottie was worried up to the last that there might be some objection within the church, but she said she knew the way was clear one afternoon in Silk's office at St. Mary's rectory. Silk, who reminds one of Jonathan Winters playing a pompous priest, made a grand gesture of reaching into a secret hiding place and coming out with a ghastly tasting cherry liqueur, over which the grave relocation agreement was sealed.
Silk said it was a real coincidence that he -- who had read and appreciated Fitzgerald -- was in charge of St. Mary's when Scottie called. When he tells certain other priests about Fitzgerald's grave, he says some of them ask, "Who's he?" And Silk says there is another coincidence: "I am a very good writer myself. I never have to re-write."
Archbishop William Baum of Washington, the diocese to which Rockville Catholic churches are now attached, issued a formal statement on the moving of Fitzgerald's grave to Catholic ground. He described Fitzgerald as "an artist who was able with lucidity and poetic imagination to portray the struggle between grace and death... His characters are involved in this great drama, seeking God and seeking love."
The actual re-burial of the Fitzgeralds was done under the personal supervision of Robert A. Pumphrey himself. He said he opened the caskets to be certain Scott was buried on the bottom, according to his daughter's directions. What did Fitzgerald look like after all that time in the ground? "Well, he-uh, he was -- you could tell he was a man."
"Because of his suit; his suit really looked shipshape." The great Scott Fitzgerald 35 years after death still dressed fit for a party at the Ritz.
There was no room for another grave beside Fitzgerald's parents, so he and Zelda were buried in a space beside his grandfather Michael, who died in 1855. The grave is actually outside the low stone boundary markers for the Fitzgerald plot.
Later, on Nov. 7, 1975, there was a public ceremony at the grave. Unfortunately his words have been lost to posterity, but Father Silk says, "I did a very good job" in his opening remarks. (Later he was watching TV "and I couldn't believe it was my own voice on ABC network television. I sounded pretty good.") Scottie said a few words about her family and Bruccoli read from the Fitzgerald's writings.
Others in Rockville then got caught up in the spirit of the even and the "Friends of Fitzgerald" raised $435 at one benefit stage production to help buy books by and about Fitzgerald for the main library. Early this year the town council renamed a large triangle (actually a large traffic island) in front of St. Mary's as the "Fitzgerald Triangle."
One gets there by first surviving the obstacle course made by Metro construction all the way out Wisconsin Avenue. Stay on Wisconsin after it becomes Rockville Pike. At the mixed-up intersection with Veirs Mill Road the graveyard is almost directly across the street. Getting across that intersection and finding a parking place is yet another matter.
Scottie wants to build a wall or fence around the graveryard and then have some planting done. If she doesn't do it in her lifetime, she says she will provide for it in her will. And, oh yes, she would also like to be buried beside her father. ("I didn't know that," responds her husband, Grove Smith. And, you guessed it, she hasn't checked with the church or written explicit instructions for her burial anywhere.) "I want it to be a real country churchyard, an oasis in megalopolis. People do go there, and I want it to be nice."
One stands there by the great author's grave beholding all the problems of suburbia -- the hopeless maze of traffic, the senseless urban renewal destruction of the 1960s, the wanton construction going on now. And one realizes the town itself is like a Fitzgerald character, suffering from too much too soon.
Maybe Scott and Zelda lie where they belong after all. They didn't exactly fit anywhere in life so there was no reason to think they would find some perfect place in death.
Then, one reads the inscription Scottie had put on a simple dark gray slab installed over the grave last year. It is the last line of The Great Gatsby : "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." And one leaves with the happy realization that Scottie knows best. Her daddy's own words stand out, a towering monument on their own -- no matter where they are.
The complete story of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's last and longest journey is as complicated by miscues and wrong turns as anything they ever did in life