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Authors: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tender is the Night

BOOK: Tender is the Night
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Tender is the Night

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in St Paul, Minnesota, and went to Princeton University, which he left in 1917 to join the army. He was said to have epitomized the Jazz Age, which he himself defined as ‘a generation grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken'. In 1920 he married Zelda Sayre. Their traumatic marriage and her subsequent breakdowns became the leading influence on his writing. Among his publications were five novels,
This Side of Paradise
The Great Gatsby
The Beautiful and Damned
Tender is the Night
The Last Tycoon
(his last and unfinished work); six volumes of short stories and
The Crack-Up
, a selection of autobiographical pieces. Fitzgerald died suddenly in 1940. After his death
The New York Times
said of him that ‘He was better than he knew, for in fact and in the literary sense he invented a “generation” … he might have interpreted and even guided them, as in their middle years they saw a different and nobler freedom threatened with destruction.'

Richard Godden is Professor of American Literature in the Department of American Studies at the University of Keele. His interest in how economic structures may be read as the generative source of fictional forms is reflected in his critical studies
Fictions of Capital
(1990) and
Fictions of Labour


Tender is the Night


Edited by
With an Introduction and Notes by



Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
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Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published 1934
Revised version published 1951
Revised version published in Penguin Books 1955
First edition, with emendations, published in Penguin Books 1982
First edition, with further emendations, reprinted 1986
Reprinted with a new Introduction and Notes 1998
Reprinted in Penguin Classics 2000


Copyright 1934 © F. Scott Fitzgerald
Editorial matter copyright © Arnold Goldman, 1982, 1986
Introduction and Notes copyright © Richard Godden, 1998
All rights reserved

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject
to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent,
re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's
prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in
which it is published and without a similar condition including this
condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

: 978–0–141–91317–9




Select Bibliography





Note on the Text


List of Variants

“Already with thee! tender is the night

… But here there is no light

Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown

Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.”

“Ode to a Nightingale”


At the close of
Book I
, Dick Diver is a skilled socialite; at the close of the first sentence of
Book II
, he is Doctor Richard Diver, his professional education following in rapid paraphrase. In
Book I
there have been intimations of a proper job, a ‘work house' glimpsed (35), a ‘scientific treatise' abandoned (72), a medical practice discontinued (73) … but nothing to undermine the prevalent impression of Dick as a man who can spot a beach, talk to hoteliers; organize a party, borrow the Shah of Persia's car, gloss a battlefield – in short, make it ‘all right' (125) for expatriate Americans, ‘promenading insouciantly upon the national prosperity' (85). As such, Dick does the dollar's work.

A demobbed American in Paris, making a living by selling American newspapers to English speakers at inflated prices, shows Dick a cartoon featuring ‘a stream of Americans pouring from the gangplank of a liner freighted with gold'. The salesman offers an estimate of ‘two hundred thousand' passengers, spending ‘ten million a summer' (105). Arguably, his guess is conservative: the economic historian Herbert Feis speaks of a decade in which the dollar, operating as ‘the universal balm' engaged in ‘exuberant tours of the world [looking] for something to do' (Feis 48), while Emily Rosenberg notes that ‘the United States flooded the world with products, branch plants and investment capital … making the decade one of the most economically expansive in the nation's history' (Rosenberg 122). Baby Warren follows suit, investing capital from the sale of Chicago property in a Swiss psychiatric ‘plant' (Fitzgerald's noun (192)). In 1919 direct US investment abroad ran at $38 million, the amount rising to $7.9 billion by 1924. During the summer of 1925, Nicole Warren litters the beach at Tarmes with parasols, portable bath houses and inflatable horses, items which for Fitzgerald exemplify ‘the first burst of luxury manufacturing
after the War' (27). Given Nicole's spending spree in Paris (65), there is every chance that these are of European manufacture. But, since the US government encouraged private overseas loans in the post-war period, European manufacturers are likely to be operating thanks to the exuberancy of the dollar. To schematize: the US emerged from the war with a great capital surplus and owning much of the world's gold; in order to sell abroad it had to transfer wealth to potential buyers. Dick's liner becomes the ship of state offloading gold on behalf of ‘a global expansion of American property holding' (Rosenberg 157).

On the evidence of
Book I
Dick might pass as the dollar's diplomat and agent of a ‘promotional state' (Rosenberg 63). During June and July of 1925 he is quite literally immersed in liquidities: he swims well and drinks much. The foundation of these activities is itself an act of mutation, care of the Warren fortune: we are told that the Villa Diana owes its site in ‘the ancient hill village of Tarmes' to the combination of ‘five small houses', four more being ‘destroyed to make the gardens' (35–6). The mere presence of the Divers during the summer transforms Gausse's year, persuading him to extend the season of the Hôtel des Étrangers, a decision which modifies the economy of the coast (11). The subsequent removal of Dick and Nicole to Paris, indicative of the general mobility of those who ‘follow the dollar' (Cowley 82), provides more evidence of violent transformations promoted by wealth and attendant upon Dick. Two incidents are typical. First, a party in ‘a house hewn from the frame of Cardinal de Retz's palace', the ‘outer shell' of which ‘seemed … to enclose the future so that it was an electric-like shock' (82). Second, the case of Jules Peterson, ‘a small manufacturer of shoe polish' from Stockholm (119), who approaches ‘the entirely liquid Mr. North' (84) with a request that he invest in a business in Versailles. Peterson receives two hundred francs on account and is next seen dead on Rosemary Hoyt's bed in a Paris hotel room. Dick tidies up, observing that Peterson's remains are removed ‘with a celerity that … as a businessman, [he] would have quite understood' (125).

Yet a reading of Dick as a function of America's post-war economic liquidity is partial because in the midst of what, from the
viewpoint of exchange, might be termed creative destruction, he remains ‘hard'. Synonyms for Dick's hardness litter
Book I
, but tend to gather around the issue of his manners. Rosemary variously notes a ‘layer of hardness', stemming from ‘self-control', which renders him ‘complete' (28); a ‘hard, neat brightness' that generates ‘surety' (40); and a ‘tensile strength' (76), appearing at times ‘fixed and Godlike' (117). Dick's fixity is purposive. He exists, at least in
Book I
, to be the ‘organizer of private gaiety, curator of a richly incrusted happiness' (87) at the centre of which stands Nicole – the wife who, from her first appearance, shares her husband's epithet, being ‘hard' (14), with a ‘hardness' (64), ‘mean [and] hard' (29), which does not detract from her loveliness.

The couple's joint impermeability includes elements of the archaic. Curatorship involves preservation, most typically in a museum. Incrustation suggests a layering which is best understood through Fitzgerald's sense that a Diver day on the Riviera is organized ‘like the day of the older civilizations to yield the utmost from the materials at hand, and to give all the transitions their full value' (30). The civilizations in question are mannered and Victorian. I hesitate to compare the beach at Tarmes to a late-nineteenth-century interior, but I take the risk because both places share ‘transitions' and ‘materials' which are ‘full' to the ‘utmost' (or ‘hard') with and through the cumulative niceties of a particular system of manners; besides, Dick's beach boasts three British nannies knitting ‘the slow pattern of Victorian England … into sweaters and socks' (12). By way of comparison, I offer an 1870s interior from Wharton's
The Age of Innocence

There was something about the luxury of the Welland house and the density of the Welland atmosphere, so charged with minute observances and exactions, that always stole into his system like a narcotic. The heavy carpets, the watchful servants, the perpetually reminding tick of disciplined clocks, the perpetually renewed stack of cards and invitations on the hall table, the whole chain of tyrannical trifles binding one hour to the next, and each member of the household to all the others, made any less systematized and affluent existence seem unreal and precarious. (Wharton 190)

Time and the air are created by the latent law of manners made plain through decoration. Time is retrospective; a clock
the present that the past is its measure and corrective. Each social season in Wharton's New York repeats the events of the previous season. Received manners give form and protect that form from change. Not surprisingly, the carpet is ‘heavy', the atmosphere ‘narcotic' and the stack of cards, though it changes, remains the same. Taste in the 1870s must encourage inertia in order to proclaim the stability of the accumulated wealth from which it arises.

To move through such spaces requires cumulative knowledge, dependent upon leisure time and deriving from a secure property base. As Thorstein Veblen put it in 1899, ‘the pervading principle and abiding test of good breeding is the requirement of a substantial and patent waste of time' (Veblen 51).
The Theory of the Leisure Class
introduces the phrases ‘conspicuous leisure' and ‘conspicuous consumption' as it makes the case that leisure, far from being indolent, requires persistent and ‘useless' labour in the cultivation of artifacts whose values mount in exact proportion to the number of discriminations sedimented within them. For example, Veblen's leisure class expends great energy breeding pedigree dogs, while the van der Luydens, first among Wharton's New York families, tend orchids; the acme of each form is an exemplar that perishes almost as it is conceived – the perfect pug has a face so flat that an operation is required at birth to free its nasal passages, the finest orchid is but a brief flower. Such objects are useless but dense with fine distinctions. Dick's raking of the beach is similarly useless but equally productive of discrimination: the white do not sit with the tanned, they sit among ‘pebbles and dead sea-weed' (14), nor do they swim as well; and although they appreciate Dick's ‘plot', both social and territorial, they ‘don't know who's in [it] … and who isn't' (16).

The beach is merely one of the densely patterned ‘sureties' created by Dick. Whether these involve a café table, a railway terminal or, eventually, in
Book II
, a clinic, each is an exclusive and integrative environment, organized to posit a wealth of information where, perhaps, there was none before. Dick's manner can transform any object or person into a set of signs, while convincing those
around him that his signs are wonders belonging only to them. Witness Dick's achievement during an inauspicious party at the Villa Diana:

Rosemary, as dewy with belief as a child from one of Mrs. Burnett's vicious tracts, had a conviction of home-coming, of a return from the derisive and salacious improvisations of the frontier … The table seemed to have risen a little toward the sky like a mechanical dancing platform, giving the people around it a sense of being alone with each other in the dark universe, nourished by its only food, warmed by its only lights. And … the two Divers began suddenly to warm and glow and expand, as if to make up to their guests, already so subtly assured of their importance, so flattered with politeness, for anything they might still miss from that country well left behind. Just for a moment they seemed to speak to every one at the table, singly and together, assuring them of their friendliness, their affection. And for a moment the faces turned up toward them were like the faces of poor children at a Christmas tree. Then abruptly the table broke up—(43–4)

The aura is one of return; expatriate Americans recover the USA as the essence of one leisure class. The period, for a moment, is ‘the golden nineties' (191), Dick's phrase for a time of new ‘landfall' (191) and ‘innocent expectation' (192). Cap D'Antibes is not quite recast, care of
The Great Gatsby
, as the ‘green breast of the new world' (
The Great Gatsby
182); but the ‘frontier' of ‘the dark universe' is momentarily still out there, and ripe for appropriation. These people rest assured, their identities provided for by earlier appropriations – theirs is the ‘only food', the ‘only light'. Where selfhood resides in private property, privately improvised, mutuality takes form as mutual appreciation and emulation; consequently, the guests feel at once ‘alone' and ‘with each other', even as their hosts speak to them ‘singly' and ‘together'. Flattery and politeness create a unifying sentiment, at once integrational and territorial. The Christmas-tree allusion marks it as a sentimentality, while ‘the mechanical dancing platform' underscores contrivance. None the less, Diver's manner has transformed a disintegrating group into an archaic leisure-class. The effect cannot long withstand the degree of its fabrication. The Villa Diana is as detached from the world
of 1925 as Mrs Burnett's
Secret Garden
(1911), and it is only a matter of time before its proprietor's manners seem as mannered as those of her
Little Lord Fauntleroy
(1881). But for most of the long moment of
Book I
, the various places that Dick makes retain solidity.

Symptomatically, their ‘curator' learned his manners from his father, a master of the Victorian drawing-room:

“Once in a strange town when I was first ordained, I went into a crowded room and was confused as to who was my hostess. Several people I knew came toward me, but I disregarded them because I had seen a gray-haired woman sitting by a window far across the room. I went over to her and introduced myself. After that I made many friends in that town.” (223)

The Reverend Diver is a clerical dandy more given to taste than to theology: his ‘good heart' derives from ‘good instincts' which are the creatures of his ‘honor' and ‘courtesy' and ‘beautifully cut clerical clothes' (223). Dick throughout his life ‘referred judgments to what his father would probably have thought or done' (222), again an indication of an archaic inclination. This element of preservation in Dick's character brings us back to Veblen, for whom the leisured are characterized by ‘arrested spiritual development' in so far as they resist change by indulging in ‘survival and reversion' (Veblen 145).

BOOK: Tender is the Night
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