Van Vechten reported to Mencken that the Fitzgeralds were 'keeping a very wet house in Delaware'. [53] As James Thurber saw them, 'There were four or five Zeldas and at least eight Scotts so that their living room was forever tense with the presence of a dozen desperate personalities, even when they were alone in it.' [54] The constant quarrels with Scott, the entertaining and excess took their toll on Zelda. Dr. Lewis 'Lefty' Flynn, their family physician there, recalled Zelda's frequent need of bed-rest, already showing signs of what he considered premature 'burn-out'. [55] One evening the doctor had to be summoned from Wilmington to give her a morphine injection for hysteria, the second time this had occurred. During parties not much attention was paid to Scottie, who stood at doors or windows shyly observing.

Family members visited Ellerslie: Scott's mother in May; Zelda's sister Marjorie, Marjorie's daughter Noonie and Scott's sister Annabel in late July; Zelda's parents in August. Zelda took the Sayre contingent to Atlantic City, where the photo of them on the boardwalk shows Zelda in dark dress with white scalloped edges and a bleak look on her face. The grand house impressed her family more than Zelda's exhausted condition.

By September, when they entertained Perkins and Dos Passos to what guests described as a debauched, chaotic house party for cousin Cecilia, Zelda was intermittently ill. She had developed a skin irritation which may have been her first attack of eczema.

At the house party was a New York lawyer, Dick Knight, who was to become increasingly attached to Zelda. Scott disliked him at once. Knight was considered odd, with a huge misshapen head and quirky manner. On his arrival he told Zelda and Cecilia he was late because he had been identifying his brother at the morgue. From his amused tone one would have thought he had just said something funny. Edmund Wilson believed that Knight was an unpredictable bounder -- and at one Ellerslie party Knight threw a pot of mustard at the dining room door. Yet Zelda had a soft spot for him. On one trip to New York, when Scott met Lois Moran, Zelda spent several hours with Dick, seeing him again later at a party for Paul Morand, the French diplomat and writer. Scott was so jealous he forbade Zelda to see Dick again. [56]

Due to the disorderly chronicling of the Fitzgeralds' lives, it is not clear what first roused Scott's jealousy, but what is apparent is that he kept it up. Zelda herself wrote in an autobiographical sketch: 'I do not know why he [Dick Knight] is attractive. . . his head is too big for his body [but] [o]ne lost afternoon. . . we drank cocktails in a New York apartment and sat afterwards a long time on the stairway, oblivious with a kind of happy desperation.' [57]

Zelda grew more desperate. She and Scott visited New York later in September for the first time for several months, quarrelling incessantly and apologizing afterwards to Gilbert and Amanda Seldes, who were disgusted with their 'public brawl'. [58] In Manhattan they met and were each fascinated by socialite Emily Vanderbilt, who would make a significant impression on both their lives. [59]

As another bout of eyestrain led her away from the path of professional painting, Zelda determined to make dancing her career. By midsummer she had enrolled, with Scottie, in ballet classes with Catherine Littlefield, Director of the Philadelphia Opera Ballet Corps and former student of Madame Lubov Egorova. Although Zelda had not taken ballet lessons since she was a girl in Montgomery, she was determined to be 'a Pavlova, nothing less'. [60] By November she was dancing three times a week and still painting daily. Anna Biggs went with her on a shopping trip to Philadelphia, where Zelda purchased a large Victorian gilt mirror, which she hung in their front room. In front of it she installed a ballet bar, where she practised to 'The March of the Toy Soldiers', playing the record over and over until Scott was wild with exasperation. She practised all the time. During meals, even when guests were there, she paused only to wipe away sweat or gulp some water. Scott worried that dancing was bad for her health as well as for his well-being. [61]

Scott saw her ballet as a vengeful act against him. Later he told a writer friend, Tony Buttitta, that he attributed Zelda's dancing ambition in 1927 not to the desire to compete with Lois Moran, but to a desire to 'replace Isadora Duncan now that she was dead, and outshine me at the same time'. [62]

Zelda cared little for his opinion. Only the opinions of those who danced now mattered to her. To a large extent she had created her own world, separate from Scott's world of drinking and debauchery. In a letter to Van Vechten she described her attempts to preserve her own spirit amidst the chaos: 'I joined the Philadelphia Opera Ballet,' she wrote, 'and everybody has been so drunk in this country lately that I am just finding enough chaos to pursue my own ends in, undisturbed.' [63]

After Zelda had restarted dancing, Sara Haardt visited her. Sara had followed the Fitzgeralds to Hollywood on her first stint as a screenwriter. While there, Sara had spent several hours defending the Fitzgeralds from the bad reputation they had left behind. To one Hollywood writer who criticized Scott's insulting manner, Sara loyally protested: 'Scott's basically a sweet, nice person.' When that critic called Scott arrogant, Sara stood up for him: his arrogance, she said, was' a kind of defense mechanism. . . He's trying to cover up a feeling of social inferiority he's always had. Underneath it, he's a nice, sensitive boy, who's pathetically eager to have people like him;' [64]

On Sara's return to Baltimore in late 1927, healthier and more financially secure, she resumed her relationship with Mencken, who moved her into a new apartment; [65] they spent most evenings together there, while Sara wrote The Diary of an Old Maid.

In Ellerslie, Zelda and Sara discussed Zelda's articles and Sara's projected series on wives of famous men. Then Zelda talked about ballet. The room they sat in, with its tall ceilings, wide windows and pier glasses, reminded Sara of the last place she had seen Zelda dance: 'The walls of this old house in Wilmington. . . fell away, and I was back in the ball-room of the Old Exchange Hotel in Montgomery.' Zelda told Sara she took four lessons a day. '1 thought Scottie had more time to do the work than I had,' Zelda said, 'and that I had better get it in!' She described the work as 'a highly artificial and enormously exacting science. . . so rigid and with such an elaborate technique that the artist is lost'. Zelda had already confessed she felt 'whatever women do is certain to be lost. They remind me of the Japanese beetle in their slow tedious processes -- their endless exploitation of little instead of big things.' Yet Sara noticed that, despite this attitude, Zelda was now studying ballet with absolute absorption. 'She [Zelda] says. . . ballet dancers have the sensitivity of musicians and the savagery of acrobats, but. . . that kind of dancing is to self-expression in woman what violin and piano playing is to man.' Sara believed the dancing had given Zelda new self-esteem. Zelda had sounded confident: 'Of course, it requires youth, especially the resilience of youth --- but I feel much younger than I did at sixteen, or any other age.' Sara saw them as brave words. 'With her bronze-gold hair and rose and ivory coloring, it seemed to me she looked as young too. She has changed. . . since 1918, of course; she is charming rather than glamorous, with all the deep sense of tragedy and beauty of the aristocratic South to which she was born -- together with that fine ruthlessness the South has always had for the things it loved.'

Being with a Southern friend relaxed Zelda, and, before Sara left, she said dreamily: 'I'd like to have a pink villa high on a hill full of mirrors and done in black and white.'

Later, Sara wrote: 'Who but Zelda Fitzgerald could be so sure of her youth -- so oblivious of a time when she would look fearfully and sadly past the haunting gleam of mirrors.' [66]

Zelda was in fact less sure than she sounded of her youth and less certain she had sufficient resilience for her belated ambitions. She told Amy Thomas, who remembers her in Wilmington as 'serious and cautious', that she already felt 'old' in her late twenties. [67]

What Zelda did was to pin her hopes on acquiring the two skills Scott had berated her for lacking: effort, mighty effort, and self-discipline, monumental self-discipline. Confident of her talent, now she determined to anchor it. No matter what the cost.

 

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Editor's note: The above text was rekeyed and reprinted on July 26, 2004 in Resource Library Magazine with permission of Arcade Publishing. The text comprises Chapter 13, (pp 199-215) and accompanying notes (pp. 433-435) of the book titled Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise, by Sally Cline. ISBN: 1559706880. We wish to extend our appreciation to Casey Ebro of Arcade Publishing in connection with this reprinting. If you have questions or comments regarding the text, or if you have interest in obtaining a copy of the book, please contact Arcade Publishing at this phone number or web address:



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