The Life that might have Been
“The night you gave me my birthday party…. it was a radiant night. A night of soft conspiracy and the trees agreed that it was all going to be for the best.”
“I love you, even if there isn’t any me, or any love, or even any life. I love you.”
“I don’t want to live, I want to love first and live incidentally.”
No, these demonstrative declarations of undying Love weren’t snatched from a Shakespearian sonnet. Nor were they penned by any of the masters of Romantic verse such as Byron, Keats, or Shelley. These utterances of the highest romantic order were said by a woman who was the inspiration behind the literary lovers written by her husband, that of F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s wife, Zelda.
The love union between the author of one of the greatest romance novels of all time, “The Great Gatsby“, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda is probably one of, if not the, rare case where the real life of the artistic creator was more romantically charged than the amorous affairs portrayed by his fictionalized characters.
Unfortunately, when a relationship is that romantically charged, unlike its fictional counterpart, someone’s destined to get burned.
To the present day, the Fitzgeralds remain the poster children for those who have been completely consumed by Romance Addiction. Said another way, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were the most hardcore of Love Junkies.
The year was 1918 when they met at a country club dance in Zelda’s native Alabama when she was on the edge of 17, and he was a 21 year old enlisted soldier stationed nearby. He, the Libra born September 24th, was totally taken by she, the Leo born July 24th, who even in her teens loved to cause controversy by playing the dualistic roles of the resident Belle of the Ball side by side with embodying the local Jezebel.
The teenaged Zelda took pride in shocking those around her as often as possible by veering as far from traditional standards established for a proper Southern young lady as often as she could.
True to her sign’s inherent energies, it was said that the brazen Alabama girl born beneath the sign of the Feline had “developed an appetite for attention” by the time she encountered her future husband.
Zelda wasn’t even all that interested in the young writer initially. The debutante and her parents felt Fitzgerald didn’t have what it took to support someone as vivacious and high goal setting as Zelda, so the girl half-jokingly informed F. Scott that she might reconsider his affections, provided he publish a novel first.
Not only did the Libran romantic eschew all of his short stories and essays in order to intensely focus on cranking out his first novel, Fitzgerald won over the impetuous girl’s heart by courting her through a 3 year interchange of letters. According to Zelda’s biographer, Linda Milford, in her biography entitled “Zelda: A Biography” the Leo became completely smitten with the Libra, because:
“Scott had appealed to something in Zelda which no one before him had perceived: a romantic sense of self-importance which was kindred to his own.”
The Fitzgeralds’ addiction had officially begun and their drug of choice was each other.
Zelda Fitzgerald – The Ultimate Flapper. Picture taken from the cover of
“Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” by Therese Fowler
Fueled by his idealistic love for Zelda and determined to hold the coveted prized of her caged heart with the gloved gauntlet she threw before him, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, “This Side of Paradise” was published on March 26th, 1920. Zelda arrived in New York on March 30th, and two of the greatest Love Junkies of the 20th century got their biggest fix 4 days later, when on April 3rd, 1920, the Leo and Libra were married to each other in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel was a great success and the young newlyweds became New York City’s and later Paris’ toast of the town, living the high life with an impetuous, “Devil may care” attitude. Fitzgerald dubbed his wife “the first American flapper” and the decade of decadence otherwise known as the Jazz Age of the 1920’s was underway.
The newly married Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald on their wedding day in April of 1920
But alongside the Devil, there was someone else who actually cared a great deal about things – a young Leonine bride whose notoriety was sparked strictly by the words of her betrothed and not by her own artistry.
The sign of Leo oversees the 5th House of creative self-expression. Every person born beneath the sign of the Lion needs to have an outlet of creative self -expression whether it be their daily work or a hobby that’s undertaken. Should this not be the case, then not just the Leo, but everyone around the Lion born person will be driven fully insane due to their usual sunny nature becoming consistently temperamental and peevish brought about by their pent up creative energies not able to find an outlet from which to express themselves.
Added to that, far too many Love Junkies forget that Romance’s first cousins are Jealousy, Bitterness, and Resentment. And unless those 3 are kept at bay, they’ll follow their positive emotion of a relation anywhere it goes, eventually crashing every party and social function that has even the slightest hint of Romance attached to it.
“She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring.” – Zelda Fitzgerald
Thus, Zelda became addicted to the Love Stuff very quickly. Little did she, nor anyone else know during those Glory Days of her newly married life to Fitzgerald that the long term side effects for doing such numerously large hits of such a powerful drug was the Leo’s desperate need to keep her lover’s attentions focused strictly on her….at all costs.
Naturally, those born beneath the sign of the Lion like to be the center of everyone’s attention, but Zelda’s bold sense of Leonine daring began to deteriorate into a state of petulant spitefulness. When placed before the public’s eye, her obsessive desire for attention translated to the scorned or ignored Leo displaying the most extreme of temper tantrums, or worse, starting the most vocally violent of arguments with her husband for everyone’s horrified listening displeasure.
She did this whenever sensing her husband’s focus had centered in on anyone who wasn’t her. In order to cope with these antics bereft of social discretion or public decorum, the Libra, in turn began to drink, and drink some more, and how about another drink, F. Scott?
And the Love Junkies proceeded to repeat their vicious cycles of addictive behavior towards each other, again and again, romantically and tempestuously over and over….
On more than one occasion, Zelda would publicly accuse her husband of having a homosexual affair with a writer whom she despised, F. Scott’s close friend, Ernest Hemingway, who later would blame her directly for Scott’s early death at the age of 44. At one particularly poisonous party, upon seeing her spouse in deep conversation with the renowned modern dancer, Isidora Duncan, not only did Zelda throw a fit,
…she threw her entire self down a flight of marbled stairs, head first.
Zelda spent a goodly portion of the 1930’s and 40’s committed in mental institutions. After observing her extremes of behavior doctors diagnosed the attention starved Leo as being “schizophrenic“. In my humble opinion I concur with the idea that Zelda Fitzgerald had bouts of mental disturbance, but were they as severe as people wanted to believe? Her extreme highs and lows would qualify her to be labeled as suffering from bi-polar disorder in the modern day, however astrologically I see Zelda’s volatile mental state in more Leonine terms of being attention starved and hyper-dramatic.
Both husband and wife often accused each other of plagiarism. Zelda not only inspired Fitzgerald in writing his female characters, pages from her diaries were often removed and copied verbatim into her husband’s literary works. She audaciously hinted as much when in an interview with the New York Tribune where she was asked to give a review of Scott’s upcoming novel, “The Beautiful and the Damned” Zelda was quoted as saying “Mr. Fitzgerald seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.”
Calling his wife a “3rd rate writer” it appeared F. Scott was not the calm and mannerly Libra when it came to his wife’s writing. Instead of encouraging her naturally artistic talent, whenever given the chance the author put down Zelda’s writing throughout the course of their marriage. Which leads one to wonder – was Fitzgerald’s very NON Libran behavior of non -cohesiveness his way of preventing a 2nd Fitzgerald from achieving literary fame alongside his own?
Despite Fitzgerald’s discouragement and harsh criticism, Zelda managed to complete her one and only novel, a work entitled “Save Me the Waltz“. After vindictively sending the manuscript to her husband’s editor in secret, in October of 1932 her book was published.
Barely concealing its autobiographical referencing of the Fitzgeralds’ actual lives “Save Me the Waltz” was not well received by critics and sold a mere 1,300 copies overall. However it must be taken into consideration Zelda’s novel was released at the height of The Great Depression, a time when most people hadn’t enough money to eat let alone buy books published by a first time author.
The girl who possessed such high aspirations in her youth of ascending into the limelight of fame met an equally dismal end when she perished in her sign’s element of fire while sedated and locked in a room waiting for electroshock therapy at a local sanitarium. Zelda was 47 years old.
A local newspaper picture taken in 1948 of the Highland Hospital Fire in Asheville, NC which took the life of Zelda Fitzgerald
For decades, she was remembered only as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s crazy wife who caused the author nothing but problems and heartache. However, Zelda’s life along with her written work have taken on a renewed interest in recent times among literary critics, film producers, and fans alike, such as the 2017 period drama “Z: The Beginning of Everything” presented by Amazon Studios. Over the years, Zelda Fitzgerald’s artistic reputation has transformed into a force of feminine influence as evidenced by the song “Witchy Woman” by The Eagles, a piece Don Henley wrote after reading Zelda’s biography.
Astrologically, Zelda Fitzgerald is an iconic example of a Leo who refused to be overlooked and managed to retain her identity by artistically forging on her own.
It was stated earlier that the typical Leo functions best when they have a mode of creative self expression. It should be mentioned that whenever committed inside any of the numerous asylums and sanitariums she found herself in, Zelda was able to be released by expressing her artistic self through the creative outlets of both painting and writing.
Creatively, Zelda’s writing style was completely different from her husband’s. Where Fitzgerald’s writing was short and crisp, in true Leonine fashion Zelda’s was descriptively flowery in an almost epic poem kind of way. Her book served also as a literary trailblazer by experimenting with the technique of free association.
To quote New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani:
“Zelda Fitzgerald succeeded in conveying her own heroic desperation to succeed at something of her own, and she also managed to distinguish herself as a writer with, as Edmund Wilson once said of her husband, a ‘gift for turning language into something iridescent and surprising.”
Many often wonder how Zelda’s life would have been if she never encountered her famous author of a husband. In either outcome, this Lion born multi-talented artist would have undoubtedly shined pursuing a life that was fully lived and Leonine to the core.
Along with her written work public interest has renewed regarding Zelda Fitzgerald’s artwork as well. Seen above is a commemoration of her wedding day where wedding guests merge with an oncoming Easter Parade. Painted circa 1942 from memory, “5th Avenue” by Zelda Fitzgerald.
“Self Portrait” by Zelda Fitzgerald, 1940
Brad Kronen’s book “Love in the Stars” published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Inc. is available for purchase at your local book seller or online at amazon.com at the link listed below.