Princeton gets diary, letters of woman romanced by ‘Great Gatsby’ novelist

PRINCETON, N.J. – A diary and letters written by a woman whose fleeting romance with F. Scott Fitzgerald provided a literary blueprint for the novelist, have been donated to Princeton University. The musings donated by Ginevra King’s descendants provide scholars with an insight into the origins of characters like Daisy Buchanan from the “Great Gatsby” and Isabelle in “This Side of Paradise.” “Ginevra is arguably the most important romance Fitzgerald ever experienced, more than (his wife) Zelda. He lost her, but his ideal of her remained throughout his life,” Penn State University English professor James L.W. West told The New York Times. “The letters help us understand the fictional process by which he transferred this ideal creature into an interesting literary character. He gave her some edge and some flaws.” King, a celebrated Chicago debutante, met Fitzgerald in 1915, when he was a 19-year-old at Princeton and she a student at Westover School, three years his junior. The smitten pair corresponded for two years, and King wrote of Fitzgerald in her diary. When they broke up, she destroyed the letters at his behest, but he kept hers and had them typed up and bound in a volume of personal letters. Fitzgerald died in 1940. Ten years later, the novelist’s daughter, Scottie, returned the letters to King, who died in 1980 at age 82. Her daughter and granddaughter recently donated them and King’s diary to Princeton, the repository of Fitzgerald’s papers. The woman’s diary had gone unseen by scholars, except West, who is preparing an essay on the donation to Princeton. In the diary, King is more open with her emotions toward the novelist, confessing a love for him. “In her letters, she was more guarded,” West said. Fitzgerald and King met during a Christmastime sledding party in his hometown of St. Paul, Minn., where she was visiting her Westover roommate. Though of modest means, Fitzgerald was among the city’s most eligible bachelors. In a Jan. 4, 1915, diary entry, King gushes after meeting Fitzgerald, “Scott perfectly darling,” following with “Am absolutely gone on Scott,” the next day. By February, King wrote “I am madly in love with him.” She filled her letters with underlinings, exclamations and fanciful punctuation and occasional misspellings. In her first correspondence, dated Jan. 11, 1915, she asks for a photograph of Fitzgerald. “I have but a faint recollection of yellow hair and big blue eyes and a brown corduroy waist-coat that was very good-looking!”The letter, signed “Yours fickely sometimes but Devotedly at present,” set the tone for the relationship in which she alternately beckoned and pushed away the novelist. The pair met in New York in June, prompting one of the few direct references of her from Fitzgerald in “My Lost City”: “For one night, she made luminous the Ritz Roof.” The relationship ended by January 1917. A year later, King wrote Fitzgerald that she was engaged to Bill Mitchell, the son of a business associate of her father’s. She told Fitzgerald she wanted him to be the first to know. The novelist pasted a picture of her and a news clipping about the marriage in his scrapbook.

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