The qualities associated with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s brand of literary celebrity—youth, intoxication, romance, tragedy—are as saleable as ever, nearly one hundred years later. Yet Fitzgerald himself died indebted and desperate in 1940, the victim of a disease that smart people were beginning to call alcoholism.
Ernest Hemingway famously blamed Fitzgerald’s alcohol abuse on his wife, Zelda; later, in a letters to Zelda’s psychiatrists and family members, Scott Fitzgerald seemed to agree. The literary scholar Julie M. Irwin argued that Fitzgerald’s alcohol abuse could not be blamed, as many of his biographers claimed, on external circumstances like his finances or marital problems. Instead, she argued, Fitzgerald “drank through” all of his “successes and failures” for one simple reason: he was an alcoholic.