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I he ( 'anad1,111 Re, 1c\\ l)I 1\mcncan Stud1c,. \'olu111L· \ II L "\umhL·t I.l..,p1111g 19"77 A Neglected Source for The Great Gatsh_r: The Influence of Edith Wharton's The Spark .\/iclwel A. f>e1crma11 F. Scott Fitzgerald's development as a serious artist prior to 1925 has been a subject of continuing critical interest. According to James E. Miller Jr., "Sometime between The Beaut[ Damned (1922)and The Great Gatsby (1925), Fitzgerald won 'intellectual control' over his imagination, and, in doing so, abandoned one literary tradition and embraced another." 1 For Miller, it was Fitzgerald's emerging consciousness of form, of the need for selectivity and shaping, that accounted for this change. "By the time Fitzgerald was ready to write The Great Gatsby," Miller concludes," ... Wells, Mackenzie, and Mencken had been replaced in his critical esteem by Joyce, Cather, and Conrad, all novelists acutely conscious of the primary significance of technique" (p. 81). Because in later years Fitzgerald himself lent credence to these connections, particularly the influence of Conrad, Miller's argument has seemed highly persuasive. 2 One problem with Miller's study of influences is that it slights the importance to Scott Fitzgerald of Edith Wharton. Though a considerable oversight . it is at least partially explainable in two ways: in terms of the changing literary tastes of the l920's and in terms of the self-consciousness which colored Fitzgerald's recollections of his emergence as a serious artist. As his letters reveal, Fitzgerald consistently admired Mrs. Wharton's work prior to the publication of The Great Gatsby~ thereafter, he had surprisingly little to say about her. Not unrelatedly, Mrs. Wharton's critical reputation began to fade in the middle of the decade. In 1924 and 1925, however, Fitzgerald's enthusiasm for her work was still considerable, and may well have been a !!fl:.ttcr L1Cto1111 the -..hapmg and contt oll111gol //w (11ca1 hington, D.C.. 1973), p. xi. 9 Edith Wharton, The Spark (New York, 1924)pp. 4-5. (Hereafter the novella will be designated in the essay as TS.) 10F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (New York, 1925),pp. 218and 47. (Hereafter the novel will be designated as G.G.) 11Frederick J. Hoffman has considered these differences in his essay, "Points of Moral Reference: A Comparative Study of Edith Wharton and F. Scott Fitzgerald," English Institute Essays, (1949), 147-76. 12Willa Cather, Aly Antonia, (Boston, 1954), "Introduction." 1JEdith Wharton, 771e Hriting 1?{Fiction, (New York, 1925), p. 112. 14Sergio Perosa, The Art of F. Scort Fit=gerald (Ann Arbor, 1965), p. 75. 15Edith Wharton, The Writing cf Fiction, p. 110. 16See Nancy R. Leach, "Edith Wharton's Interest in Walt Whitman" rULG, 33 (1958), pp. 62-66 17Mrs Wharton's letter dated June 8, 1925, appears in F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up, ed Edmund Wilson (New York, 1945). pp. 309-10. 18The Letft'rs ql f~ Scott Fit=gerald, ed. Andrew Turnbull (New York, 1963), p. 358. 19See Arthur Mizener, The Far Side 1f Paradise (Cambridge, Mass., 1949),pp. 183-85, and "Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton", TLS, July 7, 1966, p. 595. 20 Kenneth Clark, Another Part 1~lthe Jf'ood (London, 1974), p. 203. 21Dt1arS('ott/ Dear Max, p. 126. 22Edmund Wilson, The Wound and the B01r (New York, 1947), pp. 167, 170 23 Robert Morss Lovett, Edith Wharton (New York, 1925), p. 87. 24Blake Nevius, l:..aith Wharton: A Study 4 her Fiction (California, 1953), p. I. ...


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