49 Unforgettable F. Scott Fitzgerald Quotes

Memorable Lines From a Great American Novelist

F. Scott Fitzgerald's grave showing the epitaph and a quote from

JayHenry/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

F. Scott Fitzgerald is an American writer known for works like "The Great Gatsby" and "Tender is the Night," along with other novels and short stories. Read 49 quotes from the life and works of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Quotes About Women

A letter to his daughter, November 18, 1938

"A great social success is a pretty girl who plays her cards as carefully as if she were plain.

"The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald"

"Debut: the first time a young girl is seen drunk in public."

"It took him a moment to respond to the unguarded sweetness of her smile, her body calculated to a millimeter to suggest a bud yet guarantee a flower."

Quotes About Men

"The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald"

"Men get to be a mixture of the charming mannerisms of the women they have known."

"No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart."

"The idea that to make a man work you've got to hold gold in front of his eyes is a growth, not an axiom. We've done that for so long that we've forgotten there's any other way."

Life and Love

"The Offshore Pirate," "Flappers and Philosophers"

"All life is just a progression toward, and then a recession from, one phrase — 'I love you.'"

"Tender is the Night"

"Either you think — or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize, and sterilize you."

"The Great Gatsby"

"Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues."

"The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald"

"The kiss originated when the first male reptile licked the first female reptile, implying in a subtle, complimentary way that she was as succulent as the small reptile he had for dinner the night before."

"The Diamond as Big as the Ritz," "Tales of the Jazz Age"

"At any rate, let us love for a while, for a year or so, you and me. That's a form of divine drunkenness that we can all try."

"This Side of Paradise"

"There used to be two kinds of kisses. First, when girls were kissed and deserted; second, when they were engaged. Now there's a third kind, where the man is kissed and deserted. If Mr. Jones of the nineties bragged he'd kissed a girl, everyone knew he was through with her. If Mr. Jones of 1919 brags the same, everyone knows it's because he can't kiss her anymore."

On Writing

A letter to his daughter

"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath."

"The Crack-Up"

"Boredom is not an end-product, is comparatively rather an early stage in life and art. You've got to go by or past or through boredom, as through a filter, before the clear product emerges."

A letter to his daughter, April 27, 1940

"Often I think writing is a sheer paring away of oneself leaving always something thinner, barer, more meager."

A letter to his daughter, August 3, 1940

"Poetry is either something that lives like fire inside you — like music to the musician or Marxism to the Communist — or else it is nothing, an empty formalized bore around which pedants can endlessly drone their notes and explanations."

"The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald"

"Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy."

"When the first-rate author wants an exquisite heroine or a lovely morning, he finds that all the superlatives have been worn shoddy by his inferiors. It should be a rule that bad writers must start with plain heroines and ordinary mornings, and, if they are able, work up to something better."

"One Hundred False Starts"

"Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves — that's the truth. We have two or three great moving experiences in our lives — experiences so great and moving that it doesn't seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before."

"The Last Tycoon"

"Writers aren't people exactly. Or, if they're any good, they're a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person. It's like actors, who try so pathetically not to look in mirrors. Who lean backward trying — only to see their faces in the reflecting chandeliers."

Youth and Aging

"The Diamond as Big as the Ritz," "Tales of the Jazz Age"

"Everybody's youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness."

"The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald"

"Genius goes around the world in its youth incessantly apologizing for having large feet. What wonder that later in life it should be inclined to raise those feet too swiftly to fools and bores."

"It is in the 30s that we want friends. In the 40s, we know they won't save us any more than love did."

"Cavalcade of America" Radio Show

"The man who arrives young believes that he exercises his will because his star is shining. The man who only asserts himself at 30 has a balanced idea of what willpower and fate have each contributed. The one who gets there at 40 is liable to put the emphasis on will alone."

"The compensation of very early success is a conviction that life is a romantic matter. In the best sense, one stays young."

A letter to his cousin Cici

"After all, life hasn't much to offer except youth, and I suppose for older people, the love of youth in others."

"Bernice Bobs Her Hair"

"At 18 our convictions are hills from which we look; at 45 they are caves in which we hide."

"O Russet Witch!"

"The years between 35 and 65 revolve before the passive mind as one unexplained, confusing merry-go-round. True, they are a merry-go-round of ill-gaited and wind-broken horses, painted first in pastel colors, then in dull grays and browns, but perplexing and intolerably dizzy the thing is, as never were the merry-go-rounds of childhood or adolescence; as never, surely, were the certain-coursed, dynamic roller-coasters of youth. For most men and women these 30 years are taken up with a gradual withdrawal from life."

Places

"The Swimmers"

"France was a land, England was a people, but America, having about it still that quality of the idea, was harder to utter — it was the graves at Shiloh and the tired, drawn, nervous faces of its great men, and the country boys dying in the Argonne for a phrase that was empty before their bodies withered. It was a willingness of the heart."

Letter, July 29, 1940

"Isn't Hollywood a dump — in the human sense of the word. A hideous town pointed up by the insulting gardens of its rich, full of the human spirit at a new low of debasement."

Great One-Liners

"The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald"

"No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there."

"Optimism is the content of small men in high places."

"An idea ran back and forward in his head like a blind man knocking over the solid furniture."

"Forgotten is forgiven."

"You can stroke people with words."

A letter to his daughter, September 19, 1938

"Nothing is as obnoxious as other people's luck"

Notes for "The Last Tycoon"

"Action is character."

"The Great Gatsby"

"Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures."

"Sometimes it is harder to deprive oneself of a pain than of a pleasure."

"The Crack-Up"

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

"The victor belongs to the spoils."

Society and Culture

A letter to his daughter, August 24, 1940

"Advertising is a racket, like the movies and the brokerage business. You cannot be honest without admitting that its constructive contribution to humanity is exactly minus zero."

"This Side of Paradise"

"People try so hard to believe in leaders now, pitifully hard. But we no sooner get a popular reformer or politician or soldier or writer or philosopher — a Roosevelt, a Tolstoi, a Wood, a Shaw, a Nietzsche, than the cross-currents of criticism wash him away. My Lord, no man can stand prominence these days. It's the surest path to obscurity. People get sick of hearing the same name over and over."

"The Rich Boy"

"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different."

Letter to Ernest Hemingway, August 1936

"Riches have never fascinated me, unless combined with the greatest charm or distinction."

"Babylon Revisited"

"Family quarrels are bitter things. They don't go according to any rules. They're not like aches or wounds; they're more like splits in the skin that won't heal because there's not enough material."

"The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald"

"The easiest way to get a reputation is to go outside the fold, shout around for a few years as a violent atheist or a dangerous radical, and then crawl back to the shelter."

The Past

"Show Mr. and Mrs. F. to Number —"

"It is sadder to find the past again and find it inadequate to the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory."

"The Great Gatsby"

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Sources:

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "Selected Letters by F. Scott Fitzgerald." A.B. Rudnev, 2018.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald." Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, October 1, 1978.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "Flappers and Philosophers." Vintage Classics, Vintage, September 8, 2009.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "Tales of the Jazz Age." Vintage Classics, Vintage, August 10, 2010.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "F. Scott Fitzgerald on One Hundred False Starts." "The Saturday Evening Post," March 4, 1933.

Various Authors. "Cavalcade of America." CBS, 1937.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "The Swimmers." "The Saturday Evening Post," October 19, 1929.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "Babylon Revisited." "The Saturday Evening Post," February 21, 1931.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott and Zelda. "Show Mr. and Mrs. F. to Number —." "Esquire," May 1, 1934.