Saturday, November 11, 2006


Oh You Beautiful Doll... (Not!)

A neat find while cruising some ABAA search results: the Heritage Book Shop has the full text of a bunch of previously unpublished letters by F Scott Fitzgerald, written from Princeton to his childhood friend Elizabeth Clarkson.

Here's one, dated September 26th 1913, from the Heritage's catalogue:

Dear Elizabeth:

Nunc Sum Studens. (Latin.) I am now a Princetonian. Its great. I’m crazy about it. Today we had the rushes. The Sophs mass in a body in front of the gym and the Freshmen try to rush their way in. You can imagine it. Four hundred Freshmen, among them yours truly, against 380 Sophs. Everything was ruined shirts, jerseys, shoes, socks, trou, hats ect. were strewn over the battle-field. I was completely done up. I was in the front row and a soph and I almost killed each other. I am a mass of bruises from head to foot. When we got in we elected a class President, Vice Pres. and sec. When we came out again the sophs. tried to bust our line. We beat H----- out of them. Then we paraded around the campus, yelling “whoop it up for seventeen,” which is a wonderful song. Then we cheered and sang. Zip!!! This is some place. I have a big piece of some soph’s shirt. Somebody has a big piece of my jersey. (Lord only knows who.) Tonight is the cannon rush so if you never hear from me again you’ll know I died a freshman. (gentle pathos.) The “horsing” (or hazing) is going on now. Its very foolish. Freshies have to carry their cap in their mouths and by the way our uniforms are some class (not)

[Here, Fitzgerald has drawn a humorous image of himself as a Freshman in uniform].

(Picture of me in my Freshman uniform)

Black cap --->Black jersey --->Cordoroy [sic] Trou --->Black socks --->Black shoes --->

The Sophs. make you tell a funny story and then won’t laugh but tell you to finish. Then they tell you to dig for the point. (N.B. You dig) This morning I gave a temperance lecture on the bidding of about fifty of them. Then I had to sing the death noticies out of the “N. Y. Times” to the tune of “Oh you beautiful doll.[”] I could fill up a lot of writing paper telling you about the place. It is wonderful. (Change of tone) (this is the part you musn’t read to your roomate) Well, Elizabeth, needless to say I am still your humble and devoted. Nanny Jackson and I are trying to fix up a sceme [sic] to bring you and Kitty down to a game. How the plan will work I dont know, I am crazy to see you and sure hope you enjoy “Miss Hartridge’s school for goils” my two weeks I promised is up but I am going to extend it until Christmas. If you hear any news from home write it to

Your freshman friend
Francis Scott Fitzgerald

I'm particularly fond of the notion of Fitzgerald singing out Times obits to "Oh You Beautiful Doll." Owning the evidence, though, will set you back 30 grand.

Also, take careful note: it appears Fitzgerald scooped Wayne and Garth on "Not!" by about eight decades. So whenever someone says that, they are quoting a great American novelist.

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