Saturday, January 15, 2011

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Lead Soldiers and Shirts

Eleanor Lanahan, from her book, Scottie: The Daughter of…The Life of Frances Scott Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith …
“It wasn't till 1959, when I was eleven, that I even vaguely realized that I was the granddaughter of somebody famous. A photographer from Life magazine spent the morning photographing my brothers, my sister and me playing with memorabilia in the attic: Zelda’s ostrich feather fans, Scott’s lead soldier collection…I was not curious about my grandparents. Being related to F. Scott Fitzgerald held about as much excitement for me as being related to an old master print or a marble bust in a museum.”
 I re-read The Great Gatsby last week and enjoyed it more than ever. And I never tire of reading proverbial shirts scene. It never seems to become hackneyed...

“Recovering himself in a minute he opened for us two hulking patent cabinets which held his massed suits and dressing-gowns and ties, and his shirts, piled like bricks in stacks a dozen high.
“I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall.”
He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher — shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, and monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.
“They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such — such beautiful shirts before.” “

So here’s to Scott Fitzgerald. And to little lead soldiers. And of course, shirts.


Onward.
ADG II

33 comments:

Susan said...

Here Here!
Can you believe I've never read "The Great Gatsby"? My oldest daughter is reading it as part of required reading in high school. She said it's boring and she doesn't get it. Before you go into defensive mode now let me point out that anything that doesn't involve vampire romance is boring to teen girls.
Your comments have intrigued me,I think I'll have to schlep on over to the library and check it out today.
Oh please tell me those lead soldiers are your own collection. What a sight of beauty. My grandparetns used to have a box full of them (they had six boys), but my sister and I used to play with them for hours as well as blocks and Match Box cars. Thanks for bringing back some great memories with those lovely little soldiers.
I'm just curious, do you have all of your shirts monogrammed?

Anonymous said...

Now there. F.Scott and toy soldiers. That wasn't so hard was it?

You're going to have to paint bath tub man's chest hair grey, though.

Preppy 101 said...

ANYTIME you post ANYTHING about F.Scott, Gatsby, Scottie, et al., I'm in heaven. Thank You! Have a great weekend. xoxo

Scale Worm said...

He with the most toys wins!
Those soldiers and friends are beautiful, as is the flow of this piece, enhanced by your photos of the color torrent of those well identified shirts.
Wicked!

ignorancearbitrage said...

As a transplanted midwesterner who's spent too much time in the East, I always love this passage (and the preceding paragraphs), especially as it reminds me of Chicago's Union Station and the Christmas train from Chicago:

That’s my Middle West — not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns, but the thrilling returning trains of my youth, and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow. I am part of that, a little solemn with the feel of those long winters, a little complacent from growing up in the Carraway house in a city where dwellings are still called through decades by a family’s name.

Guy could write and hit the mid-west pretty close to on the head in a single line (complacent and solemn). God-damn.

Suburban Princess said...

I love your little Punch&Judy! I've never seen one so teensie!

yoga teacher said...

My old boss who could hang 7 utensils on his face also collected lead soldiers. But he didn't have a man in a tub or any dogs or puppet theatres or giant rideable chickens that I can remember. So you are way ahead on that score.
Gatsby is one of my comfort books. And I used to love the shirt scene but how I have a client who is a borderline hoarder, among other things, and one day I caught a glimpse of her "shirts, piled like bricks in stacks a dozen high." And I lost the romance of the shirt scene. Bummer.

CeceliaMc said...

I don't think the shirt scene ever gets old, either.

It doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to understand just the sense of joy, pleasure, hunger, shame, lust, mortality, inspiration, and awe, that this heedless bounteous excessive sight inspired in Daisy.

No stretch of the imagination a'tall.

CeceliaMc said...

"God-damn"

Indeed.

Jane K. Schott said...

You are such an interesting person.

Just found your blog and catching up.

Terrific!

Anonymous said...

F. Scott shirt scene? Jeezus people. Get a grip on the REAL world......Yall need to see this YouTube I took of ADG getting dressed for his date last night......(sorry ADG, I know I promised not to publish but hell...your peoples GOTS to know)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNZglEtDBmc&feature=related

Old Daisy'd be cryin' over THAT Smokey moment alrighty......Whadjya say IgnoArbit and Ceec? GOD-DAMN ??????!!!!!!!!

NCJack said...

Almost bought some really detailed "little lead soldiers" (never call them "toy", I've been told{scolded, actually}) from a shop in Annapolis, but I've always been afraid of turning into a collector of anything...I think it makes you crazy.

But aren't they wonderful?

Anonymous said...

Back from yesterday. Look online for the 5 year journal. Bought several on Amazon for Christmas gifts. In fact, get 2 and you write in one and your daughter the other - she is the perfect age. One of mine went to a young mom who sent husband/dad off to Afganistan this fall and the other to a young thing going through a nasty divorce. Their lives will change through the next five years and hopefully all with good things. I also loved the Punch and Judy scene. Did not know lead soldiers did domestic scenes. I also want the dog.

I also love the shirt scene. My husband's oncologist always wears the most lovely Gatsby shirts. A small gift during tense visits.

Gretchen said...

I love that your lead soldiers have their own wee lead soldiers...

Main Line Sportsman said...

Damn...love those soldiers. I collect the WWI era Manoils and Barclays.

CeceliaMc said...

"Old Daisy'd be cryin' over THAT Smokey moment alrighty......Whadjya say IgnoArbit and Ceec? GOD-DAMN ??????!!!!!!!!"

GOD-DAMN...How many neutrals did Sugar Britches possess?

I like a man with a broader palette...

Young Fogey said...

I look forward to the day I will buy toy soldiers for my son. Alas, they shall not be lead, nor even tin.

Course, they won't be all pommy like yours. What are you, some kind of commie?

(Note for the humor impaired: that was an expression of admiration and envy.)

Ami said...

First, The Orient Express and now Scott Fitzgerald?!

...are you peeking in my windows or something??

;)

Love the shirts.

Flo said...

"My oldest daughter is reading it as part of required reading in high school. She said it's boring and she doesn't get it....anything that doesn't involve vampire romance is boring..."

I read it at the same time and didn't "get it" either! If there's a class discussion, things will open up for her, the structural abstractions framing the work will emerge. Knowing turn of the century American history is a vital part of "getting it." A good teacher will point out there is DEFINITELY "vampire romance" in the book, in fact that's exactly how I'd teach the book to the high school reader. It's unfair to send young readers into this work without a few prompts, or at least a really good class discussion at some point. As Max says, with each successive reading, the story keeps unfolding.

ADG said...

My Gatsby read the other week was easy and fun. I suppose it's a matter of .... whatever. I also bought the movie on iTunes this weekend. I'll be leaving Fitzgerald sometime this week though...for an O'Hara revisit. I have An Appointment With.....

Toy Soldiers...yes, all of these are mine. With the exception of some of the civilian kids and stuff...including the Punch and Judy set...those are LFG's. The toy soldier shop in Annapolis is closed. Alas. Main Liner....I used to have a bunch of Dimestore Manoils etc but sold them off to focus more on late 19th c. German solid casts ie...Heyde etc.

Atticus C. said...

As a fellow collector of Toy Soldiers I have to say I really enjoyed this post. Your Collection has such unique pieces...

Anonymous said...

CeCeNeutrals

It was 1980, Lady. That was all Armani. No GTH colors in that man's closet.

CeceliaMc said...

"It was 1980, Lady. That was all Armani. No GTH colors in that man's closet."

Too bad Mario Buatta didn't make menswear.

Anonymous said...

The Prince of Chintz? Now THAT would have resulted in some interesting trousers for ADG.

old said...

Nice collection of lead soldiers, Dustin. Did I spy a couple of mounted Royal Scots Greys in your melange or is my eyesight deteriorating mopre than I thought?

j.mosby said...

ADG,

Did you ever see the exhibit of Toy Soldiers at the National Geographic exhibit hall of Malcolm Forbes toy soldier collection? Amazing!

ADG said...

J.mosby...I did not see the Forbes collection at the National Geographic. I do have a book about his collection that was housed in Tunisia...amazing assemblage. I also know a dealer in NYC who sold him tons of stuff. Alas, the Forbes brothers sold off the remaining collection of toy ships and soldiers last month.

old...your eyesight is rather keen actually. yes, you did see that ass end of a few Royal Scots Greys.

Sartre said...

ADG: In college and for a while beyond I was a bit of a Fitzgerald freak. You should procure a book called The Romantic Egoists: The Scrapbooks of FSF (or some such), edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. It's a lovely tome (and it is a tome) and easily available through abebooks, alibris, and similar sites.

In college I was fortunate enough to have as an English professor John Bishop, who was the son of John Peale Bishop. John Peale was FSF's roommate at Princeton and the model for Thomas Parke d'Invilliers in This Side of Paradise. Lots of interesting stories. He was for a time married to Alison Lurie, a damn fine novelist in her own right.

To CeciliaMc above: I'm not sure the shirts inspired in Daisy any of the emotions you ascribe to her; I believe she felt pathos at the preposterous lengths Gatsby had gone to in order to win her favor, and the confirmation of his vulgar West Eggishness ("She was appalled by West Egg"). Tom has the best line on this topic: "The man wears a pink suit."

ADG said...

Sartre...good to hear from you. Great story about Bishop. I just bought a copy of The Romantic Egoists...one that was owned by Scotty Fitzgerald. I scrolled through all the books that I'd bought on alibris over the last eleven years. It's scary. Also bought the catalog of Fitzgerald material owned by Bruccoli...most now in the library at University of South Carolina. I'm on the cusp of an O'Hara binge now.

Sartre said...

I also saw in your stack the Auchincloss memoir, which I recently read. I love his fiction but have never succeeded in finding anything sufficiently juicy in his memoirs or bio/autobios. Perhaps it's that old world NY reticence.

All the stuff on Groton in the book did, however, motivate me to read a book I'd had on the shelves for centuries, John McPhee's The Headmaster, about Frank Boyden of Deerfield. Great anecdote: When Deerfield hit a rough patch financially, I believe well before WWII, the heads of Andover, Exeter, and Taft got together and personally raised $1.5M to keep the school going (and then some), much of the money coming from alumni of their own schools. That's how much they believed in what Boyden was doing and what Deerfield was about.

ADG said...

Ami...yes, I was peeking in your window. Sorry about the azaleas.

Sartre...Just finished the Auchincloss memoir last night. It was ok...kinda like my take on his fiction quite frankly. Sounds like the event from The Headmaster reflects a level of pluck and resolve that is rare today.

iZach said...

I'm not sure I even have those volumes of DSF. Where did you get those? ADF

ADG said...

iZach/ADF...You know that I was excited about the idea of having one of your DSF pewter Jefferson Cups. I'd happily let you have all of the DSF volumes if I could replace them with such a thing. Or just get half a chance to say hello to you.

Amazing find...those DSF first editions. I was killing time in a used bookstore in St. Augustine Florida (surprise to all who know me)...and there they were. For ninety bucks.

Come see me.

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