Academic journal article Thomas Wolfe Review

"Ave Atque Vale": F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe-And Charles Scribner's Sons

Academic journal article Thomas Wolfe Review

"Ave Atque Vale": F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe-And Charles Scribner's Sons

Article excerpt

An editor does not add to a book. At best he serves as a handmaiden to an author.... [A]n editor at most releases energy. He creates nothing.... A writer's best work ... comes entirely from himself.

"The book belongs to the author."

--Maxwell Perkins (1)

From its inception in 1878 through World War I, Charles Scribner's Sons prospered as a conservative publishing house. It featured British mainliners: Carlyle, Thackeray, Meredith, Hardy, Stevenson, Kipling, J. M. Barrie. In 1878, it presented Dickens in two volumes; in 1898, the complete Dickens in 36 volumes. American writers at Scribner's proved equally stolid: Sidney Lanier, George Washington Cable, Thomas Nelson Page, Henry Adams, Richard Harding Davis, Charles Dana Gibson, Henry James, Edith Wharton. World figures included British explorer Henry Morton Stanley, Russians Tolstoy and Gorky, and the twenty-sixth president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. In 1887, Scribner's Magazine, the nation's first color-illustrated periodical, began publication, challenging the Atlantic and Harper's Monthly; in 1909, Roosevelt's safari articles pushed monthly Magazine sales to 215,000. Harvard graduate Maxwell Perkins became the firm's advertising manager in 1910 and a junior editor in 1914. (2) Conservative personally, Perkins nevertheless set about modernizing the voices at Scribner's.

First fruits developed in the firm's youngest-ever novelist--F. Scott Fitzgerald. Indeed, This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Last Tycoon (1941) bookend the "Golden Age" at Scribner's. This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby and collections Flappers and Philosophers, Tales of the Jazz Age, and All the Sad Young Men appeared between 1920 and 1926. Additionally, Fitzgerald helped Perkins sign Ring Lardner, Ernest Hemingway, Erskine Caldwell, and Morley Callaghan. Hemingway became a staple, beginning in 1926 with The Torrents of Spring and The Sun Also Rises. In the middle years, from 1929 to 1936, Scribner's added Stark Young, Edmund Wilson, John Peale Bishop, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Allen Tate, Eugene O'Neill, even Sherwood Anderson; John Galsworthy won the Nobel Prize (1932). As important, Perkins landed Thomas Wolfe, loosing the mythic prose of Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River.

Scribner's marketed the public, particularly in the New York Times Book Review (NYTBR), and the book trade, in Publishers' Weekly (PW), early in a book's promotion. The publisher stressed the American literary and cultural landscape or the author's renown and, later, specifically targeted the public by excerpting major critics. (3) Despite their appearances elsewhere--Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, Cosmopolitan--Scribner's made Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Wolfe ubiquitous: twelve novels (including three serializations); nine story collections (and twenty-five pieces in Scribner's Magazine); and even their less mainstream works--respectively, The Vegetable; Death in the Afternoon and The Fifth Column; and The Story of a Novel.

Initially, Scribner's presented as essentially irresistible Fitzgerald's varietal debutantes, collegians, and flappers. An ad in the 25 April 1920 NYTBR for This Side of Paradise quotes Burton Rascoe ("It is the only adequate study that we have had of the contemporary American in adolescence and young manhood") and E. W. Osborn ("one of the season's brilliancies and bewilderingly interesting"). Promotion included, for This Side of Paradise (1920), 106 ads, 12 printings, 49,075 copies; for The Beautiful and Damned (1922), 289 ads, 3 printings, 50,000 copies (Trogdon 14). Despite continuous fanning, the flames died down. Fitzgerald's story collections, one between and one following these novels, sold weakly in their first years: Flappers and Philosophers (1920), 11,878 copies; Tales of the Jazz Age (1922), 12,829 copies (Mizener 332n13).

Understandably, advertising lessened for Fitzgerald's failed (in tryouts) stage play The Vegetable (Scribner's, 1923): just 38 ads. …

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