Zelda Fitzgerald and 'Save Me the Waltz,' the novel she wrote in Baltimore

“In this very polite Maryland atmosphere we write things,” Zelda Fitzgerald wrote in a letter while she was living in Towson.

Zelda and her husband, F. Scott, came to Baltimore several times in the 1930s. Many Baltimoreans are no doubt already familiar with the story: Perhaps the most famous muse of the Jazz Age had a nervous breakdown somewhere around the beginning of the Great Depression.

She came to Baltimore for treatment at Johns Hopkins and later Sheppard Pratt. Meanwhile, her husband, the Great American Novelist, descended further into alcoholism.

“Perhaps 50 percent of our friends and relatives would tell you in all honest conviction that my drinking drove Zelda insane,” F. Scott wrote to Mildred Squires, one of Zelda’s psychiatrists at Johns Hopkins. “[T]he other half would assure you that her insanity drove me to drink.”

Zelda entered the Phipps clinic of Johns Hopkins in 1932 to seek the expertise of Dr. Adolf Meyer, a Swiss psychiatrist who was the founding director of the clinic.

As part of her treatment, Zelda spent two hours a day writing. Within six weeks she had written a novel, entitled “Save Me the Waltz,” based on her own childhood in Alabama and her life with F. Scott and their daughter in New York and Europe.

She dedicated the book to Squires and sent the finished novel to her husband’s publisher at Scripps.

F. Scott was furious; some suggest he was indignant that his wife dared use their marriage as material for her novel when he was working on a novel based on their marriage, “Tender Is the Night.”

Zelda’s own story doesn’t have a happy ending: She died in a fire in a North Carolina mental ward in March, 1948.

ctkacik@baltsun.com

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