Fake F Scott Fitzgerald ‘quarantine’ letter goes viral amid coronavirus lockdown

Roisin O'Connor
F Scott Fitzgerald at his writing desk in 1933: Getty Images

A letter supposedly written by F Scott Fitzgerald while in quarantine has gone viral during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the note, “Fitzgerald” explains that he is coping with isolation in the south of France during the Spanish Flu outbreak (1918-1920) by stockpiling “red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, [and] gin”.

Despite the looming darkness, Fitzgerald remains upbeat, and ends the letter with: “I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.”

The text, which has been shared by many who believe it to be authentic, is in fact a parody letter by Nick Farriella, a writer for humour website McSweeney’s.

A recent report by Reuters said the letter has been shared thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by people who believe it is real.

McSweeney’s website now contains a disclaimer: “NOTE: This is a work of parody and is not an actual letter written by Fitzgerald.”

Despite attempts to tell people the letter is fake, it has still been shared by many, including American songwriter David Crosby and writer Joyce Carol Oates.

Farriela responded to Crosby’s post, joking: “I must be in some kind of purgatory for this.”

Most recently, publicist Dan McCormick spotted a poster version of the letter outside a pub in Dalston.

The letter in full reads:

Dearest Rosemary,

It was a limpid dreary day, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter. Outside, I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are that empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so. At this time, it seems very poignant to avoid all public spaces. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why, he considers the virus to be just influenza. I’m curious of his sources.

The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.

You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.

Faithfully yours,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

“It was never intended to be taken as real”, Farriella told Reuters.

“I’d like to think that people have responded to the optimistic sentiment of the message. That in these seemingly dark times, the line of true and untrue was blurred by the need for hope. I think that was something that was at the core of Fitzgerald’s life and work, an unwavering faith in better things to come.”​

For real works by Fitzgerald and other suggestions for what to read during self-isolation, click here.

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