Chapter 17: Notes to The Great Gatsby - The Great Gatsby (2023)

Notes to The Great Gatsby

1. those intricate Milne’s horizontal pendulum seis-mograph was invented in the 1880s

2. Dukes of The most famous Duke of Buccleuch was James Scott Monmouth (1649–85), leader of a failed rebellion against James II (1685). Protestant Monmouth wanted to overthrow the Catholic James; he was the illegitimate son of King Charles II and Lucy Walter.

3. New Nick studied at the Ivy League university, Yale, in New Haven, Connecticut

4. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment Nick works in finance, a new area of the economy.

5. Midas and Morgan and Midas was the mythic king renowned for turning all to gold. J. P. Morgan (1837–1913) was an American financier, and an important philanthropist. Maecenas was a Roman politician and patron.

6. the egg in the Columbus Christopher Columbus challenged those who questioned his achievement (the discovery of the ‘New World’) by asking them to stand an egg on its end. Columbus flattened the end of the egg to help it stand up.

7. two huge places that And yet Gatsby later seems to own the house, and Nick himself refers (p. 98) to the ‘ancestral home’ of his friend.

8. Lake upper-class suburb of Chicago

9. The Rise of the Coloured mistitled and misattributed. Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color (1920) discussed ‘Nordicism’ and argued that Northern European whites in America were being outnumbered by other races, including ‘Mediterraneans’. See Walter Benn Michaels, Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism (Duke University Press, Durham and London 1995), pp. 23–8.

10. The Saturday Evening mass circulation American magazine in which Fitzgerald himself had published stories.

11. county of wealthy suburbs and rural areas outside New York City

12. Jordan two makes of car were the Jordan sports car and the Baker

13. rotogravure system of high-speed printing, often used for illustrated magazines (as here) and advertising images

14. Asheville and Hot Springs and Palm resorts in the states of North Carolina, Arkansas, Florida

15. the eyes of Doctor T. J. When Daisy confesses her fondness for Gatsby, she will seemingly remember this image, and compares Gatsby to Eckleburg’s picture (p. 76).

16. John D. Rockefeller (1839–1937) created the Standard Oil Company. He helped to prompt, through his monopol-isation of business interests, the establishment of Anti-Trust legislation.

17. Simon Called In a letter of late April 1923 to The Literary Digest of F. Scott p. 476), Fitzgerald attacked this 1921 novel by Robert Keable. He described the novel as ‘immoral’, by which he perhaps signified a kind of cheap sensationalism.

18. The bottle of Prohibition of alcohol was brought in by the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution (16 January 1920) and the Volstead Act (1919) and repealed in 1933.

19. New York newspaper which later became the Herald Tribune

20. Gilda Gray’s . . . Gilda Gray (1899–1959) was a silent film and stage dancer, and the star of a major Broadway show, the Ziegfeld Gray was a key jazz-age figure, at the height of her fame in 1922, and renowned also for creating a risqué ragtime dance, the ‘shimmy’.

21. a regular David Belasco (1853–1931) was a Broadway theatre producer renowned for the realism of his sets.

22. Hydroplane could at this time refer to a motor-boat or a seaplane, but the reference here is to the latter. On p. 35, Gatsby talks of ‘ “going up in the hydroplane” ’.

23. Carnegie important concert-hall in Manhattan, named after and at first owned by Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919), a major Scots-American businessman and philanthropist

24. Vladimir Tostoff’s Jazz History of the spoof title, embodying the rather tiresome schoolboyish humour that Fitzgerald shared with Ernest Hemingway

25. the dark lanes of the east-west streets in the centre of Manhattan

26. von Paul von Hindenburg (1847–1934) was a German field marshal in World War I and second president of Weimar Germany (1925–34). His strategy led to the submarine warfare which drew the United States into the conflict.

27. San Gatsby claims to come from the ‘Middle West’, but cites his origin in this West Coast city. Either this is a simple mistake or deceptiveness; it certainly gives Nick pause.

28. Orderi di There was indeed a Montenegrin medal called the ‘Order of Danilo’, but the notion of an award for gallantry from such a tiny, Ruritania-type state seems comic and unbelievable. In 1925 Montenegro no longer existed, adding to the unreliable sense of this claim.

29. Trinity Trinity College is a college of Oxford University. These colleges tend to be constructed around enclosed quadrangles or ‘quads’.

30. Rosy Herman Rosenthal was murdered in the Metropole Hotel, Manhattan, in 1912.

31. the World’s In 1919 gamblers bribed the Chicago White Sox baseball team to ‘throw’ (that is, deliberately lose) a series of games against the Cincinnati Reds. An iconic example of the corruption of American life.

32. Ventura The Californian city of Santa Barbara is linked to Los Angeles by the coastal Ventura road.

33. Cannes . . . two fashionable French resorts on the Mediterranean and the Normandy coasts respectively

34. I’m the Sheikh of a popular song of 1921: music by Ted Snyder, lyrics by Harry Smith and Francis Wheeler

35. You’re selling A bond is a loan contract, with a legal obligation to return the borrowed capital with interest.

36. Coney a seaside amusement town in Brooklyn, New York City. Originally named by the Dutch as Konijn Eiland (‘rabbit island’), in time it became Coney Island.

37. The New York City newspaper, owned by the notorious magnate William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951)

38. Clay’s Henry Clay’s Economics: An Introduction for the General Reader (1916 publication in London; 1918, New York). Clay (1883–1954) was an English economist who had an American audience as a special correspondent on industrialism for the New York Evening He was a fellow of New College, Oxford, during 1919–21.

39. Castle Castle Rackrent (1800) was a novel by the Anglo-Irish novelist Maria Edgeworth (1767–1849). Told in the first-person, it is the tale of an Irish family’s decline, of corruption and wastefulness.

40. Kant at his church Folk-history suggests that Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), German philosopher, gazed at a church steeple when thinking.

41. the Merton College Merton has one of the oldest libraries of Oxford University; Gatsby ironically recreates an ancient building in his ultra-new house.

42. Adam style derived from the Scottish designers and architects Robert Adam (1728–92) and James Adam (1730–94)

43. The Love a popular song from 1920. Like T. S. Eliot in The Waste Land (1922), Fitzgerald realised that popular songs could be used as ironic counterpoint in a poem or novel.

44. Madame de The marquise de Maintenon (1635–1719) was the second wife of Louis XIV, roi and often seen as the power behind the throne. Cody becomes, through this allusion, a kind of American ‘Sun King’, and Gatsby becomes the adopted son of a New World monarch.

45. his career as Trimalchio was Trimalchio was central to Petronius’s lampoon of hedonism, Satyricon Trimalchio himself is a parvenu, a freedman (former slave) who now holds sumptuous and decadent banquets. The reference continues a chain of allusions to the classical world (cf. p. 5, ‘Maecenas’, a Roman states–man). Fitzgerald considered the titles Trimalchio and Trimalchio in West Egg as he worked on the text in 1924.

46. High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl . . .: Following on from the references to popular songs earlier in the novel, Nick’s narration begins to adopt the rhythms, cadences and images of the love ballad.

47. Kapiolani . . . Punch Kapiolani and Punch Bowl are on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, places highlighting the novel’s exotic, extravagantly wealthy milieu.

48. the babbled slander of his The original ‘slander’ in the garden came when the serpent whispered his words in Adam’s ear. This reference is one of a number of Edenic references in the novel, and Nick shifts between paradise lost (as here) and paradise regained.

49. Atlantic a popular resort in New Jersey

50. Beale Street a well-known song from 1917. Beale Street is in Memphis, Tennessee; it was becoming notorious as a red-light area.

51. his ancestral Gatsby has no ancestral home; the house is either a recent acquisition or rented.

52. Hempstead . . . two Long Island towns, east of New York City. Each is a historic community, founded in colonial times.

53. A new world, material without being reference to a quasi-philosophical language about appearance, materialism and the ‘real’ (cf. Kant, p. 56)

54. Mr Gatsby’s A probable echo from one of the key lines in Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novella Heart of Darkness – ‘ “Mistah Kurtz – he dead.’” Fitzgerald was heavily indebted to Conrad’s text, written as a narrative told by ‘Marlow’ about the enigmatic Kurtz.

55. James J. Hill was a railway tycoon (1838–1916) who like Fizgerald came from St Paul, Minnesota. His Northern Securities Company fell foul of anti-monopoly (‘Anti-Trust’) legislation in 1904.

56. wealthy town in Connecticut, north of New York City, founded in colonial times

57. The Swastika Holding History has not treated this reference well. Ironically, Wolfsheim is Jewish; the swastika was just beginning to achieve notoriety as the Nazi symbol. But the swastika was originally a Hindu symbol of wealth and good luck; it is possible that the conman Wolfsheim deploys the swastika for its benign associations with affluence.

58. The American The American Legion was founded in 1919, and was the most important organisation for military veterans. Significantly, membership depends on honourable service and discharge. Wolfshiem clearly wanted Gatsby to join the Legion to signal publicly his integrity.

59. Hopalong This popular cowboy character featured in Clarence Mulford’s eponymous novel of 1910. There is an inconsistency here, since Gatsby’s copy is dated 1906. Fitzgerald uses Hopalong Cassidy as an ironic counterpoint to his reference to Benjamin Franklin (Note 60).

60. a parody of the ‘Scheme of drawn up by Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) in Part Two of his Autobiography (1791; first full English edition, 1868). Franklin, a scientist, politician and writer, outlined a self-improving schedule where every task had its own time.

61. Chicago, Milwaukee & St Paul This railroad ran from Chicago to St Paul, Minnesota, where Fitzgerald was born. It was founded in 1874 and served Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. In 1909 it built a line to Seattle, and became the ‘Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul Pacific Railroad’.

62. El sixteenth-century Spanish painter (1541–1614), whose real name was Domenicos Theotocopoulos (he was born in Crete – hence, ‘the Greek’). The houses ‘at once conventional and grotesque’ seem to correspond to El Greco’s paintings of the Spanish city of Toledo, for example ‘View of Toledo’ or ‘View and Plan of Toledo’ (1606–14).

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