Tender is the Night is the final completed novel of American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The title is taken from John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” and is a reference to the lines, “Already with thee! Tender is the night…/ But here there is no light, Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown/ Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.” The plot centers on an ambitious and talented psychologist, Dick Diver, who marries one of his patients, Nicole. By the end of the novel, Nicole largely has recovered from her mental illness, whereas Dick’s expectations of a noteworthy career have been shattered by his personal demons and battles with alcoholism. The implication is that Nicole has recovered from her own problems through destroying Dick.
Fitzgerald struggled to write Tender is the Night for almost a decade. Though he began drafting immediately after publishing The Great Gatsby in 1925, Tender is the Night was not published until 1934. The novel’s composition was slowed by Fitzgerald’s alcoholism and struggles with his own wife Zelda’s mental illness. Many have noted the autobiographical elements of Tender is the Night, as Fitzgerald’s own life bears obvious similarities to that of his protagonist.
Special Collections owns five first editions of Tender is the Night. Three of our first editions are also first printings, one of which bears an inscription from Fitzgerald to David Garnett. The first edition has an attractive front cover, with a striking image of the French Riviera executed in bright colors.