From F. Scott Fitzgerald—famous author of The Great Gatsby—comes this letter to his daughter Frances Scott Fitzgerald. Offering a hint of his parenting, the letter from August 1933 concludes with a list of things to worry about and things not to worry about.
Below is the full letter, published in the New York Times in 1958.
AUGUST 8, 1933
LA PAIX RODGERS’ FORGE
I feel very strongly about you doing duty. Would you give me a little more documentation about your reading in French? I am glad you are happy– but I never believe much in happiness. I never believe in misery either. Those are things you see on the stage or the screen or the printed page, they never really happen to you in life.
All I believe in in life is the rewards for virtue (according to your talents) and the punishments for not fulfilling your duties, which are doubly costly. If there is such a volume in the camp library, will you ask Mrs. Tyson to let you look up a sonnet of Shakespeare’s in which the line occurs Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds…
I think of you, and always pleasantly, but I am going to take the White Cat out and beat his bottom hard, six times for every time you are impertinent. Do you react to that?…
Half-wit, I will conclude. Things to worry about:
Worry about courage
Worry about cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship
Things not to worry about:
Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions
Things to think about:
What am I really aiming at?
How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:
(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?
(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful intrument or am I neglecting it?
With dearest love,
Sounds like a timeless list, except, of course, for horsemanship.