Having coffee with F. Scott Fitzgerald.

This is 14, rue de Tilsitt. Tilsitt, by the way, is that place in East Prussia where Napoleon signed a peace treaty in 1807 with the Russian Czar Alexander I and Prussian king Friedrich-Wilhelm III after winning the battle of Friedland – of course, there is an avenue de Friedland, too, quite next to it actually, as both streets belong to the architectural ensemble of Paris’ star-shaped Place Charles de Gaulle, with the Arc de Triomphe in its very middle. Anyway, numéro 14 of rue de Tilsitt was the address of none other than F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Zelda’s, of course. It was quite fine an address, some embassies around, avenue Foch as well, Paris’ most exclusive démeure, though at that time still called avenue du Bois, as Maréchal Foch, whom it was named after, a French héros of WWI, had only died in 1929, quite fitting for this fine couple, and especially for an author who has always felt so much at home with the rich and famous. Hemingway, ha!, Hemingway not so much, he and Hadley lived on the other bank, in the quartier latin on Rive Droite, the area intellectually dominated by the Sorbonne and fine old schools, their first apartment was on rue du Cardinal Lemoine, far less elegant, ever so far less, his tiny apartment had its loo in the staircase, to be shared with others, Gertrude Stein came for tea nonetheless. It was so small a place, Hemingway had to rent a room close-by, on rue Descartes, to have some space, or more precisely, some peace and quiet to write his stories, including the ones Hadley lost when traveling to Switzerland, they were never found, they’re lost forever, the lost generation, however, stays on, having me for coffee at the café downstairs on 14, rue de Tilsitt.

F. Scott Waugham

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It was a page that I didn’t turn, the one in W. Somerset Maugham’s novel “On Razor’s Edge” that had his narrator guess who designed his hostess’ elegant dress this time, this time being an afternoon in late 1920s Paris. Lanvin or Chanel? The dress turned out to be by Jeanne Lanvin on the following page, but I had already drifted away, to a world where Coco Chanel was alive and kicking, where I, the 14 year old that I was, was strolling through Paris, from couture house to couture house, stopping at Cartier and Goyard, sniffing my way from Guerlain to Caron, not buying, just looking, with my coral cigarette holder, the one I knew from Saki’s unbearable Bassington, wearing one of the exquisite shirts I had borrowed from J. Gatsby, and with a best buddy next to me, some partner in crime, like Sebastian Flyte’s companion Aloysius, a teddy bear friend, serving as alter ego and advocatus diaboli at the same time.

F.Scott Fitzgerald, W.Somerset Maugham, Evelyn Waugh, and Saki – these were not only my favourite authors for their exquisite stories, but more importantly, these refined guys introduced me to style in such a convincingly romantic way, that I was changed for life. Mousey will confirm all of it.