Fitzgerald's story "'O Russet Witch!'" appears in his collection Tales of the Jazz Age. The quotation marks are part of the story's title; it's the only story in the collection to sport this typographical feature.

This suggests to me that maybe the phrase "O Russet Witch!" is a quotation from some other work, maybe a poem or a play. However, I've been unable to find any source for this phrase beside the Fitzgerald story.

Of course, Fitzgerald did like to play games. The poem-epigraph of The Great Gatsby is attributed to the fictitious poet Thomas Park D'Invilliers, a character in This Side of Paradise.

2 Answers 2


The story was first published under the title ‘His Russet Witch’ in Metropolitan Magazine for February 1921. Fitzgerald changed the title to the more dramatic ‘“O Russet Witch!”’ for the collection Tales of the Jazz Age (1922). This change seems to rule out the possibility that the title is a quotation: it is hard to imagine that Fitzgerald would need two attempts to get it right.

“Russet-witch” is a name given in America to a couple of species of orchid, and perhaps this is where Fitzgerald got the phrase; but the only citations I have been able to find post-date 1921, so perhaps the orchids got their name from the short story instead.

L[iparis] liliifolia […] (Russet-witch.)

John Kunkel Small (1933). Manual of the Southeastern Flora: Being Descriptions of the Seed Plants Growing Naturally in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Eastern Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, p. 387. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Liparis Loeselii […] Common names: Fen Orchid, Olive Scutcheon, Loesel’s Twayblade, Russet-witch.

Correll Donovan Stewart (1950). Native Orchids of North America North of Mexico, pp. 274–276. Waltham, Mass.: Chronica Botanica.


The title is in inverted commas because it is a line spoken by one of the characters in the story itself.

Merlin went up-stairs very quietly at nine o'clock. When he was in his room and had closed the door tight he stood by it for a moment, his thin limbs trembling. He knew now that he had always been a fool.

"O Russet Witch!"

But it was too late. He had angered Providence by resisting too many temptations. There was nothing left but heaven, where he would meet only those who, like him, had wasted earth.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.