As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand. Ernest Heminway
Mary Welch was the only one of Hemingway’s wives who was not from the St. Louis area. She was from Minnesota, was a journalist in her own right, had been married twice and was married to Noel Monks when she met Ernest Hemingway in London. Ernest was still married to Martha but things were not good. Martha often referred to him as “the pig.”
Mary was not tall, about 5’2, stocky, brown hair, and blue eyes. Her features were sharp and she was smart. As usual, the relationship started out well and full of laughs and fun. Hem still could be biting and sarcastically caustic when all was not going well. Mary took it all.
Hem took her to the finca in Cuba, a bit awkwardly since it had been his place with Martha. Gigi was cool to her initially. He loved Martha. Patrick also loved Martha and found it hard to adjust to another new love. However, he liked seeing his father have some order in his life and Mary was nice. Jack, charming and adaptable, found Mary easy company and could fit in well with her without compromising his loyalties to Pauline and Martha as well as to his own mother, Hadley.
Hem filed for divorce against Martha on grounds of desertion and the divorce went through on December 21, 1945. The sting of her rejection stayed with him always. Martha read about the divorce in the newspaper, although she didn’t care. She was anxious for the divorce to begin and be done. No alimony, no financial orders.
Mary had doubts about marrying Hem. He was . . . not easy. And yet . . . he could be wonderful. Hem, sensing her drift away, sent flowers and love note. They married in Cuba on March 14, 1946. Fights ensued as did a pregnancy at Mary’s age 38, advanced age for 1946. She longed for a daughter for Hem. An ectopic pregnancy with crisis and quick, brave action by Hem ended with Mary surviving, and owing that survival to Hem.
Mary was with him in Ketchum and suffered through Papa’s health declines, his paranoia, his slump and success with The Old Man and the Sea, his rejection, his calling her a scavenger and that she had the face of Torquemada. She suffered through the whole Adriana infatuation. Both however reported an excellent sex life and Hem had earlier complained of Pauline and Martha in that department.
At times, Hem’s drinking increased, then he’d stop for a while on doctor’s orders. Mary was bewildered and badly hurt. However, she wanted to continue to be Mrs. Hemingway for mostly good reasons. She loved his children; she loved him; she loved the position; she was dependent on him financially. Still, she was protective to the end of Hem and his legend.
As Papa became more mentally unstable, Mary did her best. At the end, Hemingway was released from the Mayo Clinic against Mary’s wishes. The day after his release, Hem got up early, got his favorite gun, and shot himself in the head. Mary reported it as an accident while cleaning a gun. It clearly wasn’t. She nurtured the Hemingway legacy as long as she lived and set up the Hemingway collection in the Kennedy Library. She did her best under trying circumstances with little complaint and with dignity.