Hemingway and his “thing” for Women’s Hair

Famous Couple
Maria and her Robert

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Everyone’s commented on it:  Hemingway’s preoccupation with women’s hair.  Hemingway’s mother, Grace, whom he purported to hate, had auburn hair that was her pride and joy.  She wore it often in the Gibson girl style of the day and was quite proud of it.  In almost every work of fiction that Hemingway has written–and nonfiction if you want to count A Moveable Feast–the time spent on the description of any of the main woman’s character’s hair is significant.

Martha's blond hair
Martha’s blond hair

Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises had short, swept back hair.  She wears it cut “short like a man.”   Catherine Barclay had soft hair and “wonderfully beautiful hair.  I would lie sometimes watching her twist it up in the in the light that came in the open door and it shone even in the night as water shines sometimes just before it is really daylight.”

Maria, whom Robert Jordan called the rabbit because of her short-cropped hair cut off by the Fascists who gagged her with her own braids which was growing out, had hair the “color of wheat.” See above, Ingrid Bergman as Maria. Gary Cooper as Robert Jordan. In The Garden of Eden, the wife cuts her hair to match her husband’s and they both are attracted to the same woman.  The Garden of Eden, however, was published posthumously and as I’ve noted in earlier posts, I don’t think the same standards can be applied to something published after the author’s death since clearly he hadn’t felt it was ready to be published at the time of his death.  A huge editing may have been in the offing.L2008.87 025

In his actual life, Hadley had lovely red hair.  Shortly after their marriage she cut it short.  It’s not clear whether she did so to please Hemingway or just for ease of care after she had Bumby.  Hemingway seems to be one of the few men who prefer women with short hair.

Hadley
Hadley

 

Pauline had a boyishly short pixie cut.  She had very dark hair and it was quite stylish on her.  Hemingway liked it.  At one point during their marriage, when he was clearly attracted to Jane Mason, a socialite and a stunning, legendary strawberry blond, Pauline dyed her hair blond and arrived home with this completely new look.  There is no record of whether Hemingway liked it or reacted to it but she didn’t keep it blond for very long.

Hem, boys, and cat
Hem, boys, and cat
Sara Murphy and Pauline Hemingway
Sara Murphy and Pauline Hemingway

Martha had swinging long, blond hair when Hem met her which at times was shorter.   Mary had short, swept back curly blond hair that framed her face.

Martha
Martha in short hair

 

From their first meeting, Hemingway and Gertrude Stein were simpatico.  They did have a falling out several years later and despite the fact that Gertrude Stein clearly was living in a lesbian relationship with Alice B. Toklas, he maintained that there was a true animal attraction and that at least from his end he would have liked to have consummated the relationship had the situation been different.  He describes Gertrude as having lovely dark immigrant hair and the sentiment is one of admiration.  Her hair also was short and swept back at times, a style Hem favored, and at other times, longer and pinned up.Gertrude Stein and Bumby

 

Scholars have pondered for years about whether this preoccupation came from the fact that Hemingway’s mother dressed him in girl’s clothes from a young age.  She often represented to outsiders that he and his sister, Marcelline, were twins (they were about a year apart) and Grace maintained his hair at a feminine length.  On occasion she called him Ernestine until he was about 6-years old.  At that point he rebelled and demanded a hair cut and boy’s clothes as well as to be called by his real name.  We can get psychological about the implications but as we all know, he grew up to be the icon of masculine virility.

Kate Beckinsale
Kate Beckinsale

 

While too much can be made of this element of Hemingway’s writing, it is something to think about and it is an interesting theme that runs through the novels in particular.

 

My new puppy on a good hair day
My new puppy on a good hair day
Not a great hair day
Not a great hair day
I have beautiful hair!
I have beautiful hair!

 

WAS LOSING THE VALISE GOOD OR BAD OR . . . SOMETHING ELSE?

 

In 1922, Hadley did the only thing that Hemingway has ever seriously criticized her for:  She lost the valise that had his early manuscripts.  Hadley was heading out on a train at the Gare de Lyon Paris railway station to meet Hemingway for vacation of skiing.  She filled a valise with his early manuscripts, parts of short stories and all notes that she could find, in the belief that he could work on them while they were away.Valise

 

When she got off of the train, she realized that she didn’t have the valise.  To say that she was horrified doesn’t begin to describe how she felt.  Hem found her in tears, totally inconsolable, and while on the surface he took it better than anyone ever could have thought he would, it’s the one thing that rankled for just about forever.

He was more than jolly on the holiday but was devastated when talking to his writer friends.  Hemingway went back to Paris immediately and a reward was offered for the manuscripts return but they never were found.  The early works would have given great insight into the development and evolution of Hemingway’s writing style.Gertrude Stein and Bumby

All that was salvaged was an early version of Up in Michigan and My Old Man, some sketches, and some notes for short stories.  What were lost were 11 stories and 20 poems that Hemingway wrote between 1921 and 1922.  Ezra Pound suggested that since Hem knew what he was writing about, he should be able to recreate the stories in a better way.  However, as most writers believe, your first efforts capture the raw power of your intent and then it’s refined.  I know from my own writing that it’s rare that I can recreate the vision of the first draft, even if the first draft is not very good.

It should have been me

 

Hem tried to be cheerful despite this catastrophe but he did not write on the trip and it’s likely due to the incessant pain of this loss of his works. A publisher however wanted to publish My Old Man and he did begin to write after that. The shocking Up In Michigan was always a tough sell, particularly in the twenties, and his parents found it almost too upsetting to read. His mother’s criticism of it for its sexual themes was especially biting when Hen sought her approval despite his disdain for her.

Some critics and Hemingway scholars believe that since the first drafts were Hemingway’s first efforts at the economy of style that he developed over time, his use of simple language, the idea of leaving out as much as you put in, the loss may have benefited him by letting him begin afresh with the knowledge he’d learned.  That’s putting a kind spin on it all.  There is no way the loss was good but it was not, perhaps, devastating.  Since Hemingway went on to have a career that’s unparalleled in literary history, it wasn’t crippling.

Midnight in Paris
Midnight in Paris

 

Those who knew Hemingway said he mentioned this incident often in later years.  In early years he didn’t talk about it and preferred that no one else talk about it.  It was just that painful.  The incident was discussed in A Moveable Feast.  Hemingway’s sister and some of his friends believe that this event was the beginning of the breakup of the marriage and ­ that Hem never forgave Hadley.  As cantankerous as Hemingway could be, I think he did forgive her since in essence A Movable Feast is a love poem to her and their life in Paris in the 1920s.Paris train

 

 

Wife # 5? Adriana Ivancich. Giveaway details at end!

 

Adriana look alike

Hem was infatuated with Adriana. She seems to have been fond of him but did not return love. In fact, at times, it seems that his interest embarrassed her and she turned from it. It was an open secret that he modeled Renata in Across the River and into the Woods after Adriana. Hemingway delayed its publication for ten years to avoid any scandal.

Hem and Adriana met when she was an ingénue of nineteen and he an icon of forty-nine. She was lovely in an old world Venetian way, not a modern girl look. From an aristocratic family in Italy that was no longer wealthy, Adriana met Hem through her brother who hooked up with Hem at a bar and they struck up a friendship.

Harry’s Bar

 

As is to be expected, Mary came to resent Renata.  She and her mother visited them in Cuba and stayed quite a number of months. Mary first tried to be motherly and charming until she saw that Hem’s interest was more than casual. He became abusive to her, as if wanting her to leave.  Mary however was made of stronger stuff. She liked being Mrs. Ernest Hemingway but not just for the reflected glory.  She loved him.  She loved him and their life. She made clear that she wasn’t leaving and he needed to deal with this girl.

Hem is reported to have told more than one person that he was too old to divorce again and it would cost him too much. Adriana had no interest in marrying Hem but she seemed to like the attention and adoration.  In 1980, some nineteen years after Hem’s suicide, Adriana wrote a book called The White Tower ostensibly to tell her story of the relationship. She said,

Venice

 

“I let the scandal freeze into oblivion and my sons grow up but I owe this book to Papa. This was a responsibility I had to face. I am the missing link in his life.” With all due respect to Adriana, I don’t think she was the missing link in his life.  It’s a bit grandiose to think so.

The book did hit the best seller list in Italy with the omnipresent photo of Adriana leaning into Hem’s chest shyly.  At the age of fifty, she claimed,

“What happened when we met is a little more than a romance. I broke down his defenses; he even stopped drinking when I asked him to. I’m proud to remember I led him to write The Old Man and the Sea.”

Across the River has long been considered Hemingway’s worst novel. “Yes, naturally he wrote it for me, thinking of me, but I didn’t like the book and I told him so,” Adriana says. “I always criticized him when I felt something was wrong, and he changed, and something in me changed too. I shall never stop being grateful to Papa for that.”

Thinking about implications

 

Adriana committed suicide in 1983. Are you seeing a theme here?

Okay, Happy thoughts. THE COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY! The first and fifth comments on the next blog post will be two of the winners of the Hemingway cookbook. If you are one of those two, I’ll announce that here and ask that you provide your email address and I’ll get your mailing address when I email you. Seriously, the cookbook is hard to get .  It has anecdotes and great stuff in it!