HEMINGWAY AS LETTER WRITER

Last several years
Last several years

Hemingway was a prolific letter writer. Some say that he left behind 8,000 to 10,000 letters. Some have been published despite his request that they not be published. I have to say though that reading his letters is really fun and interesting and gives me insight into his humor, what’s important to him, and the cadence of his voice.Hem's Dining room Dining room in Key West

Hem writing a letter maybe?
Hem writing a letter maybe?

 

Published letters have been accumulated from the “senders.” Hemingway did not keep copies of his own letters to others, but he did keep letters he received from other writers, from family members, and from his wives. Upon his death, he had stacks of letters he had received from his first wife Hadley. Mary, his last wife, was kind enough to return them to Hadley. Hadley had not kept Hemingway’s letters to her.

 

Sometimes Hemingway kept letters that he had drafted out, but never sent for one reason or another. He may have thought better of it; he may have thought it was too harsh; those also have been collected. Fortunately for all of us, Hemingway was a notorious packrat. When Mary went to collect some of their things after Hemingway’s death and she was permitted access to the Cuban house for the sole purpose of getting her belongings, she also retrieved letters, recipes, cards received, all were scattered together. They were turned over to the Hemingway Collection in Boston at the JFK Library. People who sorted through them found little notes, drafted pages and among his historically valuable letters, they also found recipes, doodles, Christmas cards. Carlos Baker, one of the early Hemingway biographers and scholar from Princeton, and the one selected by his fourth wife Mary, published a volume of 600 letters 20 years after Hemingway’s death. The rest of his letters were scattered about and in some cases held back by family members.

Where he wrote in the 1920's in Paris
Where he wrote in the 1920’s in Paris

 

Some of the letters have shed light on a different side of Hemingway. Sandra Spanier, an associate professor of English at Penn State University was also, the editor of one of the early projects for publishing some of Hemingway’s letters. She noted that in letters to Martha Gelhorn, Hemingway’s third wife, Hemingway emerges as far more supportive of Martha’s career than was earlier assumed. An uglier side also did emerge at times, but there were many kind letter showing the tenderness that he was capable of, the loving husband who took care of household details, his great pride in Martha’s work, and descriptions of Hemingway advising Martha that he was reading drafts of her novel to his sons. These letters only became available after Martha Gelhorn’s death in 1998.

Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro

 

Correspondence with Jane Mason, a Havana socialite with whom it’s believed he had an affair, weren’t discovered until 1999 in a trunk by Jane Mason’s granddaughter. These also shed light on his wit and character.

 

I highly recommend reading some of these letters. They are extremely funny, self-deprecating, unguarded, and blunt. In one letter, Hemingway invited Senator Joseph R. McCarthy to Cuba to “Duke it out.” There was another letter that Hemingway wrote to his mother who notoriously disapproved of his subject matter and whom he notoriously disliked. When his mother told him that her book club disapproved of his 1926 The Sun Also Rises, he told her in this letter that he would have been worried if they had not disapproved and he advised his mother to read his future works with “a little shot of loyalty as an anesthetic.”

the Sun Also Rises
the Sun Also Rises

 

Reading Hemingway’s own words not in a novel, but in his correspondence with friends, family, enemies, and rivals, gives a much more rounded picture of him and it’s just plain fun.

 

I'm about to write a letter--by hand as in the earlier times.
I’m about to write a letter–by hand as in the earlier times.

 

Letters to Martha?
Letters to Martha?

Paula McLain on THE PARIS WIFE

Paula McLain The Paris Wife author
Paula McLain
The Paris Wife author

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

 

Married to a man who hates mother
Married to a man who hates mother
Paris of Hemingway
Paris of Hemingway

 

I came across this footage and liked it.  You might enjoy seeing Ms. McLain talk about her research and how she went about making fiction of non-fiction.  I enjoyed it even though I want to be her!

Paula McLain The Paris Wife author
Paula McLain
The Paris Wife author

http://catholicbelle.wordpress.com/tag/ernest-hemingway/

Why the Hemingway Collection is in Boston–of all Places.

The largest collection of Hemingway letters and memorabilia is in Boston, Massachusetts at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.  Mary Welch Hemingway, Hem’s fourth wife, made that selection. While Hemingway and John Kennedy never met, Kennedy respected Hemingway’s writing and person. In his own Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage, Kennedy cited Hemingway’s description of courage, writing that, “This is a book about the most admirable of human virtues — courage. ‘Grace under pressure,’ Ernest Hemingway defined it.”

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy

Hemingway was invited to President Kennedy’s inaugural address but he had to decline due to ill health. The inauguration was in January 1961 and Hem died in July 1961.  While there was a ban on travel to Cuba in 1961 due to the tension from the Bay of Pigs incident, Mary was permitted to return to the Finca, their home in Cuba, to retrieve papers and personal possessions.  The Kennedy Administration worked to make this possible. Fidel Castro personally promised safe passage for Mary so that she could collect and ship artwork, notes, letters, and beloved possessions.

Working at the Finca
Working at the Finca

There were many suitors for these prized items.  Mary maintained her connection with the White House and was the guest of President and Mrs. Kennedy at the White House dinner for the Nobel Prize winners in April, 1962. Hem was honored as one of America’s distinguished Nobel laureates and Frederic March read excerpts from the works of three previous Nobel Prize winners, Sinclair Lewis, George C. Marshall, and Hemingway – the opening pages from his then-unpublished Islands in the Stream.

Jacqueline Kennedy
Jacqueline Kennedy

In 1964, Mary contacted Jacqueline Kennedy and offered her husband’s collection to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, which was still in the planning stage with the intent that it be a national memorial to John F. Kennedy. The collection included drafts of various novels of Hemingway, rewrites, and a sense of how he wrote and revised.

In 1972, Mrs. Hemingway deeded the collection to the Kennedy Presidential Library and began depositing papers in its Archives.

On July 18, 1980, Patrick Hemingway, Hem’s older son with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis dedicated the Hemingway Room in the JFK Library.

Patrick Hemingway 2013
Patrick Hemingway 2012 at Hemingway library

I’m going to visit it again in a few weeks. If any of you have been, I’d love to hear your impressions.  I always get a thrill seeing a photo that I haven’t seen before. It makes it all come alive for me anew.

 

 

 

Myth # 3: Hemingway as Misogynist??

The one thing I know is that a woman should never marry a man who hated his mother. Martha Gellhorn.

I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket. Ernest Hemingway

Married to a man who hates mother
Married to a man who hates mother

Hemingway Misogynist (Definition) – noun, jargon. A male heterosexual individual whose misogynistic beliefs are seen predominantly when he is in a relationship with a strong, independent female who is, most likely, smarter than him. The Hemingway Misogynist is capable of having powerful lifelong friendship bonds with a few strong, independent women smarter than him, but only if he never enters into a sexual relationship with them. He will often say and believe hateful things about women in general, citing his own female friends as individual exceptions. Don’t sleep with this dude, because he will leave tire marks on your lawn when you publish your dissertation to rave critical reviews. Hemingway misogynists, Hemingway cats. Andrea Grimes

I'm insane due to men
I’m insane due to men

Hmm. May I protest?? Pauline, Martha, and Mary were all smart strong women.  And Hadley was no dope. And he seems to have slept with all of his wives.  Pauline and Mary did tend to defer to Hem but I’d say he liked that both were smart.  Martha did challenge him and he did like his wives to be home with life revolving around him.  However, I never saw him as disliking women.  He just liked his life the way he liked it.

 

If we look at his literary women, what can we see? Brett, from The Sun Also Rises was smart and strong although troubled. Jake presumably slept with Brett before his injury.  Catherine, from A Farewell to Arms, was a career woman before her time and she drove a good amount of that relationship.  Maria, in For Whom the Bell Tolls, was young but strong. Pilar was a mountain of a woman, brave, and a hero in my book. Not one was a wimp or simpering girly-girl who just wanted to be dominated.  Falling in love is not the same as wanting to be subservient.

Love is the answer (ha !)
Love is the answer (ha !)

Yup, there were many manipulative bitchy women in the short stories and novellas but many of the men were no prizes either. Helen in the Snows of Kilimanjaro and Margo in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber were wealthy, entitled, and limited. Still Harry in The Snows freely admitted his weaknesses and Helen’s efforts to help him as a writer. When honest, he admitted it was he who chose to be seduced by the easy life more than it was Helen forcing his hand.  Margo was not easy in her condescending way but Francis was without backbone until the tragic end.

Catherine and Frederic
Catherine and Frederic

Hemingway was attracted to women with spirit: Marlene Dietrich, Jane Mason, Josephine Baker, Gertrude Stein, Adriana.  All had opinions, attitude, and grace. Yes, Hem hated his mother but he didn’t hate women-kind. In fact, there is ample evidence that he enjoyed women quite a bit not just as lovers but as friends and sounding boards. But, hey, what do I know? Do you think he did?

Marlene
Marlene

 

Mary Welch Wife # 4

As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand. Ernest Heminway

Mary’s book about Papa

 

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.

GRRRR!

 

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 with boys and cat

 

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 in older age
dog and baby

 

 

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.

Contentment

 

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.

Ketchum, Idaho