Mary was Hemingway’s fourth wife and his widow. She took a fair amount of abuse. I was never certain if she truly loved him that much or if she loved being Mrs. Ernest Hemingway that much. She survived his infatuation with Adriana Ivancich, his bad behavior and heavy drinking that was the precursor to that bad behavior and she helped as ill health hit both of them, but particularly Hemingway.
Hemingway seemed to like all sorts of women but the kind that he married was level headed and smart. He never left Pauline for Jane Kendall Mason, beautiful though she was, as she was emotionally unstable. Hadley, Pauline, Martha, and Mary were all stable, intelligent women. All but Hadley were journalists in their own right. All but Martha were very deferential to Hemingway and perhaps that’s why he always said that was the one marriage he regretted.
Anyway, Mary is being honored in her hometown in MN. All of the other three wives strangely were from St. Louis.
Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, lived very modestly in Paris. Hadley had a small trust that enabled them as young newly weds to go abroad and for Hemingway to focus on his writing. He did earn money from his journalism but the trust helped significantly.
When Hem met and fell in love with a young and stylish writer for Vogue in Paris, Pauline Pfeiffer, he felt guilt but he also had fewer money worries when he left Hadley for her good friend, Pauline. Pauline was from a wealthy family from St. Louis. Her family made money in Pharmaceuticals and her Uncle Gus funded the purchase of the home in Key West. Hem dedicated A Farewell to Arms to Uncle Gus.
Still, it can rankle to live in a house paid for by your wife’s family and Hemingway wrote in The Snows of Kilimanjaro through the main character, Harry, that the rich had ruined Harry’s fervor for writing bravely and writing all that he needed to. The parallels are not too subtle as to Hemingway’s own life,. If you visit Key West, there is still a penny cemented into the pool surround. Supposedly Hemingway was irritated with the escalating costs of renovation and the pool in particular. It was one of the largest in its day. He told Pauline in a fit of pique that it was taking his last penny, so she threw one into the cement as it was setting. It’s still there. The woman had a sense of humor!
Key West is a lovely home, more elegant than Cuba, but Cuba was wilder, rougher, and I think more to Hemingway’s taste.
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.Dining room in Key West
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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,
“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.”
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!
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.