Hemingway was a romantic. Sure, he was macho and tough and a man’s man in many ways, but he enjoyed women greatly and always had a close and loving relationship with Marlene Dietrich. One of Hemingway’s love letters to her is going up for auction. It is expected it will garner something in the vicinity of $30 – $40,000.
This particular letter is dated August 12, 1952 – a year after Dietrich had confessed to keeping the author’s photograph by her bedside. They met in 1934 and became quite infatuated with each other but never consummated the attraction because, as Hemingway put it, they were “victims of unsynchronized passion.” He noted that whenever one of them was out of a relationship the other one was in one and the timing never worked out.
Hemingway writes in the letter to Marlene “I always love you and admire you and I have all sorts of mixed up feelings about you.” Later in the letter he declares that while “you are beautiful…I am ugly…please know I love you always and I forget you sometimes as I forget my heart beats. But it beats always.”
Marlene and Hemingway corresponded over several decades. Marlene Dietrich’s daughter wrote a book noting that after Hemingway’s death, her mother wore widow’s weeds for quite a while and she always believed that had he been with her, instead of his then wife, Mary, he wouldn’t have killed himself.
So, if I had $30,000+ just sitting around, I might enter the fray and bid on this letter, but I fear I’m going to have to let it go to some other fervent Hemingway fan.
I’ve read many of Hemingway’s letters. They are fun and he is quite funny and clever in them. His humor rarely comes through in his novels.
I think the line that I’ve quoted above – I forget you sometimes as I forget my heart beats. But it beats always – is so him. It’s very simple and yet it speaks volumes.
More of Hemingway’s letters are being published and they are so revealing and fun. For example, Hemingway is known as being a bit of a bully to his wives yet some of the letters show great sensitivities to Martha Gellhorn and admiration and support for her career as a writer. Please take a look when you have time.
The above is a link to the Lillian Ross interview with Hemingway, a sad betrayal of his kindness and friendship to a young writer.
There’s a famous profile of Hemingway that was published on May 13, 1950 in The New Yorker done by a very young journalist at the time named Lillian Ross. Hemingway had helped her with her first big article about Sidney Franklin, the first Jewish-American bull fighter. Hemingway and Lillian Ross became friends and as Hemingway often did, he enjoyed taking this younger, very smart woman under his wing and addressing her as “daughter” and sharing some of the things that he knew with her.
Lillian Ross started working at The New Yorker in 1945 and seemed particularly adept at charming her subjects into saying things they might otherwise not say. She asked to do a profile on Hemingway, who needed the publicity like a hole in the head, but he agreed, hoping to help her career. She shadowed him for months and in particular went with him to New York on a three-day tour. Hemingway viewed it all as a lark.
Here’s where my objectivity stops. As I noted in my opening post three years ago, while I try to be objective about Hemingway and his flaws, which were many, I’m on his side. I’m not neutral. Lillian Ross’ article made him look like a self-involved jerk, almost ignorant. He thought she was his friend.
In that article are statements by Hemingway such as “Book is like engine. We have to slack her off gradually.” And then there’s this repeated gem apropos of nothing, “How do you like it now, Gentlemen.” Ross always maintained that it was an affectionate portrait of a wonderful writer, but, in essence, it made fun of him and it made him look ludicrous. If that’s how she saw him, then so be it. The press is free and she can write what she’d like to write, but don’t pretend it was an “affectionate” portrayal.
At the time, Lillian Ross was 24 years old and it was the opportunity of a lifetime to profile Ernest Hemingway, the biggest writer of the day. Years later, The New York Times wrote that “The effect of her severely unadorned portrait was to create an impression of an unpleasant egotist, a celebrity who, to a pathetic extent, had identified himself with his own public image.” As one of Hemingway’s biographers, Jeffrey Meyers, wrote later that she’d repaid his generosity with meanness and malice, and established her reputation at his expense.” Quoting Meyers again, he notes that she never recorded or revealed the serious and sensitive side of his character and chose instead to portray him as a boring braggart. So how do you like it now, Gentlemen?
When Lillian published the profile in book form shortly after Hemingway’s death, she still claimed it was a sympathetic portrait of a great, loveable man. Few readers were fooled. She also claimed he was fine with it. True. He read it before publication; felt the dye was cast so said little; and passed on it, but it was not really “fine” with him. He was hurt.
If you look at the cover, could Lillian have picked a less attractive, less compelling photo? In a reissue, there’s a nice photo of Hemingway and Lillian on the front, but I believe the original shows a Hemingway looking out of it and bizarre. If I’m wrong on this, someone out there probably knows, so please correct me.
Lillian Ross has written a new book in which Ross has collected selected pieces, including the Hemingway profile along with newer works spanning her sixty year career as a journalist. It is called “Reporting Always: Writings From The New Yorker.” It was published last week by Scribner’s, which, of course, is Hemingway’s publisher.
I can’t help being wounded for him. He trusted her and thought they were having some fun together and that she would not portray him as a lout. It’s his fault in part, no question for being too casual and not foreseeing damage for not taking the interview seriously. However, his loyalty was betrayed.
Take a read and see what you think. Perhaps you’ll see it differently. I’m happy to stand corrected or confronted.
I just finished a book about the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald called “Z.” It was interesting. Zelda’shatred for Hemingway came across loud and clear. I know that it’s historically true. However, there’s a claim that Hemingway came on to her, which didn’t strike me as true based on all that I’ve read and Hem’s feelings toward/against her. And there’s another portion in which she wonders if her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Hemingway were closet homosexuals who had an attraction to each other. I don’t know that much about F. Scott Fitzgerald, but there’s not anything in the volumes that I’ve read about Hemingway and his past that would even slightly suggest that. I’ve read all of the hypotheses that Hemingway went ultra-macho to compensate for homosexual feelings. I don’t see that but everyone can have an opinion. Those comments aside, I found that I had sympathy for Zelda’s plight and her frustration in her life with F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I also couldn’t help comparing Fitzgerald, of course, to Hemingway. When Hemingway met Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald was the star, having come off of a great success with The Beautiful and Damned. His short stories were successfully being sold and some were going to Hollywood. F. Scott Fitzgerald was generous with his time and advice to Hemingway and they remained really close friends for a long time before something of quiet falling out occurred, probably due to normal as opposed to cut-throat literary rivalry and partly due to Hemingway’s disgust with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s drinking and Zelda. Whatever else you can say about Hemingway and his later serious problems with the bottle, for most of his career, he was very disciplined when it came to writing. He often stopped drinking for some significant periods of time while writing and he didn’t drink during the day while he was getting his words down on paper. Fitzgerald began to drink daily from morning on and for many years, didn’t even try to write.
I also gathered from “Z” that the ragefulness between Zelda and Fitzgerald went on for years and they both treated each other badly. It was a sort of recreational warfare. That behavior certainly didn’t occur between Hemingway and Hadley. I think there was some bitterness in his fighting with Pauline (second wife) in the end, but not the low blows Zelda and Scott hurled. Hemingway generally felt guilty at the end of a relationship and didn’t rant and rave at his soon to be ex-wife.
His relationship with Martha (third wife) was an exception because it did become volatile. Certainly there was anger and insults with Mary (fourth wife) and they might have divorced had Hem lived longer. With the exception of Martha, Hem’s other three wives never tried to compete with him and perhaps that was what he was looking for in a woman. He tended to prefer stable, smart, but non-challenging women. Further, he was married four times, whereas Fitzgerald and Zelda were only married once, although affairs did occur in the marriage.
I liked the book and I felt for Zelda, which I didn’t expect. It was interesting to read another perspective on the jazz age, and the whole lost generation crowd in Paris, including the Murphys, Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, Ford Madox Ford, Picasso.
You might try it. It’s an easy read and Hemingway features prominently.
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.
― Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway was notoriously generous to young writers and fans seeking his input. A.E. Hotchner who became a good confidante and friend met Hem in the Spring of 1948 when he was dispatched to Cuba on assignment by Cosmopolitan magazine to get an article on Hem about The Future of Literature. The magazine was putting out an issue about “the future” of everything: architecture, cars, art, etc. You get the idea. So why not have the lion of literature give an interview on the future of literature.
Hotchner sent a note to Hem saying that he’d been sent down on “this ridiculous mission but did not want to disturb him, and if he could simply send me a few words of refusal it would be enormously helpful to the The Future of Hotchner.” A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway. Page 4.
Instead, Hem rang him the next day.
“This Hotchner?” he asked
“Dr. Hemingway here. Got your note. Can’t let you abort your mission or you’ll lose face with the Hearst organization, which is about like getting bounced from a leper colony. You want to have a drink around five? There’s a bar called La Florida. Just tell the taxi.” A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway, page 4.
. And thus began a beautiful friendship.
I recently read an article that detailed how one Arnold Samuelson hitchhiked 2,000 miles, from Minnesota to Florida in 1934 to meet Hemingway. Samuelson was trying to make a go of it as a writer and was so impressed by the short stories that he traveled to get advice from his idol.
Samuelson wrote, “It seemed a damn fool thing to do, but a twenty-two-year-old tramp during the Great Depression didn’t have to have much reason for what he did.”
Ultimately, Samuelson found Hemingway who provided him with insights, and soon hired him on as his assistant. Hem gave him a list of 16 books essential to any complete education. The list is interesting to consider.
Drum roll: the list is:
1. “The Blue Hotel” by Stephen Crane
2. “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane
3. “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert
4.”Dubliners” by James Joyce
5. The Red and the Black” by Stendhal
6. “Of Human Bondage” by Somerset Maugham
7. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
8. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy
9. “Buddenbrooks” by Thomas Mann
10. “Hail and Farewell” by George Moore
11.”The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
12. “The Oxford Book of English Verse”
13. “The Enormous Room” by E.E. Cummings
14. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte
15. “Far Away and Long Ago” by W.H. Hudson
164. “The American” by Henry James
So what would make your list? A few of the above escape me but most have stood the test of time.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
He did it. He should have done it in 1942 for For Whom the Bell Tolls but the committee was divided; some felt the sexual content was “improper”; no prize was awarded at all that year. It’s a bit sad that the award happened when it did, as Hem was not up to accepting it in person at that time and, I think, would have truly appreciated it. He scoffed at the Nobel Prize for Literature calling it the Ignoble Prize but it mattered to him to be passed over.
Well, he won it for The Old Man and the Sea, his little novella that was to be part of a trilogy.
Listen to the speech on the above link (well it’s just the beginning of the speech) in Hem’s voice. He enunciates his “t’s” and I’m not sure if it was for the purpose of being clear in this speech or if that was his mid-western accent. (If anyone out there knows, please let us know.) He could not make it to the actual ceremony due to the two plane crashes he’d been in and other health matters. John Cabot read his acceptance speech in Sweden and Hem made this recording after.
It’s humble and beautiful–and short.
It’s funny. Words are a writer’s craft and lifeline, yet many writers are not outgoing. Hem apparently was actually shy especially when not drinking and he was always reluctant to engage in public speaking.
Today, given the press for writers to be “out there”, I wonder how he would feel about twitter and facebook for himself. He likely would not have done it in the later years. His privacy became more valuable but of course, by then, he was not ernest hemingway but HEMINGWAY so no need to cultivate the masses.