Ernest Hemingway went to Paris as a young man, met influential and innovative artists, and five years later, at the age of 27, had become wealthy and famous. How did that happen?
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Thursday, 3/2/2017, 7:00 PM Pelham Public Library
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Hemingway’s own talent and drive were of course key, but in addition, three people were instrumental in his material and literary success: Hadley Richardson, Sherwood Anderson, and Pauline Pfeiffer. Of the three, the writer Sherwood Anderson played the largest role in putting Hemingway on the short path to fame and fortune.
Hemingway was already a budding writer at the time of his marriage to Hadley Richardson in September 1921 at the age of 22. He had written both for his high school newspaper and its yearbook, for various city newspapers, had written short stories, and had now been named foreign correspondent for the Toronto Daily Star.
Hadley unquestioningly believed in Hemingway’s talent and was prepared to do whatever it took to help his career, including not speaking during breakfast so Hemingway could get psyched up for his morning writing session. Her trust fund of $300/month ($3,650 today) helped the young couple get established in France, where the cost of living was half that of the US.
As a foreign correspondent, Hemingway needed a base of operations overseas. The young couple had at first been planning to move to Italy, where Hemingway had served in the Red Cross ambulance corps, and they had even been exchanging their dollars for lire in anticipation of their move.
Sherwood Anderson, of Winesburg, Ohio fame (1919) and a leading figure of the Chicago Renaissance, had met Hemingway in 1920 and been impressed by the young man’s talent. Anderson even invited Hemingway to his house and was very encouraging to the younger writer. Anderson spent the following summer in Paris, and being already a well known writer, found entry into influential expat artistic circles, meeting the art patron and salonist Gertrude Stein and the poet Ezra Pound, among others.
Upon returning from Paris in the Fall of 1921, Anderson convinced the young couple that Paris was just the place for an aspiring young writer. In addition, he provided them with letters of introduction to Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Lewis Galantière, an American translator and writer living in Paris. And so, equipped with a trust fund, a job, and letters of introduction, the Hemingways set sail for Paris in December 1921.
The first letter of introduction they used was that to Lewis Galantière, 26, who invited them to dine at Michaud’s, an elegant and expensive restaurant where James Joyce and his family often dined. Hemingway then invited Galantière to spar back at the hotel and broke his glasses. Nevertheless, Galantière found the young couple a small apartment for $18 a month in a working class neighborhood in the Latin Quarter of Paris in January 1922.
Hemingway then sent his letter of introduction to Gertrude Stein, who immediately invited the young couple to tea. Stein was an early collector of post-impressionist art and held an artistic, literary, and musical salon at her apartment. Stein was key in Hemingway’s career and development as a writer in Paris through the advice she gave him and through the connections that he was able to make through her, in particular the writer Ford Madox Ford, who had his own gatherings to which he invited Hemingway.
Armed with talent, inspiration, a modest trust fund, and connections, Hemingway proceeded to practice his art in addition to writing for the newspaper. After moving to Toronto briefly to have their baby, “Bumby,” the couple returned to Paris to another inexpensive apartment, this time over a working sawmill at 113 rue Notre Dame des Champs in the Montparnasse area of Paris. Hemingway went to a café, usually La Closerie des Lilas, in order to have the quiet he needed to write.
Upon arriving in Paris, the couple was by no means destitute. Hemingway’s portrayal in A Moveable Feast of suffering from hunger in Paris may refer to the period after his income had declined and his expenses had gone up, due to having a child, quitting his newspaper job, and losing two-thirds of Hadley’s trust fund after its management was entrusted to a family friend. Hemingway’s penchant for betting on the horses may have had something to do with it as well.
Hemingway, Richardson, and Bumby; Pfeiffer and Hemingway.
For the most part, the couple was comfortable and was able to travel regularly, to ski in Austria or visit the Murphys, wealthy and generous patrons of the arts, at their Mediterranean villa. It was through the Murphys that Hemingway met Pauline Pfeiffer, who would ensure Hemingway’s fortune, if not fame. Pauline was a fashionably dressed writer for Vogue, witty, and an heiress. Pauline cultivated the couple’s friendship and eventually she and Hemingway had an affair. Hadley and Hemingway separated in August 1925 after it became clear that the affair would not just die out. Pauline and Hemingway married in May 1926 and moved into a luxurious apartment in Paris. Hemingway was no longer a starving bohemian.
For the past three summers, Hemingway had gone to Pamplona for the Feast of San Fermin and the running of the bulls (Hemingway had picked up an interest in bullfighting from Gertrude Stein). The trip in the summer of 1925, while the affair with Pauline was going on, provided the spark of inspiration for which Hemingway had been waiting in order to birth his first novel. He wrote the first draft during the next few weeks in a white heat, on board trains and in hotel rooms. The Sun Also Rises was to bring Hemingway his first flush of literary and popular acclaim when it was published by Scribner’s in October 1926. Five years after that fateful conversation with Anderson, Hemingway had found fame and fortune.
The Sun Also Rises and The Torrents of Spring, both published in 1926.
In 1926, Hemingway also published The Torrents of Spring, a vicious parody of Anderson’s Dark Laughter. Although Hemingway used The Torrents of Spring to get out of a contract with his and Anderson’s publisher, its publication was seen as a slap in the face by Sherwood Anderson and would mark the end of their friendship.
Hemingway and Pauline would return to America for an extended visit in 1928, returning frequently to Paris to visit, and eventually settling in Key West. Although he visited Paris often throughout the years, Hemingway was never to live there again. In A Moveable Feast, his posthumously published memoir of his Paris days, he expressed regret that he had ever left Hadley. Pauline was destined to be supplanted by journalist Martha Gellhorn in a manner similar to that in which Hadley was supplanted by Pauline.
This is just a small peek at Hemingway’s life in Paris, which we delve into during our stroll through the moveable feast that is Paris – we even meet Hemingway, Stein, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in the flesh at their usual haunts. Join us!
As always, happy travels!