"CAPTAIN JOHN H. HEMINGWAY… RENDERED A SIGNAL SERVICE TO LITERATURE BY PULLING MR. SCOTT FITZGERALD OUT OF THE FIREPLACE WHERE HE HAD GONE TO SLEEP": EXTRAORDINARY TWO-PAGE TYPED LETTER BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY IN CUBA TO NEW YORK TIMES LITERARY CRITIC CHARLES POORE, ANNOTATED AND SIGNED BY HEMINGWAY
HEMINGWAY, Ernest. Typed letter signed, with autograph insertions. Finca Vigia, Cuba, May 21, 1953. Single sheet of Finca Vigia airmail stationery, measuring 8-1/2 by 11 inches; pp. 2, signed and with three autograph insertions. $18,500.
Extraordinary 1953 typed letter by Ernest Hemingway at Finca Vigia in Cuba to New York Times literary critic Charles Poore regarding his reaction to the Pulitzer Prize; his decision to send the award check to his son, Bumby, who inspired The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms; the details of why he hates the West (hostility to dogs and hunting regulations); his relationships with numerous famous personalities from F. Scott Fitzgerald to three World War II generals; his opinions on the Mau-Mau in Africa, and mentioning a number of his books, signed and with two corrections and three autograph insertions by Hemingway.
The letter, typed on Finca Vigia airmail stationery and dated "May 2I I953," reads in full: "Dear Charlie: Glad the book is to the printer.
"That is the happiest situation I know. Mary and I were down the coast anchored off Megano de Casigua, which is almost a full atoll well out into the edge of the stream, when we caught the prize news on the evening newscast. Miss Mary made martinis for both of us and we opened up some special cheese for supper to celebrate. There was a big squall and everybody had been wet through and we were both happy. Miss Mary said I was her Pulitzer Prize winning husband and had they given it to me for being a good boy for nearly three years or what? I told her I had never understood the Pulitzer prize very well but that I had beaten Tony Pulitzer shooting and maybe it was for that.
"Then the next morning and in the evening they still had it on the radio at news time and I was pretty sure there would shortly be an announcement from SHAEF that it had been cancelled because I was a civilian or never went to college or something.
"When we got home there was the check and I endorsed it to Mr. Bumby and set it to Ft. Bragg. I think that is sounder procedure than sending it back like Mr. [autograph pencil insertion: 'Sinclair'] Lewiss did [sic]. It is the same as five months jump pay and I thought the check looked nice endorsed to Capt. John H. Hemingway 0-I798575 who helped me write The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms and rendered a signal service to literature by pulling Mr. Scott FitzGerald out of the fireplace where he had gone to sleep when we lived at II5 Rue Notre Dame des Champs. Mr. Bumby is very good at many things but he cannot write worth a damn so I thought it was in the finest traditions of the service that he should receive the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. [autograph pencil insertion: 'I didn't mention any of this in the endorsement am still practicing Toujours le fucking politesse.']
"We fish three more marlin tournaments and then get away for Europe and Africa. I've done three years hard here on the island and am three books ahead of the batter so it is okay to take a break.
"Spike should be fine in the Navy. Am one of the few characters that worked in bad times without pay for both establishments and I liked the Navy very much. That was why did not like Harry Butcher. Seeing that son of a bitch with four stripes on always had the same effect as seeing Coolidge wearing a war-bonnet. Wouldn't it have been wonderful if they would have stripped Calvin and put war paint on him as well as the bonnet and put him bare-back naked on a war pony.
"Had a letter from J. Donald Adams, the old Westerner, saying why did I have to go to Africa and why don't I 'come home.' It was a nice letter. But one reason I don't go out west now is because they closed gambling everywhere except Nevada, they have laws you can't bring your dog into a restaurant, and some places now you can't bring your dog into a saloon by state laws and my dog doesn't understand it and thinks it is discrimination. The last time I came through Texas driving with Miss Mary and Blackie she was packing in the Tourist Cottage and I had done to check the car and get some breakfast with Blackie. He is a well behaved dog and I always split breakfast with him. The character who ran the place said, 'You gotta get that dog outa here.' I said, 'All right and you take that plate of ham and eggs and stick it up your ass.' [autograph pencil insertion: 'Always the fucking politesse.']
"Another thing is you can't kill eagles anymore on your bear baits in the fall and take the tails down to the reservation and trade them for a ponies [sic] or for a young squaw. I don't know if Bennie DeVoto, the summer westerner of Mr. Adams went in for this. Am pretty sure Mr. VanWyck Brooks would disapprove.
"Now too if you pack into some country to get some meat in the fall there are six or eight other outfits in there and they shoot at anything that moves. If they shoot at me I shoot right back and sooner or later you will kill somebody doing that and get in trouble.
"Anyway, home is your heart. Places always get over-run. One thing I want to see about Africa is how it has changed. The Mau-Mau business [spelling hand-corrected] doesn't seem the thing to get into the high jerk-off knotch about. There have been I6 whites, I believe, [commas inserted by hand] killed out of a population of 28,000. That runs about 8 deads to a Division. Of course maybe they haven't had the Custer fight yet. But I've seen much worse places to defend than The New Stanley or the Muthaiga Club. Cut away the ornamental underbrush and have a good field of fire and I believe you could hold out at least until the Gin and Tonic ran out.
"I wrote Joe Collins. Don't understand the new set-up too well. It would be an awful shame to lose him and Bradley both. I hear from Buck Lanham but he is very busy with the Ist Division and he always over-works. He has promised me a job if we ever have to fight. I think things are much better and we will probably never have to fight unless someone blowss up [sic] the Battleship Maine.
"Best luck Charlie. I hope we have good luck with the book. But if we don't we will give them some reading for their money. I want to write three good stories on this trip. One trouble I have is that the best stories I know to write I can't publish until Tubby Barton is dead and it would be be very like him to outlive me. [signed] Yours Ernest."
Accompanied by the original typed envelope, postmarked "May 21 1953" from Cuba. This letter was written to Charles "Charlie" Poore, a book reviewer at the New York Times for over 40 years. While Poore is best known in that role, Poore was actually an important military official during World War II and much of Hemingway's writing in this letter refers to Poore's experiences during that time. In fact, Poore took a hiatus from the Times in 1941 to pursue a position at the Office of War Information, where he worked under Archibald MacLeish. Several months into his tenure there, he was moved to Army Intelligence and commissioned as captain. Poore traveled all over Europe and North Africa for the Army during the War, before returning to his work at the Times in 1945. The book Hemingway references at the beginning of the letter was Poore's The Hemingway Reader, published by Scribner's in 1953. Poore described "Hemingway as 'the outstanding story teller, the finest stylist, of his time.' He said he was 'certain that he will stand with Yeats and Joyce as one of the three principal men of letters of our time. And since clocks and calendars move forward, not backward, from here on out he may be the strongest influence that this age will give to posterity'" (New York Times). This letter also discusses Hemingway's celebration of the Pulitzer Prize at length, noting that it began at Cayo Mégano de Casiguas, Hemingway's retreat in Cuba. Hemingway refers to his fourth wife, Mary Welsh Hemingway, who married him in 1946 and remained with him until his suicide. The pair met in London during World War II, where they were both working as war correspondents. Mary went on to become Hemingway's literary executor after his death, publishing several of his works posthumously including A Moveable Feast, Islands in the Stream, and The Garden of Eden. The reference to SHAEF taking back the Pulitzer is a joke about the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, which was in charge of the allied forces in Northwest Europe and became a regular feature in Hemingway's writing after he found himself under SHAEF command during World War II. Hemingway also discusses giving the Pulitzer Prize check to his militarily-inclined son, Jack, affectionately known as Bumby. Jack was regarded by Hemingway as a poor writer with aspirations, but Jack nevertheless served as the inspiration for The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. He was also (apparently) the savior of F. Scott Fitzgerald during Hemingway's time in Paris. A later—particularly revealing—section of the letter mentions Harry Butcher, a naval aide to Eisenhower, with contempt. Hemingway compares his flaunting of his stripes to Coolidge's donning of a war-bonnet following his adoption into the Sioux (he signed of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924). In both cases, Hemingway appears to be making a pointed statement about unearned valor. From there, Hemingway moves on to J. Donald Adams, who was the editor of the New York Times Book Review for nearly 20 years. Hemingway refuses Adams' plea that he go West and instead points out issues with dog acceptance as well as hunting and gambling regulation that render the West a non-option. Hemingway argues that Bernard DeVoto, the noted conservation activist, and Van Wyck Brooks, the literary critic, could not possibly have supported regulations on hunting. Finally, the letter takes a serious turn toward Kenya's Mau Mau, whose struggle against colonialism would result in a violent uprising in 1956. Here, Hemingway over-credits diplomacy, failing to anticipate the eventual war. He does recall Generals J. Lawton Collins and Charles "Buck" Lanham, the latter of whom promised Hemingway a job in the event of war. The letter ends with Hemingway's comic frustration at not being able to publish stories while Major General Raymond O. "Tubby" Barton was still alive. Expected postal stamps, markings, and tears from opening to original envelope.
One tiny spot to letter and original folding creases. Fine condition.