“YESTERDAY WORKED HARD AND GOOD AND HAD ALL MY STUFF…”: SUPERB HEMINGWAY LETTER TO THE SCREENWRITER OF THE FILM VERSION OF THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA
HEMINGWAY, Ernest. Typed letter signed. Cuba, Sunday, Oct. 2, 1955. Quarto, one large sheet of Hemingway’s “Finca Vigia San Francisco de Paula Cuba” stationery with text on both sides (1-1/4 pages of typed text).
A long, personal and very amusing typed letter signed by Hemingway in pencil (“Papa”) to Peter Viertel (“Peterdermus”), the screenwriter for the film version of The Old Man and the Sea.
The letter, which also has seven words written by Hemingway in pencil, deals with a variety of topics, including Hemingway’s writing, the film version of The Old Man and the Sea (with references to Spencer Tracy, the star of the film, and Leland Hayward, the producer), his family (primarily his son, “Mr. Bumby”), his investments with MLR (Merrill Lynch), gambling at a ball game, and talking about death. The letter reads in part: “Dear Peterdermus… Here everything ganz gut (probably misspelled.) Cannot write on this machina much less spell on it… Yesterday worked hard and good and had all my stuff, 1472 words and only used the word fuck once when it was used in anger and there was no substitute. Can always substitute the word fornicate. It was fine having you down. Next best thing to seeing Mr. Bumby. Am prouder of you than Mr. Bumby because you make more monies and may support me in old age. But am proud of Mr. Bumby too and always remember how when Hadley and me were busted up for my fault and stupidity and Bumby was in St. Louis with poor dear lovely Hadley and relatives would ask him to needle him where his father was… Check with Brown about the coast and explain to him and to Leland [Hayward] how far we are committed to getting Tracy in shape. This may bore Tracy but it will bore Leland’s pocketbook a hell of a lot more if we do not do it and if we do not do it properly Freddie will want no part of it. I liked Freddy very much. He is the first full grown man since Philip Percival and old man [Bernard] Berenson that have had any contact with. I mean guys who think with their heads. All technicians get along with good. Also respect Brown very much. Tedder too. Many others and also have heroes. Ball game going to start now pretty soon. Miss Mary says to send love. I send love too…. It was funny when Slimsky [Leland Hayward’s wife] got so upset when I thought Leland might die as though it were a disloyalty when one oneself has thought every day for 105 days that one would die on that day every morning when you woke (if you had not been up all night) and never gave a shit nor failed to make one… you are not supposed to kid about whether peoples might die. Can remember a character, British, going to jump in and he wanted some final word or talisman from me, then with RAF and he had no business even telling me he was for going… I thought very hard for a final word or talisman as he put it and said, ‘Keep your bowells open and remember that there will be some fucking corner of some foreign field that will be forever England.’ Much Love. Thanks for all the work. Must go to big investment ball game. Papa.”
A rich and revealing letter, in fine condition.