Hemingway on Hadley and Pauline

Saturday, September 26, 2015
7:30 a.m. [Dirk Dunning spent Friday night here, preparatory to his program at TMI, and of course any visitor disrupts your accustomed routines. I slept a little late, then I got up and made coffee and sat down at the dining room table with my journal. But I was half expecting to hear Dirk wake up at any moment, so in a way I was writing with an half an ear focused upstairs. I didn’t know how well that would work.]
F: Papa, let’s try for a few minutes, anyway. We may be interrupted. Can you continue about what happened to you in Key West? I got the feeling – well, you tell it, and I’ll see.
EH: You have to go back to me and Hadley. That is where I broke something irreparable.
F: You never really regarded yourself as married to Pauline?
EH: No, not that. But – well, this isn’t the way to go about it.
F: Do it your way, of course.

EH: It’s intricate. With you with an ear out for your houseguest maybe waking up and coming down for some coffee isn’t the most conducive way to do this.
F: Can we try? Would an interruption mean anything on your end? I mean, you could come right back to the same page, couldn’t you?
EH: Yes, I could. The difficulty would be on your end, and it might not even be a difficulty. That would depend on you.
F: I’m willing to chance it if you are.
EH: Well, we’ll see. You see, there are all these threads to the problem. I’m not talking about strands, the way you do, I mean the situation had so many elements, and it’s a lot to weave together.
First there was Hadley. She was my friend and admirer and the mother of my child. We played together and thought together, and we used each other as encouragement to face the world. You know she said the world was a prison and she and I were going to break out of it together, and that’s just what happened. She broke out of a situation that said she was too frail, she couldn’t do anything, she couldn’t have a life, she wasn’t good enough, she didn’t measure up. I broke out of a situation where I was supposed to be a gentleman, a professional, a pillar of the community, and spend my life doing things I didn’t are about so I would have the respect of people I didn’t care about.
We did break out. Her trust fund gave us the seed corn. My talent made the seed corn produce. Well, not a good analogy, but you get the idea. With her guaranteed money we could take chances, and with my talent we could make those chances pay off. She needed me at first to be the front man against the world, and I needed her at first to give me the reassurance and companionship I needed. Us against the world, sort of, except it wasn’t really us against the world so much as us exploring and being welcomed into the world.
F: But?
EH: Well, but she was eight years older than I was, and she was beginning to have a hard time keeping up, especially after Bumby. We were at different stages of life, you see. Not radically different, but different. I was still full of piss and vinegar, and she was ready to slow down a little – maybe needed to slow down a little. It’s natural. But the result was, she was holding me back a little, I was straining her a little.
That was all right, we could have dealt with it, and my life would have been more like Morley’s [Morley Callaghan], or Archie MacLeish’s or Dos [John Dos Passos]. You know, paired and accumulating good memories as you go along. It would have been a good life, and one I would have liked, mostly.
But then there was Pauline, setting her cap at me, determined to have what she wanted, and I was too weak to say no. I mean, the sex was terrific, the lure of a different kind of body, a different kind of mind, a different kind of life. I was too greedy. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too, and you can do that for a while, and then the cake is gone and all you’re left with is the memory of how the icing tasted.
It was so tempting! Two women, both of them with things to admire and love, both centered on me. God, I was a dope! But there it was. And then I was in the middle and it was choice time. Oh, I was mad at Hadley for bringing that out into the open! I sort of felt as if it could have gone on indefinitely if only she hasn’t had to precipitate things by speaking of them. That was stupid, too, I realized too late. It wasn’t Hadley wanting the situation to end, it was Pauline. And Pauline was the only one of the three of us who knew exactly what she wanted and was ruthless about getting it. And don’t think I ever forgave her for it. Hadley wanted me, but only if I was happy to be with her. I wanted both of them, and couldn’t make myself go back to my previous contentment. What I mean is, I couldn’t go back to being happy with Hadley just by wanting to. But Pauline wanted me, and wanted us, and she really didn’t stop to consider Hadley or me at all.
No, that isn’t quite right. Pauline wasn’t cruel, she was just relentless. She didn’t want to hurt Hadley unnecessarily, she just wouldn’t be deterred from what she wanted because it would hurt her, or anybody.
So that was the background you have to keep in mind when you think about my life with Pauline in Key West. A lot of our life was all right and some of it was very good, and we did try – but I always had the suppressed anger at what she had done to break up something that could never be repaired. I don’t mean I didn’t see my own culpability in it. I did, and it hurt for a bunch of reasons that it might be worthwhile listing, but mostly I saw that it wouldn’t have happened the way it did if it hadn’t been for Pauline wanting what she wanted and bulling her way through until she got it.
F: Do you want to list those reasons?
EH: Oh, pride, guilt, loss, you know.
F: Specifically?
EH: Well I felt like a damn fool to have let my life be broken up like that just because of my own greed and vanity. I wanted another woman and I got her and it didn’t occur to me that I was going to lose something irreplaceable until it was too late.
And I felt so guilty about Hadley, you can imagine.
F: Okay, well here’s our interruption. More later.

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