Hemingway and Pauline

Monday, November 23, 2015
F: 6:10 a.m. Martha, Papa? Or something else?
EH: Martha was a catalyst for many things. I don’t know why she came into my life, but I can tell you that my life changed considerably because of her. For the moment, let’s try to hold to the time period we are considering – the mid-1930s. She and I were big influences in each other’s lives only about 10 years, from 1936 to 1945, but the main upheaval in mine came right at the beginning. Everybody knows she supplanted Pauline, but not everybody knows that that was not the deepest effect her presence had in my life.
You have to remember, by 1936 when she met me, I was still in my thirties. In other words, I was a young man still. Most of the injuries that would slow me down and draw down my stamina hadn’t happened yet. In particular, the war hadn’t happened – not the months of patrolling with Pilar as a Q-boat, not the concussion in London followed by six months’ hard campaigning in France, not the multiple injuries in the two African plane crashes [in 1954]. I was vigorous, healthy, successful, rich, famous, and in general on top of the world. Of course under the surface things weren’t so perfect, but maybe they never are.
F: Referring, I take it, to home life.
EH: Pauline and I had come to an understanding, but an understanding is not the same thing as being rapturously in love, and it is very much not the same thing as compatibility. The longer we knew each other, the more some basic differences surfaced, and the more they mattered.

F: Wealth, politics, and the Catholic church in politics?
EH: All of those and a few more. I didn’t forget that she had deliberately sabotaged my marriage to Hadley. Yes, I know I wasn’t an innocent helpless victim – but I also know that I hadn’t wanted to change, I had been torn between the two, and I could easily have gotten through it and stayed with Hadley if it hadn’t been for Pauline pressing for resolution, pressing to make the situation impossible, ending up with inviting Hadley on a motor tour and then making sure Hadley tumbled to the situation.
Let’s be clear about this.
I didn’t resent Pauline’s falling in love with me and wanting to have me. If anything, it was flattering. But I did resent her determined getting her own way because that is what she wanted. It is one thing to want something somebody else has. It’s something else to go after it single-mindedly because anything you want, you have a right to. The longer she and I went on, the more clearly that streak in her showed, and the more manipulated and injured I felt. That wasn’t the only thing in our relationship – there were plenty of positives too – but it kept getting more and more important.
F: You know, as I was writing that out, what came to mind, absurdly enough, was “Double Indemnity,” where the two main characters are linked together by the crime they committed, and that link keeps getting more important, and ultimately destroys everything between them.
EH: Not so absurd an analogy. She wronged me and Hadley, and I wronged Hadley, and how were we ever to get beyond that? If it had been just one of those things, all right – but she had set out to get me, and that made it different. I trust that you won’t jump to the same conclusion so many people have jumped to, that this is merely rationalization on my part. And even though I admit that in life I tended to see it, or try to see it, as all her fault and none of mine, still it is true that no matter how much to blame I was, still it was Pauline who was the instigator, and the deliberate instigator, of the whole mess.
People have said that it was all for the best, that Hadley couldn’t have kept up with my life, and maybe they are right and maybe they aren’t, but in any case that should have been for her and me to decide. If she and I had stayed together, my life in the 1930s would have been very different. Probably never would have set eyes on Key West, and likely enough not on Cuba either. We would have returned to the States, but where we would have wound up, how we would have lived, there’s no telling. Out west somewhere, maybe, I don’t know. What I do know is that Pauline deliberately broke us up because she wanted what she wanted, and spoiled rich girls feel entitled.
F: And you never forgave it.
EH: No, I didn’t. If anything, my anger grew with the years, as I watched her bring that same attitude to anything that came her way.
F: And you never forgave yourself.
EH: Of course not, but that was different, because I had to keep pushing that guilt down, so naturally it moved into anger at Pauline. And I mostly knew what I was doing, but tried pretty hard not to know. So that was the background when I met Martha.
F: You hadn’t exactly been faithful to Pauline in the meantime.
EH: Oh no. And that’s a whole session in itself, Dr. Freud.
F: Well, why not talk about it, as background to Martha?
EH: Some of it is nobody’s business, but some of it we can talk about, I suppose.
F: Provided I don’t promptly reinterpret everything you say as justification, or window-dressing, or whatever.
EH: Well, that’s what always happens! Nobody knows all of his own motivations, and some things are obvious to others that are not obvious to him, but that doesn’t mean that everything he says is a lie, or a cover-up, or a misinterpretation, or a shallow reading of a deeper truth.
F: Biographer’s disease, I suppose.
EH: If you are going to ask a guy for his testimony, probably you ought to listen to what he says and take it as his best effort to tell you the truth – and then examine it, not just wade right in assuming he’s trying to put himself in the best light possible. Sometimes, he is. Sometimes, he’s trying to find the truth and express it, and there are always more layers to dig into.
F: So—
EH: So it is complicated. The whole subject of sex is complicated, that’s why there are so many rules around it, and everybody’s rules are different. And if you are born within one set of rules and you accept them, then if you stray outside them, you either adopt a new set of rules – your own or someone else’s – or you stick with the original rules and tell yourself you will try harder, or you give up on rules entirely. Or maybe you go from one to the other. Maybe you hold two or three different positions at the same time, and they fight each other for predominance. And that is just looking at the subject as if it were dealing with something that didn’t change. But of course sex itself comes in different packages, and that just complicated things.
There was sex as a physical activity, strong sensations, expression of parts of yourself that couldn’t be expressed any other way, but purely physical, with everything else subsidiary, often enough interfering.
Or there was sex mingled with love, the proportions fluctuating by the time of day, so to speak. This one, you don’t have with just anybody. This one involves your emotions as much as your body, almost. Almost. It isn’t what you could call love, but it isn’t just sex either. It’s more like physical attraction that makes the other person desirable while it lasts, but dispels the illusion when it has served its purpose.
F: What they call “falling in lust.”
EH: Yes, and then there is love and sex so mingled that they can’t be separated. Doesn’t matter if you’re mad at the other person. Doesn’t matter if your moods clash. Doesn’t matter if the two of you live much of your lives in separate worlds that never touch, this chemistry between you is there because you belong together and you both know it. And that’s what Hadley and I had from the first day I saw her in Smith’s apartment. And it is what Pauline and I never had.
F: Never?
EH: I know, “never is a long time,” but never. We shared a strong physical and intellectual attraction, and we did make two children together, and she was quite helpful to my work in her intelligent criticism, and her money did smooth our way, and she did work hard to share what I liked to do and to make my creative life possible. Anybody who knew us knew that, so for a lot of people – Karl and Lorine for example — the way I sometimes treated Pauline was incomprehensible and my leaving her was reprehensible. That’s because they couldn’t factor in what was always boiling within me – oh, not always boiling, often enough it was quiet and I forgot it was there, but it was always there – the knowledge that I had lost what I had, and lost it because this particular person wanted me but couldn’t provide the same bond that Hadley and I had and never lost, only I had to live on without her.
So when you talk about sex, and in the context of my marriage to Pauline, you have to understand that I sort of considered myself under no obligation that way.
F: What?
EH: I was married that way once, to Hadley. After that, it was different.
F: You’re going to have to spell that out.
EH: I don’t see why. Isn’t it obvious? I married Hadley and that was going to be it for our lifetimes. But then came Pauline, and we went to bed and it meant I had broken my vow to Hadley whether she ever knew it or not. And then before too long she did know it, and she made me choose, and then said forget it, it’s over, and it was too late. Was I going to go into marriage with Pauline pretending that I was doing it all over again?
F: Meaning, I take it, pretending that your vows to Pauline would mean it, this time.
EH: Can you see how hypocritical and stupid that would have been?
F: I don’t know, I think that’s what people would expect. I’ll bet it’s what Pauline expected.
EH: Yes, well it amounts to saying, pretend the last half dozen years never happened. Pretend the two of you didn’t start out with adultery. You might as well pretend we were virgins.
F: And was this in your mind when you were saying your second set of marriage vows?
EH: No, not in so many words and not in my thoughts, either. But there had been a real change, and it wouldn’t take much to make me aware of it. I never committed to Pauline the way I had committed to Hadley, how could I? What would it have been worth in my own eyes? I had already demonstrated I couldn’t be trusted that way.
F: Hmm. Well, no need to explore the subject of Jane Mason, I guess.
EH: Or others. I enjoyed them and they enjoyed me and Pauline turned a blind eye to it. She had what she had wanted, and she knew how to take the best of it and put up with what else came with it.
F: Well, we still haven’t quite gotten Martha on stage, but we’ve about used up this pen, and we’ve gone 75 minutes, so I suppose we will have to adjourn until next time.
EH: Till then.

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