Hemingway and Hadley

In 2012 I was writing a novel to be called Papa’s Trial, which would be about Hemingway’s past-life review after his suicide, he thinking he was on trial. It took another seven years for me to finish the novel (which is at a publisher’s as I write this, waiting for their decision). Among a number of conversations with Hemingway at the time, there was one in which his first wife and lifelong love Hadley joined in.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hadley after she left Bryn Mawr and returned home to live with her mother and sister, was “afraid to shut my eyes at night for fear of the terrors that were to come.” She should have been able to share that with Hemingway. I wonder if they did? I could say so in PT, anyway.


You could talk to Hadley as easily as to me, you know.

Oh, I don’t know. I think I am making all this up quite enough as it is! Every new person, new viewpoint, just makes it harder.

At some point you have to cease to clutch, and accept.

Haven’t I been doing that? But there’s a limit. I feel like I’m just inventing freely. That’s well and good if I’m writing a novel –

Writing a novel based on materials you have developed in months of talking to me. If I don’t exist, Hadley doesn’t exist, but if I do, how doesn’t she?

All right. Big gulp again. Hadley, if you’re there and willing to talk, it is a pleasure to meet you. If you’re there, you’re here, so you know how much I admire you, and how glad I am for what you did for Ernest, and he for you.

[Hadley]: Yes, thank you. And you can lecture me about drinking, too, if you wish, and I will not take it amiss.

Did I lecture, Papa?

Can let’s say you persisted in presenting your viewpoint and, pretty consistently.

Your energy feels different.

I am with Hadley.

So we feel different, or I guess we expressed differently, depending on who we join minds with?

Shouldn’t that be obvious?

I suppose, but I hadn’t thought about it until now. It does make sense. It is just what I have been saying about us eliciting from somebody whatever we share with them, and not what we don’t share.

Yes, with reservations. Just as with mirrors, they can sometimes show you what you aren’t, as well as what you are.

I get it. So I can talk to both of you about drinking without myself being in the habit of heavy or habitual drinking.

That’s put very diplomatically. However, remember that diplomacy is wasted in these circumstances.

You must have been a lovely lady as well as a lively girl.

Thank you. Ernest found me so.

So, to revert to the question that started this, did you and Ernest mutually confide these nighttime fears?

Of course. We had our emotional honeymoon before we were married, and it was during those months that we opened ourselves to each other. Of course there were secrets, there are always secrets, but we weren’t attempting to deceive as much as create a better reality. Ernest did not attempt to present himself as the strong silent war hero. What he really was, was hero enough for me.

So you really were available to him when he was feeling most vulnerable.

Ernest was an extremely complicated man, the deepest man I ever met. I could provide him with emotional support, and I did, but I could not go everywhere he went. I could keep up with him intellectually in any one place, but he was capable of being in so many places! No one I knew could accompany every facet Ernest displayed. Pauline couldn’t. In fact, I think you could say that each successive wife was capable of accompanying less and less of him, which left him more and more lonely.

[EH] That’s true. It wasn’t just guilt I felt over leaving you. I missed the sympathy in many areas where later I didn’t have it. Couldn’t find it. After a while couldn’t have responded to it, I suppose.

Hmm. Well, I hope you are both happy with the way, Papa’s Trial is going.

We hope you are happy with it.

Slow and steady wins the race. Nice meeting you, Hadley. I’ll be glad to talk to you anytime. Goodbye for now.


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