Chapter 7: Paris

“Mrs. Mowrer, you arrived in Paris just before Christmas, 1921, and you went immediately to an inexpensive hotel Sherwood Anderson had mentioned. Is that right?”

“Yes. Mr. Anderson was a very kind man, very thoughtful. Then in a few days we found an apartment we could afford, a tiny fourth-floor walk-up on the left bank.”

“Now, Mrs. Mowrer, we know that you had seen Europe with your family, years before, and that you had spent years studying French. Nonetheless, when you found yourself actually there, did you find the reality of the situation a bit overwhelming?”

She stopped for thought, casting her mind back 40 years. She laughed. “That dinner at the restaurant on Christmas night, I suppose.”

“Tell the court about it.”

“It was our first Christmas married, and our first Christmas in Paris, and we thought we would splurge a little bit on a big dinner, but when it came time to pay the bill, we didn’t have enough money! So Ernest had to run back to our apartment to get some more, of course leaving me at the table so it wouldn’t look as if we were trying to skip out on the bill. And there I was, sitting at the table waiting for him to come back, and I thought, my God, he can’t speak French, what if he can’t find the apartment, what if he gets hit by a car, how will I even know, what will we do?” She laughed again. “That would count as overwhelming, I suppose.”

“He didn’t have a word of the language. Is that correct?”

“It was, but not for very long. Ernest picked up the language like a sponge absorbing water. We weren’t in the country a week before he was using street argot that I certainly never came across in my schoolbooks. And I shouldn’t have worried about his not finding our apartment. He had a fabulous sense of direction.  He never got lost in the same place twice. Once a place got located in his mind, it stayed there. I think he could have come back 20 years later and still remember every turning.”

“Was this not a lonely life for you? As we understand it, at the morning meal the defendant wouldn’t speak to you nor let you speak to him, and then would go away for half the day, or perhaps the whole day, to work in a rented room elsewhere. Not much of a life for you, perhaps.”

She laughed. “Compared to what, Mr. Prosecutor? Compared to sitting alone in St. Louis? We were in Paris for him to work, and to teach himself to write. If he needed to be alone with his thoughts in the morning, beginning his work in silent concentration, that was all right with me. And, you know, we were living cheaply, but we rented a piano for me, even though our little two-room flat was much too small for it, so I still had my music. And in maintaining a household, even for two people,  various chores bring one into contact with others. I wasn’t living as a prisoner.” Her face brightened. “And in the evenings, and on the days when Ernest wasn’t working, or when he finished early, we ranged all over the city. And because of the currency situation, we traveled in Germany and Austria and Switzerland and lived even more cheaply than if we had remained in Paris. It was a wonderful time.”

“I see. And when the newspaper began to send him to conferences. Did he suggest that you accompany him?”

“There would be no reason to. We wouldn’t be together anyway, he would be working, and the Star wouldn’t have reimbursed him for my share of the expenses, so it would be just so much lost income.”

“And did you assume that he would be working day and night, Mrs. Mowrer?”

“As opposed to drinking with the other newsmen, you mean? These certainly are the most extraordinary accusations.”

“We’re just attempting to establish the internal facts of your marriage.”

“So I see. Well, no, I was not under the illusion that newsmen spent their spare time in libraries or art museums or church services. I take it that you think I ought to have objected? Well, I didn’t. We didn’t have the term `male bonding,’ in those days, but we knew full well that shared meals build friendships. That’s how Ernest became a member of the club, one might say, all that evening time with his fellow newsmen.”

“Mrs. Mowrer, to this point, you have painted something of an ideal portrait of you and the defendant as young-marrieds. Would you please tell the court what happened in September, 1922, when the weekly Star directed the defendant to proceed to Constantinople to cover the war between Greece and Turkey.”

In the body, perhaps she would have been biting her lower lip. “We quarreled. Obviously we had had disagreements before, in a year of marriage, but this was the first time we found no room for compromise. Ernest was determined to go to Turkey to observe the war, and I was equally determined that he not go. I was afraid that he would get hurt or killed over somebody else’s troubles, just as in 1918. Millions had died of influenza after the war, and millions more would die of typhus and cholera. Perhaps he had used up his luck. And if he were to be incapacitated, or killed, or permanently maimed, where would I be?”

Sure enough, the memories were there, vivid as yesterday. “Hadley, don’t forget `You are being irresponsible.’ Don’t forget `You aren’t really needed, because any number of news reporters can do the job.’”

The prosecutor turned to him. “If I may say so, Mr. Hemingway. this version of your early marriage is somewhat more credible than the one you just finished writing.”

“Your honor!”

“Sustained.”

“I apologize, your honor. Mrs. Mowrer, was your husband’s physical welfare your only concern?”

“No, there was more to it than that. I had understood that Ernest intended to become a writer, a serious writer. Was he now going to become an ambulance-chaser, heading out to any war he could find?”

“Oh, yes, I remember that one, too! `Is this what I have to look forward to? Are you going to run off to see every war that comes along?’”

“So you put your foot down, and so did he. Tell the court, how did the quarrel resolve itself?”

“It did not resolve itself. When I realized that he was intent on going regardless of my wishes, I refused to speak to him for the three days before he left. Nevertheless, he went.”

“And Mr. Hemingway, you could see that this projected journey of yours was making your wife unhappy. Why did you insist on undertaking it?”

“Well, the Star wanted me to write it up, and they were my only source of income. They were happy with my work, they were printing pretty much everything I sent them. I was John Bone’s fair-haired boy, and I didn’t want to jeopardize that. Plus, it wasn’t going to be that dangerous! I knew I wasn’t going to get hurt, and I knew that Hadley couldn’t judge the situation. Her fears were just fears, weren’t rational.”

“Ernest, I don’t think my fears were so irrational. You did have a pretty miserable time of it, and when you finally returned I had to nurse you back to health.”

“Things happen. But suppose you’d been afraid that I would get run over in the streets of Paris. That happens, too, but you can’t let yourself be afraid of going down the street just to be safe. And anyway, Mr. Prosecutor, you can’t let your wife decide what’s too dangerous and what isn’t. Women want security and men want danger, and they have to find a way to live with the difference. And the way isn’t surrender.”

An indefinable look of satisfaction overcame the prosecutor’s usual careful reserve. “Ah, now we’re getting to it, perhaps. Mr. Hemingway, is it not true that that you entered your marriage determined not to be dominated?”

“You bet. I had watched my mother emasculate my father, and I wasn’t going to let that happen to me.”

“And this was the first time your wife tried to put her foot down.”

“Yeah, I see your point, her trying to tell me I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give in on that. I wasn’t going to let Hadley become Grace Hemingway to my Ed Hemingway! It wouldn’t have been good for either of us if I had let myself replay my father’s life.”

“You couldn’t afford to have her be older and providing money and determining what you would or wouldn’t do professionally.”

“I wasn’t going to be one of these guys who wound up like pet poodles. And anyway, I was still only 23. I was always raring to go, in those days. The Star was going to pay my expenses to go to Turkey! I wasn’t going to pass that up.”

Hadley said: “So you went off on your own, and a drunken cabbie broke the typewriter I gave you, so that you had to get it fixed on the other end of the trip, and you were cold and wet and miserable, and you came home with not only malaria but lice.”

“It was still a successful trip. I learned as much about war there as I ever did in Italy, and the pictures I brought back in my head were central to In Our Time. If I had listened to your fears, I wouldn’t have had any of that.”

“Thank you, both of you. I think this little discussion helps the court to understand the marriage better. Cross-examine?”

“Just one question, I think. Mrs. Mowrer, taking all in all, how would you characterize your marriage during your stay in Paris in 1922 and ’23?”

“We were young and hopeful and happy with each other. We were never as poor as Ernest likes to remember us, and we weren’t quite as unfailingly happy together, either. That’s just life as opposed to memories.”

“Mr. Hemingway, would you agree that your late-life memoir about those years was – unreliable?”

“Life is always more complicated and contradictory than we remember.”

“And even more so when you write those memories out?”

He laughed, a big laugh, reminding himself of how he had been in his prime. “You can’t trust anything a writer tells you. Even if it’s absolutely true, it may have nothing to do with anything that really happened.”

“Thank you. No further questions.”

“Very well, Mr. Prosecutor, your next witness.”

“The prosecution calls Lincoln Steffens.”

.2.

Steff. How many years had it been since Steff died? A great newsman, that’s for sure.

“Thank you, Ernest.”

Still on the air, broadcasting everything. Hard to remember.

“Mr. Steffens, when you and the defendant met at the Economic Conference in Genoa, in April, 1922, you were already famous for your years of investigative reporting, is that not so?”

“Yes, that’s right. I was one of the muck-rakers Teddy Roosevelt decried.”

“In 1922, the defendant’s experience, aside from feature articles, was six months as a cub reporter. Did you not consider him to be over his head, covering an economic conference?”

Steff shrugged, that Frenchman-like shrug of his. “Hem was starting from scratch, in a way, yes. But he was so bright and energetic, and he absorbed everything he saw. For two weeks he ate with us and drank with us and listened and learned. In no time, he was part of our crowd.”

“Mr. Steffens, you say `our crowd.’ Besides yourself, who would that comprise?”

“Americans, mostly. Bill Bird, Guy Hickock, Paul Mowrer, George Seldes, Max Eastman, Sam Spewack. George Slocombe from the London Daily Herald, a couple of other Englishmen. We would go our separate ways and then we would be drawn back together for this conference or that conference, as the statesmen tried to reassemble Europe.”

“And the defendant was accepted as if he were a colleague.”

“He was a colleague. By the time he’d been to a couple of conferences, he knew as much as any of us. And you should bear in mind, he wasn’t being paid to compete with the news services on hard news. Hemingway’s job was to provide interesting feature stories, the personal touch.”

“So Mr. Hemingway was accepted as a journalist. And as a writer?”

“He was in a class by himself. He didn’t just talk about writing, he worked at it, every chance he got. I never knew a newsman who didn’t hope to someday write a novel, but anybody could see that Hemingway was going to do it.”

“In other words, you recognized his talent.”

“Maybe then I would have said talent, but now I would say genius. Hemingway used to say that anybody could write if they put enough into it. It will nearly kill you, he used to say, but you can do it. But in his case, it was more than talent. Accomplishing anything requires work, no question. But genius is a gift from the gods, and either you have been given that gift or you haven’t. He had it. Hemingway was going to succeed, and there was no question about it.”

“Thank you, Mr. Steffens. No further questions.”

“Your honor, the prosecution calls Gertrude Stein.”

“Your honor, I suggest that if it will not derange the prosecution, it might be as well to receive testimony from Sylvia Beach before hearing Miss Stein.”

“The suggestion is agreeable to the prosecution, your honor.”

“Very well, The defense may present its witness.”

“I don’t get it. How can you just interrupt the prosecution by throwing in a defense witness?”

The defense attorney glanced at the judge, who nodded permission. “The prosecutor and I are expected to present the positive and negative elements of your life as fully as possible. We are not trying to build to an emotional climax. In fact, the judge would not allow it. So we often mix prosecution and defense presentations.”

“Huh. Strange.”

“Procedures here are adapted to conditions. You’ll get used to it.”

.3.

Sylvia appeared in the witness stand, not as she must be in 1961, but as she was when he knew her first, in the 1920s. He had written of her, and not too long ago, that her brown eyes were as alive as a small animal, and as gay as a young girl. He could feel himself grinning again. He couldn’t help it.

“Miss Beach, would you tell the court a little about yourself? You were an American by birth.”

“Yes. But I lived my life in Paris, like so many Americans. And to my surprise, I became the founder and sole proprietor of Shakespeare and Company, an English-language bookstore on the left bank.”

“Did Shakespeare and Company not became one of the great meeting-places for American expatriates in Paris in the 1920s?”

“Yes, and in that way I had many friends. It was a lending library, and a reading room, and it became a sort of post office, and sometimes an on-going tea party, and sometimes we sold books. Hemingway bought many books, which I appreciated. He always said he was my best customer, and he was, too.”

“Miss Beach, please tell the court how you came to meet the defendant.”

“Well, you know, I didn’t come to meet him at all! He came to meet me! A few days after Christmas, in 1921, this tall handsome boy appeared and told me that Sherwood Anderson had told him to meet me. Mr. Anderson had come to Paris that springtime, and one day he was walking down the street and he saw his book, Winesburg, Ohio, displayed in a store window, mine. So, he had come in, and introduced himself, and signed copies of his book, and we had had some tea together, and we had become friends, and it seems he went home and recommended me to Hemingway.”

“And a few months later, there was the defendant at your door.”

“Yes, and as it happened, there were no other customers, and so we had a chance to chat. I was the first friend he and Hadley made in Paris, I believe.”

“Do you remember that, when I first introduced myself?”

She turned her sparkling eyes to him. “Could I forget? And you telling me about being wounded in the war, and taking off your shoe and rolling up your trouser leg to show me those terrible scars!” She laughed. “And then telling me all those tall tales about running away from home as a boy, and being a prize-fighter, and fighting with the Italian troops, and being in the hospital for two years, and so many other stories! And I didn’t learn the truth until I innocently repeated them in my little book Shakespeare and Company.” She smiled, with all the affection of a maiden aunt. “You were always a scamp, I think. Part scamp, part saint.”

“Well, maybe we can skip the sainthood part, Sylvia.”

“Yes, that’s you, Mr. Tough Guy. Joyce saw through that, you know.”

The defense attorney said: “Miss Beach, I take it you mean James Joyce, the Irish author.”

“Yes. They became great friends and drinking companions, you know, but that was not for a while. I protected Joyce from people until I was sure of them.”

“And what was your relationships to Joyce?”

“I said to him that I would publish Ulysses. Nobody else dared do it, because if you publish a book that a court deems obscene, the entire edition can be confiscated, and you as publisher are liable to be prosecuted and sent to prison. But I was not a business enterprise with assets to be seized and employees to be threatened. And, as I was in Paris and I intended to remain in Paris, I could trust in French common sense. No Frenchman would initiate such a prosecution. So, I considered myself safe from legal consequences. My problem was to raise enough money by subscription to pay the printing costs. Also to get Joyce to finish revising his manuscript! Eventually I was able to do both.”

“And is it true, as you said in your book, that Ernest Hemingway was responsible for smuggling the book into the United States for you?”

“Yes it is true, only of course we were careful to keep the fact secret. Once Ulysses was finally published, I was responsible for getting the books to the many Americans who had paid in advance while they were in Paris. But how was I to do this? I could not merely put the books in the international mail, because any copy of Ulysses would be confiscated at customs. Hemingway got a friend of his to smuggle them into the United States one by one as he went by ferryboat from Windsor, Ontario to Detroit. Once they were in the United States, they could be mailed to the subscribers, though at a slight risk. Hemingway arranged it as a favor to me and to his friend Joyce.”

“Very well. Would you tell the court, please, your impression of the defendant as he was in the early 1920s.”

“He was a delight, always. He and Hadley both. They would come to see me, and to browse among the books and magazines, and to borrow and to buy and always to share whatever gossip we had about the people we knew. Hemingway loved gossip. And later, after they had that lovely little boy, I remember how he would come in with little Bumby on his shoulders, and Hemingway would read and Bumby would sit just as quiet as a church mouse, and then the two of them would go off to have brioche together, just like a Frenchman and a little Frenchman.”

“Thank you, Miss Beach. That gets us a little ahead of the story. No further questions at this time.”

“Prosecution? Cross examine?”

“Thank you, your honor. I do have a few questions.”

.4.

“Miss Beach, it is on the record that you and the defendant became friends and never lost that friendship. How do you account for that?”

“How does anyone account for friendships? You meet, and you say, `This is someone I love.’ It is not something that can be explained. It happens.”

“Would you tell the court your sexual preference? I assure you, it is relevant.”

“But you know the answer. I have lived very happily with my amie, Adrienne Monnier, all my adult life.”

“Miss Monnier owned the bookstore across the street from Shakespeare & Co.”

“Yes, that is correct. A. Monnier’s.”

“And you lived with her, above her shop. Did the defendant know of your sexual preference?”

“In Paris in the 1920s people did not need to pretend to be what they were not.”

“And your sexual preference did not come between the defendant and you?”

Perplexity: “Why should it?”

“Were his opinions on the subject of sexual preference not as strong as they have been reported to have been?”

“I think people do not understand this aspect of Hemingway very well.”

“We would be glad if you would enlighten us on the subject.”

He could see her organizing what she wanted to say.

“When I first met Hemingway, in December 1921, he was very much Mr. Midwest America.” She saw his reaction, and smiled at it. “Oh, he didn’t think so. He thought of himself, already, as a man of the world. He thought, I have been a news reporter, I have lived in Canada, I have been wounded in the war, I have seen bits of France and Italy – but perhaps he didn’t reflect that these were only brief experiences. He wanted to be a hard-bitten sophisticate, but he was still a product of his upbringing. After all, he was only 22 years old! So, he came to Paris with the opinions and the assumptions about life and conduct that he had absorbed growing up. If he had been English, he would have said `some things just weren’t done,’ you know?”

“Mrs. Mowrer said much the same thing about him.”

“With Hemingway you always have to keep in mind that he always started with strong opinions, and yet he always was open to learning new things.” She laughed. “Which would then form the basis for new strong opinions! So, when he came to Paris he thought he knew what normal was and what abnormal was, but it did not take him long to learn that what is normal to one is abnormal to another, and there is no way to say one is right and another is wrong. Instead we learn to say, `that is right for me,’ or `that is wrong for me.’ And there is one thing more you must keep in mind. Hemingway could be quite intolerant in the abstract, but he found it harder to be intolerant one person at a time.”

“You mean, if you did something he disapproved of, but he liked you, he would overlook it.”

A vigorous shaking of her head, no, no, no. (And how well he remembered it!) “No, I mean that Hemingway was always correcting his abstract ideas with specific experiences. I think Hemingway was concerned not with sexual orientation, but with behavior. I think if he approved of someone’s behavior, nothing else mattered, and if he did not approve, then he might seize upon anything else about the person and criticize that fiercely. If you were homosexual and yet he found your actions acceptable, your sexual orientation did not become an issue. Like that bullfighter later, Sidney Franklin. But if you were homosexual and you did something he disapproved of, he might attack not just whatever it was you did, but how you experienced the sex drive. That didn’t mean he was opposed to homosexuals, it just meant that he was lashing out.” A sympathetic glance for him. “And, as much as we loved him, he could lash out.”

“Yes, thank you.”

“But I also want to say, there could be another reason. Some homosexuals made a cause out of their sexual orientation. They adapted certain conventions, and made their own language, and acted in ways that became stereotyped. It was a delicate topic, and not many writers would touch it, but Hemingway did. You can see it in The Sun Also Rises. I never took that as an attack upon homosexuals or lesbians, and neither did Adrienne, and I think neither did Gertrude Stein. If it was an attack, it was an attack upon certain public postures.”

“Thank you, Miss Beach. No further questions, your honor.”

“Defense Attorney? Redirect? No? Very well. Next witness?”

“The prosecution calls Gertrude Stein.”

 

One thought on “Chapter 7: Paris

  1. I am very much enjoying Papa’s Trial. Sat down yesterday afternoon to begin and have gotten this far. I hope to eventually get a published version of this. Maybe Ruth S. Will digitally publish if no one else picks it up? The dialogue is masterful.

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