The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume II: The Paris Years


In 2011, Cambridge University Press published the first volume of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: 1907-1922. This volume followed Hemingway’s personal thoughts through his youth, his years during World War I and his arrival in Paris. The Letters of Ernest Hemingway Volume II: 1923-1925, which has just been published, follows Hemingway as an expatriate in early 1920s Paris. Although Volume I is an insightful glimpse into Hemingway pre-fame, Volume II proves fascinating for his encounters and friendships with Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and neglected Jazz Age writer John Dos Passos. The volume features previously unpublished letters, along with one of Hemingway’s sketches which was rejected by Vanity Fair magazine. Although nothing has been confirmed, it is expected that a third volume (or possibly more) will be published by Cambridge, detailing more of Hemingway’s letters from his later years, which prove equally extensive and illuminating.

Hemingway’s letters range from being insightful to humorous, to outright ridiculous. Although the first volume of letters offers another glimpse of Hemingway besides his macho persona, below is a letter from Hemingway to Fitzgerald, excerpted from the new volume, which disturbingly details Hemingway’s rather barbaric idea of heaven:

To F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1 July [1925] 

Burguete, Navarra
July 1—

Dear Scott—

We are going in to Pamplona tomorrow. Been trout fishing here. How are you? And how is Zelda? 

I am feeling better than I’ve ever felt—havent drunk any thing but wine since I left Paris. God it has been wonderful country. But you hate country. All right omit description of country. I wonder what your idea of heaven would be—A beautiful vacuum filled with wealthy monogamists, all powerful and members of the best families all drinking themselves to death. And hell would probably [be] an ugly vacuum full of poor polygamists unable to obtain booze or with chronic stomach disorders that they called secret sorrows.

To me heaven would be a big bull ring with me holding two barrera seats and a trout stream outside that no one else was allowed to fish in and two lovely houses in the town; one where I would have my wife and children and be monogamous and love them truly and well and the other where I would have my nine beautiful mistresses on 9 different floors and one house would be fitted up with special copies of the Dial printed on soft tissue and kept in the toilets on every floor and in the other house we would use the American Mercury and the New Republic.* Then there would be a fine church like in Pamplona where I could go and be confessed on the way from one house to the other and I would get on my horse and ride out with my son to my bull ranch named Hacienda Hadley and toss coins to all my illegitimate children that lined the road. I would write out at the Hacienda and send my son in to lock the chastity belts onto my mistresses because someone had just galloped up with the news that a notorious monogamist named Fitzgerald had been seen riding toward the town at the head of a company of strolling drinkers.

Well anyway were going into town tomorrow early in the morning. Write me at the

Hotel Quintana
Pamplona
Spain

Or dont you like to write letters. I do because it’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something.

So Long and love to Zelda from us both—

Yours,
Ernest

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume II: The Paris Years

  1. I love this. It’s so incredible to read what favourite authors wrote in their unguarded moments. In fact, I recently posted ‘Letters from Steinbeck’ on my blog. Feel free to check it out 🙂
    http://thepaperbookcollective.com/2013/11/18/letters-from-steinbeck/

  2. Thanks Jayde-Ashe for the support. Great post on Steinbeck and great blog; letter-writing is truly a special but regrettably dying form of communication. I can’t think of many contemporary authors who write letters. But the first global conference on letters and letter-writing will take place next year in Prague, so perhaps, like the vinyl record, it will see a revival…

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