Of the Days and “Days” of Hemingway

Of the Days and “Days” of Hemingway

We’d like to welcome the stocky white-bearded men resembling Ernest Hemingway who are beginning to pour into town for the annual celebration that is Hemingway Days. May your drinking be done not only in emulation of the great writer’s worst habit, but in empathy with his suffering spirit. Surely his fears of fame never looked like this.

We kid. Enjoy yourselves. And enjoy these pics, all courtesy of the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Quotes are from the Selected Letters, 1917-1961 edited by Carlos Baker.

Hemingway laughing with Pauline in Key West
Hemingway and his wife Pauline laughing at home in Key West, ca. 1928-32.

“This is really going to be the hell of a fine house; the lawn is coming well, figs on the fig tree, coconuts on the trees and plenty of limes. Will plant more limes and coconuts. Wish you could plant a gin tree.” (to Maxwell Perkins, December 1931)

“Am working hard. Cut a ton of crap a day out of the proofs and spread it around the alligator pear trees which are growing to be enormous. Second crop of limes. 3rd crop of Gilbeys.” (to John Dos Passos, April 1932)

Hemingway, Capt. Bra Saunders, Waldo Peirce with tarpon and kingfish
With Capt. Bra Saunders and Waldo Peirce with a catch of tarpon and kingfish, 1928

“Caught the biggest tarpon they’ve had down here so far this season. Sixty three pounds. The really big ones are just starting to come in… We sell the fish we get in the market and get enough to buy gas and bait. Have been living on fish too.” (to Perkins, April 1928)

“Tarpon are in and have caught two – lost a big one last night at the boat – we’re here until the middle of March – absolutely broke may not be able to ever leave, but lots of liquor off a wrecked booze boat. Waldo comes down next week. Come on down. Saw at least 100 tarpon last night out by the jack channel.” (to Dos Passos, February 1929)

With friends at La Floridita, Havana, ca. 1955. From left to right: Roberto Herrera, Byra "Puck" Whittlesey, Jack "Bumby" Hemingway, Spencer Tracy, Ernest and Mary Hemingway, and unidentified bartender.

“Dear Max: Well here is your regular Sunday hangover letter. We won again at the pelota last night and stayed up til three a.m. So today will have to take Marty to the movies as a present for being drunk Saturday night I guess. Started out on absinthe, drank a bottle of good red wine with dinner, shifted to vodka in town before the pelota game and then battened it down with whiskys and sodas until 3 a.m. Feel good today. But not like working.” (to Perkins, February 1940)

—More from LITTORAL & the Key West Literary Seminar:
Hemingway Knocked Wallace Stevens into a Puddle and Bragged About It
Hemingway’s House Before the Wall
Hemingway’s Menu for the Muse

3 thoughts on “Of the Days and “Days” of Hemingway

  1. John E. Sanford says:

    Some of the names in the photo at La Floridita are left to right: unknown to me, Puck Hemingway, Jack Hemingway (Ernest’s oldest son, unknown to me, Ernest and Mary Hemingway

    • Arlo Haskell says:

      Thanks, John. I’ve updated the caption with everyone except the bartender. Sigh. No one ever remembers the bartender…

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