Hemingway’s Letters to Fitzgerald

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From The New York Times, October 25, 1972:

The strangely ambivalent relationship between two of this country’s foremost novelists — Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald — is pitilessly traced in a series of letters that Hemingway wrote between 1949 and 1951 to Arthur Mizener, Fitzerald’s biographer, and that are due to be auctioned Tuesday at Sotheby Parke Bernet.

The unpublished typewritten letters, part of a large collection of modern first editions, autograph letters manuscripts to be sold at the auction, offer penetrating insights into Hemingway’s mixed feelings about the friend who was one of his earliest supporters but for whom he said he “never had any respect.” They also present his strongly personal – and frequently scatological – views of such other prominent literary figures as Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Edmund Wilson, Maxwell Geismer, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Marcel Proust and Budd Schulberg.

The eight letters, which Sotheby Parke Bernet calls “the most important group of Hemingway letters ever to appear at auction,” are expected to bring between $4,000 and $6,000, although a spokesman for the auction house said they might go for considerably more.

. . . .

The Hemingway-Fitzgerald relationship began in 1925 when the latter was instrumental in bringing the noted Scriber’s editor, Maxwell Perkins, and Hemingway together, A rift developed between them in 1936 after Fitzgerald published in Esquire a confessional article entitled “The Crack-Up,” in which Hemingway felt Fitzgerald demeaned himself. Shortly thereafter, Hemingway spoke slightingly of Fitzgerald in his short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” but Fitzgerald bore the insult with remarkable patience and just before his death in 1940 wrote Hemingway a laudatory letter on the publication of “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” adding, ‘I envy you like hell and there’s no irony in this.”

The letters also provide glimpses of Hemingway as he strikes out at Edmund Wilson, whom he calls a great critic with “strange leaks in his integrity,” because of Wilson’s suggestion that Hemingway had been influenced, by a mysterious “wound,” and of his famous boxing match with the Canadian writer Morley Callaghan, one round of which Fitzgerald, as referee allowed to go on for 13 minutes. And Hemingway writes sadly about the killing of a young German soldier in World War II.

In one excerpt, Hemingway said that James Joyce was the only living writer he ever respected. “He had problems,” Hemingway wrote, “but he could write better than anyone else. Ezra was nice and kind and friendly and a beautiful poet and critic. G. Stein was nice until she had the menopause. But who I respected was Mr. Joyce, and not from reading his clippings.” The eight letters, all addressed for Hemingway’s home of Finca Vigia in the Cuban village of San Francisco de Paula, about 15 miles from Havana, were written in response to requests by Mr. Mizener for information on Fitzgerald. Mr. Mizener, whose letters will also be auctioned in the same lot with the Hemingway letters, was already working on the biography, which was published in 1951 under the title of “The Far Side of Paradise.”

Hemingway’s first letter, dated July 6, 949, advised Mr. Mizener to get in touch with Sheilah Graham, Fitzgerald’s last love, whom he described as “the movie critic,” for additional information, and added: “I loved Scott very much but he was extremely difficult with that situation he got himself into and Zelda constantly making him drink because she was jealous of his working well…He had a very steep trajectory and was almost like a guided missile with no one guiding him.”

. . . .

In the next letter, dated Aril 22, Hemingway revels most clearly the ambivalence of his feelings about Fitzgerald. “I never had any respect for him ever,” he wrote, “except for his lovely, golden, wasted talent. If he would have had fewer pompous musings and a little sounder education it would have been better maybe. But anytime you got him all straightened out and taking his work seriously Zelda would get jealous and knock him out of it.’

“Also alcohol, that we use was the Giant Killer, and that I could not have lived without many times; or at least would have cared to live without; was a straight poison to Scott instead of a food. Here’s something you should know too; he never slept with another girl except Zelda until Zelda went officially crazy. She was crazy all the time I knew them but not yet net-able. I remember her at Antibes saying, ‘Don’t you think Al Jolson is greater than Jesus?’ I said, ‘No,’ which was the only answer I knew at the moment…

Link to the rest at The New York Times