Hemingway’s Wives

Hemingway’s Wives
This month commemorates not only the death of Ernest Hemingway 60 years ago on July 2nd, 1961, but also his birth 122 years ago on July 21st, 1899. It would be an understatement to say that Hemingway was both a complex and a contradictory man. He loved women, married four of them, had many affairs both inside and outside of marriage, and hated to live alone. He did not always treat his wives well, and like Picasso, his affairs overlapped, so that he always had the next woman waiting in the wings before he moved on. Hemingway’s wives were just as contradictory and fascinating in their own right, and despite being deceived, bizarrely three of them became friends. Only Martha Gellhorn, fiercely independent, saw no need for the solace, forgiveness or understanding of her predecessor. But it all started with Hadley Richardson, the wife that Hemingway always remembered lovingly with nostalgia and regret. The wife of whom he famously said in A Moveable Feast, “I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her.” But much as he tried later to renounce and blame his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer for his betrayal of Hadley, Hemingway was more than culpable of breaking Hadley’s heart and behaving with monstrous, disloyal selfishness. Ernest Hemingway with Hadley in 1922. © Public Domain Elizabeth Hadley Richardson was eight years older than Hemingway. Unsophisticated, she was also still somewhat unworldly, due to the fact that she looked after her ailing mother throughout her 20s. Born in 1891 in Missouri, she was a gifted pianist. Her father, like Hemingway’s father, had committed suicide in 1903 when Hadley was 12 years old;  the parental traumas linked them together. Hemingway and Hadley met inauspiciously at a party in Chicago in 1920, and immediately hit it off. Hadley reminded Hemingway of a nurse he’d fallen in love with in Italy, Agnes von Kurowsky. Despite Hemingway’s comparatively, young age – he was still only 21 – he was by far the more experienced of the two. Their courtship was short, often spent apart, but despite Hadley’s misgivings about their age difference, they married in September 1921, and rented a small apartment in Chicago. Hadley already benefitted from a small inheritance and then when an uncle died, leaving her another small inheritance, this combined with Hemingway’s employment as foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, offered them enough financial independence to move to Paris. The Hemingways’ life in Paris was well documented, from their first cheap apartment in rue Cardinal Lemoine to their second above a saw mill in rue Notre Dame des Champs. But Paris was really all about Hemingway, as he made a name for himself as a writer and met other writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, often in Sylvia Beech’s bookshop, Shakespeare and Co. Hadley was very much the “wife,” which was exactly how Hemingway wanted it. She was compliant, admiring, loving and stoic. She adored her husband, encouraged his writing, and made do sometimes with little food, insufficient heating in their cold apartment, and she wore unfashionable clothes without complaint. Their best times were skiing in Schruns in Austria. By then their son Bumby was born and Bumby would be looked after at the Taube while Hadley and Ernest skied. It was cheap to live there and Hemingway was editing The Sun Also Rises. But the word was already getting out about this new and promising writer, and Hemingway was falling for the flattery, falling for the easy charms of the rich.

Lead photo credit : Ernest Hemingway © Lloyd Arnold, Public Domain

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After some dreary years in the Civil Service, Marilyn realized her dream of living in Paris. She arrived in Paris in December 1967 and left in July 1969. From there she lived in Mallorca, London, Oman, and Dubai, where she moved with her husband and young son and worked for Gulf News, Khaleej Times and freelanced for Emirates Woman magazine. During this time she was also a ground stewardess for Middle East Airlines. For the past 18 years they've lived on the Isle of Wight.