By unattributed - Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11539695
Should we survive this unusual time, each of us will have our own unique tale of this national lockdown.
Ernest, Hadley, and Bumby Hemingway in their apartment in Paris in 1924.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
But Hemingway, being Hemingway,
has most of us beat.
Though not in a way that I would brag about,
but Hemingway, being Hemingway, had no problem with it.
In the summer of 1926, Hemingway was on the cusp of fame.
Still married to Hadley, he acquired the trappings of a celebrity author he felt was necessary ...
including a fashionable mistress, Pauline Pfeiffer.
By Not specified, owned by John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston - John F. Kennedy Library, Ernest Hemingway Collection, direct link to photo here, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7743479
Hadley was church-mouse–poor, Pauline was an heiress.
Hadley was plain and meek;
Pauline was a sleek Vogue editor with a commanding personality.
Getting disgusted yet?
It gets better ... ah, worse.
When confronted by Hadley about it, Hemingway grew furious saying she was the true offender.
It would have been perfect if she had not dragged it out in the open.
Hemingway refused to give up his mistress.
Pauline became a permanent fixture in the bruised marriage.
Hemingway chose to go to Madrid for the bullfights, leaving Hadley with an ill Bumby
o go to friends, the Murphys, in their beach estate, Villa America.
They promptly exiled Hadley and Bumby out of their estate to protect their own children
when their doctor found the boy to have whooping cough.
F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, heard of this, having a lease on a small house nearby,
and offered it as a quarantine shelter to them.
The Murphys and Fitzgeralds kept “a grand distance from us poisonous ones,”
Hadley reported to Hemingway, although both families sent them provisions.
It only gets worse from here.
You guessed, right?
Pauline dropped by.
She'd had whooping cough as a child
and so was immune.
Soon Hemingway joined them,
setting the stage for what must have been one of the odder and more claustrophobic households in literary history.
The idea of sharing a two-bedroom house with his mistress, an angry wife,
a contagious, sick toddler, and a hovering nanny might have brought a lesser man to his knees,
ut Hemingway later described the setting as “a splendid place to write.”
At the end of each evening, the group mounted their empty bottles upside down on the fence spikes.
By the time the Hemingways and Pfeiffer left a few weeks later, these trophies ran the entire length of the fence.
No wonder the ghost of Mark Twain detests the man.
Midnight, on the mantle behind him, is none too fond of him either.
What do you think?