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Unbelievable Happiness and Final Sorrow

The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Marriage

Ruth A. Hawkins

Publication Year: 2012

t was the glittering intellectual world of 1920s Paris expatriates in which Pauline Pfeiffer, a writer for Vogue, met Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley among a circle of friends that included Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, and Dorothy Parker. Pauline grew close to Hadley but eventually forged a stronger bond with Hemingway himself; with her stylish looks and dedication to Hemingway’s writing, Pauline became the source of “unbelievable happiness” for Hemingway and, by 1927, his second wife. Pauline was her husband’s best editor and critic, and her wealthy family provided moral and financial support, including the conversion of an old barn to a dedicated writing studio at the family home in Piggott, Arkansas. The marriage lasted thirteen years, some of Hemingway’s most productive, and the couple had two children. But the “unbelievable happiness” met with “final sorrow,” as Hemingway wrote, and Pauline would be the second of Hemingway’s four wives. Unbelievable Happiness and Final Sorrow paints a full picture of Pauline and the role she played in Ernest Hemingway’s becoming one of our greatest literary figures

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

When I began researching Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway and her family nearly fifteen years ago, I was surprised at what little attention the Pfeiffers had received. Though the Pfeiffers were mentioned by many Hemingway scholars, this family’s impact on Ernest Hemingway and his writing career...

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pp. xi-xiv

As with any book more than ten years in the making, there are numerous people who contributed to this effort. While it is not possible to list everyone by name, there are some who deserve special recognition, beginning with the couple who started me on this journey, Sherland and Barbara...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-6

When Ernest Hemingway met the Pfeiffer sisters in late March 1925, he found Virginia far more fetching than her older sister, Pauline, who later became his second wife. At the time, Virginia gave him the attention he craved, while Pauline thought him boorish. Pauline was working in Paris for...

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2. The Pfeiffers

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pp. 7-17

The Pfeiffer wealth that attracted Ernest Hemingway was earned, not inherited, by a large family spread across two continents. Pauline, like most of her Pfeiffer relatives, moved easily across the distances that separated them. Despite geographic barriers, family members remained unusually close—...

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3. Pauline

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pp. 18-28

Pauline began first grade in the fall of 1901 at Academy of the Visitation on Cabanne Avenue, adjacent to her residential St. Louis neighborhood. The school had relocated in 1892 from downtown, and the Sisters of the Visitation built an imposing chateau-like structure as their new school and...

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4. Ernest

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pp. 29-40

Though Ernest Hemingway called Oak Park, Illinois, home, visits to Walloon Lake near Petoskey, Michigan, helped shape his early years. Ernest made his first trip there before he could walk. His parents, Clarence and Grace Hemingway, had discovered this remote retreat the summer before his birth,...

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5. Three’s a Crowd (1925–1926)

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pp. 41-55

After Kitty Cannell’s party in March 1925, Pauline had little time for socializing. April 1925 marked the grand opening of the International Exposition of Decorative and Applied Arts, which provided much material for the news media and magazines such as...

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6. The One Hundred Days (1926)

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pp. 56-67

Ernest and Pauline considered the one-hundred-day separation a great challenge and, like any other test of perseverance, one that would make them stronger for having survived it. Ernest took Pauline to Boulogne on September 23 for her transatlantic crossing, and they spent their last evening...

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7. Wedding Plans (1927)

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pp. 68-77

Pauline left for Europe on December 30, 1926, aboard the Cleveland and 10 days later stepped onto French soil. Ernest met her at Cherbourg 106 days after putting her on the ship from Boulogne for the one-hundred-day separation. When the lovers spotted each other, both liked what they saw....

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8. The Newlyweds (1927–1928)

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pp. 78-88

After their wedding, Pauline and Ernest headed south by train with their bicycles on board. Their destination was Le Grau-du-Roi, a small fishing port in the south of France at the mouth of the Rhone River Delta. The flat land in the heart of the marshy Camargue region along the Mediterranean,...

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9. Homeward Bound (1928)

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pp. 89-99

After docking in Havana, Pauline and Ernest boarded the Peninsula & Occidental steamship for the ninety-mile trip to Key West. Once they cleared customs in Key West, Pauline remained with their luggage while Ernest checked on the yellow Model A Ford Roadster supposedly waiting...

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10. Family Matters (1928–1929)

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pp. 100-109

With the first draft of his World War I novel behind him, Ernest needed a break to recover from the stress of writing, so he and Pauline hunted and fished their way through Wyoming for the next month. Pauline found the trip somewhat grueling, but the fresh air had a therapeutic effect, and she...

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11. Return to Paris (1929)

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pp. 110-119

The Yorck steamed out of Havana Harbor on April 5, 1929, with the Hemingway entourage, including Ernest, Pauline, Bumby, Patrick, and Sunny. Ernest and Pauline shared a stateroom; Sunny and the children berthed on a lower deck. The strain of the past year had caught up with...

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12. A Place to Call Home (1930–1931)

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pp. 120-133

The Hemingway party—Ernest, Pauline, Patrick, and his nurse Henriette— departed France on January 19, 1930, aboard the La Bourdannais, bound for Havana and Key West via New York. Gus Pfeiffer had left one week ahead of them, having completed his extended business trip to Europe, and...

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13. Chaos Abounds (1931–1932)

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pp. 134-148

Along with personal changes for Ernest and Pauline, the world economy was disintegrating so rapidly that it was difficult to judge the soundness of their decision to return to the United States as homeowners. Relatives in America reported that business conditions continued their downward slide across the country....

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14. In Good Times and Bad (1933)

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pp. 149-160

After the holidays, Pauline returned to Key West by train with the boys. Ernest drove as far as Roanoke, Virginia, where he put the car in storage and went on by train to New York. Having just been with his editor in Arkansas, Ernest probably had little business, but after all the turmoil of the...

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15. On Safari (1933–1934)

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pp. 161-173

Charles Thompson arrived in Paris to join the Hemingways for the trip, and on November 22, 1933, they boarded the General Metzinger, bound for their next great adventure. Ernest assured his mother-in-law he would take good care of Pauline on the trip. The seventeen-day journey took them from...

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16. More New Places (1935)

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pp. 174-183

When the Hemingways returned to Key West in early January 1935, little remained of the sleepy town they had fallen in love with in 1928. During the previous year, the city and county governments had declared bankruptcy and, in a bold move, turned the town over to the Federal Emergency Relief...

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17. More New Faces (1936)

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pp. 184-194

Though 1936 started with Ernest stalled in the doldrums, Pauline entered the New Year in great spirits. Ernest told his mother-in-law that she had “the same energy as always and manages to put in a good eight-hour day every day and then in the evening is suddenly very tired and goes sound...

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18. Trouble Ahead (1937)

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pp. 195-205

About the time Martha decided to leave Key West, Ernest’s planned trip to New York took on newfound urgency. Fortuitously, he heard from Virginia Pfeiffer in New York regarding a place to stay. After wiring her several times from Key West and receiving no answer, Ernest finally received a telegram...

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19. The Marriage Unravels (1938)

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pp. 206-214

When Ernest and Pauline arrived in Key West in late January 1938, Ernest began pulling together a book of all his short stories and catching up on correspondence, including a letter to Hadley with two checks enclosed from Gus Pfeiffer for Bumby’s education fund. Gus sent each of the boys an additional...

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20. The End of Something (1939)

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pp. 215-223

By Valentine’s Day 1939, with Ernest’s heart elsewhere, he headed once again for Cuba. The author rented his usual room at the Ambos Mundos for sleeping and a room at the Sevilla-Biltmore for writing, stocking it with plenty of food to avoid breaking for meals if writing was going well. The...

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21. Acrimony and Alimony (1940–1941)

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pp. 224-235

Ernest stayed nine days in the Key West house, packing his belongings and attempting to work on his novel. He stored boxes of manuscripts and other papers in the basement of Sloppy Joe’s bar and filled his Buick full of clothing, fishing gear, and other personal items. The day after Christmas, he...

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22. War on the Home Front (1942–1945)

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pp. 236-247

With the United States now in the war, Ernest longed to be in on the action. Initially regulations did not allow war correspondents at the front, so Ernest came up with a scheme that allowed him to remain in Cuba and still claim to be serving his country. He organized a private intelligence network,...

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23. New Beginnings (1946–1948)

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pp. 248-259

Pauline Hemingway turned fifty in July 1945 and felt every day of it. She had stiff joints and a touch of bursitis and told Ernest that she felt “old and angry.”1 Pauline took some satisfaction from Ernest’s split with the young, attractive Martha Gellhorn, even though he had taken up with the thirtyseven- year-old blonde Mary Welsh....

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24. Last Rites (1949–1951)

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pp. 260-272

By the time Ernest and Mary left Italy in April, the author had begun playing out his fantasies about Adriana Ivancich on paper. Eventually called Across the River and Into the Trees, this new work told the story of an aging, battered fifty-year-old American colonel, Richard Cantwell, who falls in love...

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25. Afterward

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pp. 273-282

Those who had been part of Pauline Hemingway’s orbit began adjusting to life without her. Despite the fact that she and Ernest had divorced more than ten years before her death, their sons provided a common bond that kept them in each other’s lives. For Pfeiffer family members, it was difficult to...


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pp. 283-310


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pp. 311-316


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pp. 317-bc

E-ISBN-13: 9781610754934
E-ISBN-10: 161075493X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557289742
Print-ISBN-10: 1557289743

Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Authors' spouses -- United States -- Biography.
  • Pfeiffer, Pauline.
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Biography.
  • Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961 -- Marriage.
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