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Reviewed by:
  • The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume I, 1907–1922
  • Joseph Fruscione
The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume I, 1907–1922. Eds. Sandra Spanier and Robert W. Trogdon. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. lxxxiv + 431 pp. Cloth $40.00.

8 August 1918. A young, recently wounded Hemingway writes to his sister Marcelline:

Why oh bright beam of an August moon have you not written me? Is it that you love me not? Or is it but neglect? If but the girls of our village could see me in my dress uniform, I am of a great fear that the men would be wifeless. However for them to appreciate my scars it would be necessary for me to wear no pants (i.e. trousers); or else to have flaps sown the length of the knees that they might be unbuttoned at will to show the marks of valour which may be many and various. Ah Hah! I will wear nothing but my tank suit! Then will all be revealed. N’Espa?

(Letters I, 127–128)

Written just one month after his serious wounding on the Italian front, this playful letter reveals some definitive aspects of the nascent Hemingway persona: the war, the wounding, the romance of the injured veteran, the “valour” (real and constructed), the use of a foreign language, and the eager performance of Hemingway. In this and many other pieces in The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume I, 1907–1922, one sees the “private patois” Spanier describes in her introduction as common in Hemingway’s letters (xxv), such as the “Ivory” nickname used elsewhere in this letter for his sister, who could also be or “Mash,” or “Old Ivory,” or any of at least four others.

The expertly edited Volume I of this projected multivolume series collects 264 letters, ranging from July 1907 to December 1922. Sandra Spanier, Robert Trogdon, and the editorial team have done a superb job gathering, organizing, and framing the early letters emphasizing the people, experiences, and places of Hemingway’s early life. Oak Park, northern Michigan, Kansas City, Paris, Italy, Constantinople, and Switzerland are among the places that figure prominently in this collection. From these and other locales, Hemingway wrote to his parents, siblings, friends, professional acquaintances, and fellow writers, as [End Page 124] well as to Hadley Richardson, who would become his first wife. By and large, this first volume of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway is a major event in American literary studies that has both scholarly and popular appeal. Either way, it is excellent to read, or study, or both.

The scholarly editing pedigree for Volume I speaks for itself: Sandra Spanier and Robert W. Trogdon are the primary editors; Albert J. DeFazio III, Miriam B. Mandel, Kenneth B. Panda are Associate Editors; and J. Gerald Kennedy is Advisory Editor. That said, their scholarly presence is apparent but not invasive or distracting. The editors provide a clean, readable page layout and typography. The volume’s editorial apparatus is thorough and useful, containing edition and volume introductions by Spanier and Trogdon, respectively; a foreword by Linda Patterson Miller; maps of Oak Park, northern Michigan, Paris, and Europe; a chronology; and explanations of spelling choices, punctuation, interlineations, abbreviations, and other editorial matters. A roster of correspondents, calendar of letters, and index—all extremely clear and helpful—conclude this volume. The editors impressively trace the genealogy of each letter: whether it has been previously published, where (if anywhere) it is archived, if it is typed or handwritten, if and how it was signed, and what kind of envelope, postmarks, and other features round out its significance. This volume even reproduces the many small images Hemingway sometimes drew on his letters, such as the sketch of a roulette table accompanying his 16 February 1920 letter to Dorothy Connable containing gambling advice (e.g., “The thing to do however is to watch what numbers aren’t winning” [224]), or the beer stein (consistent with his “Stein” nickname) accompanying his signature on a March 1919 letter to Jim Gamble.

“We aim for this edition to be as inclusive as possible,” Spanier notes of the project as a whole, “comprising all of Hemingway’s...


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