- The Hadley Years in Paris
Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, described on the original cover as “sketches of his early life in Paris in the Twenties,” begins during the initial wintry weeks of January 1922, just after Hemingway and his recent bride, Hadley, had moved into their modest quarters at 74, rue du Cardinal Lemoine in Paris’s 5th arrondissement. The twenty-two-year-old journalist for the Toronto Daily Star and his thirty-year-old wife would quickly flee the damp chill of Paris in favor of several weeks of skiing at Chamby-sur-Montreux in Switzerland. Within the first month of their return to Paris, however, Hemingway would have already met his three most important Parisian allies—Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Sylvia Beach (he had, in fact, already found his way to the latter’s lending bookshop even before the Swiss escape)—all of whom had been recommended to him by his state-side friend and literary mentor, Sherwood Anderson, who had steered the Hemingways to Paris.
In the first letter of the volume under review, Hemingway summarizes for his mother all the travel—for journalistic purposes and for exploratory pleasure, the latter subsidized by Hadley’s inherited investment income—undertaken during the couple’s first year abroad, 1922: “Last year seems pretty full. In Paris, Switzerland, Paris, Genoa [to cover a European diplomatic conference], Switzerland, Italy again, The Black Forest, The Rhine-land, down to the Vendée to see Clemenceau, the Balkans, Constantinople [to cover the Greco-Turkish War; Hadley had quarreled with Hemingway about his leaving her in Paris again for the trip and, in reaction, he may have been unfaithful while away] … home again to Paris, a trip through Burgundy for the wine sale, down to Lausanne [to cover the international peace talks being held there], and now here in the Alps where we were this time last year [i.e., back to Chamby-sur-Montreux where the letter in question is dated 10 January 1923].”
What Hemingway does not mention to his mother—but he does to his privileged correspondent Ezra Pound in the very next letter of the volume—is Hadley’s famous loss of the small suitcase carrying all of Hemingway’s literary writing to that date. Crestfallen, Hemingway bemoans the theft that had [End Page 675] taken place at Paris’s Gare de Lyon, where Hadley was boarding a train that would take her to Switzerland to reconnect with her husband for the holidays: “I suppose you have heard about the loss of my Juvenilia? … I worked 3 years on the dam [sic, following the volume’s convention of respecting Hemingway’s orthography] stuff.” If that were not enough to frustrate his personal writing plans at the outset of the 1923–1925 period covered in this meticulously edited second volume of Hemingway’s correspondence (the jacket featuring, quite appropriately, the writer’s 1923 passport photo), he then receives the unwelcome news, some two months later, that Hadley is pregnant. This would eventually take the couple back across the Atlantic for four months for the birth of the baby in the city of Hemingway’s newspaper bureau, Toronto, “because,” he will write Pound from Canada, “that is the specialite de ville. They don’t do anything else.” In multiple updates to Pound, to Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and to Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier, Hemingway’s reports feature a most virulent Canadaphobic streak.
But, before leaving Paris for Toronto, Hemingway took quite possibly his most significant European trip while living abroad. In spite of Hadley’s being halfway through her pregnancy, she accompanied her husband to Spain in late May of 1923 to see the bullfights that Gertrude Stein had talked of and that Hemingway longed to see firsthand. The reality of the bullfights no doubt surpassed his already high expectations—and not just for the more obvious reasons linked to Hemingway’s well-known machismo, but also for reasons artistic, even literary. With no college degree...