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  • The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Vol 4, 1929-1931 ed. by Sandra Spanier and Miriam Mandel
  • Peter L. Hays
The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Vol 4, 1929-1931. Edited by Sandra Spanier and Miriam Mandel. Cambridge UP, 2018, 726 pp. $45.

This fourth volume is as magnificently edited as was its three predecessors. It has 92 pages of introductory material: two introductions (a general one by Spanier, a more specific one by Scott Donaldson), chronology, maps, acknowledgements, etc. The concluding editorial apparatus includes brief biographies of the letter recipients, reproductions of inscriptions by Hemingway, largely taken from auction catalogs, and a calendar of when the letters were written and to whom. Where the first volume, covering 16 years, was 421 pages, this volume, covering only 2 years, is a lengthy 726 pages long. It covers the years as A Farewell to Arms was being finished, serialized in 6 installments in Scribner's Magazine, starting in May 1929, and published to great acclaim on 27 September 1929. While the novel was being serialized, Hemingway struggled from June to late August to get the ending he wanted. Thus there are many letters and cables to Scribner's editor Maxwell Perkins over editorial matters, particularly the obscenities Hemingway felt were essential to a realistic portrayal of soldiers in war, and which Perkins knew would get the book banned in America (both the serialization in Scribner's Magazine and the book were banned in Boston); Hemingway also asked repeatedly for sales figures in 1929, as well as inviting Perkins often to come to Key West to fish. He also was engaged in setting up a trust fund for his mother, sister Carol, and brother Leicester, and many letters are to his mother with checks enclosed. Other letters were sent to Waldo Pierce, Mike Strater, Archibald MacLeish, Thornton Wilder, John Dos Passos, Owen Wister, and Scott Fitzgerald, among others. When the novel came out, Hemingway personally answered many fan mail letters and positive reviews. There is much attention to business matters, including letters to Perkins for money from his account for taxes, or delaying payment from 1929 until 1930, when he expected less income, as well as to his German publisher over translations and serialization in a German newspaper, as well as correspondence about a dramatization of A Farewell to Arms, which failed on Broadway, and about movie rights, which went for $80,000, of which Hemingway got one-third. Hemingway, the business man, is something that the biographies don't usually explore.

Hemingway sailed from Key West to Paris with sister Sunny and sons Patrick and Bumby in the spring of 1929; the two sons were sent with their respective nannies or nursemaids to different parts of France for the summer [End Page 100] (the parent in me objects), while the Hemingways traveled to Spain—where Hemingway absorbed material for Death in the Afternoon—and then on to Wyoming. Bumby spent part of the summer of 1930 in Wyoming with his father; Patrick seems to have been deposited in Piggott; the following year, both boys spent the summer of 1931 in Hendaye with Henriette Lechner.

In late fall 1930, Ernest had a lengthy stay at a Montana hospital after he broke his right arm in an auto accident; the car was a convertible and Hemingway's arm, flung up, was not protected, and according to his letters, three fingers were also broken. Interestingly, being unable to finish Death in the Afternoon or write anything else, Hemingway's letters, dictated to and typed by Pauline, are fewer but longer than most of his short letters about fish caught or game shot and excuses for being such a lousy letter writer; in her own postscripts Pauline writes about the pain Ernest is suffering, his sleeplessness (both recounted in "The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio") and his inability to change his position, as ordered by his doctor. Later, Hemingway manages left-handed, single-handed typing of his own letters, sometimes with left-handed handwritten insertions. The arm was broken 1 November 1929; his first letter written with his right hand was on 16 February 1931. This volume, while recording Hemingway's work on Death...


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