A.E. Hotchner, Antonio Ordonez, bull fighting, cats, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, fishing, Gertrude Stein, heaven, letter, literature, Midnight in Paris, Spain, Woody Allen, Zelda Fitzgerald
Burguete, Naverre, Spain.
July 1  –
Dear Scott –
We are going in to Pamplona tomorrow. Been trout fishing here. How are you? And how is Zelda?
I am feeling better than I’ve ever felt — haven’t drunk any thing but wine since I left Paris. God it has been wonderful country. But you hate country. All right omit description of country. I wonder what your idea of heaven would be — A beautiful vacuum filled with wealthy monogamists. All powerful and members of the best families all drinking themselves to death. And hell would probably an ugly vacuum full of poor polygamists unable to obtain booze or with chronic stomach disorders that they called secret sorrows.
To me a heaven would be a big bull ring with me holding two barrera seats and a trout stream outside that no one else was allowed to fish in and two lovely houses in the town; one where I would have my wife and children and be monogamous and love them truly and well and the other where I would have my nine beautiful mistresses on 9 different floors and one house would be fitted up with special copies of the Dial printed on soft tissue and kept in the toilets on every floor and in the other house we would use the American Mercury and the New Republic. Then there would be a fine church like in Pamplona where I could go and be confessed on the way from one house to the other and I would get on my horse and ride out with my son to my bull ranch named Hacienda Hadley and toss coins to all my illegitimate children that lined the road. I would write out at the Hacienda and send my son in to lock the chastity belts onto my mistresses because someone had just galloped up with the news that a notorious monogamist named Fitzgerald had been seen riding toward the town at the head of a company of strolling drinkers.
Well anyway were going into town tomorrow early in the morning. Write me at the /
Or don’t you like to write letters. I do because it’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something.
So long and love to Zelda from us both –
A letter from Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald sent on July 1st, 1925. You’ll find it and other gems from their correspondence in The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 2, 1923-1925.
The journey Hemingway was making, to the Fiesta de San Fermin at Pamplona, would provide the semi-autobiographical basis of The Sun Also Rises.
The two men had met at the Dingo Bar in Paris in May of that year, yet already in this letter we see Hemingway’s mixture of affection and condescension toward Fitzgerald. The truth, which Fitzgerald undoubtedly knew (though perhaps not yet), was that Zelda and Hemingway had a reciprocal distaste for one another; they did not, and never could, get along.
She thought he was a “materialistic mystic,” “a professional he-man,” and “a pansy with hair on his chest.” He thought she was debauched and psychotic alcoholic, a corrosive influence who purposefully interfered with Scott’s writing by spiking his anxiety and sapping his creative energy. Both seem to have been partially correct, though each failed to see their own relative flaws, most likely because they each coveted Scott’s attention. Zelda did distract Scott from his writing: in his journal he described June and July of 1925 as, “1000 parties and no work.” And Hemingway did often overplay the masculine card: perhaps he was always conscientious of the fact that he could never be more butch than Gertrude Stein.
The tension between Zelda and Hemingway is amusingly contextualized in Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris.
Below: Hemingway in Zaragoza, Spain. In the top pictures he chats with Spanish matador Antonio Ordonez before a bullfight, and takes in the fight with his friend A.E. Hotchner. In the bottom pictures he is home on the couch, then feeding his cat, Cristobal Colon, one of six he had at the time.