When the Uncle of your Wife Buys you a House

A Farewell to Arms
Farewell to Arms
Key West
Key West
Hem and Pauline
Pauline and Hem

A few facts about The Hemingway House at 907 Whitehead Street: It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Key West

Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, lived very modestly in Paris. Hadley had a small trust that enabled them as young newly weds to go abroad and for Hemingway to focus on his writing. He did earn money from his journalism but the trust helped significantly.

When Hem met and fell in love with a young and stylish writer for Vogue in Paris, Pauline Pfeiffer, he felt guilt but he also had fewer money worries when he left Hadley for her good friend, Pauline. Pauline was from a wealthy family from St. Louis. Her family made money in Pharmaceuticals and her Uncle Gus funded the purchase of the home in Key West. Hem dedicated A Farewell to Arms to Uncle Gus.

Sara Murphy and Pauline Hemingway
Sara Murphy and Pauline Hemingway

Still, it can rankle to live in a house paid for by your wife’s family and Hemingway wrote in The Snows of Kilimanjaro through the main character, Harry, that the rich had ruined Harry’s fervor for writing bravely and writing all that he needed to.  The parallels are not too subtle as to Hemingway’s own life,. If you visit Key West, there is still a penny cemented into the pool surround. Supposedly Hemingway was irritated with the escalating costs of renovation and the pool in particular.  It was one of the largest in its day.  He told Pauline in a fit of pique that it was taking his last penny, so she threw one into the cement as it was setting. It’s still there. The woman had a sense of humor!

Key West is a lovely home, more elegant than Cuba, but Cuba was wilder, rougher, and I think more to Hemingway’s taste.

2 Responses

  1. It strikes me that all of his wives had similar looks. I also wonder if he hated himself for having to be supported by several. He seemed to have a very large male ego.

    1. Good morning, Janet! Oh yes, i think he resented it with Pauline (being supported by her family $). Maybe less with Hadley as they were starting out in life; her inheritance was not huge but sure helped; and if guilty in retrospect, she got all royalties from The Sun Also Rises and that was significant. I always felt that what Harry expressed in The Snows of Kilimanjaro (resenting his loving wife’s money and feeling it weakened him and his writing) had big truth for him and was very autobiographical. And God knows, he had a large ego but i think it covered vast insecurities thus the really mean-spirited treatment of rivals–literary and otherwise. Thank you for reading! It is wonderful to hear from you! Best, Christine

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