emotionally suffocating upbringing but now the brand-new wife of would-be literary lion, Ernest Hemingway. Thanks to Sherwood Anderson, they were armed with introductions to the intellectuals - writers and artists - who called Paris “home.” They made a new shared life for themselves - a life which included having dinner with Ezra Pound, taking tea with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and watching James Joyce as he strolled the streets of Montparnasse.
The Hemingways’ Paris was a city with no prohibition on alcohol like there was back home in St. Louis, a city of women, children and old people whose men had died in the Great War, a city where Ernest studied paintings of Cezanne and Monet because they had achieved what he longed for - “distilling places people and objects to their essential qualities.” He took to heart the advice of Gertrude Stein who insisted, “Don’t tell the readers what to think. Let the action speak for itself.”
As for the Paris experience, “Hem” loved it all. He gloried in the friendships of the soon-to-be-famous and savored their praise. Hadley, who provided emotional stability so he could write, stayed in their shabby apartment, mourned when journalistic assignments took him out of France, and admitted to her only close confidant that, unlike their friends, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, “ . . . I don’t fit here in Paris.” Finally, she decided to visit Hem in Switzerland, and her one careless act changed the course of her husband’s career and her own destiny.
They were too different; surely it was not meant to last. Still, while they had Paris, Hem and Hadley could have served as the models for Edna St. Vincent Millay’s couplet: “My candle burns at both ends / it will not last the night / but ah my foes and oh, my friends / it gives a lovely light.“
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