A Dramatic Documentary by Steve Newman.
To give an idea of the style of my 'dramatic documentary' let me quote from Hemingway's preface to his posthumously published memoir, A Moveable Feast...
" If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact."
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Ernest Hemingway and Mary Drop in on Shakespeare & Co, Paris 1944
Beach & Hemingway 1920s
After breakfast, Hemingway and Mary
headed toward the Luxembourg Gardens where they enjoyed listened to a
French military band play a selection from Carmen. Then, after a
coffee in the small café
under the plain trees, they headed for the rue de Fleurus, which
connects with the rue Guynemer that borders the western side of the
gardens. Half way up the rue de Fleurus, on the left hand side, is
number 27, and here Ernest and Mary stopped and rang the bell of
Gertrude Stein's apartment. There was no answer. They tried again.
Still no answer. After a while an elderly lady came out of a small
dress shop opposite and told them that Miss Stein and Miss Toklas,
having endured the hard years of German occupation, had, on a whim so
to speak, taken a small house in the country, but where she did not
“ Perhaps Miss Beach at Shakespeare
and Company could help, no?”
Ernest and Mary made their way back
across the Luxembourg Gardens, past the gallery, and, after two left
turns and a right, down to her bookshop, Shakespeare & Company,
at 12, rue de I'Odéon.
After looking in the window for a moment or two, they stepped inside.
Sylvia Beach was sitting at her desk reading; she didn't look up.
“ Yes, what can I do for you?” she
“ Do you have any books by Ernest
Hemingway?” asked a smiling Ernest.
“ Yes, we...” Sylvia Beach looked
up with an even bigger smile. “Hemingway. Hemingway, my dear, oh,
how lovely to see you.”
Sylvia Beach ran from behind her desk
like a schoolgirl greeting a long lost and much loved younger
brother, flinging her arms about Ernest's neck and kissing him
repeatedly on both cheeks.
“ Mon cheri, oh, mon cheri, it has
been such a long time, and you left us all alone to cope with the
filthy Hun. How dare you, oh, how dare you, you dreadful,
The words came thick and fast now.
“ They closed me down, Hemingway,
closed Shakespeare and Company down. How dare they, how dare they?
One morning a very small and very brutish German officer came in and
demanded to buy a copy of Joyce's Finnegan's Wake - demanded! Have
you ever heard of such a thing? I told him I only had one copy left
and that it was not for sale, not to him, not to anyone. Not for sale
he screamed, do you know who I am, madam? Do you know who I am!?
Naturally I didn't know who he was, how could I? No. I have no idea
who you are, nor do I wish to, I responded. But do you know who I am,
sir? I am Sylvia Beach, who, in the nineteen twenties, knew D.H.
Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, Ford Maddox Ford, Morley Callaghan, Scott
Fitzgerald - well, who didn't I know, Hemingway - and that I was the
first to publish Joyce's Ulysses when no one else would touch him. Do
not come into my shop, whoever you are, I said, and demand anything
from me. Do you hear me, sir? Well he went quite silly then, acted
like a little boy, started knocking books off the shelves, and then
told me the shop was now closed until further notice. Good, I
responded, then I won't have to deal with the likes of you will I,
even if you do read James Joyce, who, I told him, would not want his
books read by the rapists of Poland, Belgium and France. With that he
slapped me twice in the face, and then marched out and placed an
armed guard in front of the shop door. Of course the guard was a
pussy cat - a Zane Grey fan too - and over the next few days Adrienne
and I were able to move all the stock into the apartment, with
business pretty much continuing as usual. We moved back in here last
week. Did I do well, Hemingway?”
Hemingway enveloped Sylvia in a huge
hug, lifting her clear off the ground until she squealed for mercy.
“ Dear Miss Beach you did very well,
very well indeed. Could I have expected anything else? No, indeed I
could not! Now I would like to introduce you to Mary Welsh, the next
Sylvia Beach looked Mary up and down.
“ Mary, my dear girl, welcome to
Paris. Do you think you will be the last Mrs Hemingway?”
“ Good. I think you ought to be. See
to it Hemingway. Now, my dears, come through and I shall make tea and
you can tell me all the news about the war, but I have to say I've
heard some rather disquieting things about you, Hemingway, very
disquieting indeed. Things that a writer should not be doing.”
Sylvia Beach was born Nancy Woodbridge
Beach, on the 14th March 1887, in the smart New Jersey town of
Bridgeton. Her father was a Presbyterian pastor who took his family
on a visit to Paris in 1901, where Sylvia fell in love with the city
With the outbreak of the First World
War, in 1914, Sylvia moved back to Europe and became a Red Cross
nurse in Serbia, where she met her partner and lover, Adrienne
Monnier. After two years with the Red Cross, Sylvia and Adrienne
moved to Paris in 1916 and founded Shakespeare & Company in the
rue de I'Odéon. The shop
immediately became a focus for ex-pat American, British and Irish
authors. In 1922, as she told the German soldier, Sylvia published
James Joyce's Ulysses - Hemingway helped Joyce with the final drafts
- to both acclaim and ridicule. With the coming of the depression
Sylvia found times hard, and it was only with the generous help of
the English writer Bryher (otherwise known as Annie Winifred
Ellerman, Robert McAlmon's wife, and the lover of the poet Hilda
Doolittle), that the shop stayed in business.
Hemingway made his first visit to
Shakespeare & Company soon after arriving in Paris, but decided
not to show Sylvia his letter of introduction from novelist, Sherwood
Anderson, but instead asked her what books he should read. Sylvia
suggested he start with Turgenev, and then move on to D.H. Lawrence,
which he did. He actually bought books too, which was a rarity in
such a philanthropic organization as Shakespeare & Company.
With the German closure of Shakespeare
& Company, Sylvia, Adrienne, Gertrude Stein, and her lover, Alice
B. Toklas, became instrumental in helping hundreds of Jewish refugees
escape to Britain.
In 1951 George Whitman (who claimed to
be Walt Whitman's grandson) set up his bookshop, which he called Le
Mistral, at 37 rue de la Bucherie, which quickly became the home of
another set of ex-pat British and American writers, such as Lawrence
Durrell - an old friend of Henry Miller – and the beat poet Alan
Ginsberg, and novelist William Burroughs, who used to read their work
out loud on the pavement outside Whitman's shop.
By the mid 1950s Sylvia Beach had had
enough and gave up the business, allowing Whitman to use the name
Shakespeare & Company.
Sylvia Beach died in 1962; and there
can be no doubt that Beach's shop, and her kindness and friendship to
so many aspiring writers in the 1920s was pivotal in helping to shape
the future of 20th century literature.
Sylvia Beach boiled a kettle of water
on a small paraffin stove in a private room that looked out over the
small back garden of her shop. When the kettle eventually boiled she
poured a little of the water into a dark brown teapot to warm it. She
then tipped the water back into the kettle, and then, after putting
three heaped teaspoons of dark Indian tea (precious tea she kept
hidden behind a first edition of Dr Johnson's Dictionary) into the
now warm teapot she poured the boiling water over the tea leaves, secured the teapot lid,
and savoured the aroma of gently smouldering rosewood that now issued
from the spout of the pot. After a few minutes of allowing the tea to
brew Sylvia then poured the rich steaming liquid into three delicate,
flower-decorated bone china tea cups. It was a ritual she carried out
most days, and one Hemingway remembered from his first visit. He
would have found the dark amber liquid almost drinkable too had
Sylvia not - in the English fashion - then added milk, far too much milk, and
sugar. What Hemingway and Mary drank was a warm, sweet beverage that
bore little or no relationship to the delicious anticipation of its
“ Would you like a biscuit,
Hemingway? Scottish shortcakes.”
“ Cookies? No, no thanks, Miss
“ Oh, yes Please.”
“ Where, in God's name, did you get
cookies from, and tea, and milk, and sugar for chrissakes?”
“ One has friends, Hemingway. And
they are such simple pleasures don't you think?”
“ Yes they are, but it's usually the
simple pleasures that are the first to go in war.”
“ You are quite right. Let me just
say that many people showed a kindness toward me that I had not
expected, not at all. Now, Hemingway, what is this I hear about you
becoming a soldier with your own private army when you should have
been reporting the war like the writer you are?”
Hemingway could find no answer. He just
looked at Sylvia Beach as if she were a stranger, and not the gifted,
generous woman who had helped him to become a writer. She was right
though, he thought, she was right.
“ Do you still have that copy of
Winner Take Nothing, Miss Beach?” he asked.
“ I do, Hemingway, one moment.”
Sylvia left the room to return just a
few seconds later with a slim volume she handed to Hemingway.
Hemingway read from the flyleaf of the
“ To Miss Beach, in memory of Spain,
1937, Ernest Hemingway.”
Hemingway then took a fountain pen from
his top pocket and added to the inscription:
'Lu et approuv. I sure as hell do.
He was probably not referring to the
After tearful farewells Mary and
Hemingway slowly made their way back to the Ritz Hotel where Mary
held Ernest in her arms for what seemed like forever. In the evening
the couple hosted a mighty party at which Hemingway became suddenly
very aggressive toward his future wife, accusing her of disloyalty. Mary
started to challenge Hemingway but stopped as soon as she saw his
dark far away eyes.
As Hemingway and his friends were
enjoying the good life of the newly liberated Paris, Barton's 4th
Infantry Division was in hot pursuit of the Germans to the north and
east of the capital.
By August 31st 1944 Lanham's 22nd
Infantry (the “Double Deucers”) had secured a bridgehead across
the Aisne, and three days later had crossed the Oise, and were moving
close to the Belgian border.
On September 1st 1944, while Hemingway
was drinking with a group of cronies in the Ritz bar, he received a
rather cryptic message, delivered by hand from one of Col Lanham's
despatch riders, which read: “We have fought at Landrecies and you
were not there.” Hemingway, who often pretended he was an illiterate country
bumpkin, knew what Lanham was getting at and also knew the message
was an updated version of the taunt by King Henry IV to the Duke of
Crillon after the victory at Arques in the late 14th century.
Hemingway, although he knew in his heart of hearts that he'd used up virtually all
of his nine lives since the 6th of June, couldn't resist
this challenge thrown down by Lanham. It was too good to miss.
Hemingway said his goodbyes to Mary,
and with a young Frenchman by the name of Jean Decan driving his Jeep
- Pelkey was by this time already under army psychiatric care - the
two heavily armed men, again in contravention of the rules governing
war correspondents, headed north toward Landrecies and the
The territory that Decan and Hemingway
crossed was still dangerous, containing pockets of heavily armed
German troops. It was a foolhardy mission, Hemingway knew that.
But in the words of the poet Don
“ What the hell, what the hell.”
Author's Note: Although based on fact some scenes and dialogue are imagined.
and Hadley had come to Paris in 1922 so they could live more cheaply
on Hadley's $8,000 inheritance, and hopefully give Ernest a chance to
develop his writing skills and become the great novelist he knew he
could, and more importantly, should be. He introduced
himself, with the help of Anderson's letter, to Gertrude Stein who
lectured him (while her lover and secretary, Alice B. Toklas, fed
Hadley tea and cakes in a separate room) on what it was to be a
writer, on what it was to be a painter, to be a musician, to be a dancer,
to be, to be.
all repetition, Hemingway, all repetition, remember that.” And
Hemingway did remember, and knew, when he looked at Stein's
impressive collection of Cezannes, and Monets, and Picassos, that he
wanted to write the way they had painted and were painting: with a
clarity, and a vision, and with all the colours and the smells and
the tastes, and, and, well everything.
In 1920 Ernest
Hemingway lived his bachelor life at 1230 North State Street, Chicago, until he
was offered an apartment 100 East Chicago Street. Many of the
apartments were occupied by writers, including Hadley Richardson's friend, Kate
Smith, who later married John Dos Passos. Another of the
apartments was occupied by the painter, Kenley Smith, and it was when Kate
Smith invited Hemingway to a party in Kenley's apartment, that he spotted
Hadley Richardson - a young woman he'd seen playing the piano at a recital some
years before. The couple hit it
off immediately, and both of them soon realised they had met the person they
wanted to marry. Maybe both saw in
the other the renegade in themselves and a kindred spirit. They both had a love
of literature, art, and music, and were looking for a secure place to deposit
their emotions. But they were also bursting with sexual desires and
frustrations. Hadley was eight
years older than Hemingway and a woman who, at first sight, was of …
Hemingway's memoir, A Moveable Feast, he describes the first
time he met F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Dingo Bar on the rue Delambre
where, as Hemingway describes it, "...a very strange thing
Hemingway was sitting and drinking with some "completely
worthless characters," Fitzgerald came in with a tall young man
who turned out to be the famous baseball pitcher, Dunc Chaplin.
Hemingway was no baseball devotee and had never heard of Chaplin, but
recognised Fitzgerald, and took this chance to introduce himself,
which went something like this: