Third volume of 'The Letters of Ernest Hemingway' series published

Laura Waldhier
October 22, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Cambridge University Press has released the third volume of "The Letters of Ernest Hemingway (1926-1929)," edited by Penn State Professor of English Sandra Spanier, along with Rena Sanderson and Robert W. Trogdon.

The new book is part of the Hemingway Letters Project, a projected 17-volume scholarly edition containing the correspondence of “Papa” Hemingway, the iconic Nobel Prize-winning American writer whose work played a major role in defining 20th-century American literature.

Spanier is general editor of the Hemingway Letters Project, directing an international team of scholars in locating, editing, annotating and introducing the letters. She was instrumental in establishing the project at Penn State in 2002 and in arranging the acquisition of a trove of more than 100 previously unpublished Hemingway family letters by the Penn State Special Collections Library in 2008.

Hemingway wrote some 6,000 letters during his lifetime, roughly 85 percent which have never been published. The third volume collects 345 Hemingway letters written to 99 correspondents, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos, Scribner's editor Maxwell Perkins and other literary lights, in addition to family members, old friends, aspiring young writers and fans.

Volume 3 covers Hemingway's movement from the literary Left Bank of Paris into the American mainstream. In 1926, "Torrents of Spring" and "The Sun Also Rises" — one of the signature works of the 20th century — were published by Scribner's, and by early 1929 Hemingway had completed "A Farewell to Arms."

In addition to his writing career, Hemingway's letters also reflect key moments in his personal life, including the end of his first marriage; his remarriage; the birth of his second son; and his father's suicide. In April 1929, Hemingway left Key West to return to Paris, poised to become one of the most famous writers of his time.

"The letters in this volume present an unguarded running first-hand account of a phenomenally productive period in Hemingway's writing life and an exceptionally eventful one in his personal life," Spanier said. "Hemingway's first wife, Hadley, said that there were so many sides to him that you could hardly make a sketch of him in a geometry book. The letters reveal the many facets of Hemingway that too often get obscured by the one-dimensional macho public persona." 

Ernest Hemingway and friends at a cafe in Pamplona, Spain, 1926

Ernest Hemingway at a cafe with friends in Pamplona, Spain during the summer of 1926. From left: Gerald Murphy, Sara Murphy, Pauline Pfeiffer, Ernest Hemingway and Elizabeth Hadley Richardson. Ernest and Hadley separated a few months after she learned of his affair with their friend Pauline Pfeiffer. This photo was taken one month before the separation and just 3 months before publication of The Sun Also Rises, which is largely set in Pamplona during the annual Fiesta of San Fermín. Ernest and Pauline would marry in May 1927.

IMAGE: Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Spanier said she never ceases to be amazed by the intensity of public interest in Hemingway. The publication of Volume 3 of the letters already has been the subject of articles in the London Sunday Times and the Wall Street Journal.

"Also, publication of Volume 3 happens to coincide beautifully with the opening of a major Hemingway exhibition at the Morgan Library in New York," said Spanier, who spoke at an evening program for "Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars," along with Hemingway's grandson Sean Hemingway. Spanier also presented a training program for the docents who lead tours of the exhibit.

The Hemingway Letters Project at Penn State was recently awarded a $225,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support work on the next phase of the project over the next three years. It has been designated a "We, the People" project, "a special recognition by the NEH for model projects that advance the study, teaching, and understanding of American history and culture."

Volume 2, released in fall 2013, of "The Letters of Ernest Hemingway (1923-1925)" is a finalist for the 2015 Modernist Studies Association Book Prize for an Edition, Anthology or Essay Collection.

  • Ernest Hemingway with his son John, 1926

    Ernest Hemingway carrying his son John, nicknamed "Bumby," on his shoulders, at a beach in the south of France. Hemingway enclosed the snapshot in a July 24, 1926 letter to his father. The letter and photo are in the collection of Hemingway family letters that Penn State's Special Collections Library acquired in 2008 from Hemingway’s nephew, Ernest H. Mainland.

    IMAGE: Reproduced with the permission of the Special Collections Library, Penn State Libraries
  • 'Letters of Ernest Hemingway" volume 3 book cover

    The book jacket for "The Letters of Ernest Hemingway (1926-1929)," published by Cambridge University Press, was designed by Penn State alumnus Chip Kidd, graphic designer and celebrated book-jacket designer for Alfred A. Knopf Publishing.

    IMAGE: Cambridge University Press
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Last Updated July 28, 2017