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The Day Hemingway Died

We’ve talked about Hemingway’s fascinating life the last couple of days, so—as morbid as it might be—I thought we’d talk about his death today.

Hemingway’s funeral was private and, at the time, his death was still a mystery.

His wife, and even the authorities, said the death was accidental. But people were suspicious because of Papa’s widely known abuse of alcohol and his battles with depression. Two days prior to his death, he had returned from the Mayo Clinic for treatment for “hypertension.”

Here’s how an article in The New York Times on July 5, 1961 described Hemingway’s funeral and the mystery surrounding his death.

Services Slated for Hemingway

Ketchum, Idaho, July 4 (UPI)–Ernest Hemingway will be buried under a blanket of red roses; beside one of his closest friends.

The grave was dug today in Ketchum Cemetery beside that of Taylor Williams, a hunting and fishing guide who was Mr. Hemingway’s frequent companion for twenty years. He died in 1959.

A simple graveside service was planned. The time was left uncertain pending the arrival of Mr. Hemingway’s son Patrick, who has been hunting in Africa. The services may be held tomorrow.

The Rev. Robert J. Waldemann, Roman Catholic pastor of St. Charles Church in Hailey, Idaho, and of Our Lady of the Snows in Ketchum, will conduct the services.

Father Waldemann said that there would be no formal Catholic services. He said there would be no mass and probably no rosary, but he said that the matter of accident or suicide had no bearing on the funeral.

“We pass no judgement on that and asked no questions,” he said.

No Official Decision

There still was no official decision–and there may never be–as to whether the death of the writer early Sunday from the blast of a 12-gauge shotgun had been an accident or suicide.

However, the fact that Mr. Hemingway had been divorced would bar him from a Catholic Church funeral. Catholic sources said there was nothing improper in a Catholic priest’s saying graveside prayers. Mr. Hemingway was divorced three times.

His son John said today that Mr. Hemingway was “at one time” a Catholic but that “he actually was not” at the time of his death. He said Mr. Hemingway had been converted to Catholicism at the time of his marriage to his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer.

The body of the Nobel Prize-winning author lay in a funeral home today in Hailey, Idaho, about twelve miles from here. A hearse will return it to Ketchum for the funeral but there will be no procession.

At the request of the family, the services will be private, attended only by the writer’s fourth wife, Mary, his three sons, other relatives and close friends.

Ray McGoldrick, the coroner and proprietor of the funeral home, said that Mr. Hemingway would be dressed casually in a sport coat and slacks.

Mr. McGoldrick said that Mr. Hemingway would be buried at morning services either tomorrow, Thursday or Friday.

Several years later, Mary Hemingway would admit that his death was a suicide. Years of alcohol abuse, depression, and physical injuries had finally taken their toll.

At the very least, Hemingway was still surrounded by people who loved him when he passed away. Compare that with Fitzgerald’s sad funeral.

I’ve said it already, but such a terrible ending to an amazing life.

All of this research I’ve done on Ernest Hemingway has made me really want to read a biography about him. Anyone have any suggestions—assuming I could fit one into my reading schedule?

Article excerpt: New York Times

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19 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reviews of Biographies of Ernest Hemingway from the Archives of New York Times, is a great place to look for one.

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    April 11, 2013
  2. Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed the post about Hemingway’s life as well. His death was truly a tragedy.

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    April 11, 2013
  3. Definitely read “Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost 1934-1961” by Paul Hendrickson..it’ll take up some time though!

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    April 11, 2013
  4. It isn’t a biography, but the novel The Paris Wife is pretty interesting from the point of view of Hadley, his first wife. If you want his autobiography, that’s A Moveable Feast. It is fantastic!

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    April 11, 2013
    • I have a friend who says The Paris Wife is great. Good suggestion. I also want to watch Midnight in Paris.

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      April 11, 2013
      • The Paris Wife is definitely worth the time.

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        April 11, 2013
  5. I have really enjoyed your posts about Hemingway. Maybe you can share with us what you read in his biography.

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    April 11, 2013
    • I will, if I ever get around to reading it! Two more posts about Hemingway next week before my review of The Sun Also Rises, then sadly on to the next book.

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      April 11, 2013
  6. Hemmingway is so sexy to me. What is it about him that is so amazingly appealing?
    Thanks for the insight about his life and death.

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    April 11, 2013
  7. The one by Carlos Baker has been the one that many subsequent biographies often quote. I haven’t read it, but I did read one by Kenneth Lynn that relied heavily on Baker. When I read it, I thought it was good, but looking back, this might have been because a) anything written about Hemingway was interesting to me, and b) I hadn’t yet read a truly good biography so didn’t really have a basis for comparison.

    (For the record, Terry Teachout’s biography of H.L.Mencken is what opened my eyes to what a great biography is like and it has set the bar for me.)

    I’ve gone through that Lynn book since then, and it’s not bad, but there are probably some better ones. He was so polarizing that it’s hard to find something written about him that doesn’t either demonize or canonize. This one looks really intriguing to me:
    http://www.amazon.com/Hemingway-Simple-Donald-F-Bouchard/dp/159102756X/ref=sr_1_22?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365695345&sr=1-22&keywords=hemingway+biography

    As some have suggested, it might be in some ways more useful to read books written about certain specific areas. Just a cursory glance through Amazon shows that these “snippet” biographies get much better ratings that the full bios. The Paris Wife about his marriage to Hadley is one. There is also Hemingway on the China Front which is about his “spy mission” to China in WW2, but is really about that trip in the context of his marriage to Martha Gellhorn. The other one mentioned is Hemingway’s Boat, which I have started but haven’t come close to finishing. From the little I’ve read so far, I can tell it’s going to be very good.

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    April 11, 2013
    • Sorry, didn’t realize that whole graphic would show up!

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      April 11, 2013
      • No problem! Adds some flavor. Somehow I think that image made your comment get caught in the spam filter but I pulled it out.

        Thanks for the recs. A lot of good ones to consider here.

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        April 11, 2013
  8. I totally have the hots for Papa Hemingway. That said, he definitely was not a saint — he’s been described as being rather misogynistic. He and Mary also had quite the interesting relationship…I’d also love to read his biography.

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    April 11, 2013
  9. sally1137 #

    I got addicted to Hemingway about fifteen years ago and read all his works and a bunch of his biographies. My favorites were:

    Along With Youth: Hemingway, the Early Years, by Peter Griffin
    http://www.amazon.com/Along-Youth-Hemingway-Early-Years/dp/0195050665/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365696645&sr=8-1&keywords=along+with+youth+hemingway+the+early+years

    Papa Hemingway, by A.E. Hotchner
    http://www.amazon.com/Papa-Hemingway-Personal-E-Hotchner/dp/0306814277/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365696701&sr=1-1&keywords=papa+hemingway

    And, as mentioned above, A Moveable Feast.

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    April 11, 2013
  10. There was a parody of style based on the age-old riddle “why did the chicken cross the road?”

    http://philosophy.eserver.org/chicken.txt

    and the answer attributed to Hemingway was:

    “To die. In the rain.”

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    April 11, 2013
  11. My favorite by far is Hemingway’s Boat. It’s not a birth to death biography but is so rich in detail about day to day life, what was important to him, his friendships, relationships with women. Worth a read.

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    April 11, 2013
  12. Reblogged this on narrativeblog.

    Like

    April 11, 2013

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