HEMINGWAY, Ernest. Autograph letter signed ("Mister Papa" and "Papa") to Fritz Saviers, the ill young son of Dr. George Saviers; written from St. Mary's Hospital, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., 15 June 1961. 2 pages, 4to, in blue ink on both sides of a sheet, fold creases and slight fold tears at edges; with the stamped envelope addressed by Hemingway to Fritz Saviers at the Colorado General Hospital in Denver, and with his holograph return address ("E. Hemingway...") on back of envelope; in very good condition.
HEMINGWAY'S LAST LETTER AND LAST DATED PIECE OF WRITING
Seventeen days before he took his own life (on 2 July), Hemingway wrote this poignant letter from the Mayo Clinic (where he had been brought a second time for shock treatments) to the nine-year-old Fritz Saviers, hospitalized with viral heart disease. It is the final letter printed in Hemingway's Selected Letters, edited by Carlos Baker (1981), p. 921. It is also Hemingway's last dated and his last substantial piece of writing. (There could exist some scraps, undated household notes to his wife Mary, written after this -- nothing dated nor of any length.)
Hemingway writes to cheer up his little friend: "I was terribly sorry to hear this morning in a note from your father that you were laid up in Denver for a few days more and speed off this note to tell you how much I hope you'll be feeling better. It has been very hot and muggy here in Rochester but the last two days it has turned cool and lovely with the nights wonderful for sleeping. The country is beautiful around here and I've had a chance to see some wonderful country along the Mississippi where they used to drive the logs in the old lumbering days and the trails where the pioneers came north. Saw some good bass jump in the river. I never knew anything about the upper Mississippi before and it is really a very beautiful country and there are plenty of pheasants and ducks in the fall. But not as many as in Idaho and I hope we'll both be back there shortly and can joke about our hospital experiences together. Best always to you, old timer from your good friend who misses you very much. (Mister) Papa...Am feeling fine and very cheerful about things in general and hope to see you all soon. Papa."
In a "Postscript" to the Selected Letters Carlos Basker succinctly tells of Hemingway's return home, his last meeting with Fritz Saviers, and his end: "Although Hemingway seemed to his doctors to be well enough to be discharged from St. Mary's Hospital, he died by his own hand less than three weeks after he wrote the letter to Fritz Saviers." Hemingway and his wife Mary returned home to Idaho in a rental car driven by their old friend George Brown, reaching Ketchum on Friday, 30 June. "The next morning," Baker continues, "Brown drove Hemingway to the...clinic in Sun Valley for a conference with Dr. George Saviers, who brought Fritz around for a short visit with Hemingway that afternoon. On Saturday evening the Hemingways and George Brown dined at [a restaurant] in Ketchum and afterward retired early. On Sunday morning, Hemingway rose before seven, unlocked the basement storeroom, chose a double-barreled Boss shotgun from the rack, carried it upstairs to the front foyer, slipped in two cartridges, lowered the gun butt to the floor, pressed his forehead against the barrels, and blew away the entire cranial vault. It was 2 July 1961..." The next Hemingway's young friend Fritz was told of his death. Fritz himself died in 1967 from his illness.
This letter was published in facsimile with a story about it, under the title "Last Words Hemingway Wrote," in Life magazine, 25 August 1961 (a photocopy of the article is present). Carlos Baker quotes the letter in full in his Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story (Avon Books, 1980), p. 712.