HEMINGWAY, Ernest. Typed letter signed ("Ernest Hemingway") to Odell S. Hathaway, Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba, 29 May 1949. 1p., 4to, with original, postmarked envelope.
HEMINGWAY ON FITZGERALD: "WE WERE GOOD FRIENDS AND CLOSE ASSOCIATES IN PARIS AND ON THE RIVIERA IN THE OLD DAYS. BUT I DO NOT THINK THAT HIS WORK DERIVED FROM MINE IN ANY WAY NOR MINE FROM HIS."
A fascinating, unpublished salvo against Fitzgerald, whose growing posthumous reputation Hemingway was eager to destroy. It reads in full: "Thank you very much for your letter. About Fitzgerald: We were good friends and close associates in Paris and on the Riviera in the old days. But I do not think that his work derived from mine in any way nor mine from his. He was a successful writer when I first met him and I had written my first novel. We were rarely in agreement about anything to do with writing except that we both loved it very much in our respective ways. I think this answers your question. Anyway, I hope so."
The Cuban letters from this period document Hemingway's long, slow process of mental and intellectual disintegration, and especially his nasty obsession with Fitzgerald's legacy. Here we have an early example, as he draws a distinction that he would make with increasing violence and ugliness in the following years, especially in his correspondence with Scott's biographer Arthur Mizener that began in 1950, a year after our letter (and published in Baker, Selected Letters). There, every barrel gets discharged, against Zelda as well as her husband: "I never had any respect for him ever except for his lovely, golden, wasted talent....Above all he was completely undisciplined and he would quit at the drop of a hat and borrow someone else's hat to drop. He was fragile Irish instead of tough Irish." Zelda, he claims, was already insane when Hemingway first met her, but not yet "net-able," and she destroyed whatever confidence Fitzgerald possessed. The damning and demeaning portrait of Fitzgerald in A Moveable Feast would finish the process which our letter to Hathaway begins.