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Scholar explores Hemingway family papers

By Mary Dearborn

As a fellow at the Ransom Center last year, independent scholar Mary V. Dearborn uncovered new information about the Hemingway family while studying the Ernest Hemingway collection and Leicester Hemingway’s New Atlantis collection. She’s currently working on a book based on her findings: The Hemingway Family: The Human Cost, which is scheduled for publication in 2011. Her research at the Ransom Center was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Dearborn says her book will “tell for the first time the hundred-year story of a tragic American family,” and shares some highlights from her research at the Ransom Center:

I was working in the Hemingway family papers, and I was astounded by what I found there. The papers were mostly Ernest’s mother’s, containing all her correspondence, records, and photographs. None of Hemingway’s previous biographers seem to have really looked at this material, perhaps dismissing it as “domestic” and thus trivial.

Grace Hemingway is usually written off as a cold, castrating shrew—the picture of her that her son wholesaled, blaming her for his father’s suicide. She was definitely difficult, but she was a fascinating woman, and her marriage was a complicated and nuanced relationship of power that Ernest learned a great deal from, for good and ill.

The added bonus is that in these papers there are numerous anecdotes and descriptions of Ernest’s upbringing, contributing to a far more well-rounded picture of the boy and young man than we have previously been given. Ernest once confided to Max Perkins, his editor at Scribner, that he couldn’t write freely while his mother was still alive—not at all the impression he commonly gave out! Their relationship was, until her death in 1951, fraught and intense—and heretofore unexplored.


Scott Rossi

My name is Scott Rossi and I live in Sewell, New Jersey. I admit this was all news to me a couple weeks ago, when I first found this blog, but I am a member of the Ernest Hemingway Society, and I have been working on a book on the Hemingway family since about 2003. It is titled, Legacy, The Hemingway Family Saga, and what is different about it, is that it is being written as a book authorized by the Hemingway family. I have conducted interviews with actress Mariel Hemingway, and her cousin author Hilary Hemingway over the years, and they were nice with me and answered all the questions I had for them at the time. I would like to be in touch with Ms. Dearborn is she would be willing to email me. My email address is: I feel we would have much to talk about.

yussuf adam

Ernest Hemingway visited Mozambique. I am interested in finding his comments on the visits. Can you help me?

J K Wheeler

My parents were close friends (and partial heirs) to Dr. Harold Tyley Bailey, a Hemingway cousin (I recognize Arthur, Mary Alice and John Bailey as his relatives). I have a few anecdotes, some history, some manuscripts that might be useful to Ms. Dearborn.

Hemingway Hancock Relative

My name is Allen Goodwin-Hancock, and I’m a relative of Hemingway through his Hancock line. J K Wheeler, I’d be interested in any information you may have on Hemingway and the Baileys. I’d like to hear from you. Email address is

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