This month 51 years ago, the younger brother of Ernest Hemingway staked a claim to a small piece of land off the Jamaican coast, creating a new currency, flag and government for the fledgling nation of New Atlantis, many artifacts of which are now held at the Ransom Center. This post originally appeared in our July 2007 edition of the Ransom Center’s eNews.
Leicester (pronounced “Lester”) Hemingway is known to history principally for three things Read more
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.
Leicester (pronounced “Lester”) Hemingway is known to history principally for three things: For being the younger brother of the famous novelist Ernest Hemingway, to whom he bore a striking physical resemblance; for publishing a well-received biography of his brother a mere eight months after Ernest died; and for “founding” his own island nation, the Republic of New Atlantis. Artifacts related to each of these contributions have found their way to the Harry Ransom Center. Read more