DescriptionErnest Hemingway, Fine Content Manuscript Letter Signed "Ernest" and handwritten by his personal secretary Valerie Danby-Smith. Six pages, 8.5" x 11", San Francisco de Paula, Cuba, May 9, 1960 to Bill Davis. An important letter written in the months before "The Dangerous Summer" appeared in Life, to Bill Davis, a wealthy American expatriate residing in a lavish villa in Málaga. Davis and his family had invited Hemingway to stay at their home during his 1959 stay in Spain where he was following the bullfights in preparation for writing the The Dangerous Summer. This three part Life series would be the last work he would see published before his death in 1961. Hemingway had been sent by Life to cover the rivalry between matadors Luís Miguel Dominguin and Antonio Ordoñez. His host, Bill Davis, an avid driver, agreed to chauffer Hemingway throughout the country to attend the fights. The two had actually met in Mexico City when Davis was (for an unknown reason) driving a taxi. The two became fast friends that summer, and as this letter illustrates, Davis proved to be far more than a driver and generous host for Hemingway and his entourage.
Hemingway begins his missive discussing a range of ongoing projects including his work on The Moveable Feast (posthumously published in 1964) and complaining of the pressure his advance for his bullfighting article was placing on him among other matters. He opens addressing Davis as "Negro", (a term of endearment Hemingway used with him): "Thank you very much for doing such a wonderful job with those two [illeg]. Annemarie's letter finally came through & you were right that she does not know when she is well off. I cannot give her exact publication dates nor give her some clarity as to her working program for the next few years. having just this morning before breakfast go gone over 92,000 words on something that I hoped not to exceed 18,000 when I started it with still at least 15 days of steady work & go. I had to postpone the Paris book from this fall. But you have to do one damned thing at a time. I see nothing to do about AM HH [Annemarie Horschitz-Horst] at the present time except to send her a letter which you & Bushnell agree is fair. She certainly should not be allowed to mussel [sic] in on the TV deal.
It was impossible for me to contract with Rowohlt to write the book since over 60,000 words of it was written before he made the offer. It would be nice to have that money tax free but unless you can clearly show that you contracted to write it before you started it- it would not hold up in court & I would have to pay it all back sooner or later. Another angle is that if Rowohlt published it before Scribners did I would lose the American copyright. After the impression that you & I both have gained from seeing Rowohlt I would prefer not to have him advance me any money on anything where there are possible angles. For years I have never taken advances ever from people that I trusted. Then I took this advance from Life & it has been nothing but a headache. If I had not taken the advance I could have stopped the work at a certain date, taken up the going over & rewrite on the Paris book [A Moveable Feast], had it in shape for Scribner's & then returned to the bull fight thing & finished it off. But my hand was forced by having to produce that cash to pay out Rice's mistake. Now I have fought my way out of that into the clear & we have the Idaho place which is completely paid for & is worth at least 3 times what is was & my cash position is OK I am building up a good tax reserve. So I think it would be a bad play to take an advance now which the Revenue Department at any time in the future might consider taxable & so hit you again with aheavyunexpected levy. If I get short of cash at any time we can take an advance on the Paris book from Rowohlt for simultaneous publication with Scribners once we know Scribner's publishing date.
Going back to AM HH: what sort of contract does she have anyway? Am I committed to translating future books? If not I should be in a position to tell her she must accept an adjustment which you & I & Rowohlt agree as equitable. From her letters it seems as though they were reaching such a adjustment but that she is being extremely difficult. Is that the way you see it? There is no rush on it now but I would like to see it worked out so that Rowohlt would have some relief if he is entitled to it. You worked so damned hard on it & I am very grateful & hate for you to have had to deal with people who were so unpleasant.
Should have written all this sooner but when Val told me that you were staying in London through May I did not bite down on it since I was jamming[?] every day until I was too pooped when I finished work to [illeg.] to write a letter. AM HH's letter showed that it was something that would drag on indefinitely between her & R. & she made me sore asking for definite dates before she would lower her overblown percentages when she knew damned well I could not furnish them..."
Hemingway then comes to the bullfights of the previous summer. He was still at work on the article contracted by Life, busy filling in details: "Negro after all this work that you have done I hate to ask you to do anything else but have some things written down that I have to get to ask if you can help me out on them. Can you get me an account of the Cuenca fight. All I remember is the terrible state of the piso and how dangerous is was and that Pepe Casares would notdeal with his bulls and that Chicuelo II & Antoino could, due to greater experience etc. Any account of the fight brings the details back to me. but preoccupation with the dangerous ring drives the rest of it out of my head. I also need accounts in the local papers of the two fights...I have written them both, well I think, but I might be wrong in remembering whether Antonio did the truco [trick] of kneeling in front of the bull & throwing away the muleta & the sword in the first or in the second fight. I am quite sure that I remember it as being in the second fight. I remember all the conversations. Do you remember which fight it was in, if you do I do not need those... accounts. It would be so damned easy to write this with you around to check with & sometimes it is impossible without you. I have the Rueda accounts of... both fights, but they just serve to remind you in general. Do you remember too what was done exactly about the picadors at... Ronda? I don't know exactly which places [illeg]'s boy son put them in under false names, or check if he put in later if you don't remember. Juanito Quintana has looked up several of the fights for me but I can't get a hold of him right now as he went down to Andalucia. Have handled the picador business OK so far, I have only one more fight to write the Ronda one..."
Hemingway then betrays his sheer exhaustion and physical deterioration to Davis "It is a hell of a difficult book to write, Negro because of the way it ended & the moral angle & what transcends it is the only frame it goes on. But since I still have to keep on writing about it better not tell about it. Sometimes it goes wonderfully & the summer was well worth trying to make something permanent out of for Antonio & for us guys too. Have been having some trouble with my eyes the last two weeks. There is a good man here but he is away at the moment & I do notwant to get mixed up with anybody else. It could very well be fatigue, or writing in a trickylight. Have had them bother at other times but never for quite as long as this. Otherwise everything fine here. Mary's around better steadily. Val has caught 2 good white marlon & is handling a rod very well...Sorry this letter is all business & begging. Hope everything fine with you guys & the children..." At the end of the letter, Danby-Smith adds a short note wishing Bill a "...belated happy birthday...", signed "Val".
Life had sent Hemingway off to Spain to write a crisp, 10,000 word article about his impressions of returning to back to the fights in Franco's Spain. To enforce editorial discipline the editors sent along A. E. Hotchner to edit his manuscript, but there was little he could do. Hemingway was quickly swept away in the drama of that summer and felt powerless to stem the flow of words: the first draft ran to 120,000 words, much to the consternation of Life's editors. The work was greeted by mixed reviews, many complaining about his frequent digressions renewing the debate among the literati whether Hemingway had lost his touch. The work raised hackles in Spain, where some disliked his critiques of certain bullfighters. James Michener remarked that "For an American outsider like Hemingway... to barge into Spain and denigrate Manolete was like a Spaniard sticking his nose into Augusta and claiming that Bobby Jones did not know how to play golf." Of course, this was classic Hemingway bravado. Just a little more than a year later, Hemingway would be dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. This letter provides a truly powerful insight into that final year of his life. Fine condition, written on onion skin paper with original mailing folds and tiny stains on two pages only.
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