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    "I have finished a first draft of all four books of the book about the Sea"

    Ernest Hemingway Typed Letter Signed.
    Two densely typed pages, 8" x 9.75" (sight), San Francisco de Paula, Cuba, May 22, 1951. A letter on Hemingway's Finca Vigia stationery, addressed to Professor Fraser Drew at the Department of English at New York State College. Matted and framed, along with the original envelope and a black and white photograph of Hemingway holding a black kitten, measuring overall 31.75" x 19.75".

    Great content letter written at a time of great activity, both in his personal life as well as creatively. Hemingway had published Across the River and into the Trees to poor reviews the previous year. Perhaps in response, he wrote the initial draft of The Old Man and the Sea in a total of eight weeks. Shortly after completing the draft, and in the midst of a house full of guests, he sat down and composed a long letter apologizing to Professor Drew for not returning his books (in part):

    ... Will skip the explanations (which could be good or fairly horrible) and take the rap completely... My oldest boy, Jack, is a Capt. of Infantry in Berlin and the other two will have to go shortly. Patrick is finishing at Harvard this month. His draft board has given him permission to go to Europe with his wife for three months. He would like to see what there is in the Prado before he studies Korean or other art.

    The only good news around the place is that I have finished the first draft of all four books of the book about the Sea. It runs over 250,000 words after first cut and rewrite and I am laying off work for a week and fishing a couple of marlin tournaments before starting on the re-write and cutting of the first part. Am going to cut it all I can because usually the test of a book is how good the stuff is that you can cut out. Publishers and many critics don't conceed [sic] that any book can lift can be a masterpiece. But the publishers will change their minds when they get short of paper and a great part of the critics have not too much mind to change.

    Hemingway goes on to describe a household filled with an ever-changing roster of guests, sleeping in guest rooms, on couches, in Hemingway's office (displacing Hemingway to the "tack room" to work), on air mattresses on the floor, and in the guest cottage, and describes the preparations for a grand party given for Adriana Ivancich (the inspiration behind Across the River and Into the Trees) and her mother on February 6th: "I worked all through the preparation for the party occasionally asking if it was o.k. to sit down in my habitual sit-down chair when I finished (I work standing up). This permission was granted from time to time but I was generally regarded as anti-social. The party was supposed to be the nicest one they had in Cuba last winter but where the hell your books were afterwards I do not know...if you get up early and work hard and good and put all things out of your head except work, completely and absolutely, then afterwards you do not pay attentions to details you should. But if you get the work done and it is really good then nothing matters except not getting your books back to you and I am truly ashamed and take all responsibility."

    Hemingway believed his draft of Old Man and the Sea to be "the best I can write ever for all of my life." The book was published the following year and made Hemingway an international celebrity. It became a book of the month selection, and won the Pulitzer Prize. This would be the peak of his career.

    Hemingway suffered severe injuries in two successive plane crashes while in Africa. To this point, Hemingway had always been a heavy drinker, but the chronic pain caused by his injuries rendered him barely functioning. Although in the last years of his life, Hemingway reworked and/or added chapters to previously completed manuscripts, he was never again able to match the quality and quantity of work produced during the period during which he composed the letter offered here.

    Condition: Usual mail folds, small amount of soiling on page 2, else fine.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2017
    19th Thursday
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