When you think of Hemingway you think of bullfighting in Spain, fishing in Key West and safari in Africa.

That’s because he turned all of those experiences into epic novels. 

Something I never knew until I visited the Hemingway House in Key West was how he paid for it all.

And the shocking thing was that he didn’t. 

It turns out his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer’s rich uncle Gus bankrolled him.

Gus bought the house in Key West for $8,000, paid for their apartment in Paris and bought their first and second cars. 

He also gave them $25,000 to go on safari in 1933, which in today’s terms is the equivalent of about $479,000.

It’s hard to imagine spending almost half a million dollars on a vacation to Africa. Even harder having someone else spend that amount on you. 

The trip to Africa, which lasted three months, was extraordinarily productive and consequential, resulting in several books and articles, including two of Hemingway’s most famous: the Green Hills of Africa and the Snows of Kilimanjaro.  

Neither of the books is dedicated to Gus. 

We think of Hemingway as being a “man’s man.” Someone who took charge and advocated a philosophy of personal responsibility.

But somehow it changes your perspective when you realize he didn’t pay for it. 

It’s also striking to realize that the marriage to Pauline was among his most productive periods. He wrote five novels, including Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. 

It fell apart at least in part because their sex life deteriorated after she had two children. The doctor cautioned against having more, but being Catholic she refused to use contraception. She later died alone in Hollywood and was buried in an unmarked plot. 

I tend to think things work out in life. That they cannot fail to course correct. Because that is the way it should happen.

Pauline’s life is not an encouraging example.

Written: Feb 23, 2019