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A summer of submissions: Hemingway's postcard notes (1924).

In September of 1924 Ernest Hemingway entrusted John Dos Passos with the typescripts of the In Our Time stories to submit to publishers when he arrived in New York. With the original version of "Big Two-Hearted River" finished in August, Hemingway had tried out several sequences of fourteen stories in lists for tables of contents.(1) Then, sometime between 3 October, when he mailed "The Three-Day Blow" to The American Mercury and 27 October, when Harper's Magazine returned "Soldier's Home," he decided to review the status of seven stories still on an editor's desk or rejected. He wrote his notes on the back cover of a packet of postcards, marked "(Bloc Postal) (15 Vistas)," titled "Corrida de Toros," and printed in Madrid:

"The Postcard Notes"(2)

[Line:
 1 Am Mercury returned
 2 Mr. and Mrs. Smith
 3 Dr and Drs Wife
 4 Cross Country Snow
 5 In Our Time
 6 _____
 7 Sent Oct 3 - Three Day Blow
 8 Soldiers Home
 9 _____
10 Harpers returned The End of Something
11 Cat in the Rain
12 Harpers has (Soldiers Home
13 Sent Oct 3 (Cross Country Snow
14 Bookman Sent Sept 7 - End of Something
15 Transatlantic (Dr and Drs Wife)
16 Century
17] Scribners


These notes contradict my arguments in A Reader's Guide for what I assumed were Hemingway's motives for not submitting several stories for publication - caveat lector. Michael Reynolds' account of this period in The Paris Years draws on Mercury's three rejections (lines 1 - 4), but without these notes, he could not speculate on which stories were rejected and in what sequence.(3)

With the evidence of Hemingway's letters and manuscripts and Reynolds' The Paris Years, I have constructed a chronology of Hemingway's attempts in the summer of 1924 to be published in American magazines, especially Mercury and Harper's. First, I assume that Hemingway submitted his fiction to one magazine at a time; and second, I follow Michael Reynolds' reminders that it took ten to fourteen days for a letter to cross the Atlantic (Paris Years 370, American Homecoming 231). If the editors held a submission for only a week, Hemingway must have waited between four and five weeks from the day he mailed a story in Paris until the day he learned its fate (usually dire). Therefore, unless the dates I have given to the submission and return of a story are corroborated in the postcard notes or Hemingway's correspondence, they are approximate within a week.

COMMENTS ON THE "POSTCARD NOTES"

Line 1: "Am Mercury returned" - A heading for the list of three stories returned from Mercury, which was established in early 1924 by its editors, George Jean Nathan and H. L. Mencken.

On 2 May Hemingway sent Edward J. O'Brien three stories: One was "Mr. and Mrs. Smith [Elliot]," which he suggested O'Brien keep "as a souvenir or send it back" - I suspect he kept it; two others he asked O'Brien to "send to an agent or somebody you think might take them direct" - I assume that these two were "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" and "Cross-Country Snow." I know of no evidence that O'Brien submitted the two stories to any magazine before the first was sent to Mercury in early August and the second in early September. Hemingway also asked O'Brien about "this Harper's Short Story Contest" (SL 117), in which he later entered "Soldier's Home" and "Cross-Country Snow."

Line 2: "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" - Hemingway submitted this story (with its first title)(4) either sometime around 24 April or 3 May, just before or after his solitary trip to Arles (Reynolds, Paris Years 194-97); in either case, Hemingway had another reason for asking O'Brien not to submit the story but to keep it as a souvenir. That he sent this story at all, and without the thin disguise it later assumed with the name "Elliot," says something both about his notions of Nathan and Mencken's taste for satire, and also about his own concern for libel, more cavalier than that he later maintained.

George Jean Nathan received the story by mid-May, returned it on the 20th, and Hemingway read the rejection on 3 June: "We cannot agree upon this story for The American Mercury. But we shall be glad to read anything else that you care to submit to us. Sincerely yours, /s/George Jean Nathan" (KL/EH, 20 May 1924).

A brief and adroit rejection, leaving Hemingway to wonder whether Nathan and Mencken disagreed with one another or together they could not agree upon this story for this magazine. By January 1925, however, Hemingway had figured that "Menken [sic] doesn't like my stuff and Nathan does" (SL 143).

On 13 September 1924, Ernest and Hadley had dinner with Jane Heap, an occasion on which he might have shown her, or she might have asked for, the story (SL 125). "Mr. and Mrs. Elliot" was published in the Little Review (Autumn-Winter 1924-1925) and appeared in March 1925.

Line 3: "Dr and Drs Wife" - Hemingway was at work editing the transatlantic review from 21 May until he left for Pamplona on 25 June. He returned to Paris on 27 July and sent "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" to Mercury on 8 August. The editors returned it on the 29th with a letter (received on 12 September) that seems a postscript to their first: "Nor does this story fit into the general plan that we have for The American Mercury. But please do not he discouraged. Don't hesitate to send me whatever you write. I shall always be glad to read promptly, and with interest, whatever you send to me. Sincerely yours, /s/ George Jean Nathan, Editor." (KL/EH, 29 Sept. 1924).

This time the reason for the rejection is "the general plan we have"; but I suspect that, if Mencken read it, his abiding contempt for American expatriates would have outweighed his delight in the portrait of the sanctimonious doctor's wife. And this may account for the first-person promises Nathan makes to reassure the young bohemian.

Line 4: "Cross Country Snow" - "Cross-Country Snow" and at least one other story - I believe it was "The Three-Day Blow" - were sent to Mercury on 2 September, ten days before Hemingway received their rejection of "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife." Mercury turned down both stories on 22 September, and Hemingway must have received the letter no later than 2 October, for he sent "Cross-Country Snow" and "The Three-Day Blow" to Harper's the next day (see lines 7 and 13).

This time Nathan wrote: "Mencken and I cannot agree on the enclosed pieces of work for American Mercury. But we shall continue to read with the utmost sympathy anything that you send in to us. With best personal wishes. /s/ George Jean Nathan" (KL/EH, 22 Sept. 1924). Pieces of work? Utmost sympathy? Best personal wishes? - Hemingway never again submitted anything to Mercury, but he did have some choice remarks on Mencken in The Torrents of Spring and The Sun Also Rises in the following year. Harper's, however, followed Mencken's suit: they rejected "Cross-Country Snow" and "The Three-Day Blow" on 20 October, and the two stories crossed the Atlantic once again to arrive in Hemingway's mail on 3 November.

That week Hemingway played the Ford trump again, sending "Cross-Country Snow" to the transatlantic, where it was published in January 1925; he saved "The Three-Day Blow" for In Our Time.

Line 5: "In Our Time" - The indentation may suggest that here, either Hemingway began to record the status of stories intended for In Our Time (1925); or - since he often capitalized the title of in our time in his letters - he was recalling his earlier decision to intercalate his stories with the in our time chapters (SL 116-17, Hemingway to E. J. O'Brien, 2 May 1924).

Line 6: " _____ " - The rule separates Mercury's rejections from a record of those stories sent on 3 October (lines 7, 8, and 13).

Lines 7-8: "Sent Oct 3 - Three Day Blow / Soldiers Home" - The date, 3 October, must refer only to "The Three-Day Blow," since "Soldier's Home" had been sent to Harper's on 22 September, rejected on 23 October, and received by Hemingway on 27 October. This supports the conclusion that "The Three-Day Blow" was one of the "pieces" returned from Mercury with "Cross-Country Snow" on 22 September.

"The Three-Day Blow" was first published in In Our Time (1925), and "Soldier's Home" in Robert McAlmon's The Contact Collection of Contemporary Authors (June 1925).

Line 9: " _____ " - This rule may be meant to separate the two stories sent to different journals, "The Three-Day Blow" to Mercury and "Soldier's Home" to Harper's, from those that follow.

Lines 10-11: "Harpers returned The End of Something / Cat in the Rain" - For Hemingway to have sent "The End of Something" to Bookman on 7 September (as he indicates in line 14), he must have sent it and "Cat in the Rain" to Harper's by 3 August for that magazine to have returned the two stories by 6 September.

It is curious that Hemingway made no note that Lincoln Steffens had submitted "Cat in the Rain" earlier to Century magazine - by my calculation, in the last week of May. Michael Reynolds cites Steffens' letter to Hemingway that repeated the rejection note: Its editor, Glenn Frank, wrote that his fiction editor, Carl Van Doren, thought that "from a literary point of view [the story] is most suggestive of an ability which he is sure we will want in the magazine," but then called it a "sketch" and "a little slight" at that (Reynolds, Paris Years 211). Steffens predicted Hemingway's angry reaction and wrote that he was "afraid you, in your impatience, will chuck the Century. Don't. Try them again, and do it off your own bat" (KL/EH, Steffens to Hemingway, 20 June 1924). (That last colloquialism argues that Steffens also returned the story's typescript.) Steffens' advice worked only for a moment, when Hemingway noted Century (in line 16) as a magazine he might consider as a last resort.

"The End of Something" and "Cat in the Rain" were first published in In Our Time (1925).

Lines 12-13: "Harpers has (Soldiers Home / Sent Oct 3 (Cross-Country Snow" - Hemingway entered "Soldier's Home" on 22 September and "Cross-Country Snow" on 3 October in Harper's short story contest. They returned "Soldier's Home" on 13 October and "Cross-Country Snow" on the 20th; Hemingway received the first on 27 October and the second on 3 November.

Line 14: "Bookman sent Sept 7 - End of Something" - See the comment on lines 10-11 above.

Line 15: "Transatlantic (Dr and Drs Wife" - Hemingway must have submitted "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" to Ford Madox Ford in mid-September, after it was received from Mercury on the 12th, for the story was published in the December 1924 issue of the transatlantic.

Lines 16-17: "Century / Scribners" - By 27 October, the latest date on which Hemingway could have written these notes, the prospects for the publication of In Our Time were dark; and here Hemingway considered submitting his stories, now worn thin with rejections, to these two magazines. This last note seems an appropriate hail and farewell: it associates the Century, whose editor had infuriated him with a rejection letter typical for his summer's submissions, with Hemingway's earliest consideration of the Scribner firm, in whose Max Perkins he would find his ideal editor - and they, an ideal author - for a lifetime.

With the evidence of these postcard notes, Hemingway's correspondence, and not a little speculation, we have the following chronology from early May to early November 1924:

MAY 1924

2: "Mr. and Mrs. Elliot," "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife," and "Cross-Country Snow" sent to Edward J. O'Brien.

3: (Or late April) "Mr. and Mrs. Elliot" sent to Mercury.

16: "Cat in the Rain" sent by Lincoln Steffens to Century.

JUNE 1924

3: "Mr. and Mrs. Elliot" received from Mercury.

20: "Cat in the Rain" received by Lincoln Steffens from Century, forwarded to Hemingway.

JULY 1924

No submissions. Hemingway in Spain.

AUGUST 1924

3: "The End of Something" and "Cat in the Rain" sent to Harper's.

8: "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" sent to Mercury.

SEPTEMBER 1924

2: "Cross-Country Snow" and "The Three-Day Blow" sent to Mercury.

6: "The End of Something" and "Cat in the Rain" received from Harper's.

7: "The End of Something" sent to Bookman.

12: "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" received from Mercury.

13: "Mr. and Mrs. Elliot" sent to the Little Review.

16: "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" sent to transatlantic.

22: "Cat in the Rain" and "The Three-Day Blow" received from Mercury.

23: "Soldier's Home" sent to Harper's.

OCTOBER 1924

2: "Cross-Country Snow" and "The Three-Day Blow received from Mercury.

3: "Cross-Country Snow" and "The Three-Day Blow" sent to Harper's.

27: "Soldier's Home" received from Harper's.

NOVEMBER 1924

3 "Cross-Country Snow" and "The Three-Day Blow" received from Harper's.

7: "Cross-Country Snow" sent to transatlantic.

Of the final fourteen In Our Time stories, Hemingway had published five before the long summer of 1924 reflected in the "Postcard Notes": "My Old Man" and "Out of Season" (Three Stories and Ten Poems); "A Very Short Story" and "The Revolutionist" (in our time); and "Indian Camp" (transatlantic review).

In the five months from early May to early November - not counting the required July in Spain - he submitted "Cross-Country Snow" thrice, five stories twice ("Mr. and Mrs. Elliot," "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife," "Cat in the Rain," "The End of Something," and "The Three-Day Blow"); and "Soldier's Home" once: 14 submissions, 15 if you count "Big Two-Hearted River" sent with the In Our Time manuscripts. If the chronology of Hemingway's submissions implied by these "Postcard Notes" is close to accurate, then it is clear that in 1924 he played few of his stories close to the chest - indeed, he sent them out almost frantically.

But not quite - for these notes raise questions about how Hemingway imagined these stories' reception in the marketplace of American journals and how well he figured their chances with the New York editors. What was Hemingway's own impression of "Cross-Country Snow" - among the least of his stories to this time - that convinced him to send it twice to American magazines? Or have I answered my own question? And why did he send "Soldier's Home" - among the best of his stories - only once, and then to Harper's? Did Hemingway overlook what would have appealed to Mencken of the Mercury in the story's portraits of Krebs's pious mother and his "non-committal" father, an Oklahoman realtor? Or was he saving it for Harper's short story contest?

After all those trips to a Paris post office and the long weeks of waiting to hear, only "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" was published in 1924, in the magazine he had edited. Four others were published between January and July of 1925 ("Cross-Country Snow," "Mr. and Mrs. Elliot," "Big Two-Hearted River," and "Soldier's Home") - and those by his friends, Ford Madox Ford, Jane Heap, Ernest Walsh, and Robert McAlmon. Three stories ("Cat in the Rain," "The End of Something," and "The Three-Day Blow") had to wait until In Our Time in October of that year. The submissions of those last three stories raise other questions: Why did Hemingway waste time and postage sending "The Three-Day Blow" without its companion, "The End of Something," to Harper's at all, especially once Mercury had rejected it; and why did he send "The End of Something" to Bookman once Harper's had turned it down? How much did it count for him to be published in the American marketplace?

And finally, a legion of questions lies waiting in a study of the social and aesthetic dispositions that led those American editors to reject Hemingway's seven short stories. Who, after all, wrote the stories that Nathan and Mencken thought so much better than "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife"? Achmed Abdullah, for one, with "The Gates of Tamerlane." Mercury had published Sherwood Anderson's "Caught" in February 1924, E Scott Fitzgerald's "Absolution" in June, and Dorothy Parker's "Mr. Durant" in September - a good record, and these names that may have moved Hemingway to submit his story. But in the five issues from August to September 1924, Nathan and Mencken accepted stories by Chester T. Crowell, Ruth Suckow, Robert D. Garey, Thomas Boyd, John McClure, and L. M. Hussey.(5)

And what story did the judges of Harper's contest choose over "Soldier's Home"? Fleta Campbell Springer's "Legend," of course. Hemingway knew of the contest in early May, and Harper's announced in July the prizes in the first of four contests: first prize for Alice Brown's "The Girl in the Tree," published in August; second, for Lisa Ysaye Tarleau's "Loutre," in September; and third for Margaret Culkin Banning's "Women Come to Judgement," in October. By early September Harper's had rejected "The End of Something" and "Cat in the Rain"; but, undeterred, Hemingway submitted "Soldier's Home" and "Cross-Country Snow" in late September and early October. Three weeks later those two were rejected, and Harper's awarded the first prize to Springer, and two second prizes to Conrad Aiken's "The Disciple," published in December, and Edwina Stanton Babcock's "Waving Gold," in January 1925.(6)

A few of these names we know, but most - Abdullah and Garey, Hussey and Tarleau - lie silent, if anywhere, in some footnote deep in the literary annals of the 1920s. But they may speak dissertations, if, as Thomas Browne wrote in his discourse on sepulchral urns, "What songs the sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture."

NOTES

1. See (in this order) KL/EH 97A (Table of Contents), 95 (Index); 96 and 97 are collections of typescripts or tear-sheets of previously published stories. All four include "Up in Michigan"; 97A entertains switching the positions of "My Old Man" and "Three-Day Blow" with its earlier rejected title, "Summer People," and "An Even Shorter Story" as a possible title for "The Revolutionist."

2. These "Postcard Notes" (as I will call them) were first brought to my attention on 30 October 1992 by Lisa Middents and Stephen Plotkin, curators of the Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Library, and were entered in the January 1993 supplement to the collection's bibliography (KL/EH refers to that collection). Once again I am indebted to them and their colleagues.

3. The reader should disregard my speculations in A Reader's Guide about the pre-publication history of "Cat in the Rain" (44), "The End of Something" (51), "The Three-Day Blow" (56), "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" (62), "Mr. and Mrs. Elliot" (76), and "Cross-Country Snow" (82). On "Soldier's Home," see my comment on lines 7-8. For Reynolds' account of The American Mercury's rejections and Hemingway's reactions see The Paris Years, 199-235.

4. I believe it was the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee typescript submitted to Jane Heap in September for publication in the Little Review (Smith 76).

5. The American Mercury 1, 2 (January-December 1924).

6. Harper's Magazine 149, 150 (June 1924-January 1925).

WORKS CITED

The American Mercury. Vols. 1, 2 (January-December 1924).

Harper's Magazine. Vols. 149, 150 (June 1924-January 1925).

Hemingway, Ernest. Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917-1961. Ed. Carlos Baker. New York: Scribner's, 1981.

Reynolds, Michael S. Hemingway: The American Homecoming. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.

-----. Hemingway: The Paris Years. Oxford: Blackwell, 1989.

Smith, Paul. A Reader's Guide to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989.
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Author:Smith, Paul
Publication:The Hemingway Review
Date:Mar 22, 1995
Words:3239
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