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Dawn Powell: Hemingway's "favorite living writer".

Hemingway's friendship with Dawn Powell (1896-1965) has not been examined in detail, although the two writers had a friendship that lasted several decades and was nourished by their many mutual friends, including Maxwell Perkins of Charles Scribner's Sons. Introduced by John Herrmann and Josephine Herbst in 1926, they would correspond and follow each other's careers off and on until Hemingway's death (with Powell continuing to reflect on Hemingway even after his 1961 suicide). Powell would use her knowledge of Hemingway to create a fictional character. Their comments to and about each other provide new insights into their personalities and roles in 20th century American literature.


ERNEST HEMINGWAY'S FRIENDSHIPS with other authors of his time, whether longstanding or casual, continually generate scholarly discussion and analysis. Many books and articles have been published on Hemingway's friendships and interactions with writers such as John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and others. Scholars have examined these relationships to gain a better appreciation for Hemingway's personality, as well as to understand what might have been gained or transferred through his interactions with other artists. Occasionally, some of these friends and contemporaries of Hemingway used their knowledge of him to create fictional characters in his image, as Dos Passos did with his portrait of George Elbert Warner in Chosen Country (1951).

But Hemingway's friendship with the writer Dawn Powell (1896-1965) has not been examined in detail. Less famous than Dos Passos or Fitzgerald and a more casual friend to Hemingway, Dawn Powell nevertheless had a relationship with him that lasted several decades and was nourished by their many mutual friends. Introduced by John Herrmann and Josephine Herbst in 1926, Powell and Hemingway would correspond and follow each other's careers off and on until his death in 1961 (with Powell continuing to reflect on Hemingway). She would even use her knowledge of Hemingway to create a fictional character. Their comments to and about each other provide new insights into their personalities and their roles in 20th century American literature.

Hemingway biographers have not seen Powell as a significant figure. Despite being the author of fifteen novels, a collection of short stories, and several plays, Powell is seldom mentioned in literary histories and critical commentary. Yet her publishers included Brentano's, Farrar and Rhinehart, and Houghton Mifflin, as well as Charles Scribner's Sons, where she was one of Max Perkins's authors. A major figure in New York literary circles, Powell was friends with John Dos Passos, Sara and Gerald Murphy, Edmund Wilson, Malcolm Cowley, and Josephine Herbst, as well as Hemingway. (1) Powell is not easy to dismiss or define. While friends and critics often found her work uneven, many of her novels and stories received high praise. Critics of her early novels set in Ohio noted flaws in her technique and yet still found substance in her writing. An anonymous reviewer for the New Republic, commenting on The Bride's House (1929), wrote: "Such description as Miss Powell's of Ohio farm life, never consciously striving for effect but always effective, is important by virtue of its infrequency in current literature, and is admirable by virtue of its honesty in a day when we are all told to shoot waterspouts" (173). Her later novels set in New York garnered even more praise. Rose Feld, reviewing A Time to Be Born (1942) for the New York Herald Tribune, began by stating:
   The difficulty with reviewing Dawn Powell's new novel 'A Time to Be
   Born' is that, first of all, you want to quote from it continually.
   To say it's brilliant, it's witty, it's penetrating, it's mature
   isn't enough. You want to prove it by giving examples but then,
   having chosen your quotes, you find they do not add up to all the
   book holds and means. Because there is something more in this
   volume than the exercise of a mind that is daring as it is keen;
   there is emotional flavor and pungency which make it greater than
   an intellectual tour de force. (5)

While not every novel received this level of praise, during her time Powell's writing had many admirers. The satirical nature of her work may make Powell difficult to classify, as some have speculated, but her witty portraits of middle-class life, both rural and urban, resonated for her contemporaries and still do today.

Hemingway enjoyed Powell's company and found value in much of her fiction even while viewing some novels with a more critical eye. Their meetings in person were primarily limited to occasions when Hemingway traveled to New York or Powell visited Key West. In a 10 May 1965 letter to Carlos Baker regarding Hemingway, Powell notes: "Actually I spent little time with Ernest in the many years I knew him but we had best friends in common and batted each other's gossip around." Written just a short few short months before her death, Powell's letter to Baker shows her admiration for Hemingway but is a bit scant on the overall details of their friendship. The few extant letters between the two writers and their comments about each other exchanged with friends and family offer more details. (2) An examination of this remaining evidence shows that Powell and Hemingway's lives intertwined a great deal even without many face-to-face meetings.

The Powell-Hemingway friendship dates back to the very early days of their careers. Drawing on that 1965 letter from Powell, (3) Carlos Baker notes Hemingway's visit to New York in February 1926 and a night on the town with Jack Cowles, John Herrmann, and others. Baker explains, "They rapped on the window of 50 West Ninth, where the novelist Dawn Powell lived with her husband and baby. Dawn was a tiny woman, pretty and plump, with dark hair cut close to her head like Pauline Pfeiffer's. She went along with them to Jack's house" (165). (4) Baker's next reference to Powell notes a 1934 visit with her husband to see Esther and Canby Chambers in Key West (259). Once again drawing on Powell's 1965 letter, Baker writes: "Another of [Hemingway's] departing favorites was the diminutive Dawn Powell. A crowd of well-wishers saw her off at the Key West station. She was secretly hurt that Ernest was not among them. But he came running along the platform just as the train pulled out, blowing enormous kisses and shouting unintelligible messages" (261). Powell's letter to Baker suggests that this was a memory she cherished.

The earliest existing correspondence confirming interaction between the two authors is a letter from Pauline Hemingway to Powell written in February 1936. Pauline raves about Powell's latest novel, Turn, Magic Wheel (1936), and comments that Hemingway has read it and is also a fan, noting that his praise is likely to be forthcoming in a separate letter. Pauline continues on to compliment P0well's description of New York in the novel and her skillful portrayal of her main character, Dennis Orphen. This letter is the first to confirm Hemingway's awareness of Powell's writing even before she became a Scribner's author.

One of the major characters in Turn, Magic Wheel, Andrew Callingham, may have been based on Hemingway. The novel focuses on Dennis Orphen, a writer living in New York, who is torn between his interests in two different women. Orphen writes a book that fictionalizes the relationship between another writer, Andrew Callingham, and his divorced wife Effie. Orphen's own relationship with Effie suffers, as does his simultaneous relationship with the married Corrine Barrow. In Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences, James Mellow states in a parenthetical aside that "Hemingway would become the distant Andy Callingham, the internationally known, publicity-seeking, self-involved novelist who makes intermittent appearances in Powell's Manhattan-based novels" (326). Mellow's source is a 1987 article written by Gore Vidal stating that "Effie is the sacred love, the abandoned wife of Andrew Callingham, Hemingway's first appearance in Powell's work" (56). Vidal does not say whether he has a reference for this connection between Callingham and Hemingway, or if it is something he concluded on his own. Both Mellow and Vidal influence Tim Page's explanation in his biography of Powell:
   The character of Andrew Callingham is based loosely on Ernest
   Hemingway (whom Powell knew only slightly at the time). A
   hunting-and-shooting type who lives in Paris, Callingham is
   arrogant, self-obsessed, badly behaved, publicity-hungry, and
   disdainful of the women who adore him. He appears only momentarily
   (and then in deliberate anticlimax), but his meticulously crafted
   legend pervades the narrative. (153)

In 1936, when Turn, Magic Wheel was published, Hemingway was especially recognizable as a "hunting-and-shooting type." On safari in Africa in 1933-34, Hemingway wrote several articles for Esquire that embellished this persona, and in 1935 published his safari narrative Green Hills of Africa. John Raeburn notes that Hemingway's "self-portrayal as the stalwart hunter" in his African nonfiction would remain "one of the most vivid and dramatic elements of his personal fame" (53). Powell was composing Turn, Magic Wheel while the Esquire articles and Green Hills of Africa were being published and, although there is no hard evidence that she actually read them, it seems unlikely she would have been unaware of their content.

Descriptions of Callingham within the novel itself, however, suggest only tenuous similarities between the fictional writer and Hemingway. While there are some parallels in their lives, such as both men having left first wives in pursuit of other loves, Powell knew Hemingway well enough that if she had wanted to fictionalize him as a character she could have done a much more thorough job. Powell knew Hemingway's first wife Hadley Richardson casually, and was good friends with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, and her sister Virginia. In the novel, Effie and Marian bear little resemblance to Hemingway's own wives; the closest similarity is that Marian knew Effie and Andrew as a couple before becoming his second wife (echoing the original friendship between Hadley and Pauline). However, in Turn, Magic Wheel, Callingham has left his second wife for a dancer in Europe, while when Powell's novel was published Hemingway had not yet met Martha Gellhorn. Callingham is a cartoonish character, his large ego and legendary reputation eclipsing much of the reality around him. If Powell channeled any of Hemingway's personality into the novel, she expanded on his exaggerated public image and used that to shape the character of Callingham. When the fictional writer finally does arrive in New York, fresh from his European affair, Effie goes to his hotel to appeal to him to visit Marian, who is dying of cancer. Callingham seems incapable of sympathy or understanding: "It was Andy, of course it was Andy, Andy caricatured by that unkind cartoonist Time [...] She tried in vain to combine in this present figure the young Andy, the Andy of her imagination, and the great man Callingham. It was preposterous that Marian's dying or any other mere human trifle would matter to this stranger" (258). The cold, unemotional figure of Callingham in Turn, Magic Wheel does not match Powell's sentiments about Hemingway in her correspondence and diaries.

Elsewhere in the novel, Powell actually invokes Hemingway's name in a complimentary way that suggests she did not see Hemingway and Callingham in exactly the same light:
   Callingham appeared to be a tall, bronzed, healthy specimen, in the
   prime of life, gray mustache and sparse gray hair, keen dark eyes
   under unrimmed spectacles, speaking with the unmistakable twang of
   the Yankee. He waved his hands disparagingly at photographers and
   the autograph hunters outside the hotel, and only shook his head at
   the flattering remarks on his last novel. Asked what he thought of
   the work of the newer generation of American writers, Wolfe,
   Caldwell, and Faulkner, he answered that unquestionably they had
   something. He was equally spontaneous in praise of Dos Passos,
   Hemingway, Lewis, and Ellen Glasgow. (256-257)

Powell's incorporation of Hemingway's name in the list of authors Callingham admires places him alongside other authors that she knew and respected, such as Dos Passos, and demonstrates a respect for Hemingway not comparable to the contempt Callingham engenders in the novel. From extant correspondence between Hemingway and Powell, it does not appear that Hemingway noticed any similarities to Callingham or that Powell ever confirmed any intentional use of Hemingway as a model for the character. A 1940 diary entry is the closest that she ever came to acknowledging any similarity: "Accidental prophesy seems part of the writer's job. After Turn, Magic Wheel, Ernest Hemingway's married life began turning out that way" (Diaries 180).

The correspondence between Hemingway and Powell often concerned their writing and shared information about mutual friends. It often contained quite a bit of humor, too--as exemplified by a postcard Powell sent to Hemingway from Saratoga Springs, New York, on 8 May 1936. The postcard features a picture of a woman bending over a wishing well. The message notes, in Powell's scrawling script. "This is a picture of me wishing my pants off. Dawn." Other existing correspondence between the two confirms a light-heartedness in their interactions.

Despite their friendship, Powell and Hemingway were not blind to each others' faults as writers and individuals. James Mellow notes several comments Powell made in a letter to John Dos Passos regarding Hemingway's American Writers' Congress speech in June of 1937:
   The main event of the evening, she told Dos, occurred around
   ten-thirty, when "all the foreign correspondents marched on each
   one with his private blonde led by Ernest and Miss Gellhorn, who
   had been through hell in Spain and came shivering on in a silver
   fox cape chin-up." Hemingway's speech, she said in a sardonic
   summary, was good, "if that's what you like and his sum total was
   that war was pretty nice and a lot better than sitting around in a
   hot hall and writers ought to all go to war and get killed and if
   they didn't they were a big sissy." (499-501) (5)

Powell's dislike of Hemingway's braggadoccio and celebrity was clear (and probably provided at least some background for create the exaggerated fame and self-importance of the character Andrew Callingham). Poweli's friendship with Pauline probably contributed to her dislike of Hemingway's appearance with Martha Gellhorn. Although Hemingway's relationship with Pauline was not yet over at this point, Powell's perceptive nature and quite possibly comments from mutual friends may have suggested trouble.

The criticism could run in both directions. A letter from Pauline to Ernest dated 28 September 1938 continues to note Powell's development as a writer. Pauline tells Hemingway that she too is also reading Powell's latest book, The Happy Island (1938), and agrees with him that it does not have the same quality or appeal as Turn, Magic Wheel. She also informs Hemingway about Powell's displeasure with her current publishers. Pauline mentions that Powell is about to meet with Max Perkins, foreshadowing the writer's impending shift of publishers from Farrar and Rhinehart to Charles Scribner's Sons.

From this point on, much of the information about the Powell-Hemingway relationship is found in comments the two made about each other to Perkins at Scribner's. In fact, later in life, Powell mentioned in her letter to Carlos Baker that Hemingway's influence may have helped this career move: "I believe he was instrumental in Max Perkins' initial interest in my writing, tho we were both bored by book-blah-blah--feeling that the great thing was in doing it." Both writers would inquire about each other through Perkins and use him as a sounding board for their critiques. When, in 1940, Perkins wrote to Powell that he had been swept up in the chaos surrounding a visit from Hemingway, she responded:
   I have yet to see anyone around Ernest even a few minutes who is
   not violently affected by him, as you say. He probably has more
   personal power--I doubt if it's 'charm'--than anyone else I ever
   met. Maybe Hitler is like that. Anyway, around him it is hard to
   remember there is anyone else you planned to see or ever cared to.
   I think people will have to get ernest-proofed first, in order to
   hang on to their own original prejudices when talking to him.
   (Letters 108-109)

The correspondence sent through Max Perkins provides the most complete view of Hemingway and Powell's friendship and interaction. Perkins would be the conduit for information about the writers' family lives and overall well-being, and he would also serve as a sounding board for their critical comments about each other's literary careers.

Powell continued her close friendship with Pauline after her divorce from Ernest and remained friends with Hemingway as well. (6) On 8 October 1942, Hemingway wrote to Perkins saying that Martha Gellhorn was coming to New York for a visit and wanted to meet Powell. He said that Powell was one of Martha's literary idols and, in a handwritten addition to that paragraph of the letter, included Powell on his own list of literary favorites. Hemingway told Perkins that he had really valued Powell's last book (A Time to Be Born, published in August 1942) and felt she was on the same level with E Scott Fitzgerald and Henry James when she was writing well, although her inconsistency held her back from being a truly great writer and novelist. Hemingway explained to Perkins that Powell might have reservations about meeting Martha because of her friendship with Pauline; however, Powell agreed to a meeting set up by Perkins. Unfortunately, a 26 October 1942 letter sent from Hemingway to Perkins reveals that the meeting never took place, due to Martha's coming down with the flu.

Hemingway praised A Time to Be Born again in a letter to Powell dated 31 January 1944, noting his enjoyment of the novel and mentioning that he had also sent positive comments about the work to Max Perkins. Powell, in turn, valued Hemingway's praise, as she noted in her diary: "Letter from Hemingway very cheering. Said I was his favorite living writer" (Diaries 226). In her 1965 reminiscences to Carlos Baker, Powell summarizes some of the 1944 letter's other content, noting that Hemingway was writing "when he was lonesome during his submarine chasing in the Carribean [sic] in 1944." She goes on to say:
   That is not the reason I treasure the letter--the real reason is
   that he says in it "You are my true favorite liveing writer. This
   isn't gush talk. You and a Handful of Dust and Put Out More Flags."

      I'm sure he changed his mind a thousand times on this as he did
   on everything else and everybody, but you can understand my rather
   ferocious loyalty to the person who thought this for even just a
   few seconds. [Typographical errors in original]

Written near the end of her life (she died on 14 November 1965), Powell's comments have a decidedly wistful tone, particularly as her writing career had flagged significantly in her final years. Yet Hemingway saw value in her novels despite imperfections and commented on that value frequently enough to suggest his remarks were more than perfunctory praise. In 1945, for instance, Hemingway wrote to Perkins asking him to send a copy of A Time to Be Born to Buck Lanham (SL 593-594)

Hemingway's enjoyment of A Time to Be Born is notable because the novel features yet another appearance by Andrew Callingham. In it, Powell details the lives of Amanda Keeler Evans and Vicky Haven, two women who were once friends growing up in a small Ohio town. Amanda Keeler Evans has gone on to publishing fame and social glory, mostly through her marriage to publishing magnate Julian Evans, and now lives in New York. When Vicky needs a way to get out of Lakeside, Ohio, a mutual friend appeals to Amanda to help Vicky move to New York and start a new life. Amanda initially uses Vicky to cover up an affair she is having. By the end of the novel, Amanda's manipulation has destroyed her marriage and tarnished her social status, while Vicky in contrast has gained confidence and happiness. Powell's biographer, Tim Page, places more significance on the Hemingway/Callingham connection in this novel:

Ernest Hemingway reappears in this novel in his guise as Andrew Callingham, covering the war for Julian's newspaper and eventually becoming Amanda's coveted new conquest. Powell knew Hemingway well by now (through her association with the Murphys and with Virginia Pfeiffer, and from visits to Canby Chambers and Esther Andrews in Key West), and the two were quite friendly. Callingham is vividly rendered, and the resultant portrayal is much more obviously patterned on the real Hemingway than was the same character's short but much-heralded walk-on role in Turn, Magic Wheel. (Biography 188-189)

Because Callingham's presence is actually more abbreviated in A Time to Be Born than in Powell's earlier novel, Page's comments seem exaggerated. Critics have noted that Julian Evans and his wife Amanda Keeler Evans are loosely based on Henry Luce, publisher of Time magazine, and his wife Clare, and Powell herself admitted later in life that the similarities to the Luces may have been intentional. (7) However, once again, there is no specific reference to prove that Powell intended any Hemingway/Callingham connection. Callingham appears near the end of the novel, pursued by Amanda when her marriage to Julian sours. After Amanda disappears in Europe, chasing Callingham, her friend Vicki Haven sees newspaper reports that he is about to take a third wife, the dancer Asta Lundgren. Vicki's husband Ken, a former conquest of Amanda's, observes without much sympathy, "Callingham made his name saving his own nose and blowing his own horn, not looking after beautiful ladies on skids" (333). Here, any similarity between Callingham and Hemingway lies in the exaggerated image of their lives. Despite Page's conviction that Powell knew Hemingway better and therefore was more capable of fictionalizing him than in the earlier Turn, Magic Wheel, Callingham's small role in A Time to Be Born contains even less detail.

Like Turn, Magic Wheel, A Time to Be Born also invokes Hemingway's actual name in an admiring fashion. When Amanda waits to meet Ken, the object of her affair, in an out-of-the-way bar, she is thrown by the fact that no one recognizes her:
   She was so accustomed to go only to those places where she was
   known that this anonymity was a new experience. She didn't like it.
   She had resented it for all the years before she married Julian,
   the years she wrote perfume copy in Paris, unsigned, bitterly
   envying every name that brought nods of respect, envying the
   Hemingways, Hepburns, Windsors, and Edens equally, without regard
   for their nature of their achievements, merely envying the
   applause. (74)

While Powell herself probably envied Hemingway the literary applause she could never quite seem to find, the allusion here implies respect for his achievements as well as jealousy of his celebrity status.

As their lives progressed, both Hemingway and Powell remained aware of each other as individuals and writers. Carlos Baker and Michael Reynolds both note in their biographies that Hemingway paid Powell a visit in May 1944 as he waited in New York for transport to Europe. (8) A 15 August 1949 letter from Lillian Ross of The New Yorker to Hemingway reveals that he had written favorably of Powell to Ross, particularly noting Powell's letter-writing ability. Later in Powell's career, as the quality of her work diminished, Hemingway had no problem criticizing it as easily as he had praised it earlier. On 30 October 1954, he wrote to Charles Scribner, Jr. about The Wicked Pavilion (1954), Powell's first book away from Scribner's. Despite his friendship with Powell, Hemingway tells Scribner that he is happy the publisher passed on the opportunity to publish the novel, noting that Powell's writing continually vacillated in quality. He suggests, however, that Scribner's might reconsider publishing her work if it showed improvement.

This harsher criticism was in line with many of the critiques of Powell's work at the time. As the years progressed, she had a difficult time finding publishers for her stories and maintaining work on longer novels. However, the fact that Hemingway does not dismiss her outright in his comments to Scribner implies a degree of sympathy or loyalty transcending casual acquaintance. Hemingway was seldom shy in his criticism or praise of a writer, and while his criticism may have been softened by his inability to see Powell as a literary competitor or threat, the fact that he does not condemn her writing entirely nevertheless suggests respect for some aspects of her talent.

Powell too maintained a healthy critical perspective on Hemingway's work. In a diary entry dated 25 January 1954, she notes Hemingway's recent airplane accidents and the misreporting of his death, and then says "I tried once again to read Farewell to Arms and it seems as clumsily written as ever to me--wooden, like Walter Scott, difficult reading, pidgin English." (Diaries 332). As the authors aged, their friendship survived their acerbic comments and still tended to highlight the positive. In a letter to Sara Murphy, Powell noted how pleased she was that Hemingway had used the publicity from his Nobel Prize win to speak in defense of Ezra Pound (Letters 220) and in a 1957 letter to Edmund Wilson, she expressed her frustration with the perception of Hemingway (and writers in general) by scholars (in this case, Andrew Turnbull):
   Anyway this drab stuffy Ivy Leagueish type asked me if I thought
   Hemingway and FitzG. were really good friends, as he thought from
   Hemingway's letters to Scott they could not have been, since
   Hemingway used foul language and Scott's letters were always very
   gentlemanly. I suggested that perhaps Ernest was not writing to him
   (Turnbull) but to his friend Scott, and that perhaps Scott was not
   writing to Hemingway but to him (Turnbull--i.e., posterity). [...]

      However he had some fixed angle--as they always have-and was not
   going to be influenced by anything to the contrary. As he was
   making a number of asinine, polite remarks to the general effect
   that a gentleman wrote in a gentlemanly way and what more could you
   ask, I dove into a pitcher of Gibsons and left him being earnestly
   briefed on old Scott, Bunny, Gerald by no less an old pal of yours
   than the Pall of All--Paul Peters. These two were made for each
   other--ponderous, judicial detachment in handling their meager
   treasure of fantastic misinformation. (Letters 244-245)

Powell's feeling of solidarity with Hemingway and other writers continued even after his death. In a 7 August 1962 letter to Wilson, Powell comments:
   Whatever became of those good old Horatio Alger days when hard work
   and sticktoitiveness and lofty morals got you over the hump? Npw
   they get you over the hill to the poorhouse or at least the luny
   bin. Who knows what taxhounds were after Hemingway, too. The idea
   that anybody has a deep personal romantic or melodramatic reason
   cause to commit suicie today is really silly. The Gestapo is
   chasing all of us. [Typographical errors in original]

While Hemingway's suicide was motivated by much more than paranoia or panic over money, Powell's apparent need to attribute it to something other than depression or mental illness shows continued affection for Hemingway as an individual. While the two could be critical of each other, throughout their lives there was more substance and admiration in their friendship than scholars and biographers have shown.

Although awareness regarding Powell's life and work has increased in the last few decades, John Updike may have stated it best when he commented in 1995 that "The reputation of Dawn Powell may be doomed to a perpetual state of revival" (262). After a few publications about Powell in the late 1960s, the late 1990s saw a significant attempt at a Dawn Powell revival with the emergence of Tim Page's biography and the republication of many of her novels. Another spate of articles and smattering of interest followed. Today appears to be another quiet period for Dawn Powell studies. Yet Hemingway's comments about the value of her work make a strong argument for continuing to read and discuss Powell. Her reflections on Hemingway also provide valuable images of the more famous writer. Their literary friendship deserves more recognition.


Excerpts from the unpublished writings of Dawn Powell are published by permission of the Estate of Dawn Powell.

Anon. Rev. of The Bride's House by Dawn Powell. New Republic 24 December 1930: 173.

Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Scribner's, 1969.

Berg, A. Scott. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1978.

Feld, Rose. "Glitter Girl in the Spotlight." Rev. of A Time to Be Born by Dawn Powell. New York Herald Tribune Books 6 September 1942: 5.

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

--. Green Hills of Africa. New York: Scribner's, 1935.

--.Letter to Charles Scribner, Jr. 30 October 1954. Charles Scribner's Sons Archive. Princeton University Library, Princeton, N.J.

--. Letter to Dawn Powell. n.d. Dawn Powell Collection. Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New York.

--. Letter to Dawn Powell. 31 January 1944. Dawn Powell Collection. Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New York.

--. Letter to Maxwell Perkins. 8 October 1942. Charles Scribner's Sons Archive. Princeton University Library, Princeton, N.J.

--. Letter to Maxwell Perkins. 12 March 1944. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.

Hemingway, Pauline. Letter to Dawn Powell. 28 February 1936. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.

--. Letter to Ernest Hemingway. 28 September 1938. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.

Ludington, Townsend. John Dos Passos: A Twentieth Century Odyssey. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1980. Mellow, James R. Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1992. Meyers, Jeffrey. Hemingway: A Biography. New York: Harper & Row, 1985. Page, Tim. Dawn Powell: A Biography. New York: Henry Holt, 1998. Powell, Dawn. Angels on Toast. New York: Scribner's, 1940.

--. The Bride's House. New York: Brentano's, 1929.

--. The Diaries of Dawn Powell: 1931-1965. Ed. Tim Page. South Royalton, VT: Steerforth, 1995.

--. Letter to Carlos Baker. 10 May 1965. Courtesy of the Estate of Dawn Powell.

--. Letter to Edmund Wilson. 7 August 1962. Dawn Powell Collection. Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New York.

--. Postcard to Ernest Hemingway. 8 May 1936. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.

--. Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965. Ed. Tim Page. New York: Henry Holt, 1999.

--. A Time to Be Born. New York: Scribner's, 1942.

--. Turn, Magic Wheel. New York: Farrar and Rhinehart, 1936.

--. The Wicked Pavilion. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1954.

Raeburn, John. Fame Became of Him: Hemingway as Public Writer. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1984.

Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The 1930s. New York: Norton, 1997.

--. Hemingway: The Final Years. New York: Norton, 1999.

Ross, Lillian. Letter to Ernest Hemingway. 15 August 1949. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.

Updike, John. "An Ohio Runaway." New Yorker 20 & 27 February 1995: 262-63, 266-71. Vidal, Gore. "Dawn Powell, the American Writer." New York Review of Books 5 November 1987: 52-60.


Troy University


Research for this project was funded by a 2007 Smith-Reynolds Founders Fellowship, sponsored by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation and Society.

(1.) Hemingway biographers are not alone in overlooking Powell's role in early 20th century literary circles. In Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, A. Scott Berg mentions Powell only once, despite her having had several books published by Scribner's and edited by Perkins. In John Dos Passos: A Twentieth Century Odyssey, Townsend Ludington devotes only a handful of rather casual references to Powell despite her having known and been friends with Dos Passos for a significant number of years.

(2.) Trying to piece together Powell's side of the correspondence is difficult because she died in relative poverty, moving several times during the last years of her life, including once in 1958 when she was on the verge of eviction from her apartment. In his biography of Powell, Tim Page writes: "Jacqueline Rice [Powell's friend and later executor of her estate] remembers the shrunken, disconsolate Powell sitting alone on some boxes piled up on the sidewalk outside 35 East Ninth Street. There, she waited quietly for the movers to arrive, watching some of her insufficiently secured papers fly away in the autumn wind-papers that may have been letters from Malcolm Lowry, Hemingway, or Dos Passos" (268). Page, in the course of his work on Powell in the late 1990s, helped gather what remained of Powell's manuscripts and papers, now in the Dawn Powell Collection at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University in New York.

(3.) With the exception of Jeffrey Meyers, most major Hemingway biographies mention Powell at least briefly. In his notes, Carlos Baker cites two letters from Powell--one dated 10 May 1965 (610) and one dated 12 May 1965 (591, 636)--as the sources for his comments. On 11 May 1965, Powell notes in her diary, "Wrote Carlos Baker re: Hemingway" (Diaries 470). Only the letter from Powell to Baker dated "10 May 1965" appears to be still available.

(4.) James Mellow also references this meeting in Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences (326).

(5.) Michael Reynolds also notes Powell's comments about the speech in Hemingway: The 1930s (270-271). Both Mellow and Reynolds cite Ludington's biography of Dos Passos as their original source.

(6.) Correspondence reveals that Pauline Hemingway and Dawn Powell continued to stay in contact. In the autumn of 1945, Powell stayed at the Key West house, where she worked on the "never-finished sequel to My Home is Far Away and on the manuscript that would develop into The Locusts Have No King" (Page 202).

(7.) Powell's diary entry for 11 March 1956 notes the connection between the Evanses and the Luces: "I have been denying for years any basis in A Time to Be Born for the general idea that it is Clare Luce. I swear it is based on five or six girls, some known personally and some by talk, and often I changed the facts to avoid libel with resulting character a real person evidently and libelously Luce-ian. I insist it was a composite (or compost) but then I find a memo from 1939--'Why not do novel on Clare Luce?' Who can I believe-me or myself?" (Diaries 356)

(8.) The specific location for this meeting varies in different accounts. Baker cites a letter from Powell dated 12 May 1965 (the elusive letter referred to earlier in these notes) as his source, detailing Hemingway's visit on Mother's Day to Powell's apartment on East Ninth Street (387). Reynolds, in Hemingway: The Final Years (92-93), states that the visit took place on 14 May at Powell's beach cottage on Long Island, referencing a 15 May entry in Page's Diaries of Dawn Powell which does not mention a location, but simply notes a visit from Hemingway the day before. Future research may resolve this minor discrepancy, but the fact that Powell and Hemingway visited while he was in New York in May 1944 seems indisputable.
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Author:Kosiba, Sara
Publication:The Hemingway Review
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2010
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