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Ernest Hemingway and T.S. Eliot: a tangled relationship.

This essay proposes that although Hemingway would never acknowledge it, T.S. Eliot was an important early "mentor"--one Hemingway could not put aside. Ezra Pound's greatest service to Hemingway may have been directing him to Eliot's poetry just when The Waste Land made Eliot the dominant poet of Literary Modernism. The two writers never met, but Hemingway nevertheless continued to read, to ponder, and to remember Eliot's poetry and his criticism. Despite his habit of mocking Eliot in print, Hemingway was in fact the poet's irreverent disciple.

When newlyweds Ernest and Hadley Hemingway left Chicago for Paris in December 1921, their journey signaled a new urgency in his quest to become a writer of enduring literary significance. They had first thought of Italy, much as in Hemingway's fiction later on, Marge and Nick make plans for Italy. From Italy, Ernest carried memories of important lessons of war, love, and loss--rich material for any would-be writer. But Sherwood Anderson argued that Paris was the better destination for the artist who wanted to break new ground, and so the couple chose "La Ville-Lumiere." In Paris they received "lessons" from major leaders of Modernism: Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford, Ezra Pound. These mentors led Hemingway to experience literature, art, and modern thought in profound depth. They led him to explore the mind of Europe. Most important, they led him to new understanding of himself and of his talent. Of these mentors, Pound was "il miglior fabbro"--the "maker" whose influence on Hemingway went deepest, the "maker" who led Hemingway to discover T. S. Eliot.

Many have claimed, with arguable justice, that Pound "created" both Eliot and Hemingway. In London after 1908, Pound quickly created an identity for himself as aesthete and major literary force. It was Hemingway's good fortune that when he arrived in Paris on 21 December 1921, Ezra Pound, "tired of London" but not of life, was there. Like Anderson, Pound quickly sensed Hemingway's promise as a writer and discovered that he was an apt student, one worthy of his assistance.

Hemingway soon learned that T.S. Eliot had also been an apt student of Pound's, and that Pound had also learned from Eliot. Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920), Pound's impressive depiction of the London literary scene, relied heavily on the techniques of Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" Published in 1915, Eliot's poem signaled that a major poet had arrived; poetry in English would never be the same. In a sense, T.S. Eliot did for 20th century poetry what Ernest Hemingway would do for 20th century fiction.

Though Hemingway could not foresee it and would never acknowledge it, Eliot became an early "mentor"--one Hemingway could not put aside. Pound's greatest service to Hemingway may well be directing him to Eliot's poetry just when The Waste Land made Eliot the dominant poet of Literary Modernism. Hemingway first read the poem as it appeared in the October 1922 issue of The Criterion--before the book publication (1923) with Eliot's footnotes. Pound did not hide his role in the poems creation from Hemingway. Because Pound knew Eliot personally, he helped shape Hemingway's sense of Eliot the person. Hemingway could read The Waste Land for its biographical as well as its mythic content. The two writers never met. Nothing that Hemingway heard about Eliot made him wish to do so, and he became adept at mocking the poet. Regardless, he continued to read, to ponder, and to remember Eliot's poetry and his criticism. (1) Hemingway became Eliot's irreverent disciple.

From the start, deriding Eliot was something of a sport for Hemingway. Following the death of Joseph Conrad in August 1924, Hemingway glorified Conrad in the transatlantic review by ridiculing Eliot. In the November issue, editor Ford Madox Ford apologized for this impertinence. Hemingway's poem "The Lady Poets with Foot Notes" published in Der Querschnitt, also in 1924, appeared as critics argued that Eliot had erred by acquiescing to his publisher's request to provide extensive notes for The Waste Land, a move intended to enhance its book sales. Hemingway joined the chorus, associating the practice with "lady poets" When In Our Time appeared in 1925, astute readers of "Mr. and Mrs. Elliot" could surmise that the poet was lurking in the portrayal of Hubert Elliot, who was doing postgraduate work at Harvard and wrote "very long poems" (87). Hubert and Cornelia are sexually confused, and the relationship finds stasis only after Cornelia's girlfriend becomes her bed partner. Hemingway had learned from Pound that Eliot's hasty marriage to Vivienne Haigh-Wood was a troubled one.

Even as Pound labored zealously to promote Eliot's career, he remained fascinated with Eliot's personal life and was given to gossip about it. We can sample that gossip from a dinner Pound had with John Peale Bishop. Well-lubricated, Pound held forth on himself and on Eliot with ample biographical interpretation of The Waste Land. Bishop wrote Edmund Wilson a full account of Pound's discourse, including his version of Eliot's wedding, "which was substituted on the spur of the moment for a tea party engagement at Pound's. It seems that Thomas and Vivienne arrived in the hallway and then turned back, went to the registrar's and were wed, to everybody's subsequent pain and misery." Wilson answered Bishop on 29 November 1922, intrigued with "Pound's gossip about Eliot" (Miller, Making 397-399). With few financial resources, the newly-wed Eliots lived at first with Bertrand Russell. He reported: "She says she married him to stimulate him, but finds she can't do it. Obviously he married in order to be stimulated. I think she will soon be tired of him. He is ashamed of his marriage, and very grateful if anyone is kind to her" (qtd. in Heymann 31). Russell, a known womanizer, counted himself among those who were kind to her.

Earlier that same month, as Hemingway expressed gratitude to Pound for his efforts to aid his career, he linked that gratitude to Eliot's struggles and subsequent triumph. Following his successful treatment in Lausanne for depression and writer's block, Eliot completed The Waste Land, which subsequently won a $2,000 prize from Dial. Hemingway wrote to Pound; "I am glad to read of Herr Elliot's [sic] adventure away from impeccability. If Herr Elliot [sic] would strangle his sick wife, buggar the brain specialist and rob the bank he might write an even better poem" (Letters 364). Albeit employing the grossest humor, Hemingway acknowledged that he and Eliot were united as artists in Pound's tradition.

A year later, Hemingway again assessed Eliot in print, this time assuming the role of poetry critic. The occasion was a tribute to Ezra Pound for This Quarter. In "Homage to Ezra" Hemingway claims that the only living poet who ranks with Pound is William Butler Yeats. Not shying from qualifications, he admits that T. S. Eliot can sometimes better Pound's "later manner." Nevertheless, Pound is a major poet. Eliot, by contrast, is a "minor" poet (like Marianne Moore and Wallace Stevens). He explains: "Fine poetry is written by minor poets." Eliot is his example: "All of Eliot's poems are perfect and there are very few of them. He has a very fine talent and he is very careful of it. He never takes chances with it ..." (Bruccoli 5). The major poets--Pound, Yeats, Browning, Shelley, Keats, Whitman--take big risks.

In Death in the Afternoon (1932), Hemingway mocked the skill of the "minor" poet, telling the inquisitive Old Lady that his borrowing from Andrew Marvell's poem "To His Coy Mistress" is a literary device he learned from reading T. S. Eliot. The Old Lady has been impressed with Hemingway's screed against the Humanists, especially its ending: "... I hope to see the finish of a few [Humanists], and speculate how worms will try that long preserved sterility; with their quaint pamphlets gone to bust and into footnotes all their lust" (139). The "literary sect" would have kept themselves far from the deaths in war and from Spanish influenza that he has been describing. In a veiled reference to Eliot's failed marriage, Hemingway writes that picturing these Humanists having sexual intercourse is equally difficult. Perhaps, he suggests, they are children of "decorous cohabitation." The ensuing exchange with the Old Lady about an Eliot family leaves no doubt that Eliot is Hemingway's chief target among the effete Humanists. There is no doubt either that Hemingway had given much thought to Eliot's sexuality, implying that the poet was at best a girlish virgin. (2) The screed against the Humanists would receive wider circulation when, slightly modified, it appeared in "A Natural History of the Dead" in Winner Take Nothing (1933).

Late in life, when Hemingway wrote about his Paris years, Eliot was again a target. A Moveable_Feast would include a "tribute" to Ezra Pound, the perfect place for Hemingway to make clear how he judged T. S. Eliot. Hemingway highlights Pound as a loyal and generous friend and champion of great art and artists, but an impractical one. He documents that thesis by recounting Pound's efforts to solicit funds from friends and patrons in order to free Eliot from Lloyds Bank to write poetry. Although Hemingway did not see the original manuscript of The Waste Land, he makes clear that he knows about Pound's editing labors on it, knows why the dedication "FOR EZRA POUND" is there, knows why Eliot calls Pound "the greater maker" Hemingway's tone suggests that Eliot got better than he deserved.

It's not Pound the editor we see in "Ezra Pound and His Bel Esprit," however, but Pound the dreamer. (3) "Bel Esprit" was Pound's name for the plan to solicit funds for Eliot and other artists. Tongue-in-cheek, Hemingway presents himself as Pound's ally in the cause. But he confesses that he annoyed Pound by always referring to "Major Eliot" when asking friends for contributions. (Eliot had not fought in the Great War, but in May 1918, he "made several attempts to join either the U.S. Army or Navy, whichever would take him" [Matthews 61]; a congenital hernia condition was his counterpart to Hemingway's eye defect.) The friends in Hemingway's fanciful scenario would always ask what a Major was doing in a bank. The hidden message was that Eliot would never have tested himself in or near the battlefield; consequently the "friends" did not contribute to Bel Esprit. In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway ends his cock-and-bull story by lamenting that he bet the funds he had planned to contribute at the horse races, hoping to substantially increase his ability to aid Bel Esprit. But the horses (all on stimulants) regrettably did not deliver. The metaphor declares that grants for artists are as chancy as betting on horses.

Distance himself from Eliot the man as he might, Hemingway could never distance himself from Eliot the artist. Starting with the great flowering of Hemingway scholarship in the 1950s, critics found Eliot useful, even essential, in expounding on Hemingway's work. Carlos Baker's Hemingway: The Writer as Artist (1952) set the pattern; Eliot's presence pervades the analysis. Not immune to "the anxiety of influence," Hemingway must have taken pleasure in Baker's awarding the laurel to him for his ability to create what Eliot called an "objective correlative," that pattern of events, objects, or situations that awaken in the reader an emotional response without being a direct statement of the particular emotion. "With Hemingway," Baker declares, "the objective correlatives are not so much inserted and adapted as observed and encompassed. They are to be traced back, not to anterior literature and art objects, but to things actually seen and known by direct analysis of the world" (56). Hemingway's critics would constantly remind him of what he well understood, that Eliot was a "damned good poet."

However annoying those reminders might be, Hemingway's fictions indeed reflect the force of Eliot's art and example. As Matthew Bolton observes, "The Waste Land and In Our Time might each be thought of as a shoring of images over which the author's and the reader's consciousness darts and broods" (54). Both Eliot and Hemingway portrayed life "in our time." Hemingway announced that goal in the 1924 "in our time" and the 1925 In Our Time, and while, and although Eliot protested, critics and readers judged that The Waste Land portrayed the "disillusionment of a generation." In "Thoughts After Lambeth," he declared, "When I wrote a poem called The Waste Land some of the more approving critics said that I had expressed 'the disillusionment of a generation" which is nonsense. I may have expressed for them their own illusion of being disillusioned, but that was not part of my intention" (Selected Essays 324). The poem reflected the war's devastating effects on traditional values. Religious certainties had been undermined; sex more than religion had become the de rigueur subject. Neither marriage nor family seemed a stabilizing force. Certainly Hemingway could see how the disjunctive method of the poem was at one with its themes.

Because Eliot's essays found a place in Hemingway's library soon after their publication and because Hemingway acknowledged Eliot a "fair critic" we can reasonably assume that he had read Eliot's most famous essay, "Tradition and the Individual Talent." Eliot argues that writing should be "an escape from personality," that the work expressed "a medium, which is only a medium and not a personality" (10). In contrast, Hemingway had declared that he wrote about an experience "to get rid of it." Assuredly, Hemingway ranks as one of our most "autobiographical" writers. When discussing Eliot, for a time critics took pains to escape "the biographical fallacy" and dwelt on the larger cultural significance of The Waste Land. Now, however, critics are keenly aware of how "personal" a poem The Waste Land is, carrying as much autobiographical freight as anything Hemingway ever wrote. That was among the fascinations the poem had for Hemingway. With Pound as a source of his knowledge about Eliot, how could it be otherwise? Had he lived to read James E. Miller's T. S. Eliot's Personal Waste Land: Exorcism of the Demons (1977), Hemingway would have found biographical data neither he nor Pound could know, but none that would have surprised him. He might recognize, regarding the climactic image at the end of "Big Two-Hearted River," that Eliot had dared to fish the dark swamp that Nick must still draw back from. (4) In 2010 Matthew Bolton pronounced The Waste Land "the most personal of confessions" and "as much memoir as myth" (49).

Nevertheless, "tradition" abounds in The Waste Land. The footnotes added to the poem for its book publication emphasize the obvious, but Eliot included a good many allusions besides those he cited, as scholars attest by the many footnotes they have added to Eliot's for numerous anthologies. Quick learner that he was, and following Eliot's example, Hemingway promptly mastered the art of "borrowing." A good share of the "loans" came from Eliot. Arguably, Eliot may be counted as among the most significant influences on Hemingway, a mentor as important as Anderson, Stein, Ford, Fitzgerald, and perhaps even Pound.

Like Eliot, Hemingway responded to The Golden Bough and Jessie L. Weston's From Ritual to Romance, finding them important resources for portraying the modern world. Rivers and water, important motifs in In Our Time, take on increased meaning because of Eliot. Hemingway masterfully conceals both Eliot and Weston in the currents of "Big Two-Hearted River," the masterpiece that concludes In Our Time. There Nick Adams, having pondered the burned-over hillside where he had expected to find the scattered houses of Seney, Michigan, makes his way to restorative reflection on the railroad bridge over the river. Hemingway had confirmation of Weston and Eliot's importance when he read The Great Gatsby--especially in the valley of ashes, the industrial dump half way between West Egg (where nouveau wealthy Gatsby lives) and New York City; in the brooding eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg on a highway billboard overlooking the valley; in the failure of love among the affluent and in the working class.

Not surprisingly, The Waste Land became central in many critiques of The Sun Also Rises. In his Reading Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, H. R. Stoneback cautions against too simplistic an application of the Fisher King myth, but be is adamant that "the influence of The Waste Land on The Sun Also Rises (and much of Hemingway) is pervasive" (57). It is especially important in chapter 12, the most allusive chapter of the novel. In this chapter, we are most aware of Jake as avatar of the Fisher King. As Stoneback acknowledges, "nothing could be more apt, more resonant with the novel's deepest patterns of signification, than the fact that Jake as Fisher King, Jake as wounded war veteran, should fish, read, sleep, talk, eat and ponder his Catholicism and his love for Brett in and by the banks of the river flowing through the village of the ruined war munitions factory" (211). (5)

The happiest moments of The Sun Also Rises occur in the fishing chapter, a happiness not quickly dissolved. At the end of the chapter, we meet a third fisher admitted to Bill and Jake's fellowship. An Englishman, Harris is also a pilgrim in search of a grail: he "had walked over from Saint Jean Pied de Port and was stopping at the inn for fishing" (SAR 125). The aura of the shared passion for fishing (and the religious overtones) carries into the next chapter, when Harris joins Bill and Jake as they walk to Roncesvalles to visit the monastery. Although the monastery cannot touch Harris or Bill as profoundly as it does Jake, we detect shared longing. Harris finds it a "pity" that Bill and Jake can't extend their fishing for another day, and Jake invites Harris to join them in Pamplona. ("San Fermin is also a religious festival," Jake later reminds us [153].) Harris declines, wanting more fishing, but the three questers celebrate with libations their shared joys in Burgette and at the Fabrica River. Harris picks up Bill's "utilize" and the lion's share of the tab (128), as earlier he had echoed Bill's "pity" (127).

This chapter of The Sun Also Rises evokes what may be the most pleasant scene of The Waste Land. Eliot describes a fellowship of fishermen lounging in a London bar. "The pleasant whining of a mandolin," likened to lovely lines from Shakespeare's The Tempest, is background to the "chatter" of the fishermen. (We think of the exchanges of Bill, Jake, and Harris.) Not far from the bar is the church of St. Magnus Martyr. Its walls hold "inexplicable splendor of Ionian white and gold" (11. 257-265). (We think of the monastery at Roncesvalles, with similar mysteries to be experienced.) Eliot's passage (a brief respite from scenes of domestic and sexual failure) comes just before another kind of music--the laments of the Wagnerian maidens of the Thames. (6)

Eliot's impact is also abundantly evident in Men Without Women, which quickly followed The Sun Also Rises. Readers of "Hills Like White Elephants" note images of dryness and sterility. The American man and his female companion are essentially nameless, as are most of the men and women whose sad liaisons help define The Waste Land. We never learn the given name of the American girl of "Hills." Her companion calls her "Jig." He uses the nickname when he aims for tenderness, but it also suggests sexual abandon; we are reminded of the unpleasant "Jug jug jug jug jug jug" of "The Fire Sermon." We hear the voice from the pub in "A Game of Chess": "What you get married for if you don't want children?" Hemingway's title "Che Ti Dice La Patria?" seems to brood over the fallen world depicted in the collection. As the story's unnamed narrator and Guy begin the final day of their tour of 1927 Italy, we first encounter dryness and dust, and then water and mud, and then fears of being swept into the sea. "Fear death by water," Madame Sosostris warns in Eliot's poem. Readers of "A Canary for One" may be reminded of the silent husband of"A Game of Chess": "Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.... I never know what you are thinking." As the train carrying the non-communicating couple of Hemingway's story passes into the country outside Marseilles, they see the smoldering remains of a farmhouse, with the bedding and other belongings spread out in the field. "Burning burning burning burning"--another "Fire Sermon" for the perceptive reader. Men Without Women also gives us a counterpart to the hooded figure of "What the Thunder Said," the figure Eliot specifically likens to the resurrected Jesus, met by disciples on the road to Emmaus. In "Today Is Friday," Roman soldiers debate the essence of the Jesus they have just crucified: what, if anything, does his death reveal? Jesus' name is not used, as none is used for the hooded figure. Cast in the imagery and language of the present, "Today Is Friday" probes the meaning of the crucifixion for the contemporary world, much as Eliot uses Fisher King mythology to do the same. When Hemingway evokes the "unreal" cities of the 20th century, Jerusalem, the setting for "Today Is Friday" is among them. Hemingway gives us a resurrection in progress as the three soldiers analyze what they have seen.

Surely we sense shared longing for a lost faith at the end of "Fathers and Sons" the final Nick Adams tale and the story Hemingway placed last in Winner Take Nothing (1933). The cry for faith and older rituals underpins the exchange between Nick Adams and his young son when, in the moving conclusion, the boy envisions praying at his grandfather's tomb. Nick points to the practical difficulties, but his insistent son is not assuaged: "Well, I don't feel good never to have even visited the tomb of my grandfather." Nick has not missed his son's urgency. His words end the story: "We'll have to go.... I can see we'll have to go" (377). It is the longing that is palpable, not any assurance of fulfillment.

In Green Hills of Africa (1935), in his paean to the Gulf Stream--"you are living with, knowing, learning about, and loving"--Hemingway evoked Eliot's Thames of "The Fire Sermon" exposing the sordidness of contemporary life through a context that looks back over a long history. In a single sentence that flows as the stream flows, Hemingway plays against Eliot's image of the Thames that carries "empty bottles, sandwich papers,/ Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends/Or other testimony of summer nights" (11. 177-79). Describing the Gulf Stream, Hemingway exposes "the high-piled scow of garbage, bright-colored, white-flecked, ill-smelling" and then enumerates: "flotsam of palm fronds, corks, bottles, and used electric light globes, seasoned with an occasional condom or a deep floating corset, the torn leaves of a student's exercise book, a well-inflated dog, the occasional rat, the no-longer-distinguished cat ..." (149). With his somber view of the contemporary scene, Eliot evokes multiple layers of history and memory, including the exiled Jews weeping beside the rivers of Babylon. Like Eliot, Hemingway contrasts harsh realities by evoking the ideal celebrated in Edmund Spenser's Thames setting for his Prothalamion. Hemingway looks back at Cuba "before Columbus sighted it" and affirms that the stream will flow onward "after the Indians, after the Americans and after all the Cubans and all the systems of governments, the richness, the poverty, the martyrdom, the sacrifice and the venality and the cruelty are all gone" (149). Eliot and Hemingway both push toward the transcendent; we cannot doubt that Hemingway sometimes did so with the poet in mind. (7)

In the highly allusive novel Across the River and into the Trees (1950), Hemingway again found Eliot useful for his purposes. In a cruel "exorcising" of his recently divorced wife (read Martha Gellhorn), Richard Cantwell tells Renata that he had made the mistake of telling her things that he should not have and, true to her journalist's soul, the wife wrote about them. Then, alluding to both Hemingway's short story "In Another Country" and the Eliotic source for its title, an epigraph from John Webster that Eliot used for his "Portrait of a Lady," Cantwell says: "But that was in another country and besides the wench is dead" Because Renata asks if the wife is "really dead" we are reminded how durable The Waste Land has been for Hemingway: "Deader than Phoebus [Phlebas] the Phoenician. But she doesn't know it yet" (213).

Clearly, Hemingway's numerous disparagements of Eliot are misleading. The two writers shared values and techniques. We may also be surprised at how often their literary experiences run parallel. Both were born into homes and communities that fostered high moral standards and academic achievement. Both attended excellent schools. Privileged youths, their boyhood summers regularly took them to special places: for Eliot the Massachusetts coast where he learned to sail and love the sea; for Hemingway the lakes and rivers of northern Michigan, where he learned to hunt and to fish. In youth, neither was nurtured on American writing. Both had been shielded from Huckleberry Finn; each would appreciate it in maturity. In college, Eliot had followed Santayana's lead, largely dismissing Twain's masterpiece. He came to prize not only Twain but additionally Poe and Whitman. He certainly knew the work of the 20th century American poets. In Green Hills of Africa, Hemingway let his readers know that he had explored the classic American writers and did not hesitate to evaluate that tradition.

In London, Eliot, poet and editor, had his pulse on the contemporary British scene and was an intimate with the Bloomsbury writers. Hemingway would never "buddy" with the Bloomsbury crowd as Eliot did, but he knew their work. (Michael Reynolds's Hemingway's Reading 1901-1940 [1981] makes that clear.) If Hemingway was largely silent about the writing of the Bloomsbury and Edwardian writers, he often extolled not only the writing of Joseph Conrad, but also the work of Rudyard Kipling and A. E. Housman. Modernists were surprised when Eliot edited the 1942 A Choice of Kipling's Verse, providing a laudatory essay. Hemingway's biographers have been quick to note Kipling's influence on the young Hemingway; Jeffrey Meyers's biography makes Kipling much more than a youthful enthusiasm. Henry James was a "master" for both Eliot and Hemingway; in both cases it was the early James that mattered.

Their greater master was Ezra Pound, and they shared the pain of Pound's support for the Fascist powers during World War II, followed by his certification as "insane" and commitment to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington. Both played central roles in securing his release from St. Elizabeth's and his return to Italy. (8) By the time they themselves had been deemed "masters" both were faulted for arrogance and, worse, rebuked as misogynistic and anti-Semitic. Assaults on their characters continue, even as their glories and their mysteries continue to elicit vigorous attention and debate within the academy and literary circles.

The letters of T.S. Eliot published to date (through 1925) provide few leads to Eliot's views on Hemingway. He first learned about the younger writer just as Pound began efforts to establish Bel Esprit. Those efforts coincided with Elliot's founding of The Criterion, the literary journal he would edit from October 1922 until its demise in January 1939. Pound wrote Eliot on on or about 9 November 1922, calling attention to the little-known and essentially unpublished Hemingway as possibly useful to the new magazine: "Hem. Is more intelligent than Saintsbury. I dont expect anyone save me and Linc. Steffens, and Soiseau [Bill Bird], and Hem's present boss to think so YET. For purposes of an Eng. Quarterly, Stsb. Is more opportune" (Letters 781). With only the promise of Hemingway's potential, Eliot resisted Pound's advice that he invite Hemingway to the pages of The Criterion. On 3 September 1923, he wrote Pound: "Hemingway you know I have never seen, cant order things without knowing what to expect, if he sends shall receive careful consideration" (Letters of T.S. Eliot, II, 207). But Eliot did not have to wait until Hemingway secured fame through In Our Time (1925) and The Sun Also Rises (1926) before learning "what to expect." In an October 1924 memorial tribute to Joseph Conrad published in transatlantic, Hemingway remarked that if he could bring Conrad back to life "by grinding Mr. Eliot into a fine dry powder and sprinkling that powder over Mr. Eliot's grave" he would "leave for London early tomorrow morning with a sausage grinder" (BL 133). When Ford Madox Ford wrote on 6 October 1924 to apologize for Hemingway's jibe, Eliot handled the matter with a light touch: "I assure you that I only consider it an honour to be jibed at therein" (Letters, II, 504). Subsequently The Criterion never published anything by Ernest Hemingway. In a 1933 Criterion review of Haakon Chevalier's The Ironic Temper, however, Eliot noted that he had been reading Hemingway and avowed "considerable respect" for him. Hemingway's distinction, Eliot finds, is not that he exemplifies the "hard boiled" Rather, he is a writer of "true sentiment." Noting "The Killers" and A Farewell to Arms, he cites Hemingway's ability to "tell the truth about his own feelings at the moment when they exist," a rare talent ("A Commentary" 471).

But the same commentary indicates that Eliot's reading of Hemingway is more complex. He makes the "irony and pity" of Jake and Bill representative of the "mannered sophistication" of America. Eliot recognizes that no writer is more responsible than Hemingway for the "illusion of the hard boiled" pervading the culture. When Charles Scribner's Sons published Tender Is the Night in 1934, the front flap of the book jacket carried these words by T. S. Eliot: "I have been waiting for another book by Mr. Scott Fitzgerald with more eagerness and curiosity than I should feel towards the work of any of his contemporaries, except that of Mr. Ernest Hemingway" (Donaldson 171). What was Old Possum up to? Was he letting Hemingway know that he was quite aware of the lessons that Hemingway had given the Old Lady about T. S. Eliot and the Humanists just two years earlier? What might Hemingway have to say about them in his next book? And what might Hemingway have made of Eliot's endorsement? The back of the dust jacket carried further words from Eliot, these in praise of The Great Gatsby: "the first step forward in the American novel since Henry James" (Donaldson 171). Although the blurb about Tender Is the Night had been solicited, the line about Gatsby was taken without permission from a letter Eliot had written Fitzgerald on 31 December 1925 to mark the novel's publication. Eliot wrote that he had read the novel three times ("it excited me more than any new novel I have seen, either English or American for a number of years"). His praise culminated with the comparison to Henry James (Letters, II, 813). The resurrection of the line for a second blurb probably surprised Eliot, but Old Possum may have smiled. By 1934 the rivalry between Hemingway and Fitzgerald was hardly a secret. Hemingway would catch the ironies of Eliot's "praise" for him, especially in the context of high praise for Fitzgerald. And though Eliot in his Commentary review had identified the force of Hemingway at his best, Hemingway would scarcely judge that he had received the announced "high compliment" (471). For his part, Eliot had ended his public commentary on Hemingway.

Eliot's evaluation of Hemingway is as mixed as Hemingway's evaluation of him. Eliot could not miss the echoes of his own work or the thematic parallels. Nor could he miss the poetry in Hemingway's prose. But Hemingway the man he disliked as much as Hemingway disliked Eliot the man. Much in Hemingway's work and public persona displeased him. In a still-unpublished letter to Desmond MacCarthy, written on 14 November 1947 as Eliot was at work on assessing the decadent-barbaric world in "Notes Towards the Definition of Culture," Eliot counted films, newspapers, popular writing, and Hemingway among the culprits in the debasement of language and Western culture, (Gordon 222).

Readers continue to juxtapose the lives and works of T. S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway. We can scarcely read one without the other, and we read them similarly. Hemingway and Eliot shared more than they realized (or would admit), as is emblemized in the riverine dimensions of their experience and their writing. Eliot's "Dry Salvages" can seem as much Hemingway as Eliot: "The river is within us, the sea is all about us" (130). The poet in Hemingway aptly renamed the Fox River the Big Two-Hearted River; his river carries both the challenge of life and the reality of death. It is fitting, however, that Hemingway's burial would be on the American mainland and not far from the birthplace of Ezra Pound, the "Idaho Kid,' who had schooled him on the poetry of T. S. Eliot. We may even say that Eliot's words near the end of "Little Gidding" the last of The Four Quartets, describe not only his final resting place but Hemingway's as well: "The end is where we start from" (144).


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---. Selected Essays. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1950.

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


(1.) Michael Reynolds's Hemingway's Reading 1910-1940 shows twelve books by Eliot in Hemingway's library.

(2.) From the Paris years onward, Hemingway's sexuality created speculation; gossip among the literati counterpointing the gossip about Eliot. Robert McAlmon, who published Hemingway's Three Stories & Ten Poems (1923), spread the rumor that both Hemingway and Fitzgerald were homosexual (Donaldson 154-155). Gertrude Stein fueled the gossip in her salon and in her writing. She may not have known that Zelda Fitzgerald had charged Scott with being sexually attracted to Hemingway, but she sensed a sexual dimension in the relationship between the two men. So did Tennessee Williams, who depicted the relationship in Clothes for a Summer Day: A Ghost Play (1980), his final drama. Although Williams met Hemingway only once, the playwright was a dedicated reader of Hemingway. Williams never met Fitzgerald, but certainly knew his work and the gossip.

(3.) As letters to many correspondents attest, Hemingway never reneged on his affection for Pound or admiration for Pound's poetry. In 1930 he opined to Guy Hickok that it was "filthy business" for the Nobel Prize to have gone to Sinclair Lewis rather than to Pound or Joyce (SL 332). In 1933 he wrote to Esquire editor Arnold Gingrich: "About Pound I believe I've read almost every line he ever wrote and still believe the best is in the cantos.... There is also several stale jokes, and quite a lot of crap in the Cantos but there is some Christwonderful poetry that no one can better" (SL 383).

(4.) Miller observes that statements from Eliot the critic had "tot a long time discouraged commentators from entering the forbidden territory of Eliot's biography" (ix). However, Hugh Kenner and other critics had made forays into "forbidden territory." After Miller's book, the gates at the frontier were down. In 2009 Patrick Query surveyed the scholarship dealing with homosexuality in Eliot's work and career. He concludes, "With a good deal more of Eliot's writing in both poetry and prose yet to be published, it seems likely that there will be plenty of evidence to fuel the ongoing discussion" (361). In his 2011 biography Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961, Paul Hendrickson finds a strong link between Hemingway's psyche and his son Gregory's struggle with transgender practices.

Like Eliot, Hemingway attempted to control biographical approaches to his writing. He wanted no biographies and no publication of his letters. He warned his widowed mother that if she granted any interviews, he would end his financial support. He fiercely guarded his masculine image. After the rise of gender studies in the late 20th century and the posthumous publication of Hemingway's The Garden of Eden (1986), no writer proved more compelling than Hemingway. Nancy R. Comley and Robert Scholes's Hemingway's Genders: Rereading the Hemingway Text (1994) signaled a great change. Publication in 2010 of John S. Bak's Homo Americanus: Ernest Hemingwa); Tennessee Williams, and Queer Masculinities assures that the discussion will be ongoing.

(5.) A bit less assuredly, Stoneback suggests that lake and Bill's playful treatment of Frankie Frisch (Fritsch in the novel) may echo Eliot's use of Wagner's Frisch weht der Wind from Tristan und Isolde, inasmuch as the baseball player was known as "The Fordham Flash;' Because Fordham is a Catholic institution, Stoneback detects a "flash of religious illumination" paralleling Tristan's doomed love for Isolde to lake's for Brett. Stoneback is firm, however, that the Frisch allusion provides "an echo of lake's quest and identity as a distinctly Eliotic Fisher King" (220). (If lake's personal waste land is to be restored to health, he must resolve his troubled relationship with Brett; that relationship mirrors lake's quest for his lost Catholicism.)

(6.) If Eliot is deft in managing his transitions, so is Hemingway. As the three fishermen start their final day together, Harris delivers a letter from Michael, Brett's fiance, "dated San Sebastian, Sunday" (126). lake will himself make a journey to San Sebastian after the festival of San Fermin has ended, and eventually be called to "rescue" Lady Brett. He will be a chastened pilgrim, seeking purification, a ritualistic cleansing. Reflection of the Fisher King will become more pronounced. Water, the life-giving river of chapter 12, will be remembered in the interim, and sorely missed. (Throughout the Pamplona chapters, lake's reports about the need for baths, for water, remind readers of The Golden Bough and of The Waste Land.) Michael's letter means that the complexities of human loves will again come to the fore. A telegram from Robert Cohn foretells how unpleasant that might be. First, however, Hemingway grants us the pleasure of the visit to Roncesvalles and the farewell with Harris.

(7.) Hemingway could not put Eliot aside because he understood that they were destined to be linked as shapers of Modernism. In a letter to Ray Brock published in Male Magazine in April 1954, he wrote: "I respect T. S. Eliot (with reservations) but I respect Ezra Pound more (with more reservations):' David M. Earle prints the letter in All Mant. Hemingway, 1950s Men's Magazines, and the Masculine Persona (130-131).

(8.) See Heymann, 245-248. In his statement of support for Pound, Frost wrote: "I speak in the general interest as in his [Pound's]. And I feel authorized to speak very specially for my friends Archibald MacLeish, Ernest Hemingway and T.S. Eliot. None of us can bear the disgrace of letting Ezra Pound come to his end where he is. It would leave too woeful a story in American literature" (254). Once Pound was again living in Italy, he had limited income. Hemingway and MacLeish made generous gifts (Heymann 275-276). Pound was grateful for this "Bel Esprit" He would outlive both Eliot and Hemingway. In May 1971, Pound told his biographer C. David Heymann, "Hemingway has never disappointed me" (308).
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Author:Flora, Joseph M.
Publication:The Hemingway Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2012
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