Gardens of Eden and Earthly Delights: Hemingway, Bosch, and the Divided Self.
Writing of her fortnight's stay with Ernest in Madrid in 1953, Mary Hemingway recalls spending an hour each morning with him in the Prado. The day of "our last visit to the Prado before taking off... for Valencia...," Mary writes, "Ernest found a hoopoe bird in Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Eden painting. No discovery in Madrid pleased him more" (388). According to Mary, Ernest particularly associated hoopoe birds with Spain (383). He briefly mentions them in The Garden of Eden manuscript, with David consoling Catherine for her inability to paint and thereby capture Spain, "The country is here.... The Prado's here" (GOE 53). She knows what she saw and felt, he assures her. It's hers. She wouldn't "want to put the hoopoes in a cage," would she? (KL/EH 422.1, f6, c9, p10). And the fact that Hemingway found a hoopoe in Bosch's triptych indicates how well he knew the painting. (2) Trying to find the hoopoe among the innumerable figures and animals is a bit like trying to find Waldo. But that Mary Hemingway called The Garden of Earthly Delights--what in Spanish is known as El jardin de las delicias--"Bosch's Garden of Eden painting" is especially telling. After all, the hoopoe bird is in the central panel--not the Eden panel on the left--so when Mary speaks of "Bosch's Garden of Eden painting," she clearly means the entire triptych. One wonders if she acquired this habit of referring to the work as "Bosch's Garden of Eden painting" from Ernest. In any case, its centrality to the manuscript, if not the Scribner s version, of Hemingway's Garden of Eden is undeniable and has gone largely unremarked. (3)
Bosch and his great triptych were much on Hemingway's mind throughout the 1950s. In Islands in the Stream, when Bobby asks Hudson to paint a scene of waterspouts that soon evolves in Bobby's imagination into a painting of "the End of the World.... Full size" (19), Hudson responds that "There was a man named Bosch could paint pretty well along those lines" (21). And Cantwell in Across the River and Into the Trees thinks of the "ugly face" of death "that old Hieronymus Bosch really painted" (254). In his famous Paris Review interview with George Plimpton from 1958 (a year when he was revising The Garden of Eden), when asked about his "literary forebears--those you have learned the most from" (227), Hemingway lists Hieronymus Bosch squarely among names that might seem far more obvious: Twain, Flaubert, Stendhal, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Maupassant, Shakespeare, Cezanne, Goya, etc., and Plimpton calls him on this: "Could we go back to that list and take one of the painters--Hieronymus Bosch, for instance? The nightmare symbolic quality of his work seems so far removed from your own." Hemingway's reply is famous, but is seldom cited in full or with any attention to its reference to Bosch: "I have the nightmares and know about the ones other people have. But you do not have to write them down. Anything you can omit that you know you still have in the writing and its quality will show. When a writer omits things he does not know, they show like holes in his writing" (229). Plimpton follows up, "Does that mean that a close knowledge of the works of the people on your list helps fill the 'well' you were speaking of a while back? Or were they consciously a help in developing the techniques of writing?" To which Hemingway replies, "They were a part of learning to see, to hear, to think, to feel and not feel, and to write. The well is where your 'juice' is. Nobody knows what it is made of, least of all yourself" (229).
Catherine Bourne's devotion to the Prado is certainly clear enough in the Scribner's version of Eden, and it's clear from her conversation with the Colonel that she has been looking at the Prado's Grecos--a noteworthy fact given the boy-on-boy homosexual anxiety that undergirds the Madrid section of the novel and the fact that Hemingway elsewhere called El Greco "El Rey de los Maricones" (DIA 205). We might remember David's unease with Catherine's renewed transformations in Madrid and his reluctance to kiss her "if you're a boy and I'm a boy," as well as Catherines insistence on going to the Prado "in the light of day as a boy" (GOE 67). (In a July 1954 letter to Mary Hemingway, Ernest asks her to get a "good boy safari haircut the way you had... to please me in Madrid" [qtd. in Eby 318]. Writing about it, he tells Mary, brings "Mr. S." to attention. (4)) From The Garden of Eden manuscript, it's also clear that Catherine has been looking at the Prado's Teniers, Patinirs, Tintorettos, and "black Goyas." But when David passes her in the Prado and she doesn't even realize he's there, it's because she's staring at Bosch. Returning from her daytime trip to the Prado as a "boy," she boasts to David that she is proud she can do their "night things" in the day and toyingly asks if he loves her more than "that Andrea del Sarto girl" he used to love. "Much more," David assures her. Catherine reports that the del Sarto girl (Portrait of a Woman) had been lovely in the museum that morning and that she looked as if she were hoping David would pay her a visit. Catherine then asks David if he loves her more than Goya's Maja Desnuda. David never loved her, he explains; he just "knew a girl who was built like her." Catherine playfully agrees that she's no true rival--just "a tramp in uncle's clothing." (5) Then, without warning, Catherine asks David if he loves her enough to keep her from "dying and going to hell like in Hieronymus Bosch." David promises he'll try. "Please try very hard," Catherine urges, the playfulness of the passage suddenly gone. Disturbed, David suggests that they leave Madrid and get away from the painting for a while. "Yes," Catherine concedes, but before leaving she'd first like to have "four more days" with it. She thinks that's all she can take at this time--unless David wants to remain for "two or three months" with her visiting the painting for "only... an hour each morning" (KL/EH 422.1, f6, c10, p4). (6)
Given Catherine's obsession with Bosch and the comparison of Bosch's work to David's writing implicit in Catherine's equation between the destruction of David's manuscripts and the blowing of the Bosch room at the Prado, what I want to suggest is that Hemingway's novel bears an almost ekphrastic relation to The Garden of Earthly Delights. It's not that the Garden of Eden is literally an attempt to render The Garden of Earthly Delights in prose, but Bosch's triptych is the single best illustration of Hemingway's novel. (If it weren't for the fact that a cover image should be more vertical than horizontal, I would argue that this should be the cover image for the book.) The Garden of Eden shares with Bosch's triptych a vision of Edenic innocence, polymorphous eroticism, and ultimate damnation that is too easily misunderstood and that is both narratologically sequential and oscillatingly simultaneous--structured as much by divisions in the self as by the sequence of narrative--much like the viewer's eye regarding Bosch's triptych. Writing as early as 1971--fifteen years before the publication of The Garden of Eden, with the manuscript still closed to scholars, and little more to go on than the novel's title gleaned from Carlos Baker's biography--Emily Stipes Watts, in Ernest Hemingway and the Arts, speculated that The Garden of Eden's title might allude to Bosch's most famous triptych because throughout his career Hemingway shared with this masterpiece a fascination with "the loss of innocence, and the intrusion of suffering into paradise," or as Hemingway himself phrased it, "the happiness of the Garden that a man must lose" (130; qtd. in Watts 130). We so badly want Hemingway to be a progressive gender hero, recognizing, exploring, and celebrating Utopian metamorphoses beyond binaries, that criticism has tended to laud the liberatory possibilities of Catherine Bourne's question, "Why do we have to go by everyone else's rules? We're us" (GOE 15), while too often overlooking the novel's simultaneous preoccupation with what it quite unprogressively calls "wickedness" and "sin." We have written often about the lesbian lovers in Rodin's Metamorphoses of Ovid, the statue in the Eden manuscript that inspires the sexual experiments of both the Bournes and Sheldons, while giving short shrift to the fact that this work appears at the upper right-hand corner of Rodin's The Gates of Hell--neglecting also that the Bournes and Sheldons see these gates (Rodin's rendering of Dante and answer to Ghiberti's Renaissance Florentine Gates of Paradise) in what Hemingway calls "the beautiful gardens" of the Hotel Biron, since 1919 home of the Musee Rodin (KL/EH 422.1, f3, c2, p1; my emphasis). (7) Much as Dante suggested that the road to heaven can lead through the gates of hell, Hemingway wrote in A Moveable Feast--at a time when he was busy revising The Garden of Eden--that "all things truly wicked start from an innocence" (MF 210). But even this phrasing emphasizes a sequence--innocence, followed by "sin," followed by a "fall"--that misses something central to Hemingway's vision that's more effectively embodied in the art of Bosch and Rodin: the gates of hell exist in the garden. That's precisely where to find them. It's not only that one can "fall" only from a comparative "innocence"--or that "innocence" is unknowable as such except from a postlapsarian position--it's that Hemingway and his characters are at odds with themselves--not so much uncertain as just profoundly divided--about what constitutes "innocence," "freedom," "the rules," and "sin."
Let me be clear: I find the idea that there's something "sinful" or "wicked" about matching haircuts and gender swapping nothing short of ridiculous--but my point is that Hemingway and his characters disagree with me about this. Profoundly. Yet this sense of sin isn't rooted in religious conviction, in Catherines role as David's "devil," or even simply in the mythology inherent in the title of The Garden of Eden; I would argue that it is rooted more fundamentally in divisions in Hemingway's psychology that shaped his presentation of sexuality throughout his career. Hemingway's pronouncements about innocence and sin are characterized by the same sort of disavowal that structured other aspects of his psychosexuality, particularly his fetishism. (I'm using the word disavowal in its technical psychoanalytic sense as a simultaneous and seemingly contradictory denial and acknowledgement structured by a split in the ego, or in Octave Mannoni's formula, "Je sais bien, mais quand meme...."--"I know very well, but all the same" .) I can imagine readers familiar with my other work saying, "There he goes again! I knew he'd somehow end up boiling this down to Hemingway's fetishism!" Fair enough. But my point is that the characteristic defense that structures something as profound as a split in the ego--after all, Hemingway had a different name for himself, calling himself "Catherine" when he shaved his head or dyed his hair red--has a way of spreading to become the dominant defense for all psychologically fraught areas of the fetishist's life. Think of Catherine Barkley, in A Farewell to Arms, who tells Frederic several chapters before she proposes they get identical haircuts, "I wish we could do something really sinful.... Everything we do seems so innocent and simple. I can't believe we do anything wrong" (153; my emphasis). (8) Or in the "Secret Pleasures" chapter of the recently released "Restored Edition" of A Moveable Feast, Hemingway remembers letting his hair grow so he could avoid the expensive bourgeois temptations of Paris's right bank: "Your right bank friends would think of you as damned. I never knew just what it was that you were supposed to be damned to but after four months or so [without a haircut] you were considered damned.... I enjoyed being considered damned and my wife and I enjoyed being considered damned together" (183). Or when, in the Islands in the Stream manuscript, one of Thomas Hudson's early loves, Jan, tries to make him "less wholesome" and swap genders with him by cutting their hair identically, Hudson asks, "But where does it lead to?" To "Hell. Or Heaven," Jan replies. "But we can go there together" (KL/EH 112, p98). Hemingway's texts habitually make assertions about "damnation," "wickedness," and "sin" with one hand and retract such assertions with the other hand in almost the same breath. We may be more sympathetic to one of these attitudes than the other, but Hemingway and his characters feel them both. Thus the Catherine Bourne who asks "Why do we have to go by everyone else's rules?" (GOE 15), also muses "It's nice to be kissed when you're a boy. No wonder they made it a sin" (KL/EH 422.1, f8, c12, p10). (9) And when Marita, in the Eden manuscript, after getting an "African haircut" and promising to be David's "boy and... girl both," declares, "It's not perversion. It's variety," she nonetheless, only moments later, glories in the "scandal" of her haircut and fears she will "ruin" David (KL/EH 422.1, f36, c45, p5-7). (10) David reassures her that she can do "any damned thing" she wants (KL/EH 422.1, f36, c45, p8; my emphasis) and explains his excited response to her gender-swapping as follows: "That's just sin or variety" (KL/EH 422.1, f36, c45, p26). After his first gender-swapping experiments with Catherine, David thinks that "sin is what you feel bad after and you don't feel bad," but he immediately corrects himself: "Not with the wine you don't feel bad," but what will he drink, he wonders, when wine will no longer cover for him (KL/EH 422.1, f1, c1, p24).
Not only was Hemingway's sexuality "transgressive"; the act of transgressing--of crossing a line, however imaginary--was essential to erotic excitement for Hemingway. Thus when Barbara Sheldon, in the Eden manuscript, hatches her plans for identical haircuts with her husband, she proposes to Nick, "Let's think of something fun to do that we've never done that will be secret and wicked" (KL/EH 422.1, f3, p1). (11) And describing sex with David, Catherine Bourne explains, "It's fun without sin.... But sin does give it a certain quality" (KL/EH 422.1, f1, c1, p4). (12) As psychoanalyst Robert Stoller explains in his book Observing the Erotic Imagination--regardless of whether or not one believes in the concept of sin (I, for one, don't)--for the fetishist, "erotic excitement depends on one's feeling that one is sinning" (7). That's Hemingway to a T.
And why does all this matter? Catherine Bourne may ask "Why do we have to go by everyone else's rules?" (GOE 15)--but if excitement depends upon transgressing those very "rules," then on some level it can simultaneously reify and reinforce those rules. It is deeply invested in the very "rules" it would transgress. It polices the very boundaries it would breach. (Consider, for instance, Hemingway's investment in what does and does not count as "masculine" behavior. After all, the same Hemingway who gloried in being his wife's "girls," who called himself "Kathrin Ernest Hemingway," and who created Catherine and David Bourne, also often disparaged "fairies," derided those he considered insufficiently virile, and publicly embodied a masculinity so overstated that Modern Man magazine dubbed him "America's No. 1 He-Man" [Mary Hemingway 426; qtd. in Eby 179; qtd. in Earle 3]) So conceived, excitement may even hinge upon rules no one else would think to dream up--for instance, No matching haircuts! Instead of playing with fluid gender identities beyond binaries, Hemingway's characters in The Garden of Eden oscillate between the various permutations possible within an unstable binary system structured by the bisexual division of Hemingway's ego. And it is precisely Hemingway's and his characters' divided attitudes toward this that are captured in their obsession with Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights.
Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights; El Greco, San Sebastian; Andrea del Sarto, Portrait of a Woman; and Goya, La Maja Desnuda, [c]Photographie Archive Museo Nacional del Prado. Auguste Rodin, The Gates of Hell, S. 1304, Bronze, Paris, Musee Rodin, [c] agence photographique du musee Rodin - Jerome Manoukian
(1.) When citing The Garden of Eden manuscript, I use/for folder, c for chapter, and p for page. This is necessary because some folders have multiple chapters, sometimes with separate pagination. When no chapter is indicated within a folder (for instance in the case of folder 3), the folder number and page number suffice.
(2.) Hemingway was a dedicated birder with an impressive knowledge of ornithology, so it is perhaps not surprising that he made this observation. Brasch and Sigman's inventory of Hemingway's library lists over seventy volumes on birds. Hemingway also mentions hoopoes at the beginning of "A Natural History of the Dead."
(3.) One exception is Emily Stipes Watts's Ernest Hemingway and the Arts, although without access to the published novel or manuscript, she had little more to go on than speculation about Hemingway's title. The other notable exception is Barbara Solomon. In an early review of the novel, Solomon called attention to the omission of Bosch from the published text, and she attributes the attention to eggs throughout the novel to Hemingway's fascination with Bosch. Of far more relevance to my essay, she also claims that "The structure of Hemingway's original novel is very much the structure of Bosch's triptych--the innocent gathering of the protagonists before the journey to Madrid is the Garden of Eden, the great voyage toward the Prado is the beginning of the Garden of Earthly Delights, and finally, the ending in la Napoule is the musical Hell" (33). In some ways, my essay could be read as an elaboration of this single sentence in Solomon's review.
(4.) "Mr. S" was Ernest's nickname for his penis.
(5.) This playful way of talking about paintings and Old Masters as if they were alive helps to explain one otherwise curious reference to Bosch in The Garden of Eden. In the La Napoule section of the novel, when Catherine goes off to seek Picasso to secure his services to illustrate the honeymoon narrative, Marita mockingly suggests that she and David go to see Picasso, too. David suggests that they instead go see Breughel and Hieronymus Bosch (KL/EH 422.1, f29, c37, p29). David is not proposing a visit to a museum; there was no Breughel or Bosch to see on the Riviera. He is speaking, rather, of Breughel and Bosch as if they were alive. For more in this vein, see for instance a 21 June 1952 letter to Harvey Breit with mock journal entries:
Friday.--Attended the Crucifixion of our Lord. Tintoretto was there. He took copious notes and appeared to be very moved. Dined with Goya. He asserted the entire spectacle was a fraud. He was his usual irascible self but sound company. He says Joyce drinks too much and confirmed several new anecdotes of Gide. The unfortunate Gide it seemed was refused admission to the Crucifixion as they had decided (officially) to call it. Goya offered me La Alba for the evening. Really charming of him. A well spent evening. (SL 768)
(6.) It is significant that Hemingway does not refer to The Garden of Earthly Delights by name in this novel. It certainly would have been ham-fisted, particularly if he truly was in the habit of calling it Bosch's Garden of Eden painting. But it would also have been a fairly egregious anachronism in a novel filled with major and minor anachronisms. It is sometimes clear from such things as the reference to Calvin Coolidge's fishing trip in the Black Hills (something which seems to appear in the text for little purpose beyond dating the action) that Hemingway intended to set the action of The Garden of Eden in 1927. Other passages from the manuscript imply that the action is set in 1925 (for instance, the Colonel attempting to recruit David to fly against Abd el-Krim in the Moroccan Rif War), and some discarded passages in the manuscript explicitly set the action as early as "twenty three or twenty four" (KL/EH 422.2, f39, p4). But however we reconcile--or fail to reconcile--these comparatively minor anachronisms, throughout the 1920s what we now think of as one of the most famous paintings in the Prado, Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, was not in the Prado at all. It was in El Escorial, thirty miles away from the Prado, and it wasn't moved to the Prado until the Spanish Civil War. It was in the Prado, however, when Hemingway began writing The Garden of Eden, and it remains there today. By not naming the painting, Hemingway mutes this anachronism by preserving the possibility that Catherine is thinking of the hell panel in Bosch's triptych The Haywain or perhaps even the hellish scenes in the Temptation of Saint Anthony triptych, which were both part of the Prado's collection in 1927. Clearly, however, Hemingway expects readers to be thinking of the far more famous Garden of Earthly Delights.
(7.) Hemingway scholarship has missed something vital about the function of Rodin's The Metamorphoses of Ovid in The Garden of Eden. K. J. Peters comes closest, yet misses the mark, when he suggests that Rodin misread Ovid's representation of Daphnis and Chloe (one of several alternate titles for the sculpture), mistakenly transforming the boy Daphnis into a sexual changeling. Most other scholars have simply regarded the sculpture's two lovers as lesbians, thus prefiguring the relationship of Catherine and Marita. While Rodin's models were indeed "two priestesses of the isle of Lesbos," Rodin explained to the important Danish collector and Carlsberg beer magnate Carl Jacobsen in 1907 that the particular Ovidian metamorphosis he really had in mind and tried to capture in his title was the tale directly following that of Daphnis and Chloe in Book IV of The Metamorphoses: the tale of the water nymph Salmacis, who falls in love with the boy Hermaphroditus (Le Normand-Romain 74). As Hermaphroditus struggles to escape Salmacis's embrace, she prays to the gods to unite them forever. "At which the gods agreed: / They grew one body, one face, one pair of arms / And legs, as one might graft branches upon / A tree, so two became nor boy nor girl, / Neither yet both within a single body." When Hermaphroditus learns his fate, he curses the waters of Salmacis: "Make all who swim in these waters impotent, /Half men, half women" (Ovid 122). Thus the mysterious transformative power Rodin's sculpture holds for the Bournes and the Sheldons.
It isn't clear how Hemingway knew the story behind this sculpture, but clearly he did. He might have learned it while touring the Rodin museum in the Hotel Biron. The story had appeared in print at least by 1933. He might also have learned it from Jean Cocteau, whom he knew well and who is quoted (without acknowledgement) elsewhere in the Eden manuscript. Cocteau and Rodin lived in different apartments of the Hotel Biron in 1908 and were friends.
(8.) Catherine Barkley's pronouncement in A Farewell to Arms, "Vice is a wonderful thing" (153), in the manuscript originally read "Sin is a wonderful thing" (KL/EH 64, p300).
(9.) Qtd. in Moddelmog, Reading Desire, 74.
(10.) Qtd in Moddelmog, Reading Desire, 82.
(11.) Qtd. in Eby, 10.
(12.) Qtd. in Moddelmog, "Queer Families," 180.
Brasch, James D. and Joseph Sigman. Hemingway's Library: A Composite Record. Electronic Edition, John F. Kennedy Library, 2000.
Earle, David. All Man!: Hemingway, 1950s Men's Magazines, and the Masculine Persona. Kent State UP, 2009.
Eby, Carl. Hemingway's Fetishism. SUNY Press, 1999.
Hemingway, Ernest. Across the River and Into the Trees. Scribner's, 1950.
--. Death in the Afternoon. Scribner's, 1932.
--. A Farewell to Arms. Scribner's, 1929.
--. A Farewell to Arms manuscript. Item 64. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.
--. The Garden of Eden. Scribner's, 1986.
--. The Garden of Eden manuscript. Item 422.1. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.
--. A Moveable Feast. Scribner's, 1964.
--. A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition. Scribner's, 2009.
--. Islands in the Stream. Scribner's, 1970.
--. Islands in the Stream manuscript. Item 112. Ernest Hemingway Collection. John E Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.
Hemingway, Mary. How It Was. Knopf, 1976.
Mannoni, Octave. Clefs pour l'imaginaire ou lautre scene. Editions de Seuil, 1969.
Moddelmog, Debra. "Queer Families in Hemingway's Fiction." Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice, edited by Lawrence Broer and Gloria Holland, U Alabama P, 2002, pp. 173-89.
--. Reading Desire: In Pursuit of Ernest Hemingway. Cornell UP, 1999.
Museo del Prado. Catdlogo. Museo del Prado, 1933.
--. Catdlogo de los Cuadros. Museo del Prado, 1952.
Normand-Romain, Antoinette Le. Rodin: The Gates of Hell. Musee Rodin, 2002.
Ovid. The Metamorphoses. Translated by Horace Gregory, Viking Press, 1958.
Peters, K. J. "The Thematic Integrity of The Garden of Eden." The Hemingway Review, vol.10, no. 2, 1991, pp.17-29.
Plimpton, George. "Ernest Hemingway." The Paris Review Interviews: Second Series, Penguin, 1977, pp. 217-39.
Solomon, Barbara Probst. "Where's Papa? Scribner's The Garden of Eden Is Not the Novel Hemingway Wrote." The New Republic, 9 March 1987, pp. 30-34.
Stoller, Robert. Observing the Erotic Imagination. Yale UP, 1985.
Watts, Emily Stipes. Ernest Hemingway and the Arts. U Illinois P, 1971.
Carl P. Eby
Appalachian State University
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|Title Annotation:||Ernest Hemingway and Hieronymus Bosch|
|Author:||Eby, Carl P.|
|Publication:||The Hemingway Review|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2018|
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