Ernest Hemingway was his own worst critic.
Or so he told his father in a letter in 1925, when he was living in Paris, along with Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
That letter is part of the three years of Hemingway’s life that will be the focus of the project Sandra Spanier, Penn State English professor and general editor of the Hemingway Letters Project, is leading.
Spanier said Hemingway wrote that it’s nice to have people like his writing, “but it is inside yourself you have to judge and nothing anybody says can help you any more than anybody can help you shoot when a partridge flies up. Either you hit them or you don’t,” in the end “it all depends on yourself and you have to be your own worst critic.”
The Letters Project has received a $225,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant.
The next volume will focus on 1923 to 1925. Scholars, with support from staff and Penn State graduate assistants and undergraduates, are transcribing and annotating the works.
The first volume of those letters, covering 1907 to 1922, was published in the fall by Cambridge University Press.
All told, the project has about 6,000 Hemingway letters from 250 sources. Spanier said other letters Hemingway wrote were lost.
“For example, in 1918 and 1919, he wrote masses of letters to the Red Cross nurse with whom he fell in love when he was hospitalized in Milan with war wounds, but, unfortunately, she became engaged to another man, who jealously made her burn all the letters she received from her old boyfriend,” Spanier said.
The researchers can read the letters she wrote to him because he kept them.
“Hemingway was a pack rat and saved everything, so among his papers at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, for example, is his 1923 train ticket from Paris to Madrid to see his first bullfight,” Spanier, the wife of former Penn State President Graham Spanier, said.
The entire project is expected to produce 16 volumes. The Ernest Hemingway Foundation and the Hemingway estate authorized the project.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter@AnneDanahy.