Rare manuscripts and correspondence with other literary figures are among the many items of Ernest Hemingway’s personal collection on display at a new exhibit on the famed writer at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
"If a person wants to make their mark as a writer they have to work very hard, and this exhibit really shows how hard he worked," said Patrick Hemingway, the author's only surviving child, who on Tuesday toured the exhibition that opened Monday and runs through Dec. 31.
"He always felt responsible for being where the action was," said the author's 87-year-old son. "A lot of writers just retire to their rooms and describe their childhood. He didn't do that."
The materials were once housed at Hemingway’s former Cuban estate, the Finca Vigía, where he lived for 21 years. How they ended up in the hands of the Kennedy Library bears the marks of modern-day developments in the long and complex relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.
Hemingway abandoned Finca Vigía at the time of Fidel Castro's revolution, leaving behind much of his personal estate.
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Hemingway and Kennedy never met, but the late president was clearly an admirer. Kennedy wrote Hemingway for permission to use his oft-quoted phrase "grace under pressure" in the opening to Kennedy's own book, "Profiles in Courage." Hemingway was too ill to accept an invitation to JFK's January 1961 inauguration and would commit suicide later that year.
After the writer's death, Kennedy, despite the extreme tensions that followed the Bay of Pigs episode, secured permission for Hemingway's fourth wife and widow, Mary, to go to Cuba to collect her husband's belongings, which were then shipped from Havana to Florida on a shrimp boat.
In the years following Kennedy's assassination, Mary Hemingway established a relationship with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, leading to a decision to archive the collection at the presidential library.
"Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars," includes material rarely displayed in public. It enjoyed an earlier run at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City last fall.
The Kennedy Library, which opened in 1979, is a repository for the world's largest collection of documents, photographs and personal mementos belonging to Hemingway. The collection is one of the library's "greatest treasures," said curator Stacey Bredhoff.
Along with multiple proposed endings to "A Farewell to Arms," highlights of the exhibit include Hemingway's first short story, published in 1917 in a high school literary magazine; a draft of his first Nick Adams story, written on Red Cross stationery at an Italian hospital where Hemingway was recovering from wounds suffered while serving as an ambulance driver during World War I; correspondence with other literary figures from his time as a member of the so-called "Lost Generation" in Paris; and ticket stubs from some of the many bullfights he attended.
"I am very pleased that they were able to put together in my lifetime a very comprehensive picture of a person who really represented very well the first half of the 20th century," said Patrick Hemingway.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.