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The Early Years 1899-1926   |   Adventurer 1927-1945   |   The Fall 1946-1961

Ernest Miller Hemingway biography: Hemingway, the adventurer: 1927-1945
It was around the time "The Sun Also Rises" was published in 1926 that Hemingway's life went through profound changes -- some associated with his newfound success, others attributed to the rollercoaster ride of life.

Between 1926 and 1928, "The Sun Also Rises" came out, Hemingway divorced wife Hadley, married Pauline Pfeiffer, and relocated to Key West, Florida. And as he worked on "A Farewell to Arms," he lost his father to suicide.

Clarence Hemingway had been battling depression and health problems. Apparently unable to cope any longer, he shot himself in the head on December 6, 1928.

On his fishing boat "Pilar," Hemingway used a machine gun to fend off sharks to keep them from eating his catch before he could hoist it into the boat

In some letters, Hemingway treats his father's suicide almost as an inconvenience; in others, he expresses how much he loves and misses him. Taken as a whole, his various recorded comments on the suicide could reflect the emotional extremes of a person in mourning.

In a letter to his editor at Scribner's, Max Perkins, he wrote: "I was very fond of him and feel like hell about it. Got to Oak Park in plenty of time to handle things ... Realize of course that the thing for me to do is not worry but get to work -- finish my book ('A Farewell to Arms') properly so I can help them out with the proceeds."

Eventually, Hemingway settled into a patterned life with Pauline in Key West. The couple had two boys, Patrick (born in 1928) and Gregory Hancock (born in 1931).

For Hemingway, the years in Key West proved very productive. And, though the writer had earned a reputation as a heavy drinker, Hemingway scholar Dr. James Nagel says work came first.

"Hemingway lived a very disciplined life," Nagel says. "Everything was calculated to the fact that the next morning he was going to be at his desk at 6:00 a.m. and he was going to work for three or four or five hours on his fiction."

After work, according to Nagel, Hemingway would have a drink before lunch, eat, then spend the rest of his afternoon fishing or engaging in an outdoor activity.

"At dinnertime, they might have a drink before dinner and the wine with dinner and nothing after that because drinking anything after dinner would interfere with his ability to get up at 5:30, 6:00 the next morning and start working again," says Nagel.

Hemingway's grandiose style of living defined everything he did. Here, he admires a big catch in Florida.

That's not to say Hemingway didn't enjoy himself. Anyone who has been to Key West knows that Hemingway developed a friendship with bar owner and bootlegger "Sloppy" Joe Russell.

Hemingway also invited friends from the publishing business -- Max Perkins or Scott Fitzgerald, for instance -- to join him on fishing excursions in the Florida Straits. There were frequent trips to Cuba, as well, and hunting expeditions.

And Hemingway grew to be popular with the locals in Key West, even organizing boxing matches in the yard of his Spanish Colonial home.

In 1932, Hemingway published "Death in the Afternoon," his first nonfiction book, detailing one of his infatuations: bullfighting.

In 1933, he fulfilled a lifelong dream when he and wife Pauline went on an African hunting safari, bagging lion and other large game. It was a gift from Pauline's uncle, and it would lead to many stories, including perhaps Hemingway's best short story, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro."

In 1935, Hemingway recounted his safari experience in "The Green Hills of Africa," adding to his legend as a writer-adventurer.

Hemingway on safari in Kenya, February 1934

In 1937, Hemingway traveled to Spain as a correspondent. The country was divided by civil war, and Hemingway's reporting was well-received in the States. To some, he was the celebrity reporter, the veteran of war, the adventurer seeking out the next thrill.

Hemingway had company on his trip to Spain: a new love. Her name was Martha Gellhorn, a reporter he met in 1936 in Key West. Ultimately, Hemingway would divorce Pauline in 1940, and marry Martha, moving to a house on a large tract of land in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba.

Also in 1940, Hemingway published "For Whom the Bell Tolls." A tremendous success in a world falling into World War II, the story focuses on the Spanish Civil War and an American fighting for the country he has grown to love.

Though Hemingway despised World War II at first, he was caught up in the patriotic fervor after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. From his home in Cuba, according to reports and various Hemingway legends, he used his fishing boat, Pilar, to patrol the waters for German subs.


Painter Waldo Peirce painted several portraits of Hemingway and his adventures. TIME Magazine featured one of the paintings on the October 18, 1937, edition.

But as the war raged on, he went to Europe to cover it (Gellhorn was already there, some say upstaging Hemingway). By 1945, as the war ended, Hemingway and Gellhorn divorced. And once again, Hemingway was in love, this time with Mary Welsh, a feature writer for TIME whom he met during the war.

They married in 1946; in the end, she would be the wife who stayed with him the longest, until his death in 1961.

But at the end of the war, Hemingway's latest adventure was over. He was back in Cuba (when not traveling elsewhere) and getting back to the craft that made him famous.

"Because he wrote in the morning and did adventurous things in the afternoons, he was great fodder for magazine covers," says Nagel. "But remember most of his life was dedicated to careful ponderous writing. But no magazine ever ran a photograph of Hemingway sitting at his desk with a pencil in hand, revising his story. The archetypal portrait of Hemingway is a guy with a rifle, standing on top of a dead rhinoceros, or next to a marlin hanging from a scale.

Hemingway checks a map during World War II in Chartres, France, August 1944

"We associate him with masculine adventurous activity because that's what made good cover for magazines."

But Hemingway's greatest success in letters was still on the horizon.