Letters Show Hemingway as 'Besotted Lover'

"My Dearest Pickle" is the way Ernest Hemingway, famous tough guy, man's man, literary icon of the 20th century and, apparently, hopeless romantic, addressed letters to his beloved Mary Welsh, who would become his fourth wife.

"I want to serve you well and true the way some very dull people want to serve their country and even sadder people want to serve their God. But sometimes are very happy at it," he wrote to her. "You're a very small god with a face that breaks my heart."

This letter is among thousands of captivating and -- at times -- shocking letters recently released by the Cuban government and donated to the Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.

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The collection spans Hemingway's 20 years in Cuba, when he lived north of Havana in a home named Finca Vigia, and had been largely unavailable to scholars and Hemingway fans, until now.

These papers are the "missing piece of the puzzle" said Sandra Spanier, a professor at Penn State University and editor of the Hemingway Letters Project. "No biographer had access to Cuba. And yet it was so important to Hemingway ... he loved Cuba. He gave his Nobel Prize to the Cuban people. And over there the Cuban people claim him as their own."

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Hemingway, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 and author of classics like "The Old Man and the Sea" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls," remains beloved the world over almost 50 years after this death.

Hemingway's Letters From Cuban Collection Show Writer's Softer Side

"Papa," as he was affectionately known, is remembered as much for his oversized personality -- as for his prose. The public side of Hemingway -- the deep sea fisherman, big game hunter and big-time drinker -- is already well-known.

But these recently revealed love letters depict a little known softer side to Hemingway, one in which he is by turns affectionate, tender, vulnerable and romantic.

On Nov. 8, 1944 he wrote: "Mary, my dearest beloved I love you so and there is nothing much I can add. I write in this stupid, moral probably trashy way because one of the loveliest adventures we have had is the one of trying to understand each other. Dearest Pickle I want so to make a good life with you..." and "I love you very close my dearest heart. Your Only"

At the time, Hemingway's marriage to his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, was disintegrating. Hemingway had traveled to Europe to work as a war correspondent and he had just met and begun a relationship with Mary Welsh, a writer for Time. After the war he married Welsh and returned to Cuba.

"We don't often think of Hemingway as a besotted lover," Spanier said. "But he certainly expressed a need for companionship and love. He enjoyed the company of women and not just in the way you might think."

On Nov. 16, 1944, Hemingway wrote again to Mary "We had quite a morning (can you marry a man who writes "we had quite a morning) but I'll write it well for you sometime." Of course, Hemingway being Hemingway he continued "Anyway slapped the old wh-re on the ass a couple of times… then, after, went into the woods with Buck."

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