On this day…21 July

21 July 1899 Ernest Hemingway was born

Born in Illinois, Hemingway became a journalist after leaving High School and in 1918 went to Europe as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross. He was wounded and returned to America in 1919 where he took a job as a reporter at the Toronto Star. He arrived in Paris at the end of 1921 as the Star’s foreign correspondent.

One of the first places Hemingway visited was Sylvia Beach’s bookshop Shakespeare and Company, and he and Beach remained friends for the next forty years.  Hemingway had a letter of introduction to Joyce from Sherwood Anderson, and he asked Beach if Joyce was a regular caller at the shop. He told her he had seen the Joyces eating at Michaud’s restaurant but that he didn’t think it polite to look at people while they were eating. In any case Michaud’s was too expensive for Hemingway and his wife: the Joyces could eat there every evening, he said, but he and his wife could only afford it once a week.

Hemingway met Joyce for the first time before Christmas 1921. At the time, Beach was preparing for the publication of Joyce’s Ulysses and Hemingway joined in the effort, helping to collect subscriptions for the book. When Ulysses was published Hemingway received a press copy, but only the pages of the first half of the book and the ‘Penelope’ episode are cut, suggesting that Hemingway didn’t read any more of the book. And though Hemingway praised Ulysses, he confided to his friends that he found Joyce’s company and conversation boring.

Hemingway often went drinking with Joyce, and occasionally Joyce would get into a fight. Since Joyce could hardly see his adversary, he’d say “Deal with him, Hemingway! Deal with him!” In 1926, when American publisher Samuel Roth printed parts of Joyce’s Work in Progress in his Two Worlds magazine, it was Hemingway who revealed to Joyce that Roth was only using his name to increase the number of subscribers to his magazine. Hemingway was also among the group of 25 friends to whom Joyce read the ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ part of Work in Progress on 2 November 1927.

In May 1937 Hemingway and Stephen Spender gave a reading for the Friends of Shakespeare and Company which Joyce attended. Both Hemingway and Spender read works on the Spanish Civil War which bored Joyce. But it seems that Joyce had been impressed by Hemingway’s writing. In conversation with Arthur Power, Joyce said that Hemingway had “reduced the veil between literature and life…which is what every writer strives to do,” and Joyce also said that Hemingway’s short story ‘A Clean Well Lighted Place’ was masterly, one of the best short stories ever written.


Sources & Further Reading:

Bowker, Gordon: James Joyce – A Biography, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2011.

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Fitch, Noel Riley: Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation – A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties, London: Souvenir Press, 1984.

Hemingway, Ernest: A Moveable Feast, London: Arrow Books, 2004

Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Power, Arthur: Conversations with James Joyce, edited by Clive Hart, London: Millington, 1974.