That Summer in Paris: Memories of Tangled Friendships with Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald
by Morley Callaghan


As soon as I got up next day I wrote a letter to Scott. In the letter I asked him to forgive us for walking in on him unannounced—we shouldn’t have done it. It would have been much more sensible to have written him and informed him where we were in Paris, but Max Perkins had assured me that such a letter was unnecessary. If we had upset him and Zelda in any way, or if we had kept them up, we could only offer an apology.

A day later when I called for Hemingway, I told him what had happened. Smiling a little to himself as he listened, he offered neither advice nor consolation. What a gift he had for minding his own business and keeping his thoughts to himself. But he and Scott were supposed to be the best of friends. I was baffled. If I had asked his advice about the a publisher, an editor, a political situation or how to conduct myself in some activity requiring great physical skill, he would have been full of expert advice. All he said now was, “Well, that’s Scott.”

“Standing on his head!” I said bitterly. “It might have been better if I had punched him on the nose.”

And I remember his odd smile as he shrugged. “There’s no distinction in punching Scott on the nose,” he said. “Every taxi driver in Paris has done it.”

So Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest’s friend, the figure I had built up in my imagination as my own good friend too, could go to the devil as far as I was concerned. I tried to put him out of my mind altogether. I told no one else around the Quarter about him. The day passed, and next afternoon Loretto and I went across the river to the American Express, then loafed around the Place Vendome and the Madeleine. It was supposed to be Cocteau’s neighbourhood. We had seen photographs of his hands in so many store windows we joked about recognizing him on the street by his hands. The violent contrast between the elegant Frenchwomen coming out of the little shops and the black-stockinged plainly dressed working girls fascinated us.

That day, feeling restless, we wandered for hours from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. My wife had an extraordinary sense of direction. When we were lost we would agree to let her follow her nose, and sooner or later we would be on more familiar ground. I used to attribute her sure step to a little pair of brown shoes she wore. Anyway, that day after we had eaten, and got back to our apartment about eight, our carrot-topped plump Russian landlady stopped us in the hall. In her hopeless mixture of French and Russian, she tried to tell us a man and a woman had called. With her hands, her eyes, strange movements of her lips, a sway of her body and garbled words, she tried to describe our callers. The name? Did it sound like McAlmon? Mr. Hemingway? No. Well, we consoled her, it didn’t matter. At the cafe later in the evening the friends would appear and find us at our table.

When we opened our door, there on the floor were three of those blue pneumatiques, the Paris special-delivery letters. We opened one. It was from Scott Fitzgerald. Tried to see you after lunch, he wrote, but you were not at home. The other two special-delivery letters told how he had kept looking for us. Speechless, we both sat down on the bed. Why had Scott come dashing back and forth after us? we wondered. I felt uneasy. Had my curt, cold note caused some kind of unpredictable trouble? If we, in our turn, sent him a special-delivery letter, I said, what was there to say? Was he the one who now felt insulted? Were we to have to explain how we had been injured? While we sat there a knock came on the door. Our Russian lady said, “Your friends…” I hurried to the door. Along the hall came Scott and Zelda, both with a breathless air. Without any aplomb at all we stared at them apprehensively. They weren’t smiling. They were upset and determined. “Morley, I got your note,” Scott blurted out. “This is terrible. All afternoon we’ve looked for you.” He took me by the arm as my wife invited them in.

The concern in Scott’s eyes, and the way Zelda was backing up this concern, overwhelmed us. Never in my life had anyone come to me so openly anxious to rectify a situation. They wouldn’t sit down. Starting to make light of the whole situation, I faltered, knowing by the light in Scott’s eyes that I would be belittling his generosity. He must have insisted that Zelda come with him; he must have carted her grimly around with him all afternoon, making her believe something very, important to him was involved. I remember the expression on his face as I put out my hand, laughing; it had a curious kind of dignity, making me feel that he was the one, not I, who knew we ought to be better than we were. My wife told Zelda that she shouldn’t have put herself to the trouble of coming after us; she was too generous. Then Scott, taking me by the arm again amid all our protestations of goodwill and self-depreciation, made one of those generous remarks which few other men could have made, and which seemed to come so easily out of his heart. “You see, Morley,” he said simply, “there are too few of us.”

His conduct of two nights before, my attitude, my hesitation about accepting the enchantment of that one passage in A Farewell to Arms, whatever it was that had set him off, making him feel I was hard to impress, was forgotten. Zelda said they couldn’t sit down, they were on their way out for dinner and were late. On the way they had decided to make another try at catching up with us. Would we come to dinner with them tomorrow night? Would it be all right if we all sat at Joyce’s table in the Trianon? They made us happy, we said. And Scott now believed us. We all shook hands warmly. They hurried out. We went to our window overlooking the Sante Prison wall, and as we watched the slim elegant Scott and his beautiful wife getting into the taxi they had kept waiting, I felt paradoxically both humble and important. What a charming man he was, said Loretto, moved as she watched the taxi pull away.

Next night at the appointed hour we met them at the Trianon. And indeed, just as he had promised, Scott said we were to sit at Joyce’s table. But he led us to a table to the left, not the right side of the restaurant. We couldn’t bear to tell him we had been there a few nights ago with Joyce. What did it matter that Joyce had been at another table? A man like Scott, talented as he was himself, got so much pleasure out of thinking he was at a master’s table it would have been ridiculous to have said, “No, over there!” Now I can see that Scott at his best was lucky in his temperament. He was always being dazzled. The very rich—no, it would be fairer to say he was fascinated by the unlimited possibilities of action and enjoyment, a kind of possible grandeur of opulence offered by the enormously rich. Surely Balzac too was fascinated in the same way. To get the excitement of a schoolboy, sitting at Joyce’s table! Well, Scott as much as anyone I ever met had a conception of an aristocracy of talent

Even now I seem to hear Zelda’s voice coming at us suddenly. “I write prose. It’s good prose.” Her strange intensity, the boldness of her insistence that she too be regarded as a talent, was surprising. She was leaning across the table, almost challenging me. What could I say except, “I’m sure it is”? She had had a story in Scribner’s magazine which I had read. It was a story in a careful, determined style with a flash of metaphor.

And she was the one who first mentioned Hemingway. We had been talking about someone’s manners. How odd that in those free-swinging, disorderly days in the Quarter there was so much awareness of a man’s or a woman’s manners! Zelda said, “Hemingway has charming manners, don’t you think?” When we agreed she added, “He has the most charming manners of anyone I know.”

Now it was plain that Ernest was more than a good writer to them. Scott had to have his heroes. Joyce was a hero, of course. But I wondered if he had made Ernest into a special kind of hero. Aside from his liking for him he seemed to believe Ernest had some capacity for the rich, adventurous experience that had been denied to him. Even there at “Joyce’s table”—was our pretending somehow right in view of his attitude to Ernest? as he asked me questions about him. I felt in him a yearning for closer friendship with the man. No, not friendship—rather comradeship. He asked when we had last seen Ernest and what we had done. I felt ridiculous, believing they were intimate friends. And with his strange candour he asked suddenly, “What do you make of Pauline? Do you find her attractive? Can you see her appeal for Ernest?” My wife and I agreed in saying that Pauline seemed to be a very nice woman.

But Scott began to weigh the matter. Yes, he could see that Ernest might find her attractive. But then he startled us. In his candid and intensely interested manner he said he had a theory about Ernest and his women. It was as if he had thought many times about Hemingway’s divorce and remarriage and I can still hear him saying thoughtfully, “I have a theory that Ernest needs a new woman for each big book. There was one for the stories and The Sun Also Rises. Now there’s Pauline. A Farewell to Arms is a big book. If there’s another big book I think we’ll find Ernest has another wife.”

My wife and I looked at each other uncomfortably. If ever we should ask Ernest if he had a big new book in mind we would inevitably remember Scott’s theory, wouldn’t we? And Pauline? Could we ever ask about a new book in front of Pauline? But that theory of Scott’s always remained in my mind. And over the years I had occasion to wonder if Scott didn’t have far more insight into Ernest’s temperament, as it was related to his work, than any of us.

By dinner’s end we were laughing and at ease, and when we left the restaurant, just loafing along, all of Paris seemed to come a little closer. It was for me, as it had been for others for a thousand years, the place where the stranger could believe he was among his own people; the meeting place for all those who wanted to meet As we walked along slowly in the moonlight, Zelda laughed out loud, looking around. She had the restless air, the little sway of a woman seeking some new exhilaration, a woman in Paris who knew the night should be just beginning. She kept saying, “What’ll we do? Let’s do something,” and again she laughed. I remember her stopping suddenly on the street “I know,” she said. “Let’s go roller skating.”

The line has often come back to me, bringing the little street scene back vividly.

“Where do you go roller skating around here?” I asked.

“We can find a place. Don’t you want to go roller skating, Loretto?”

“I’ll go. I’m game.”

“And you?” Zelda asked me.

“I’ve only roller skated two or three times,” I said, half laughing. “I’ll go along though, if you want to.”

But Scott, who had been demurring politely, and who had, perhaps, counted on my saying I had no desire to roller skate, muttered impatiently the thing was to go no further. Suddenly he grabbed Zelda by the wrist. “I’m putting you into a taxi You go home now and go to bed,” he said. IDs peremptory tone on the shadowed street startled us. If I had grabbed my own wife by the wrist and told her I was putting her in a taxi, her eyes would have flashed; there would have been some kind of a struggle. Zelda’s face was half hidden, yet her whole manner changed; it was as if she knew he had command over her; she agreed meekly. I could not know then that Zelda had begun to show many signs of her impending breakdown, and that Scott was having perhaps secret and painful difficulty with her. From the way she had spoken, her restless air on the street, Scott must have recognized some symptom. We were getting our first glimpse at the beginning of the tragedy of his life. Yet he had sounded so commanding; he did have this extraordinary authority over her. A taxi came along and he put her in it. And suddenly she had said good night like a small girl and was whisked away from us—and Scott dismissed the little scene almost brusquely.

“Zelda has to get up early in the morning. She’s taking those ballet lessons,” and he pointed out that girls as a rule started studying ballet when they were about twelve I Zelda had started when she was over thirty and it was hard for her; it was all very tiring. I asked him why she wanted to take up ballet dancing at her age. It was quite understandable, Scott said; she wanted to have something for herself, be something herself. I recalled her sudden aggressive assertion at dinner that she too was a good writer. Was she bent on competing with Scott for the limelight? Of course, that was it. How unlucky for Scott. And I remember taking Loretto’s arm and looking at her, hoping she would never feel driven to jockey with me publicly for attention.

Scott was walking along with us, talking easily now as if nothing of particular interest had happened. He told us we really ought to visit the big cafes.

He suggested that we should walk along and sit at the Dome. It was a place we ought to visit, he said. We wondered where he thought we had been all this time. Yet walking along to the Dome, we held our peace. Why hadn’t we told him we had been in the Trianon with the Joyces, and now that we sat every night at the Select near the Dome? Because of his eager enthusiasm, the pleasure he got out of offering a new experience he thought would please you, I always had the inclination when with him to keep quiet and not spoil his fun. Sitting at the brightly lit Dome terrace, so crowded with tourists, he explained, like a man slumming, that the Dome had been just a little zinc bar. All the tourists were there, he was sure, because they had read The Sun Also Rises. I can still see him there on the terrace, all his wonderful availability in his quick conversation, his smile, his unspoilt eagerness to find goodwill and friendship in those he liked. Then suddenly he asked, “Couldn’t we all have dinner together? Couldn’t we get the Hemingways? Couldn’t you suggest it to Ernest, Morley?”

I certainly would suggest it, I agreed. We went on with the conversation. Neighbourhood characters were passing; our drunken poet in his Pernod trance; the two bright boys with that handsome girl who looked like a Turk; why did they keep together even with her? Were they inseparable in everything: But while I watched I was pondering over the paradoxical relationships between men. I asked myself, Why doesn’t Scott speak to Ernest himself? Why pick on me? I had been assuming that Scott was Ernest’s intimate friend. I did not feel that I was in the little circle of Hemingway’s close friends: there would have to be others he saw in Paris, close old friends he would go to fro companionship when he was in trouble. Who these people were I didn’t know. I had thought that Scott for sure was one of them. What if there wasn’t such a group? How unlike the French writers we were. Breton, Soupault, Aragon, Eluard, got together, got excitement out of talking about writing. Sometimes I had wondered if Ernest and I would see much of each other if we didn’t go boxing. Who knows? Maybe Ernest didn’t see much of anybody. Yet Scott, the devoted old friend, seemed to believe that I was the one Ernest was seeing. It was complicated. Perhaps Scott knew that Ernest now avoided the close friendship of other writers unless he had something in common with them aside from the writing. But like every man in the world who has a hero and imagines there is someone much closer to his hero than he is, Scott asked me to speak to Ernest and I was touched.

Next Chapter 20

Published as That Summer In Paris: Memories of Tangled Friendships with Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald by Morley Callaghan (New York: Coward-Mccann, 1963).