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


OUR leave-taking of the Quarter and our departure for London seemed to have been rather hurried and crowded. I’m looking new at a letter to London from Titus :

… frankly I have never before seen such an experience as we had getting you off. If we had taken for granted the porter’s statement that the train had gone, and had not tipped off everyone right and left, you probably would not have got off… I have had Hemingway up at the house the other night… he said he might write me an introduction to Kiki’s memoirs… You are very much missed.

I forget the cause of the confusion in our departure, but I remember that as soon as we got into a London taxi I knew definitely the journey was over and we were on the way home. It was the taxi driver. He was a thin grave middle-aged man wearing one of those straw boaters. I tried to make a joke with him as I would have done with a Paris taxi driver. As he looked at me with his grey, dignified, straw-hatted disapproval, he could have been taken for an alderman in my native city.

We stayed only two weeks in London. All our mornings were spent in the National Gallery where, uninvited and unnoticed, we joined an art class. The first morning, when we had been looking at a Michelangelo drawing, a middle-aged teacher with an authoritative voice had swooped down on us with a group of students, and had begun a lecture on Renaissance art. We let the group carry us along to the next subject. At noontime he said, “Well, the same time tomorrow.” We were there. All that week we were members of the class, and no one asked where we came from. In London we didn’t look up Helena Rubenstein, nor use any of the letters of introduction Sinclair Lewis had given us.

After two weeks we went to Ireland. In Dublin, at the Gresham Hotel, I would try to talk to the woman who managed the place about William Butler Yeats, but she would rather have talked about the big nights at the hotel when the horsey set was there. In Dublin streets, looking for Joyce’s Dubliners, we would wonder if Joyce himself in Paris was still playing that Aimee Semple McPherson record. We went down to Cork and into the countryside. But Ireland only made us feel melancholy and anxious to be on our way home.

In New York when I walked into Perkins’ office, I was carrying an Irish blackthorn, and he tried to hide his amusement. We talked about Ernest and Scott and he told me that Ernest had written him letters about our boxing. And I could tell he wasn’t aware of Scott’s humiliation.

Back in Toronto I waited for the publication of the novel It’s Never Over, which I had written in Paris, and began to write stories. Often I would find myself wondering when Ernest and Scott would return to America. A friend of mine had told me, smiling, that Ernest in a letter had referred to me as “Lord Morley.” It worried me. Granting it was an amusing view of me, it made me think of Scott trying to stand on his head to impress me. What kind of guy was I? Some men ask this question of themselves day and night. The question had never bothered me. And perhaps it was why Ernest, aware of my attitude, could jokingly refer to me as “Lord Morley”.

Only a few Weeks had passed since our return. Now I remember the day in November when I went into a bookstore to get the New York Sunday papers. Reading the New York Herald Tribune “Books”, I finally came to Isabel Paterson’s page, a page of gossip and chitchat about writers and publishers. My eye caught Hemingway’s name, then my own. The story was about my meeting Hemingway in Paris. According to this story Hemingway, sitting at the Dome when I came along, told me the story I had written about a prize-fighter was no good; it was obvious that I knew nothing about boxing. And there and then he challenged me to a match. I had knocked him out in one round.

The story filled me with such agitation I couldn’t think clearly. I called Loretto. I showed her the story. We both felt desolate. Who had put out the story? Then, stricken, I knew it didn’t matter; the malicious thing had been printed, a legend very important to Hemingway might be destroyed. And what was more terrible, I knew, was that the malice struck at the root of his whole fantasy. He had been made to look like a boastful bully whose bluff had been called. A host of envious people would rejoice to have their own wishful view of him confirmed. And no matter what he had thought of me, I felt very close to him.

For some hours I couldn’t get my thoughts organised. I was too full of protest. It seemed to be a ghastly outrageous irony that I had been chosen as the one who could humiliate my friend. Finally I sat down and wrote the following letter to the Herald Tribune:

Toronto, Nov. 26 / 29.
Last Saturday I saw the story of the singular encounter between Ernest Hemingway and me, taken from the Denver Post. It is a fine story and you can imagine how much I regret not deserving such a reputation, but this ought to be said:

Hemingway, as far as I know, never sat at the Dome last summer. Certainly he never sat there panning my fight stories and whatever background I might have for them. I have only written one fight story anyway. I’ll have to do some more at once. Nor did I ever challenge Hemingway. Eight or nine times we went boxing last summer trying to work up a sweat and an increased eagerness for an extra glass of bear afterwards. We never had an audience. Nor—did I ever knock out Hemingway. Once we had a timekeeper. If there was any kind of remarkable performance that afternoon the timekeeper deserves the applause. Being of a peaceful and shy disposition I have only envy for strong men who challenge each other then knock each other out. But I do wish you’d correct that story or I’ll never be able to go to New York again for fear of being knocked out.
Best personal wishes,

Then I wrote to Max Perkins, enclosing a copy of the letter I had written to Isabel Paterson. I knew he would understand my concern. I prayed that Ernest in Paris might not see the New York Tribune—at least not until my correction had appeared.

With a week I heard from Perkins, who comforted me. My letter to the Herald Tribune would be printed, he said. No one would be injured, he assured me. I also got this note from Isabel Paterson:

Dec. 3, 1929
I am printing your correction next Sunday. Sorry to have been misled, though I must admit it sounded too good to be true. If I had known you were back in Toronto I might have sent it to you to check up. I had no idea where to look for you in Paris last summer, didn’t know where anyone was, and consequently saw no one which I regretted very much. I thought Ford was going to be over there and tell me about the others; but he didn’t arrive back from New York until a day or so before I had come back.
Good luck.

But just before my letter was printed I got a cable from Scott:


And the cable came to me collect!

All week I had been upset, torn between melancholy and disappointment. When I got this cable from Scott I was blind with indignation. The arrogance of the cable! Scott sending it to me collect! Was I supposed to be the one who put out the story? If he wanted to correct the story why didn’t he do so? Or why didn’t Ernest do it himself? Scott taking it upon himself to handle the situation—a good little boy taking over for Ernest, when he knew I was aware of his own bitterness. What did he want me to do? Write the story, tell the truth, tell in detail the whole affair, tell about him crying out, “He thinks I did it on purpose”? I had expected to hear from Ernest, but not from Scott.

And when I read in the Herald Tribune my elegant gloss of the events in question, I felt all the more enraged. I wrote Scott a letter. Until now I had been the one untouched by rancour. My two friends might nurse their secret resentments, but I had done nothing to bring humiliation upon myself. To this day I feel ashamed of that letter I wrote to Scott. It is humiliation to me even now to remember it. I told him it had been unnecessary for him to rush in to defend Ernest. For him to hurry out and send that cable to me collect without waiting to see what I would do was the act of a son of a bitch and I could only assume that he was drunk as usual when he sent it.

I wrote Perkins, told him of the cable from Scott, told him it enraged me.

By this time, of course, Perkins was trying to calm his insulted authors. My piece in the Tribune had appeared. Perkins was busy writing to Scott and to Ernest and to me.

Finally I heard from Ernest. The letter was a beauty. I have it on my desk now, dated January 4, 1929. (Actually, the thirties had begun—we weren’t still in ’29.) It was sent from 6 rue Ferou, in Paris. It is written in pencil.

In this letter Ernest put the blame on Pierre Loving for starting the story in both Paris and New York, and he said that he had cabled to Loving in New York saying he had heard Loving had seen him knocked out by me. But Loving hadn’t replied.

And then Ernest said it was at his instigation that Scott had cabled me, calling my attention to the appearance of the story and saying he was waiting impatiently to see me correct it. In this letter Ernest underlined his acceptance of all responsibility for the cable. Scott had acted against his own convictions. Then Ernest went on to say that because three weeks had passed since the story had been printed in the New York Post (sic) he couldn’t know whether I had been it or corrected it, and if I hadn’t it would have fallen to Scott to do it, since he had been present. Again Ernest repeated Scott was against sending the cable, insisting I would have read the story. But the wire, Ernest went on, made no reflection on me. Three weeks had elapsed before he himself had read the story, therefore he couldn’t be certain I had read it.

Again he took the entire responsibility for the sending of the cable to me. Since some abusive language was being used concerning the one who was responsible for the dispatch of the wire, he was telling me Scott was blameless. He, Ernest was the one. If I wanted to switch to him the abusive terms I had directed at Scott, he was coming to the States shortly and would be at my service wherever it could be kept private.

So Ernest wanted to meet me and knock my block off! And I knew why. It was as he had said; he had literally compelled Scott to send that peremptory and arrogant cable. Yes, I could see what had happened. Upset as he should have been, as I myself in his place would have been, he had rushed out looking for Scott. And I could see Scott, distressed and pale, trying to reason with him, begging him to wait. And I could see Scott, too, under the pressure of Ernest’s anger, recalling all the embarrassment Ernest had suffered that day in the American Club. Perhaps Scott had been made to feel half guilty himself. And he must have wondered bitterly what had kept driving him to ask to be allowed to come with us. Going against his own wisdom, his own sensibility, and remembering that Ernest had left him feeling that he, Scott, enjoyed seeing him humiliated, Scott had given in and sent the cable. Now here was Ernest inviting me to transfer the epithets I had addressed to Scott to him. Even after reading my piece in the Tribune, Ernest still panted to beat me up. ’

I wrote to him calmly enough. I said I regretted what had happened. Then, to let him know what I thought of him for dragooning Scott into sending the cable, I wrote that I couldn’t transfer the epithets to him. Since he had compelled Scott to send the cable, I would have to get a whole fresh set of epithets to address to him.

Again I heard from Perkins, who knew about the cable and who had heard from Paris. Scott had read my letter in the Herald Tribune. According to Perkins, Scott had tried desperately to assure Ernest that they should leave the whole matter to me. They both knew me. I was bound to see the original story and know how it would torment Ernest, and I would be quick to come to his defence. Perkins wanted me to know that from beginning to end I had acted like a little gentleman and that Scott was full of remorse. Perkins asked me to leave everything to him.

A little later I got a letter from Scott, a letter from Paris dated January 1, and he too seemed to believe we were still in the year 1929 and not 1930.

The letter is written in ink in bold clear handwriting easy to read, and I look at it now on the desk before me, and recall all my feelings. Plunging right in, Scott apologizes without any reservations for what he called his “stupid and hasty” telegram. He assures me he knew I was quick to deny the story, and he wants me to know it never entered his head that I might have started the rumour. It had never been his intention to make the telegram sound insinuating, and he was sorry for the wording of it. But with the story being repeated he felt it had to be denied by him or me. And then Scott went on to say that he himself had too often endured pain from these scandalous stories, and he believed they stayed around a long time unless they were immediately wiped from the slate.

As for the story itself and who put it out, it was his conviction it just grew spontaneously, and knowing who was the one who put the mischievous twist in it was beyond calculation. But the story as it was now, making Ernest a boastful bully who got what was coming to him, was certainly far from the source. Then Scott said that he hadn’t even told Edmund Wilson or Perkins what had happened. As for me being the one who started the story, he had never even implied in any way to anyone, including Ernest, that I was remotely responsible. But he recognized that he had been gravely unjust to me and since he was returning in February he would be happy to offer his amends to me in person.

The dignified, half-formal tone of the apology shamed me. Poor Scott. Once again he was caught in the middle. As I said some time ago, he was always the one who managed to get caught in a bad light. His fineness of spirit, his generosity, all that was perceptive in him had prompted him to urge Ernest to be patient. The touch of comedy in the whole situation lay in this: they were both assuming I would or should do the job. Yet neither one of them could have wanted me to tell the truth, neither one imagined for a moment I would give a factual account of the events of that afternoon. However, Scott, having been insulted by Ernest that day in the American Club, was’ now insulted by me because he had acted to please Ernest. Having listened to him at the American Club—now after this new indignity—I knew how cynical and bitter about Ernest he would be feeling. And beyond all doubt I knew that even if they sometimes heard from each other, from now on in his heart Scott had finally walked out on Ernest.

Look what Scott’s admiration for Ernest, and his eagerness for our companionship, had led to. Why did he have to come along? Ernest, my old friend, and I now were bristling at each other—over Scott. Ernest was anxious to fight me. For the sake of his dream would he keep at it until he did? But I was nursing another humiliation. I cursed myself for not trusting my understanding of Scott. I called myself a blind man, a dolt lacking in all perception. I ought to have known that Scott, of his own accord, would never have sent that demanding cable. The irony of events kept tormenting me. I had gone to Paris, confident that I would find there a deepening friendship with Ernest, and a fine warm intimacy with Scott. I had found some strange tangled relationship between Scott and Ernest, but there had been a lot of admiration and respect, too. Out of my hopeful eager journey had come all this shameful petty rancour and wounded vanity, and suspicion—and a challenge to fight from Ernest!

Max Perkins was being as busy as a little bee, and I received another letter from Ernest who was now in Key West.

This letter, dated February 21, was typewritten, and as I look at it now it seems to me that Ernest must have taken a little time with it.

Admitting he had been really sore, he suggests that I put myself in his place. He says he knows I wasn’t to blame for putting out the story, so I should be able to look at the matter aside from the question of who was to blame. My denial of the story had been quick and gracious. As for his letter to me, he said, the facts were as he had stated them, but he hadn’t intended to post that letter. It was true, as I had written, that in return for my courtesy in quickly disavowing the malice of someone engaged in baiting authors he had offered to beat me up. It was simply that he had gone berserk, he wrote.

As for the letter, and how it came to be posted when he hadn’t intended to send it, he wrote that he had put it aside in his desk and had driven to Bordeaux to deliver his car to the boat. His wife, remaining behind, cleaning up things in the apartment, had come on the letter, and, thinking he had overlooked it, had mailed it.

Then he went on to say that with the letter sent, he couldn’t undo it. A man can’t challenge another man to do battle in a letter, then wire him and tell him to pay no attention to the letter.

He could understand I would be sore at receiving a collect wire from Paris from Scott; perhaps this was due to the wire having been sent to New York. And, too, he was aware that I had no fear of him.

Again he admits he was good and angry about the story. And then he put it up to me in this way : a syndicated piece says you encounter someone, sneer at his work, get taken up on it, and then get knocked out. How would I like it myself? To make it worse, his happened with a man whose work you have praised and tried to push and whose boxing has given you pleasure and aroused your admiration.

Naturally he had been really angry, he wrote. And then came the part of the letter that fascinated me. It was about his boxing. Asserting his friendly feeling again, he nevertheless wanted to say it was his conviction, quite aside from making it a matter of ether one of us being afraid of the other, that with small gloves he could knock me out. He thought he would need about five two-minute rounds. Then he granted that along the way he would be taking plenty of popping from me; he was sure he would. This belief of his however, he wrote, wasn’t to be taken as the unfriendly gesture of a man who was still sore. But if I didn’t share his opinion he had no desire to go on all his life working at remaining in good condition on the possibility we might encounter each other. Therefore, if it was my wish we should lay down our arms, I should tell him so. And he sent his regards to Loretto and his good wishes for the success of my book.

At last, thank heaven, I was able to laugh. In this letter he sounded more like the boyish old Ernest, and he had admitted cheerfully that he had gone berserk. And now I was moved too, for he had reminded me how he had gone around telling people about my work, my only writing friend for so long, and how happy we had been in those Paris months, and how much I had liked him.

But he wanted me to agree he could knock me out—conceding he would take a lot of punishment. Having his own peculiar view of his life, I knew he simply had to believe it. Indeed, it was at this time in Key West that he explained to Josephine Herbst, who relayed it to me, his laughable statement, “My writing is nothing. My boxing is everything.” What was I to say to him? If I agreed with him I would feel I had joined the ranks of those men who were making him unreal. I decided to tell him the truth. I wrote him a good-humoured letter in which I said I had no objections at all to him thinking that he, using small gloves, could knock me out in five rounds. In fact I would want him to have this opinion. But since I had never been knocked out I was sure he would understand it was hard for me to imagine him doing it. But wasn’t it the way we both should feel? So for heaven’s sake, disarm. It was the last I heard from him.

I don’t know what Scott and Ernest said to each other, after they returned to America. They seemed to have remained nominal friends, but they had become very cynical about each other.

Then I, who admired them both, and had liked and enjoyed their company so much, made a mistake. At the time it did not seem to be a mistake. Looking back on it I can see it is the kind of mistake men make so often in their lives when a warm relationship has been disrupted. Perkins, whom I trusted, had told me to forget the whole thing, since he had talked to both Scott and Ernest. Both of them, he said, recognized it would be absurd to hold any resentment against me. He assured me they both had goodwill for me. Now Perkins had a talent for diplomacy in difficult human situations, and he had a kind of nobility of spirit and a fine sense of fairness. Well, I took his word for it. I left it to him. It was a mistake. There had been an arranged adjustment, but what about the friendship?

Only many years later, after brooding over it, did I realize that such wounds cannot be healed by a third party, no matter how discreet and just and full of goodwill he is. Insulted and injured people, who shake hands from a distance or write apologetic letters, find themselves lying awake at night making up little speeches, some of them angry, and the one to whom these secret little speeches are addressed in the dark never has a chance to answer. No, when there has been a sudden sharp break in a relationship the two or three who are concerned have to seek each other out, face each other quickly, talk, open their hearts to each other. Men and women, of course, shy away from revealing themselves to each other, but when they withhold too much of themselves for too long, there is soon nothing left to give. They can no longer communicate honestly. And in Paris, I’m convinced, Ernest and Scott had never really got together even in the heyday of their relationship, and then with time passing, it had got harder.

I shouldn’t have let the whole thing drop. I should have met Scott as he had suggested. Instead, soothed by Perkins, I was glad to be told that I did not have to say to Scott, Yes, you should see me. I was glad to duck the encounter, for I was the one now who felt secretly ashamed. I had been guilty of misjudging and abusing him. And of course, as time passed, it became much easier for me to avoid thinking of him. The Depression had come. And the world in which Scott had been a golden dazzling figure had collapsed. All that had happened to his relationship with Ernest because of me did not seem to be important. Whenever I would think of these two men who had been my friends, I would find myself growing fascinated at the way little details, little vanities, little slights, shape all our relationships. It is these little things, not clashes over great principles, that turn people against each other. Loretto and Pauline Hemingway standing at the window. “I won’t bother giving you the address if you don’t intend to use it,” Pauline had said, and a barrier had gone up. And the night Scott said to me, “I took your arm… I knew what you’ thought I was.”… A man acting as timekeeper lets a round go on to long and… Louis Bromfield’s slippers.

So when Scott’s Tender Is The Night was published, I wrote to Perkins about the book—not to Scott. Whenever I thought of him I felt the old embarrassment. To put an end to it, one time when I was in New York I asked Perkins where Scott was and was told he was in Baltimore. I would go and see him, I said. To my surprise Perkins advised me not to go at that particular time. Zelda was mentally ill and giving Scott trouble, and Scott himself was drinking heavily; it wouldn’t do me any good to see him. Now I knew, that in spite of Perkins I should have gone to Baltimore. Suppose I had found Scott alcoholic? Suppose he had been nasty to me? Hadn’t I encountered him in scenes which would have startled Perkins?

As for Ernest, the little matter had been straightened out to his satisfaction. Unless I sought him out I knew I would never see him. Why didn’t I? Whenever I thought of doing so, I would remember how he had brought out the gloves that first day in his living room to satisfy himself he was right in his judgement of me. And if I walked in on him, and we got talking about boxing, mightn’t he feel driven, as he often seemed to be driven in other matters, to prove something to himself? I wouldn’t have been able to give in. God knows what might have happened if that old sense of frustration so intolerable to him had seized him. The thought of it was unbearable to me. Yet now I can see I may have been humouring myself, humouring my view of him. But I was secretly nursing some half-hidden grievance.

But with time passing, I was learning the grim lesson that all writers who aren’t just morning glories, and go on, have to learn. In the beginning the good opinion of Hemingway and Fitzgerald had helped me to feel I was not alone—even in my hometown. Having passed the morning-glory period, I had learned that you can’t be sustained by the praise and admiration of a few friends. You lose them along the way anyway, and since you should always be changing and becoming something else, the friends, if they stay alive, may not stay with you. I find that people who like what I did when I was twenty-five often do not like what I do now, but I have learned that this is because they would like things to be done as they were done when they, themselves, were twenty-five or thirty—the time when they were most alive themselves. And those dreams I had of Paris—as a place—the lighted place—I had learned it had to be always in my own head, wherever I was. Sometimes in strange places I have remembered that prison chaplain who insisted mat no prison should be so obviously escape proof that freedom was even beyond the imagination of the inmates. They ought to be allowed at least a condition for the comfort of their fantasies. I won’t enlarge on this splendid idea.

In the late forties, Sam Putnam wrote a book called Paris Was Our Mistress. According to this author, after playing tennis, I challenged Ernest to a boxing bout and he knocked me out in a round. I won’t say that I waited to hear from Ernest, or that I demanded a correction. I never heard from him and I didn’t expect to. I was sure by this time that, as a storyteller, this version to him was imaginatively true. But at least I understood my own little grievance. I had known all along he would have to have it in this light Anyway, Ernest, over the years, was getting lost to me in the legends. Hemingway in his prime, the man I knew in Paris, the author of the early books and A Farewell to Arms, was perhaps the nicest man I had ever met. I can say the same for Fitzgerald. I liked those two men. In my heart I knew Ernest couldn’t possibly have turned into a swaggering, happy extrovert How they ever got him into that light and how he put up with it I don’t know. In the good days he was a reticent man, often strangely ingrown and hidden with something sweet and gentle in him. But I was glad to hear that in the last year of his life out in Sun Valley, he talked to the photographer so affectionately about those days in Paris with Scott and me, and sent me at last his warm regards.

The End.

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