A rare unpublished manuscript of an Ernest Hemingway short story, written while the author vacationed in Northern Michigan, has been obtained by a book collector in this Detroit suburb.
The manuscript, typed by Hemingway and bearing his margin notes and corrections, is believed to be one of his first attempts at serious fiction.
The collector, C.F., Frazer Clark Jr., is currently seeking permission from Hemingway's widow to publish this story, apparently written during a trip the author made to Walloon Lake, near Petoskey, Mich., 58 years ago.
Though the story, titled "The Passing of Pickles McCarty," or "The Wopplan Way," had been mentioned in the writer's letters, the manuscript itself was missing from the packet of unpublished material left by Hemingway when he killed himself in 1991. The author's widow. Mary Welch Hemingway, who has supervised the posthumous publication of several of Hemingway's works, told Clark in February that she was unaware of the story's existence.
The "Hemingway Itinerary," a scholar's guide to the author's complete works, does not list the story.
But Prof. Carlos Baker of Princeton University, a leading authority on Hemingway's life and work, has pronounced "The Woppian Way" authentic.
"That's it: it's real." Baker said after reviewing a photo copy of the manuscript last week. "I would say it had been done in the summer of 1919 when Hemingway was 20."
Baker had used the manuscript, then in the possession of another collector, in preparing his definitive "Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story" 10 years ago, and mentions it in the book.
The 4,000-word story is the tale of an Italian-American prizefighter called Neroni who, finding it difficult to make headway under his own name, assumes the nommede guerre of Pickles McCarty.
"For as a Opera Singer must be continental, and a corporation soulless, so must a pug be Hibernian," Hemingway wrote.
As an Irishman, the boxer acquires a "slightly splayed nose, a grudge against large pink men in evening dress who clamoured for blood," and a possible shot at the world's championship, but on the brink of big time, McCarty vanishes, surfacing later as a member of the Arditi, the Italian army's shock troops in World War I.
There, among comrades who scoff at death and plug their wounds with cigarette butts, McCarty achieves his greatest triumph - the bloody but heroic rescue of his commanding officer during a battle with the Austrians.
"And after this they want me to go back and get into a little dinky ring tht ain't even a ring, with a canvas floor, and hit a man with leather gloves more times than he will hit me with leather gloves," McCarty says. "It can't be done."
Pointing to the story's frequent puns and mock herioic tone, Clark characterizes the story as "somewhat juvenile" and "transitional in nature." Baker says the story shows "the young Hemingway attempting to make his way tinto the work of adult fiction."
Clark also notes that several themes more fully developed in the author's later stories, including the boxer and the soldier as macho hero, are first explored here.
"Don't forget, the summer before this was written, Hemingway was actually fighting in the area where most of the story takes place." Clark said. "The story is certainly one of his earliest attempts to draw on real experience."
Baker says the story was probably written during the summer of 1919 when Hemingway, still recuperating from wounds suffered while working as an ambulance driver in Italy the previous year, came to Wallon Lake. According to his letters. Hemingway showed the piece to a novelist neighbor, who suggested several possible publishers. Their names are jotted down on the back of manuscript's first page, though there is no evidence that the story was ever offered for sale.
Baker said the manuscript was probably stored at the family home in Oak Park, I11., until Hemingway's father killed himself in 1928. Then, according to Baker, the manuscript was removed to Key West, Fla., where Hemingway lived for 12 years. Baker says "The Woppian Way" was probably among a group of early papers left with the author's friend, Josie Russell, proprietor of Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West, when Hemingway moved to Cuba in 1940.
Clark, who is deliberately vague about how and when he acquired it, said he was told "The Woppian Way" was removed "from the back room of Sloppy Joe's" in the early 1960s. He said he acquired the story "in the spirit of preserving the Hemingway legacy" and does not plan to profit from it. He said he hopes to publish the story for the benefit of "scholars and others interested in tracing the development of Hemingway's art."
Under terms of the author's will. Mary Welch Hemingway owns the rights to all of her late husband's work, both published and unpublished. Clark, who has mailed Mrs. Hemingway a copy of the story, plans to travel to New York later this spring to discuss its possible publication.
Clark, who runs a communication consulting firm here, edits and publishes books and scholarly journals on Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Nathaniel, Hawthorne as a hobby. His father, Col. C.E. Frazer Clark, was also an ambulance driver in Italy during the World Was I but never met Hemingway.
The Wallon Lake area, where Hemingway vacationed with his family for many years, is the locale fore many of his early stories. The author's sister, Madalaine Miller, still uses the family property as her summer home.