A.E. Hotchner, chronicler and crony of the late, great Ernest Hemingway, is donating all of his Hemingway letters, manuscripts, photos, movies and sound recordings to the Library of Congress on Wednesday.
To boot, Hemingway's oldest son, John, also will present the library with a rare "first copy" of his father's first published work, "Three Stories and Ten Poems." The book is inscribed by Ernest Hemingway to his first wife (and John's mother), Hadley.
"This personal collection provides an intimate insight into the life and mind of one of the 20th century's great literary figures," said Librarian of Congress James Billington. "The Library of Congress is deeply grateful to Mr. Hotchner for his generous gift."
Hotchner, 78, said from his home in Westport, Conn., yesterday that scholars "will get a great deal out of the letters." He's donating seven original letters and copies of some 150 more. Much of the correspondence, which covers the last 14 years of Hemingway's life, has never been seen by the public, he said. Hotchner mined much of it for a book about their friendship, "Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir." The book was first published in 1966 and was reissued this year.
"The letters, to me, are like an autobiography," Hotchner said.
Also included in the collection are marked-up manuscripts of "The Dangerous Summer," Hemingway's book on bullfighting, and the novel "The Sea," which was eventually published as "Islands in the Stream." Hemingway, who died in 1961, never wanted the novel to see the light of day. There are several poems in the collection and half a dozen short stories that Hotchner said he's never seen in print.
The 300 or so photos show various aspects of their friendship: Hemingway and Hotchner hunting; Hotchner as a reluctant bullfighter. The sound recordings, stored on 15 spools of wire, feature Hemingway holding forth on a variety of subjects, reciting his acceptance speech for the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature and reading from his stories. "And here's what I wrote this morning," he said on one recording; then he began to talk about how he wrote the play "The Fifth Column."
Two reels of silent 16mm film show Hemingway on his fishing boat in Key West, Fla.; talking with his fourth wife, Mary; frolicking with Black Dog and being affectionate toward one of his cats. The film and most of the photos were shot by Hotchner.
"It's everything I have," he said.
Hotchner, who has also written biographies of Doris Day and Sophia Loren, has done dramatic adaptations of Hemingway's writings for television. He was working on a dramatic adaptation of the short story "After the Storm" yesterday.
After speaking with Billington at a recent Kennedy Center soiree, Hotchner decided to make the donation. Collection specialists took a look at the material in late summer and the boxes were shipped to the library in early October. After all the items are processed, the library said, the collection will be open to researchers.
Presentations made by Hotchner and John Hemingway Wednesday will be part of the library's celebration of its bicentennial, which officially occurs next year. This year is the centennial of Hemingway's birth.
Asked if Hemingway would like all this hoopla, Hotchner replied, "I don't think he spent a hell of a lot of time talking about his legacy. I think he knew what it was instinctively."