September 27, 2004
NEW YORK - A newly discovered handwritten letter and short story by Ernest Hemingway will be auctioned in December, but custodians of his estate have not granted permission for the works to be published.
The two-page letter and five-page story, based on an incident at a bullfighting ring and written in 1924, were discovered last year by the son of Donald Ogden Stewart.
The works, based on Stewart's experience, cannot be published without permission of the Hemingway estate, which has so far withheld it, although it is not clear why.
They can be sold as artifacts, however, and Christie's in New York said Monday it plans to auction them Dec. 16. They are expected to sell for $12,000 to $18,000, said Patrick McGrath, a Christie's books and manuscripts specialist.
Suzanne Balaban, vice president and director of publicity at Scribner's, Hemingway's original publisher, said the story "is not ready yet" to be published.
"The Hemingway estate doesn't feel they've really explored the best way to present this story to the public," said Balaban.
She said the story might be published in the future, "but that hasn't been decided yet."
Balaban added that the role of Scribner's, which was bought by Simon & Schuster in 1994, is to "assist and support the estate however we can."
J. Gerald Kennedy, vice president of the Hemingway Foundation, lamented the fact that the estate had blocked publication.
"It's disappointing in the sense that as a scholar, I would like to see as much Hemingway work in print as possible," said Kennedy, an English professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La.
"I don't think publishing snippets like this piece will affect in any way Hemingway's literary reputation, which is too secure to be influenced by bits of ephemera like this," he added.
Kennedy, who had a copy of the newly discovered story, called it "a kind of funny and entertaining piece."
McGrath said the fact that the publishing rights remain in question "may even encourage interest because it's unpublished and unknown to the world."
The story, "My Life in the Bull Ring With Donald Ogden Stewart," was apparently inspired by an actual incident in 1924, when Stewart, a well-known writer and a close friend of Hemingway's, encountered a bull in Pamplona, Spain.
In the story, Stewart kills a bull with his bare hands. The tale is a take on what later became "the Hemingway cliche," Stewart's son said in an interview from Rome on Monday. "A heroic man with a lot of hair on his chest."
Hemingway wrote an over-the-top story and mailed it to Stewart, along with a letter. The document is a carbon copy with "The End," written in ink, by hand, at the bottom of the fifth page, McGrath said.
The letter apparently was written first, because it deals with arrangements for Stewart to visit Pamplona, Spain. It was written by hand on both sides of a single sheet of stationery from the Hotel Perla in Pamplona, McGrath said.
A humorist himself, Stewart was not impressed with Hemingway's effort and seemed to have put the story aside.
The work was apparently forgotten until last year when Stewart's son, Donald, discovered the story and letter among his father's papers. His father died in 1980.
Donald Stewart, who lives in Rome, sought to publish the document in Vanity Fair, along with an article of his own, until the magazine's editors learned the Hemingway estate had refused permission for publication.
Stewart said the Ernest Hemingway Foundation had given him permission to publish the story and the letter for $500.
The foundation, independent from the estate, has some right over unpublished Hemingway material. But after the death in 1983 of Hemingway's widow, Mary Hemingway, joint permission of the estate and the foundation became necessary before previously unpublished material could be used.
The discovery of the short story was first reported in Monday's edition of The New York Times.
Hemingway, who died in 1961, most famously wrote about bullfighting in his 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises."