Elizabeth Hadley Richardson (November 9, 1891 – January 22, 1979) was the first wife of author Ernest Hemingway. The two married in 1921 after a courtship of less than a year, and moved to Paris within months of being married. In Paris, Hemingway pursued a writing career, and through him Hadley met other expatriate British and American writers.
In 1925 Hadley learned Hemingway was involved with another woman, Pauline Pfeiffer, and she divorced him the following year. In 1933 Hadley married a second time, to journalist Paul Mowrer, whom she met in Paris.
Elizabeth Hadley Richardson was born on November 9, 1891, in St. Louis, Missouri, the youngest of four children. Hadley's mother, Florence (née Wyman), was an accomplished musician and singer, and her father, James Richardson, Jr., worked for a family pharmaceutical company. While a child, Hadley fell out of a second-story window and consequently was bed-ridden for a year. After the accident, her mother became overly protective, not allowing Hadley to learn how to swim or engage in other physical activities. Hadley's father was less protective, but in 1903 he committed suicide in response to financial difficulties. As a teenager Hadley became painfully shy and reclusive. She attended Mary Institute in St. Louis and then attended college at Bryn Mawr. However, when her mother decided Hadley was "too delicate, both physically and emotionally," she left college. The death of her sister Dorothea (who sustained burns from a house fire) earlier that year may have also contributed to Hadley's decision to leave college. Hemingway scholar Jamie Barlowe believes Hadley represented a "True Woman" as opposed to a "New Woman" of the early 20th century. The "True Woman" was "emotional, dependent, gentle—a true follower."
After her return from college, Hadley lived a restricted life—her sister and her mother continued to worry about her health—with little opportunity for physical activity or much of a social life. Her mother did allow Hadley to visit her former Bryn Mawr roommate Katy Smith in Vermont one summer. While visiting her friend, she enjoyed playing tennis and she met Maxfield Parrish but when her mother became worried over her well-being, she was forced to return home. While her mother became reclusive and immersed herself in spiritualism, Hadley spent some years attempting to attain a career as a pianist until she abandoned music, believing she lacked talent. When her mother developed Bright's Disease, Hadley nursed her until her death.
Shortly after her mother's death, in December 1920, Hadley visited her old roommate Katie Smith (who would later marry John Dos Passos) in Chicago and through her met Hemingway, who was living with Smith's brother and employed as an associate editor of the monthly journal Cooperative Commonwealth. When Hadley returned to St. Louis, Hemingway, who became infatuated with her, wrote "I knew she was the girl I was going to marry". Hadley was red-haired, with a "nurturing instinct", and eight years older than Hemingway. Bernice Kert, author of The Hemingway Women claims Hadley was "evocative" of the woman whom Hemingway met and fell in love with during his recuperation from injuries during World War I, Agnes von Kurowsky, but in Hadley, Hemingway saw a childishness Agnes lacked.
During the winter of 1921, Hadley took up her music again and indulged in outdoor activities. She and Hemingway corresponded during the winter. When she expressed misgivings about their age difference, he "protested that it made no difference at all." Hemingway visited her in St. Louis in March and two weeks later she visited him in Chicago. They did not see each other for two months until he returned to St. Louis in May. In their correspondence she promised to buy him a Corona typewriter for his birthday. In June she announced her engagement, despite objections to the marriage from his friends and her sister. Hadley believed she knew what she was doing and, more importantly, she had an inheritance with which to support herself and a husband. She believed in Hemingway's talent and believed "she was right for him."
They were married on September 3, 1921, in Horton Bay, Michigan and spent their honeymoon at the Hemingway family summer cottage on Walloon Lake; however, the weather was miserable and both Hadley and Hemingway came down with fever, sore throat, and cough. After the honeymoon the couple returned to Chicago where they lived in a small apartment on North Dearborn Street.
Initially they intended to visit Rome, but Sherwood Anderson convinced them to visit Paris instead. The recent death of an uncle gave Hadley another inheritance and additional financial independence for the couple. Anderson's advice to live in Paris interested her and, when two months later Hemingway was hired as foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, the couple left for Paris. Of Hemingway's marriage to Hadley, Hemingway biographer Jeffrey Meyers claims: "With Hadley, Hemingway achieved everything he had hoped for with Agnes: the love of a beautiful woman, a comfortable income, a life in Europe."
Hadley and Hemingway lived in a small walk-up at 74 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine in the Latin Quarter and he worked in a rented room in a nearby building. That winter he discovered a bookshop (Shakespeare and Company) run by American expatriate Sylvia Beach that also functioned as a lending library; Hadley asked whether the bookshop carried any of James Joyce's works, which she liked. Beach published Joyce's Ulysses and the Hemingways met Joyce there in March 1922.
Hemingway decided to use Anderson's letters of introduction, and that spring Ezra Pound invited him and Hadley for tea. They were also invited to Gertrude Stein's salon, and she in turn visited the young couple in their apartment. That spring Hadley and Hemingway travelled to Italy and in the summer to Germany. Hadley travelled alone to Geneva in December 1922 to meet Hemingway who was covering a Peace Conference. It was during this trip that Hadley lost a suitcase filled with Hemingway's manuscripts at the Gare de Lyon. He was devastated at the loss and blamed her.
A few months later, when they learned Hadley was pregnant, the couple decided to move to Toronto for the child's birth. That spring, the couple went for the first time to watch the bullfighting and the running of the bulls at the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona, after which they returned to Canada. Their son John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway was born on October 10, 1923. He was named for his mother, Hadley, and for the young Spanish matador Nicanor Villalta. The baby was healthy and the birth quick; Hemingway missed it, as he had been sent to New York on assignment. Hadley nicknamed the infant "Bumby."
In Toronto the family lived in a small apartment on Bathurst Street with "wall space enough to hang their collection of paintings." Hadley called the assignments given to her husband at the Toronto Star "absurd." Hemingway missed the life in Paris, considered Toronto boring, and wanted to return to Paris to the life of a writer rather than live the life of a Toronto journalist.
The three returned to Paris in January 1924 and moved into a new apartment on Rue Notre Dame des Champs. Hadley hired a woman to help with housework and with Bumby and borrowed a pram to take the baby on walks in the Luxembourg Gardens. Bumby's christening was held at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in March with "Chink" Dorman-Smith and Gertrude Stein as godparents. A few months later, mismanagement of her funds left Hadley with a financial loss, and Hemingway started work as an editor for the Transatlantic Review. In June they left Bumby in Paris to attend the fiesta in Pamplona, and that winter they went for the first time to Austria to vacation in Schruns.
Sometime after their return to Paris, Hemingway met the Pfeiffer sisters, and in June 1925 Hemingway and Hadley left Paris for their annual visit to Pamplona—the third year they had done so—accompanied by a group of American and British expatriates. The trip inspired Hemingway's first novel, The Sun Also Rises, which he began to write immediately after the fiesta, finishing it in September. In November, as a birthday present to her, Hemingway bought Joan Miró's painting The Farm.
Their marriage disintegrated as Hemingway was writing and revising The Sun Also Rises, although he dedicated the novel to "Hadley and ...John Hadley Nicanor." For the second year, they went to Schruns for Christmas, but that year they were joined by Pauline Pfeiffer. Hemingway returned with Pfeiffer to Paris, leaving Hadley with Bumby in Austria. While Hadley was in Austria, Hemingway sailed to New York then returned to Paris in March, at which time he may have begun his affair with Pauline. In the spring of 1926, Hadley became aware of the affair although she endured Pauline's presence in Pamplona that July. On their return to Paris, Hadley and Hemingway decided to separate, and Hadley formally requested a divorce in the fall. By November they had split their possessions, and Hadley accepted Hemingway's offer of the royalties from The Sun Also Rises. The couple divorced in January 1927, and Hemingway married Pauline Pfeiffer in May.
Hadley stayed in France until 1934. Among her many friends in Paris was Paul Mowrer, foreign correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. Hadley met him in the spring of 1927 shortly after her divorce from Hemingway. A journalist and political writer, Mowrer won the Pulitzer Prize for his writing in 1929. On July 3, 1933, after a five-year courtship, Hadley and Paul Mowrer were married in London. Hadley was especially grateful for Paul's warm relationship with Bumby. Soon after the wedding, they moved to a suburb of Chicago, where they lived during World War II, and she continued to receive royalties from The Sun Also Rises. When a film was made of The Sun Also Rises in 1957, Hemingway's royalties went to her.
A Moveable Feast
Hemingway's memoir A Moveable Feast captures the years Hadley and Hemingway lived in Paris during the early to mid-1920s. The memoir was not published until 1964, three years after Hemingway's death. In the memoir, Hemingway writes about his marriage to Hadley and their life together in Paris in the early to mid-1920s.
Hadley saw Hemingway only once after their divorce—she and Mowrer ran into him while vacationing in Wyoming. When she left her marriage to Hemingway, she left behind the publicity. She died on January 22, 1979 in Lakeland, Florida, at the age of 87.
In 1992, the definitive biography of Hadley Richardson, Hadley by Gioia Diliberto, was published. The book, which is based on extensive research including the author's exclusive access to a series of taped conversations with Richardson, was reissued in 2011 as Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway's First Wife. In 2011, a book titled The Paris Wife: A Novel was published, telling the entire story of Hadley Richardson's relationship with Hemingway in "her voice." Although a work of fiction, its narrative is faithful to the known facts.
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