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Dear Papa

The Letters of Patrick and Ernest Hemingway



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About The Book

An intimate and illuminating glimpse at Ernest Hemingway as a father, revealed through a selection of letters he and his son Patrick exchanged over the span of twenty years.

In the public imagination, Ernest Hemingway looms larger than life. But the actual person behind the legend has long remained elusive. Now, his son Patrick shares the letters they exchanged over two decades, offering a glimpse into how one of America’s most iconic writers interacted with his children. These letters reveal a father who wished for his children to share his interests—hunting, fishing, travel—and a son who was receptive to the experiences his father offered.

Edited by and including an introduction by Patrick Hemingway’s nephew Brendan Hemingway and his grandson Stephen Adams, and featuring a prologue and epilogue by Patrick reflecting on his father’s legacy, Dear Papa is a loving and collaborative family project and a nuanced, fascinating portrait of a father and son.


THIS BOOK contains selected conversations, by letter, between a father and son. It is an attempt to answer the question I have been often asked, by friends and strangers alike: “Did I know my father?”

There is a lot of hunting and fishing in these letters, but I think the significance of this correspondence is not the hunting and fishing. It’s the light it casts on our relationship, and how I grew to know my father. I grew to know him as a person, quite different than how he is often portrayed. The man I knew tried very hard to be a good family man. I think our correspondence shows he was intimately connected with his wives and his children all his life.

I would like to call up a letter by my father that he wrote to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925, when Papa had only one family and marriage to play with.

July 1, 1925

Burguete, Navarra

Dear Scott,

We are going in to Pamplona tomorrow. Been trout fishing here. How are you? And how is Zelda?

I am feeling better than I’ve ever felt haven’t drunk any thing but wine since I left Paris. God it has been wonderful country. But you hate country. All right omit description of country. I wonder what your idea of heaven would be. A beautiful vacuum filled with wealthy monogamists, all powerful and members of the best families all drinking themselves to death. And hell would probably be an ugly vacuum full of poor polygamists unable to obtain booze or with chronic stomach disorders that they called secret sorrows.

To me a heaven would be a big bull ring with me holding two barrera seats and a trout stream outside that no one else was allowed to fish in and two lovely houses in the town; one where I would have my wife and children and be monogamous and love them truly and well and the other where I would have my nine beautiful mistresses on 9 different floors and one house would be fitted up with special copies of the Dial printed on soft tissue and kept in the toilets on every floor and in the other house we would use the American Mercury and the New Republic. Then there would be a fine church like in Pamplona where I could go and be confessed on the way from one house to the other and I would get on my horse and ride out with my son to my bull ranch named Hacienda Hadley and toss coins to all my illegitimate children that lined the road. I would write out at the Hacienda and send my son in to lock the chastity belts onto my mistresses because someone had just galloped up with the news that a notorious monogamist named Fitzgerald had been seen riding toward the town at the head of a company of strolling drinkers.

Well anyway we’re going into town tomorrow early in the morning. Write me at the

Hotel Quintana



Or don’t you like to write letters. I do because it’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something.

So long and love to Zelda from us both.



This letter demonstrates Ernest’s complex personality and his ability to create art with his writing. As my maturity developed, I too could use my letters to create something similar to his and in certain fields, such as poetry and hunting, I could openly compete. This letter to Fitzgerald was written three years before I was born and John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway was Papa’s only son and child. My appearance on the scene, the son of Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway, altered the complexity of the family Papa had to deal with. This complexity also affected the development of the letters between Papa and me. In the first place, there was the matter of the Catholic Church. Papa had entered into a relationship with the Catholic Church during the war that was fought in Italy, a strongly Catholic country. With his second marriage to Pauline, he would become very much under the influence of her religion, and I would be brought up as a Catholic child. This relationship in turn would be affected by Papa and Pauline’s divorce in order for him to marry Martha Gellhorn. These changes that Papa had to make in the families he felt responsible for, very much underlie the trajectory of our correspondence and the task of getting to know my father.

Patrick Hemingway

About The Authors

Earl Theisen, 1953

Ernest Hemingway did more to change the style of English prose than any other writer of his time. Publication of The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms immediately established Hemingway as one of the greatest literary lights of the twentieth century. His classic novel The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. His life and accomplishments are explored in-depth in the PBS documentary film from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, Hemingway. Known for his larger-than-life personality and his passions for bullfighting, fishing, and big-game hunting, he died in Ketchum, Idaho on July 2, 1961. 

Patrick Hemingway is the middle child of Ernest’s three sons. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1928, he grew up in Key West, Florida. He graduated from Harvard University and pursued a career as a professional hunter in Tanzania, Africa, and later became an instructor at The College of African Wildlife Management Mweka. There he served as a Forest Officer Wildlife seconded from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO). He retired to Bozeman, Montana, where he lives with his wife and family. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (June 14, 2022)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982196868

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Raves and Reviews

"A son’s loving memorial to his famous father. . . . Edited by Patrick’s nephew Brendan Hemingway and grandson Adams, the letters reveal shared enthusiasms for fishing, hunting, African terrain, and rigorous adventure. . . . [Dear Papa is] an intimate glimpse into Hemingway family dynamics." —Kirkus Reviews

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