Hemingway and Cole Porter

At the time Hemingway lived in Paris (the early twenties of the last century) a lot of other artists also did. In those days Paris was the center of the artistic world and some of the people that Hemingway shared the city with were Pablo Picasso, Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel, Man Ray, T.S. Eliot and also the musicians Josephine Baker and Cole Porter.

Now Paris is a metropolis that is home to millions of people and even back in the day it was already huge, so the chance of just running into someone would have been small. Fortunately for us, the artists of Paris Jazz Age liked to meet each other, go to the same parties and cafes and sometimes even work together (like Dali and Bunuel). Still, there is no evidence or recorded events that tells us that Hemingway and Cole Porter knew each other or even met.

Cole Porter
Cole Porter


If any music or musical artist represents the Jazz Age and Paris during that time it must be Cole Porter and his music. And there is proof Hemingway was – at least – aware of this, because he quotes from Porters “It is bad for me” in his story “The Snow of Kilimanjaro”

“Would you like some more broth?” the woman asked him now.

“No, thank you very much. It is awfully good.”

“Try just a little.”

“I would like a whiskey-soda.”

“It is not good for you.”

“No. It`s bad for me. Cole Porter wrote the words and the music. The knowledge that you`re going mad for me.”

Porter being – although not openly, he was married to an older woman – gay, might have had something to do with them not meeting. As we know Hemingway tried to maintain an image of tough and silent manliness – much alike many of his fictional characters – and maybe didn’t feel the need to meet. Hemingway`s views on homosexuality and homosexuals were, to say the least, backwards (in any case from a nowadays point of view). Proof of this we can find in his short story “The mother of a queen”.

A Paris walk with Hemingway

A walk Hemingway often made was the one from his home in Rue du Cardinal Lemoine to the boulevards where the cafés are located where he used to do his writing. For this post I would like to take you along on the route from his home to Café de Flore on 172 boulevard Saint Germain.

Knowing Hemingway (as far as that is possible) I would say he would take the blue route (map above), the route that would take him around the Pantheon (1) towards the Odeon (2) and the Jardin de Luxembourg (3). After all, this would bring him to the Boulevard Saint Michel (4) and very close to the Rue de L’Odeon (5) where the bookshop of Sylvia Beach – Shakespeare and Company was located (at number 12). I like to think he would pop in for a moment and say hi.

And I also think he would also prefer to see the Pantheon at every opportunity he would get. The alternative route (the grey one on the map below) would be a bit boring and Hemingway didn’t come to Paris to be bored.

Further on he would walk a little along the gates of the Jardin de Luzembourg before taking a right into Rue de Seine. After walking that long street up to the boulevard Saint Germain he only would have to take a left to see the Café de Flore and go in. Conveniently for him the Deux Magots and Brasserie Lipp were also close by.

Hemingway in Paris – Song of Innocence and Experience

Hemingway’s life in Paris constituted only five years of his existence, between 1921 and 1925, yet it would become for him an indelible landscape, synonymous with happiness but also with destruction and disillusionment. He arrived in Paris with his wife Hadley on December 20, 1921. A year earlier he had been dragging his boredom and malaise between Oak Park, Chicago and Canada, where he had begun to write for the Toronto Star. Several short stories also date from this time: “The Mercenaries” set in Sicily, which he visited during the war (WW 1), “The Current” and also “Crossroads: An Anthology.” The magazines to which he sent the pieces all rejected them. Hemingway began to doubt himself and started thinking about traveling to Europe.

Hemingway - 1920's
Hemingway – 1920’s

The American writer Sherwood Anderson explained to the aspiring young writer that the best way to learn the craft of writing was to go to Paris. In addition, he pointed out that because of the favorable exchange rate, an American could live better in Paris than at home. Anderson also introduced Hemingway to people like Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and Ezra Pound. Getting to know them and embracing the Parisian elite of the arts and their fascination with modernism, would greatly widen his views.
By the end of November 1921 everything was prepared: Hemingway would be the Paris correspondent of the Toronto Star, and at the same time learn the craft while learning from some of the already more established writers and artists.

The Dome cafe - Paris 1920's
The Dome cafe – Paris 1920’s

“Maybe away from Paris I could write about Paris as in Paris I could write about Michigan,” wrote Hemingway in A moveable Feast. And indeed, it was only in Cuba that he would write about the French capital, but it was in Paris that an essential phase in his writing career occurred.

The above text is for a great part from “Hemingway – A life in picture”, B. Vejdovsky with M. Hemingway