Hemingway’s Summer in Quarantine with Wife and Mistress

During the summer of 1924, Ernest Hemingway found himself in quarantine with wife Hadley, son Jack, their nanny, and….Ernest’s mistress. Awkward!

Book Culture Classics Historical Fiction Non-Fiction On Writing
Ernest Hemingway

In late March, a letter allegedly written by F. Scott Fitzgerald made its social media rounds.  The letter, supposedly written in 1920, documents a day in the life of the Fitzgerald family in quarantine during the Spanish Flu.  Highlights include wife Zelda and her “fully stocked” liquor cabinet, and criticism of Ernest Hemingway for being a pandemic “denier.”  Don’t get too excited, the letter was fake, but we thank parody author Nick Farriella for the laughs.

An equally interesting and true Lost Generation story does in fact feature the Farewell to Arms and The Sun also Rises author.  During the summer of 1924, Ernest Hemingway found himself in quarantine with wife Hadley, son Jack, their nanny, and….Ernest’s mistress. Awkward!

Hadley Hemingway


The Hemingways had arrived in Paris a few years before, when Hadley followed her husband who was on the path to becoming a world-famous writer.  In the summer of 1926, Ernest was on the brink of a breakthrough and living the lifestyle of a young writer on the up and up.  One of this lifestyle trappings included Pauline Pfieffer, a fashionable mistress for the new celebrity author.  Poor, church-going Hadley and commanding Vogue editor Pauline could not have been more different.


Pauline Pfieffer

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Hadley found out about the affair, and to her husband’s anger and disbelief she publicized the news.  A furious Ernest blamed Hadley for their domestic strife, and while the two decided to remain married, it was clear that Pauline wasn’t going anywhere. Seems like all that writing about bull fights was starting to get to his head.

That summer, when Ernest went down to Madrid to write about such bulls, Hadley and Jack vacationed in Antibes.  Jack came down with a nasty cold and was soon diagnosed with whooping cough.  They took shelter in a house near the Fitzgerald summer estate on the Riviera.  See, F. Scott does get a valid mention here after all!  Anyway, to a bemused Hadley, who showed up to their door but Pauline herself!  And without Ernest, we might add.


Antibes Riviera

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Turns out, Pauline had been diagnosed with whooping cough as a child and was presently immune.  She had come to help Hadley with Jack.  How nice…? Now that Pauline was there, Ernest soon arrived from Madrid and the rest was history.  With front row seats (albeit socially distanced ones,) the Fitzgeralds watched the domestic difficulties of the peculiar Hemingway arrangement unfold that summer.  We would have liked to get some writing about it!  Dare I say, a letter?



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