A couple of weeks ago I was in Key West. And while I was there I, of course, visited the Hemingway House. It wasn’t what I expected at all, and neither was what I learned about Hemingway.
Challenged pre-conceived notions of Hemingway and the Hemingway House
I’m not sure why, but I always envisioned Ernest Hemingway clacking away on his typewriter in a shack somewhere in Kew West, using only his index fingers, all alone. I pictured him as a grumpy, misunderstood recluse in the latter stages of his life. But no. Hemingway often had gatherings at his house in Key West and even named some of the feral cats on the property after some of his more famous guests. Most afternoons he went to hang out with others at the now-famous Sloppy Joe’s, as well… which wasn’t novel information to me.
The house itself is also no shack and is not small, at all. It’s two stories, with a large master bedroom, two bathrooms, and rooms on the main floor for entertaining. In fact, at one point Hemingway had a catwalk on the second floor of the house that bridged the main house to his private writing studio next to the main house. Sure, the house isn’t necessarily a mansion, but it’s much larger and more lively than I had expected it to be.
I also expected Hemingway to be a bit more lackadaisical about his writing routine, as I thought of him as a single bachelor who drank all day in a shack on the beach and wrote in between walks to the local bar, and stumbles home from said bar. And I expected him to despise being popular. But no. He religiously woke up every morning to write for a few hours every day, no matter what. And he was apparently quite gregarious and popular, especially with men who were his friends. Hemingway was quite sought-after while he was alive, almost like a movie star would be nowadays.
What Surprised Me Most About Hemingway and Hemingway House
What I was most surprised to learn: Hemingway was apparently attracted to incredibly smart women. Three of his four wives were ambitious and well-known journalists and international war correspondents.
For some reason, I always assumed Hemingway was a lonely bachelor who strongly disliked women. He was the male author who created the more macho persona for male authors after all, who essentially made writing and reading fiction a bit more masculine for an era. Writers like Jack Kerouac would even go on to embody this persona.
I was also surprised by how diligent Hemingway was when it came to his work. For whatever reason, people often forget how much practice and diligence it takes to be a well-known writer. Especially for writers still living. Hemingway put his writing above everything, including his children and family.
Lastly, I wasn’t expecting to see the large pool on the Hemingway House property. The pool is large and adds to the overall lush and tranquil vibe present on the entire property.
See some of the photos I shared when I was at the Hemingway House on my Facebook page.
Have you ever been to a famous historical site dedicated to a famous author? If so, share your experience with us in the comments at the bottom of the page. Or tag @kecreighton on Facebook to share.
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