Unbelievable Happiness and Final Sorrow

The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Marriage
Ruth A. Hawkins
382 pages, 6 × 9, 49 images, index
June 2012
New in paper, March 2020

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978-1-61075-707-2 (audio)


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In the glittering intellectual world of 1920s Paris expatriates, Pauline Pfeiffer, a writer for Vogue, met Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley in a circle of friends that included Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, and Dorothy Parker.

Pauline forged a strong bond with Hemingway, and in 1927, shortly after his divorce from Hadley, she became his second wife. Pauline also became her husband’s devoted editor, and her wealthy family provided moral and financial support, even converting a barn at the family home in Piggott, Arkansas into a dedicated writing studio, where much of his 1929 novel A Farewell to Arms was written. The thirteen years the two were married were some of Hemingway’s most productive.

The marriage eventually ended in the way it began: with an affair. Hemingway left Pauline for Martha Gellhorn, the third of his four wives, in 1940. Unbelievable Happiness and Final Sorrow is the story of the Hemingway-Pfeiffer marriage, a narrative of Pauline Pfeiffer’s fascinating life and her influence on one of America’s most enigmatic literary icons.

Ruth A. Hawkins has been an administrator at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro for more than thirty years and established its Arkansas Heritage Sites program, which includes the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum in Piggott. She has been recognized at the state, regional, and national level for her work in historic preservation and heritage tourism.

“[A] significant contribution to setting the record straight”
Publisher’s Weekly, April 2012

“A major scholarly accomplishment—authoritative, thoroughly researched, pioneering, and ably written…. a must for Hemingway scholars, teachers, and aficionados.”
—Anne Marie Candido in Arkansas Historical Quarterly

“Anyone interested in Hemingway’s life between 1927 and 1940 should consult this book.”
The Hemingway Review, Fall 2012

“Because Pauline was a private person and the only one of Hemingway’s four wives to precede him in death, Ernest’s self-serving account of their relationship and of the Pfeiffer family’s influence on him has unfortunately been the primary source for Hemingway scholars. Hawkins’s book is a welcome corrective.”
—Norman E. Stafford in Arkansas Review, 2012

“No one in America knows more about the Pfeiffer family and the crucial Hemingway-Pfeiffer marriage than Ruth A. Hawkins. The book she offers represents years of close scholarship and is told with respect, literary grace, and blunt honesty. In many ways, this is a revisionist work on the Hemingway myth. I found myself learning something new on almost every page.”
—Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway’s Boat

“A riveting portrait of a marriage, and a fascinating biography of Pauline Pfeiffer, the most intriguing—and most misunderstood—of the Hemingway wives. This compelling story about the Hemingway/Pfeiffer relationship significantly enriches our understanding of this complicated man, and, along the way, introduces us to a new heroine in the Hemingway saga.”
—Mary Dearborn, author of Mailer: A Biography

“Ruth Hawkins has written a marvelous book and a major account of the most productive period of Hemingway’s life. Hawkins weaves Ernest’s marriage to Pauline into an absorbing story that breaks new ground and reveals the importance of Hemingway’s relationship to the entire Pfeiffer family. This book has clearly earned a place on the shelf with the other major Hemingway biographies.”
—Carl Eby, author of Hemingway’s Fetishism

“Hemingway’s other wives spoke, but Pauline didn’t, making her the least understood of the four women. She never stopped loving Ernest, and the reverse is also true. Hawkins’s book, particularly the closing, tells Pauline’s story—and stuns.”
—John Fenstermaker, Hemingway scholar

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