Ernest Bull

Ernest Bull

A short story written by Ernest Hemingway in 1924 has surfaced, according to the New York Times, and it is causing a bit of controversy between those who wish to see it published and those who control his estate.

“At present, the opponents of publication – notably the custodians of the Hemingway estate – are winning, according to several people on both sides of the debate,” writes Alan Cowell in the New York Times. “But that has not detracted from the long, twisty tale of the documents themselves: a two-page letter and a five-page slapstick account of a bullfighting incident written in 1924.”

The story is a thinly veiled sketch of a real encounter titled “My Life in the Bull Ring With Donald Ogden Stewart.” It, along with a letter, were given to Donald Ogden Stewart by Hemingway. It was then passed from father to son: Donald Stewart, who currently owns the material. Neither the letter nor story can be published without permission from the Hemingway estate, who to date refuses to give it, according to the Times. However, it does not stipulate that the material can not be sold at auction. It is believed that such a find could fetch $18,000 on the auction block, says the Times.

“The bullfighting episode was apparently inspired by an actual encounter in 1924 between Stewart, a well-known American author at the time, and an angry bull in Pamplona, Spain, where Hemingway had arranged for a group of friends to join him,” writes Cowell. “Stewart was part of a literary set in the 1920’s and 30’s that included F. Scott Fitzgerald and others. He was a close friend of Hemingway during the 1920’s and went on to write the Oscar-winning screenplay of “Philadelphia Story” in 1940. He was blacklisted in the McCarthy era and moved to London in 1950.”

Steward mentions the events, along with the “funny” story written about them, in his own 1975 autobiography, according to the Times. “Stewart, himself a parodist and humorist, was not impressed,” writes Cowell. “When he had sent me a ‘funny’ piece about myself to submit to Vanity Fair, I had decided that written humor was not his dish and had done nothing about it,” Stewart wrote.

Joe Ezard, an arts critic at The Guardian, also weighs in on the new find. In his autobiography, Stewart remembers being tossed around by the bull before he gains courage. Ezard quotes from Stewart’s book, By a Stroke of Luck: “And not only that, I got mad. I charged the bull shouting, ‘Come on you stupid son of a bitch’. The result was the same, unfortunately. But “Ernest clapped me on the back, and I felt as though I had scored a winning touchdown.”

“In Hemingway’s story, which is being sold with a letter, his fellow American is tossed around the ring like a rag doll,” writes Ezard. “Christie’s said: “The piece ends with a battered Stewart croaking out his final wish to Hemingway to tell the world of his exploits.” Hemingway embellished the episode to a journalist friend. The Chicago Tribune ran the story, which by now had a gored Hemingway tussling Ogden Stewart’s bull to the ground.”

Ezard writes, “Hemingway biographer Kennth Lynn said this was important in creating the author’s hyper-macho persona. “The story marked the take-off of the general public’s awareness of Hemingway the man. The mileage he got out of the Pamplona story was quite impressive.””