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Ernest Hemingway Had Swell Handwriting

A photo of an Ernest Hemingway letter, with his neat, curly handwriting in India ink.

News flash: Ernest Hemingway had nice handwriting.

That’s evident in a series of letters just released by the John F. Kennedy Library, which houses the author’s official papers. The letters are from Ernest Hemingway to a pal, Gianfranco Ivancich: 

Gianfranco Ivancich first met Ernest Hemingway in January 1949 at the bar of the Gritti Palace Hotel in Venice, where they bonded over common war experiences (both had been badly wounded in the legs). Despite their age difference of over twenty years, the two struck up an unlikely friendship.

Ivancich also had (surprise) a sister, Adriana, who the library says became Hemingway’s muse:

In many of the letters, Hemingway inquires about Adriana, whose visit to Cuba in 1950 he credited with inspiring the creative period during which he wrote much of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Old Man and the Sea

Snippets of the letters show his strong and yet curly-clean (dare we say feminine?) hand: 

A long page of script with Ernest Hemingway's handwriting in blue ink

It’s terrific.  His “t” is fascinating: always a loop, except at the start of words, and in a two-t word (like “interesting” in the image at the top of this post) he crosses both with one swiped crossbar.

John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

Sometimes he was a little sloppier than others, but his hand was always readable. I really like the style.

The content veers from humdrum (quail-shooting, pheasant-shooting, duck-shooting, etc.) to intimate:

In one letter dated February 22, 1953, Hemingway describes the painful event of having to shoot his cat Willie after the animal was struck by a car. When a group of tourists arrived at his home the same day, he writes, “I still had the rifle and I explained to them they had come at a bad time and to please understand and go away. But the rich Cadillac psycho said, ‘We have come at a most interesting time. Just in time to see the great Hemingway cry because he has to kill a cat.’”

See our biography of Ernest Hemingway »

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