My father once told me not to read biographies of people I admire (advice I take from my father, whereas Hemingway should not have followed his). So this might be a disturbing article for those who revere Ernest Hemingway. However, it does fall into the category of whether we should separate the art from the artist. I believe we should.
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Hemingway travelling with US soldiers, in his capacity as war correspondent, on their way to Normandy for the D-Day landings in 1943
Being Ernest: John Walsh unravels the mystery behind Hemingway's suicide
America's most celebrated writer, Ernest Hemingway, ended his life 50 years ago – in a manner his biographers have struggled to explain.
By John Walsh
Fifty years ago, in the early hours of Sunday 2 July, 1961, Ernest Hemingway, America's most celebrated writer and a titan of 20th-century letters, awoke in his house in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, rose from his bed, taking care not to wake his wife Mary, unlocked the door of the storage room where he kept his firearms, and selected a double-barrelled shotgun with which he liked to shoot pigeons. He took it to the front of the house and, in the foyer, put the twin barrels against his forehead, reached down, pushed his thumb against the trigger and blew his brains out.
His death was timed at 7am. Witnesses who saw the body remarked that he had chosen from his wardrobe a favourite dressing gown that he called his "emperor's robe". They might have been reminded of the words of Shakespeare's Cleopatra, just before she applied the asp to her flesh: "Give me my robe. Put on my crown; I have immortal longings in me". His widow Mary told the media that it was an unfortunate accident, that Ernest had been cleaning one of his guns when it accidentally went off. The story was splashed on the front page of all American newspapers.
It took Mary Welsh Hemingway several months to admit that her husband's death was suicide; and it's taken nearly 50 years to piece together the reasons why this giant personality, this rumbustious man of action, this bullfighter, deep-sea fisherman, great white hunter, war hero, gunslinger and four-times-married, all-round tough guy, whom every red-blooded American male hero-worshipped, should do himself in. How could he? Why would he? Successive biographers – AE Hochtner, Carlos Baker, KS Lynn, AJ Monnier, Anthony Burgess – have chewed over the available facts, his restless travelling, his many amours, the peaks and troughs of his writing career. But eventually it took a psychiatrist from Houston, Texas, to hold up all the evidence to the light and announce his disturbing conclusions.