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Hadley Talks about the Lost Manuscripts

Hadley Talks about the Lost Manuscripts

The autumn of 1922 was difficult for Hadley and Ernest, who had been married just over a year and were living in Paris.  Ernest was a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, writing about everything from trout fishing and meeting Mussolini to inflation and the German currency.  In September, Ernest was directed to go to Constantinople to write about the war raging between Greece and Turkey.  It was a difficult assignment, made more challenging because Hadley did not want him to go.  It was the first serious rift in their marriage, and Hadley was so adamant about his not going that they were not speaking to each other when he left.  On that trip, Ernest was gone for a month and Hadley stayed in Paris. When Ernest returned, he was miserably sick with malaria and covered in bug bites.

On November 22, less than a month later, Ernest was sent to Lausanne Switzerland to write about the Peace conference in Geneva. Hadley stayed behind to nurse her cold, but Ernest wrote several letters, urging her to join him as soon as she was well.  Finally, in the first week of December, she made plans to go to Switzerland.  After the conference, they planned to go on to Chamby.  As Hadley packed for the trip, she thought to bring Ernest’s works in progress so that he could share them with Lincoln Steffens, whom he had just met. She packed Ernest’s manuscripts, including the carbon copies, in a small overnight valise.  These were early Nick Adams stories about Michigan, the short stories Ernest had been working on for months. As she boarded the train, she must have looked forward to seeing Ernest and their winter holiday in the mountains.

Gare de Lyon, the train station in Paris

What happened next is of course, legend.  Hadley found her place on the train, stowed her bags, and went to buy water before the train left the station.  When she returned, the small overnight bag was gone. Hadley sought help from the conductor and although they searched the train, the manuscripts could not be found. It was a long train ride for Hadley, who had to tell Ernest “such a thing”, when she reached her destination.

Ernest wrote in A Moveable Feast:

“I had never seen anyone hurt by a thing other than death or unbearable suffering except Hadley when she told me about the things being gone. She had cried and cried and could not tell me. I told her that no matter what the dreadful thing was that had happened nothing could be that bad, and whatever it was, it was all right and not to worry.  We could work it out. Then, finally, she told me. I was sure she could not have brought the carbons too and I hired someone to cover for me on my newspaper job. I was making good money then at journalism, and took the train for Paris. It was true alright and I remember what I did in the night after I let myself into the flat and found it was true.”

In the audio clip below, Hadley answers Alice’s question about this event. If you have listened to the other clips, you will notice how difficult it is for Hadley to tell this story.  Her usual effervescence is gone, she  talks slowly and without her natural wit and playful way with words. As soon as the subject changes (at the end of the clip), Hadley is able to shake it off and is quickly back to her charming self again.

Any thoughts on what Ernest did that night in the flat?  I’d love to hear your opinion –

Click here to listen to Hadley:

Hadley lost manuscripts