New letters shed light on Hemingway’s unrequited love and early life.
On a recent afternoon in Boston, Betsy Fermano walked through an exhibition titled “Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars” at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. Among the artifacts—vintage photos, paintings, and handwritten stories from Hemingway—she spotted a family name in a manuscript on display: Coates.
Frances Elizabeth Coates was Fermano’s grandmother and Hemingway’s high-school classmate. He used a version of her name—“Liz Coates”—in his sexually charged 1923 story “Up in Michigan,” and her name resurfaces elsewhere in his work.
That’s because Hemingway was infatuated with her. The two briefly dated, though almost no one, until now, knew of their history. For Fermano, sixty-seven, a retired development executive, it wasn’t a surprise: she has ninety-nine-year-old letters from Hemingway that no one outside the family knows about.
“This is a really fascinating find,” says Sandra Spanier, a professor of English at Pennsylvania State University and general editor of the Hemingway Letters Project. “To find early letters like that—that’s extremely rare. It’s a fresh view of him. It would be of great interest to a future biographer.” Read More