Academic journal article The Hemingway Review

Maxwell Perkins's Plan for the First 48

Academic journal article The Hemingway Review

Maxwell Perkins's Plan for the First 48

Article excerpt

Hemingway countered Perkins's proposal to arrange Hemingway's collected stories chronologically by date of composition with, first, a proposal to retain the story order of In Our Time, Men Without Women, and Winner Take Nothing (an idea Hemingway rejects immediately), and, second, to print the stories and volumes in their original order. Perkins's "chronological" ordering and his proposal to reprint the 1924 in our time as a unit are rejected because Perkins's proposed "order" is inaccurate. Hemingway himself does not choose to remember compositional dates, and reprinting in our time would duplicate stories.

IN HIS ACCOUNT of the chronology of stories in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-nine Stories, Paul Smith refers to "a dummy volume Scribner's had made up and advertised in early June as The First 48 collected stories" (3). Working largely from Hemingway's letters to his Scribner's editor, Maxwell Perkins, as presented in Carlos Baker's Selected Letters, Smith does a good job of laying out Hemingway's objections to the chronological scheme suggested by Perkins and illustrated in the dummy, even though Smith apparently had not seen either the dummy or Perkins' letter accompanying it. Smith's account is supported by the Perkins--Hemingway letters collected by Matthew J. Bruccoli and published in The Only Thing That Counts in 1996. But an important piece of the story is missing both in Smith's article and Bruccoli's book: Perkins's letter to Hemingway of 2 June 1938, accompanying Scribner's dummy for The First Forty-Eight, Hemingway's collected stories.

That letter, along with Hemingway's copy of the dummy, are in the Lee Samuels Collection of Hemingway materials at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin. Hemingway inscribed the dummy to Samuels with the additional information that he thought (but might be wrong) that his copy of the dummy was the only one in existence.

Given the final selection and ordering of stories in the volume published as The Fifth Column and the First Forty-nine Stories, it may be useful to reproduce both the pertinent contents of Perkins's letter, and the table of contents as they appear on pages v-vii of the dummy. Perkins writes:

   I am sending herewith a dummy of "The First Forty-Eight", in a temporary
   jacket. I want you to see the type page and also to look carefully at the
   pages of contents so that you can consider the really very impressive
   qualities of this book in connection with your idea of putting the play and
   the new stories together in one volume.

      As to that, I think the play ought to stand alone, and can, and that it
   will do well alone even if it is published and not produced for it should
   be, and should make a great deal of money.--Even if it should not be
   successful for some reason on the stage, it would sell much better to the
   movies for having been there--and also it would do good to the Loyalists'
   cause. "The Fifth Column" published by itself would make a much stronger
   impression than if it were in any collection.

      As to the stories.--I think now is the time to show what has been done
   and is being done by putting the new and the old stories together. I think
   I have them in absolutely right chronological order--though I cannot feel
   sure that we ought not to put the hitherto unpublished ones first. Captain
   Cohn furnished me with "Up in Michigan" and also with the chronology of
   all. I put the original "in our time" as one unit.--I always hoped to see
   it published in that way because it seemed to me that it was a unit in its
   nature, and that something was lost when its chapters were scattered
   through a volume, and so separated. And I think that the fact of chronology
   in this volume is one of very considerable interest. Of course we can
   easily do any rearranging that seems desirable after the text is all in
   proof. … 
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