Daniel Streeter, Charles P. Curtis, and Stewart White in Green Hills of Africa

By Madison, Robert Durwood; Fletcher, Zachary | The Hemingway Review, Fall 2018 | Go to article overview

Daniel Streeter, Charles P. Curtis, and Stewart White in Green Hills of Africa


Madison, Robert Durwood, Fletcher, Zachary, The Hemingway Review


ABSTRACT

Although Ernest Hemingway is not usually considered a source-bound writer, in Green Hills of Africa Hemingway employed by name three safari writers both within his discussion of literary art and as sources for the African experience overall: Daniel W. Streeter, Charles P. Curtis, Jr., and Stewart Edward White. Amateur adventurer Streeter's facetious (and often offensive) tone in Denatured Africa led Hemingway into similar patterns of treating hunting and race. In four different books but especially in The Rediscovered Country, professional adventure writer White offered Hemingway examples of landscape and hunting experiences that ranged from journalistic to literary. And Hemingway's personal friend Curtis not only underpinned Green Hills through the book he wrote with his brother, Hunting in Africa East and West, but also was an enthusiastic supporter of Hemingway's African adventure both as it unfolded and as it became a book.

**********

There are two set-piece discussions of literature in Green Hills of Africa: one, involving "Hemingway" and "Kandisky," leads up to the most famous sentence in the book: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn" (22). (1) The second, almost entirely ignored by critics, contains a discussion of safari books within the context of how to tell a literary anecdote:

   "It's very hard to get anything true on anything you haven't seen
   yourself because the ones that fail have such a bad press and the
   winners always lie so.... But if I ever write anything about this
   it will just be landscape painting until I know something about it.
   Your first seeing of a country is a very valuable one. Probably
   more valuable to yourself than to anyone else, is the hell of it.
   But you ought to always write it to try to get it stated. No matter
   what you do with it."

   "Most of the damned Safari books are most awful bloody bores."

   "They're terrible."

   "The only one I ever liked was Streeter's. What did he call it?
   Denatured Africa. He made you feel what it was like. That's the
   best."

   "I liked Charlie Curtis's. It was very honest and it made a fine
   picture."

   "That man Streeter was damned funny though. Do you remember when he
   shot the Kongoni?" "It was very funny." (193-94)

   "Only writer I ever met was Stewart Edward White," Pop said. Used
   to admire his writing no end. Damned good, you know. Then I met
   him. Didn't like him.... Too much the old timer about him. Eyes
   used to vast distances and that sort of thing. Killed too many
   bloody lions. No credit to kill so many lions. Gallop 'em, yes.
   Couldn't kill that many. Bloody lions kill you instead. Writes
   damned fine things in The Saturday Evening Post about what's the
   bloke's name, Andy Burnett. Oh, damned fine. Took an awful dislike
   to him, though. See him in Nairobi with his eyes used to vast
   distances. Wore his oldest clothes in town. Hell of a fine shot,
   everybody says." (197)

It would be odd for Pop, a character based on white hunter Philip Percival, to denigrate safari books at large, since his brother Arthur Blayney Percival had written two that show up on the Key West inventory (Reynolds #1649 and #1650). Of course, Pop said "most," not "all," but a better explanation is the author's attempt to distance himself from material he consciously gathered for the writing of Green Hills but did not want to appear dependent upon in an "absolutely true book" ("Foreword").

In Hemingway's Art of Non-Fiction (1990), Ronald Weber notes that "Hemingway may have been modestly influenced by [Daniel Streeter s] book" (75). While Weber places Streeter's influence squarely within the Conradian tradition to "above all, to make you see" (Conrad 220), we would like to illuminate how Streeter may have further influenced Green Hills.

The two Streeter books with which we know Hemingway was familiar are Denatured Africa (1926) and An Arctic Rodeo (1929). …

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