ERNEST AND FIFE
It was Fife and Hadley who were friends first and foremost. On first impression, Fife thought Ernest a slob, and she couldn’t believe the squalor the Hemingways lived in. But her feelings warmed considerably as she began to spend more time at the Hemingway apartment in the fall of 1925. Fife helped Ernest with a manuscript, and they stayed up many nights chatting while Hadley nursed her cold in the bedroom next door. That winter, Fife went on a skiing holiday with them to Schruns in 1925.
After this holiday “nothing was ever the same again”, Ernest wrote in A Moveable Feast. “To truly love two women at the same time, truly love them, is the most destructive and terrible thing that can happen to a man… you do things that are impossible and when you are with one you love her and with the other you love her and together you love them both.” That winter, an affair began between Ernest and Fife.
They existed for a long time à trois – Hadley, Ernest and Fife – in the year of 1926. As a three they holidayed in Antibes and Pamplona, where there were always three bathing suits, three breakfast trays, three hands of cards. “We all behaved badly that summer,” reflected Hadley, “like silly children.” The mood, according to Zelda Fitzgerald, was like “a carnival” with a sense of “impending disaster.”
In September, 1926, Hadley issued her husband an ultimatum: Ernest could marry Fife if they agreed to a 100-day exile. Fife agreed and spent the days at her home in Piggot, Arkansas, but eventually Hadley called the exile off. “They were very much in love,” the former Mrs. Hemingway told her biographer years later, explaining why she eventually gave in: “they were hooked on the path of getting themselves together.”
Listen here to Hadley talking about her feelings after the split with Ernest.