As he rode the train from New York back to Toronto, Hemingway didn’t know what was happening with his pregnant wife. He had been sent out of the city by his bullying boss at the Toronto Star newspaper, Harry Hindmarsh, just when Hadley was expected to go into labor. As the son of an obstetrician, he knew how much could go wrong during the birthing process and was understandably apprehensive.
Meanwhile, in Toronto—where Ernest and Hadley had moved in the fall of 1923 for him to take up a position as a staff journalist for the Star, and for Hadley to have the baby in a city with an excellent reputation for medical care—things were unfolding just as Hemingway had feared. On the evening of October 9th, while he was still miles away stuck in a press car, Hadley went into labor.
Not feeling quite herself, and not wanting to be alone, that night Hadley had called the Connable family and asked to join them for dinner. The Connables lived at 153 Lyndhurst Avenue; the original stately manor, now split off into separate townhouses, is still a landmark in Toronto today. The family's home was a short trip away from the Hemingways’ apartment building on 1599 Bathurst Street—the original building of which has also survived.
The Connables—Ralph Sr., Harriet, and their children, Ralph Jr. and Dorothy—had embraced Hadley as an informal member of the clan, and she often went there to escape loneliness during Ernest's various assignments. Hadley arranged to go for dinner at the Connables since she was already feeling too ill to be on her own. After dinner, while listening to Harriet play the piano, Hadley realized something was not right. She was in pain.1 Recognizing that Hadley had likely gone into labor, Harriet drove Hadley to Wellesley Hospital. After three hours’ labor, and being given gas for the pain, on October 10th at 2 a.m. Hadley gave birth to a baby boy.
Hemingway found out about the birth while he was still on the train heading home. “Heard about it ten miles out of Toronto,” he later explained to his friend the poet Ezra Pound.2 On his arrival in the city, Hemingway rushed to the hospital to see his wife and new son. He found everyone doing fine. Both parents were thrilled with the new addition. “He’s a corker of a baby boy,” Hadley wrote in a letter to Isabelle Simmons, one of Ernest’s childhood friends.3 Hemingway’s joy can still be felt in the short telegram he sent off the next day to Paris. To his friend Sylvia Beach, the owner of the Shakespeare & Company bookshop that had played such an important role in his literary education, Hemingway wrote, “SEVEN POUND BOY THREE HOURS ALL JAKE.”4
Hindmarsh, though, was not pleased that Hemingway had gone to the hospital first when he reached Toronto instead of going to the Star offices to file his story and chastised the new father instead of celebrating.5 In his reaction to this dressing down, Hemingway didn’t disguise his feelings. He wrote to Pound that he felt angry enough to kill Hindmarsh, but “compromised” by saying he would never forgive him, would do all future work in a manner showing contempt for him and his associates, and if Hindmarsh dared say anything about his threats and insults, he offered to knock him down. “Consequently,” Hemingway added, “position at office highly insecure.”6 It would not be long before Ernest and Hadley would leave Canada, and Hemingway’s hated employment under Hindmarsh, for good.
Ernest and Hadley named their child John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway, with ‘Nicanor’ a nod to matador Nicanor Villalta and happy memories of Spain. Most often, though, they called this Canadian-born boy with the long name simply “Bumby.” It was a nickname that arose, as Hadley later explained, “because of the round, solid feel of him” in their arms.7
Boles, Frank. “Ralph Connable.” Clarke Historical Library News and Notes, 18 Oct, 2017, https://www.clarkehistoricallibrary.org/2017/10/ralph-connable.html
Diliberto, Gioia. Paris Without End. Harper Perennial, 2011. Ebook.
Hamilton, Sharon. “Hemingway in Toronto,” Presentation to the international Hemingway Society, 10 Oct. 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUpkCmkChq4
Hemingway, Ernest. Ernest Hemingway: Letters 1923-25 vol. 2 Edited by Sandra Spanier, Albert J. Defazio III, and Robert Trogdon. Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Kale, Verna. “Happy Birthday, Sylvia Beach!” THR Blog, The Hemingway Foundation and Society, 14 March 2022, https://www.hemingwaysociety.org/happy-birthday-sylvia-beach
1This summary of Hadley’s perceptions was drawn from Gioia Diliberto’s biography of Hadley, Paris Without End, in which Diliberto writes: “On the evening of October 9, Hadley felt too ill to be alone and called the Connables, the family Ernest had lived with during the winter of 1919.” This biography also says: “‘After dinner, I felt a great sadness,’ Hadley told Alice Sokoloff. ‘Mrs. Connable said, ‘Well, Hadley, just sit back and relax,’ and she played things like ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ and I was just dripping with tears. She asked if I was feeling any pains, and, of course, I swore I wasn’t. But I was beginning to. Finally, I said, ‘Well, I really think something is happening.’ Harriet Connable drove her to Wellesley Hospital, and, as Hadley recalled, ‘We got there in the nick of time.’” See, Diliberto, Gioia. Paris Without End. Harper Perennial, 2011. Ebook.
2Ernest Hemingway to Ezra Pound [October 13, 1923] Ernest Hemingway, Hemingway: Letters 1923-25 vol. 2 Edited by Sandra Spanier, Albert J. Defazio III, and Robert Trogdon, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013., vol. 2, 58.
3Hadley Richardson to Isabelle Simmons, Letter. October 12, 1923, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Qtd in Gioia Diliberto, Paris Without End. Harper Perennial, 2011. Ebook.
4Ernest Hemingway to Sylvia Beach, [October 11, 1923], Ernest Hemingway, Hemingway: Letters 1923-25 vol. 2 Edited by Sandra Spanier, Albert J. Defazio III, and Robert Trogdon. Cambridge University Press, 2013, vol. 2, 53. (“Jake” was a slang term for fine or excellent.)
5Hadley Richardson to Isabelle Simmons, Letter. October 12, 1923, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Qtd in Gioia Diliberto, Paris Without End. Harper Perennial, 2011. Ebook.
6Ernest Hemingway to Ezra Pound [October 13, 1923] Ernest Hemingway, Hemingway: Letters 1923-25 vol. 2 Edited by Sandra Spanier, Albert J. Defazio III, and Robert Trogdon. Cambridge University Press, 2013., vol. 2, 58.
7Hadley Richardson to Alice Sokoloff, Sokoloff tapes, Qtd in Gioia Diliberto, Paris Without End. Harper Perennial, 2011. Ebook.
Sharon Hamilton is a member of the Hemingway Society Board. She has blogged previously for the Hemingway Society about Hemingway and Hadley’s Chicago Apartment, Hemingway’s New Orleans, and the baseball ticket stub the author took with him to the front in World War I. In October 2023, she presented a webinar on "Hemingway in Toronto" to members of the Hemingway Society.