Donald St. John, Marjorie Bump Main Correspondence, 1965-1974
Using These Materials
- Donald St. John, Marjorie Bump Main Correspondence is open for research.
- St. John, Donald, 1906-1994.
- The collection, which is on DEPOSIT, consists mostly of 208 letters between Marjorie Bump Main and Donald St. John, 1987-1964, initially focused on her memories of and relationship with Ernest Hemingway.
- 1 cubic foot (in 2 boxes, 1 legal-size folder)
- Collection processed and finding aid created by Marian Matyn
- Scope and Content:
The correspondence, 1965-1974, is organized in alphabetical and chronological order. First is Don’s correspondence with Marjorie Bump Main, 1966-1974, consisting of 208 mostly letter-size letters and a questionnaire. A few letters from Georgianna Main Dickinson to Don are mixed into the November-December 1974 correspondence. One folder includes legal-size letters, April-November 1967. Also included is one folder of correspondence from John J. McCune to his friends Don and Ruth St. John, September-October 1965 and January 1974. A folder with a two photographs of Marjorie and one of a man, probably her husband, Sid Main, unidentified and undated,  copies of 1920s-1930s photographs, completes the collection.
COPYRIGHT NOTE: All physical and intellectual property rights (copyright) remain with the Michigan Hemingway Society as of the deposit agreement of Oct. 10, 2016.
The initial focus of the correspondence between Don and Marjorie, was Ernest Hemingway and his relationship with Marjorie, and what she remembered about him, his family, and related events. These letters and a questionnaire span November 1966- January 1967. As Don’s and Marjorie’s friendship developed by February 1967, their correspondence quickly became an exchange between friends, more personal, and less about the Hemingway family.
Hemingway scholars have found discrepancies between information in Georgianna’s book and Marjorie’s letters to Don St. John. Without the correspondence between Marjorie and Ernest it is impossible to verify what their real relationship was and if the discrepancies are intentional or accidental due to failing memory. Marjorie acknowledged in multiple letters that some of her memories were not as clear as they might have been in the past, that she had pushed them to the back of her mind, and that writing to Don gave her some clarity while remembering old memories. In several of her letters Marjorie wrote that she was “trying hard to remember the truth about things” that had happened so long ago (Marjorie letter of January 13, 1967).
Marjorie always signed her letters M. Her letters are either handwritten or typed, and her handwriting deteriorated as she aged.
Don’s correspondence to Marjorie is the typed carbons of the letters he sent to her. On January 27, 1967 he sent her a 10 p. questionnaire. Unfortunately, Marjorie answered the questions in blue ink which is seriously faded, rendering it mostly illegible (her response with the questionnaire is undated, probably January 28, 1967). She also added some typed supplementary commentary to her answers which is legible and cited above.
Processing Note: A number of the letters are acidic. Acid-free paper has been placed in between each of the pages of the letters to help absorb acid and slow deterioration.
Descriptions in Marjorie’s correspondence:
Marjorie described herself in 1919 as:
an immature, sheltered girl of thirteen (Marjorie letter of December 1, 1966), having “extreme youthful naivety combined with hero worship and adoration.” (Marjorie letter of January 16, 1967)
Ernest and Marjorie’s relationship with him:
Marjorie felt Ernest was associated with the arts and emotion and therefore “was way over my head.” She wrote to Ernest during the war and sent him a sweater, as each girl in school wrote to a soldier, and that he wrote to her occasionally during the war (Marjorie letter of January 13, 1967).
“Ernest … was the first boy to take [her] to parties, dances, ball games, etc…it was like having a brother … He started her first real interest in reading…read his own first stories aloud.” She remembered their relationship as a “very good brother-sister relationship.” (Marjorie letter January 26, 1967)
Ernest kissed her gently a few days before he left for Toronto in 1920 (she does not give a specific day when this happened (Marjorie supplemental response to Don St. John’s questionnaire, undated, probably January 28, 1967).
As example of his brotherly concern for her, Marjorie recalled how Ernest drove Marjorie and Helen from Marjorie’s home to Charlevoix to get ice cream one night because he thought they needed protection and should not go there alone at night. Ernest told her he wished he could sit with her every Christmas in 1919; he told her to forgive friends; to not be humble with men; that he only enjoyed church if he went with someone he cared about; and that he did not want anyone to agree with him about his negative family relationships. She felt he was a positive influence on her life and education and that he always behaved respectfully with her (Marjorie letter of January 15, 1967).
Marjorie remembered Ernest was the brother she never had, and that they loved each other “as a person with an understanding spirit” only. She also noted that Ernest wanted his women to drink a lot and one drink for her was enough. Her mother treated Ernest well and he liked her in 1919 (Marjorie letter of December 1, 1966).
She believed that Ernest invented an image of himself that was very different from the young man she knew in Petoskey. She wrote that Ernest was like a big brother, even when he took Marjorie to a few high school dances and parties, and that he read his stories to her and they were both sad when they were rejected by publishers (Marjorie letter of December 3, 1966).
Ernest, Marjorie wrote, contributed to “her character development. He hated anything of show or pretense.” (Marjorie Letter of December 4, 1966). Ernest “taught me to look at faces and not clothes or position in society.” (Marjorie letter of January 16, 1967)
Their possible engagement:
Marjorie denied that they were ever engaged, that the thought of their engagement was only “gossip of a small town,” and that her mother would never have started such a rumor (Marjorie letter of December 4, 1966).
Any thought that Ernest wanted to marry her she thought was “a passing thought” that she believed first arose in his minds when he saw her in Florida (Marjorie letter of December 1, 1966).
Ernest kissed her gently a few days before he left for Toronto at an unspecified date (Marjorie supplemental commentary to questionnaire, undated, probably January 28, 1967)
Ernest and his “spiteful” stories about her and her mother:
Marjorie felt Don read too much into the fictional relationship in “The End of Something,” that all she and Ernest ever were was friends, they parted as friends, and she did not know why he wrote what he wrote in the story. She noted there was never any possibility their friendship would develop beyond friendship as she was not into emotional relationships in 1919 and planned on attending college (Marjorie letter of January 6, 1967).
She remembered that Ernest became mad when her mother was against their friendship (no specific date is give) so he wrote “In Our Time” out of spite. Afterwards he asked them to forgive it (the story) and they did. (Marjorie letter of December 3, 1966).
Later, Marjorie chose not to attend the wedding Ernest and Hadley’s wedding in the summer of 1921 because Ernest did not invite Marjorie’s mother (Marjorie letter of January 28, 1967).
Referring to the Hemingway stories with a female named Marjorie in them, she recalled ‘The stories Ernest wrote were a blow, but not a deep one.” (Marjorie letter January 26, 1967)
Ernest’s relationship with his parents:
Marjorie believed Ernest chose to hate his mother, Mrs. Hemingway, because of her lack of interest in him, and that he later transferred this rejection to Marjorie’s mother. She felt that he enjoyed the fact that his stories and divorce shocked his parents. They considered divorce a “disgrace.” Marjorie believed that Ernest changed after he married, that drinking alcohol made him [in his opinion] a better writer and made him tough and strong, like he wanted to be. Marjorie believed Ernest killed himself because he could not endure the memories of the persona he had created when he was told to stop drinking (Marjorie Letter of December 4, 1966).
Last visit/ Marjorie’s destruction of Ernest’s letters:
In 1939 Ernest visited Marjorie and her husband, Sid, at their home in their then Ormand Beach, Florida. (There is no reference to any contact or communication between them since their last phone call prior to December 1922.) Ernest liked her husband and children and wrote her twice after their visit. Marjorie recalled that during the visit Sid had to buy more alcohol for Ernest and that Ernest’s driver helped her cook some liver. She recalled it was all the food they had in the house for Ernest to eat during the visit, which makes it sound like a surprise visit (Marjorie letters of December 3 and 4, 1966). Don did some research and found the driver who recalled that Sid bought both alcohol and the liver after Ernest arrived (Don letter of Dec. 6, 1966). From the driver’s recollection it sounds like the visit may have been planned but Ernest preferred liver which she did not have in the house. Marjorie also recalled that Sid liked Hemingway’s stories more than she did (Marjorie letter of December 1, 1966).
Marjorie received a last letter from Ernest after the 1939 visit, which “cleared the air between us” and after that she burned any of his letters (Marjorie supplemental commentary, undated, probably January 28, 1967). She noted that she destroyed his letters to prevent them becoming public property (Marjorie letters of December 3, 1966).
Marjorie remembered Dr. Hemingway fondly and had a good relationship with all the Hemingway girls, especially Ursula. The two of them exchanged letters until Ursula’s death. (Marjorie letter of December 3, 1966).
The Dilworths and Smiths of Horton Bay are briefly named (Marjorie Letter of December 4, 1966). When Don asked about a falling out between Ernest and Jim Dilworth, Marjorie remembered that “Dilworths agreed with [Ernest’s] parents against him [his shocking stories]. He was fond of them and could hurt everyone through them.” (Marjorie letter of December 4, 1966)
- Biographical / Historical:
Donald St. John:
Donald St. John was born in Ohio on August 22, 1906 the son of Mary A. Brant and Frederick J. St. John. Donald married Ruth E. Allan on June 27, 1936 in Detroit, Michigan. He was a writer, journalist and collector.
Following Ernest Hemingway’s death in 1961, Donald began a project to interview people who had personally known Hemingway. His friend, John J. McCune, in his September-October 1965 recalled in his letters to Donald and his wife, Ruth, that McCune’s grandfather Jennings, who had a farm near the Hemingway cottage, had told John that Ernest Hemingway had spent a summer with the Bump family. McCune was distantly related to the Bumps because the Jennings’s son married Marjorie’s father’s cousin. (Marjorie Letter of December 4, 1966). This led to Donald St. John contacting Marjorie, who until then was an unknown Hemingway source.
The correspondence and relationship between Don and Marjorie began on a formal basis. Don typed his letters and kept carbon copies of them as well as Marjorie’s and her daughter, Georgianna’s, original letters and envelopes. After corresponding in November-December 1966, Don visited Marjorie either at the end of December 1966 or during New Year’s 1967. At the time Don lived in Franconia, New Hampshire and Marjorie in Daytona Beach, Florida. They talked for eight hours, and afterwards he requested a photograph of her grandmother (Don St. John letter of January 3, 1967, note: there is no such photograph in the collection). By February 1967 their correspondence became more personal, focused on their interests, lives, and friendship. Donald signed his letters as Don and referred to her as Marge, and she signed her as M. Towards the end of their correspondence, in April 1974, Don admitted he loved Marjorie as a dear friend. He wrote and called Marjorie when she was hospitalized in 1974 and was considered by both Marjorie and her daughter as a good friend to Marjorie.
Don died on February 25, 1994 in Birmingham, Michigan. (This information is from the collection and ancestrylibrary.com, accessed July 26, 2017.)
Marjorie Bump Main:
Lucy Marjorie Bump was born on August 24, 1901, the daughter of Mattie Cecelia Ohle and Sidney S. Bump of Petoskey, Michigan. Marjorie, as she was known, met Ernest Hemingway when she was thirteen-years-old at the Hemingway family cottage in 1914. During World War I school girls selected a ‘Soldier Boy” as a pen pal and knitted them a sweater. Marjorie wrote to Ernest during the war and recalled that she sent him a badly knitted sweater. He wrote a few letters to her during the war (Marjorie letter of January 13, 1967).
Marjorie and Ernest became good friends during September-December 1919 when he stayed with her and her grandmother at her grandmother’s home in Petoskey. During this time Ernest was recovering from his World War I wounds and was trying to write. Marjorie noted that Ernest stayed there because he needed a place to get meals and that he and her grandmother got along fine (Marjorie letters December 1 and 4, 1966). Marjorie also noted he was “often at her home” (Marjorie letter December 3, 1966). At that time he was twenty- and she was seventeen-years-old. [For detailed information about Ernest Hemingway, and the Hemingway-related collections in the Clarke History Library, please refer to those finding aids.]
Hemingway historians have wondered about the relationship between Ernest and Marjorie. Ernest named the female protagonist Marjorie in both of his Nick Adams short stories “The End of Something” and “The Three-Day Blow.” (For further information see Baker, Allie, The Hemingway Project: Collecting Stores About the Enduring Influence of Ernest Hemingway, Hemingway Project Interviews. “Nick Adam and Co Rare Books- An Interview with David Meeker,” February 21, 2012 http://www.thehemingwayproject.com/nick-adams-co-rare-books-an-interview-with-david-meeker/. Accessed July 26, 2017.) Marjorie wrote Don that theirs was an older brother/ younger sister friendship, and that at the time that was all she wanted or expected it to ever be. She thought these stories were among Hemingway’s periodic bitter “spite” stories and that he named her in it because he had once been upset with her mother. She did not take the stories seriously and felt they were just fiction. “The stories Ernest wrote were a blow, but not a deep one.” (Marjorie letter January 26, 1967)
After Ernest left to work in Toronto in 1920, Marjorie completed her senior year in high school. Ernest returned to Michigan in June 1920 and attended Marjorie’s graduation, gave money to her mother to buy Marjorie flowers, and danced with her at a “little dance” afterwards. During that summer Marjorie studied music at Bay View and enjoyed summer activities. In September 1920 she began studies at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and lived with relatives there. In summer 1921 Marjorie attended a summer camp and took additional music lessons at Bay View. Because her mother was not invited to Ernest and Hadley’s wedding in the summer of 1921 Marjorie chose not to attend the wedding. She attended college during the 1921-1922 academic year. At some unspecified point, while in college, Marjorie briefly saw Dr. and Mrs. Hemingway in Chicago, and she talked to Ernest once on the phone. Marjorie recalled that she and Ernest had written to each other recently and both remarked that they did not like the other’s letter (Marjorie letter of January 28, 1967).
In December 1922 Marjorie moved to Florida with the plan of becoming a teacher. There she met Sidney Gould Main, who was twenty years her senior. They married on April 24, 1923 in Volusia, Florida. It does not appear from her letters, but is unclear, that she actually earned a degree. Together, she and Sid had a happy marriage and three children: Barbara, Georgianna, and Sidney. They visited Michigan periodically in the summer. She correspondence with Ursula Hemingway all her life and they visited in 1923 (Marjorie letter of January 28, 1967).
In 1939 Ernest Hemingway suddenly visited Marjorie and her family at their home in Ormand Beach, Florida (Marjorie letter of December 15, 1967). They had a good visit. He sent her a few letters afterwards. After the visit, Marjorie destroyed his letters to prevent them from ever becoming public property (Marjorie letters of December 3 and 4, 1966).
While corresponding with Don, Marjorie lived in Daytona Beach, Florida. In June 1974, believing her mind “wasn’t working right,” Marjorie tried twice unsuccessfully to kill herself. Her daughter, Georgianna, hospitalized her and notified Don (Georgianna letter to Don of April 20, 1974, Marjorie letter to Don of June 17, 1974) By June 17, Marjorie had moved into a retirement home in Winter Park, Florida. Their last letters in the collection to each other are Marjorie’s (late November 1974) and Don’s. (December 5, 1974).
Marjorie died in March 1987 in Jacksonville, Florida (This information is from ancestrylibrary.com, accessed July 26, 2017, and the collection.)
Georgianna Main Dickinson:
Georgianna Main, one of Marjorie’s daughters, is mentioned in her mother’s correspondence. She married Mr. Dickinson and lived in Monterey, California. She wrote to Don after Marge was hospitalized, and asked Don to call Marge, which he did (Georgianna letter of April 20, 1974). Georgianna wrote Don again on August 11, 1974 about her mother’s depression, care and concerns for her.
Later, Georgianna wrote a book about Marjorie’s recollections of Hemingway, “Pip-Pip For Hemingway” (2010). Hemingway scholars have found discrepancies between information in this book and Marjorie’s letters to Don St. John. According to Marjorie, Georgianna convince Marjorie to respond to Don after he initially contacted her (This information is from the Clarke Historical Library Board packet, November 2016.)
John J. McCune (1919-2001), a lawyer in Reno, Nevada, was a friend of Don and Ruth St. John. John wrote to Ruth in September and October 1965. In his letters, John recalled that his grandfather Jennings, who had a farm near the Hemingway cottage, had told John that Ernest Hemingway had spent a summer with the Bump family to whom McCune was related, the Jennings’s son having married Marjorie’s father’s cousin. (Marjorie Letter of December 4, 1966). This led to Don. St. John being the first person to contact Marjorie, who until then was an unknown Hemingway source.
- Acquisition Information:
- Acc# 75774
Arrangement is alphabetical and chronological.
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
St. John, Donald, 1906-1994
Main, Marjorie Bump, 1901-1987.
Dickinson, Georgianna Main, 1926-
McCune, John, 1919-2001.
Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961.
Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961--Relations with women.
Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961-Homes and haunts.
Hemingway, Grace Hall.
Walloon Lake (Mich.)--History.
Walloon Lake (Mich.)--Genealogy.
Using These Materials
Donald St. John, Marjorie Bump Main Correspondence is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
COPYRIGHT NOTE: All physical and intellectual property rights (copyright) remain with the Michigan Hemingway Society as of the deposit agreement of Oct. 10, 2016.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
Donald St. John, Marjorie Bump Main Correspondence, Folder # , Box #, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University