Hemingway’s study- chaos and creativity

This entire house, and especially the narrative of his life (as related to us by our verbose tour guide) is itself a study of a man whose life and career was largely shaped by mental illness.

a white house with green shutters-Ernest Hemingway's Key West house

Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his popular novels, including To Have and Have Not, in the study of his Key West Florida home.

The house, on the National Register of Historic Places, has been preserved as it was when he and his wife Pauline lived there and is open to visitors, like myself, when I visited there a couple of years ago.

the study of Ernest Hemingway, with a cat sleeping on the floor


This entire house, and especially the narrative of his life (as related to us by our verbose tour guide) is itself a study of a man whose life and career was largely shaped by mental illness.

Ernest Hemingway displayed mood swings and abused drugs and alcohol. Despite numerous psychiatric hospital stays where he was treated with ECT, electroconvulsive therapy, he struggled with chronic depression.

He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head in 1961.



While dealing with mental illness and traumatic brain injuries, he continued to write prolifically and successfully, winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954 for The Old Man and the Sea.

He wrote acclaimed novels, several of which became major movies. His personal life was not so successful; three of his four marriages ended in divorce.

photos of Ernest Hemingway displayed at his Key West home

Ernest Hemingway’s novels and movies 

(an affiliate link, if you use it, at no additional cost, this blog will earn funding.)

The challenge of mental illness

Mental illness often runs in families. Ernest’s father, Dr. Clarence Hemingway, a gynecologist, suffered from manic-depression and died by suicide.  Ernest and his siblings likely inherited it from their father.

2016-06-16 10.05.16

Sadly, it did not end with him. His granddaughter, Margaux Hemingway, a fashion model and actress, dealt with depression, alcoholism, and bulimia.

She died from an apparent intentional drug overdose at age 42.

Her sister Mariel reflected on her family’s troubled history in

Finding My Balance 

“A lonely life”


Ernest Hemingway could not attend the ceremony to receive his Nobel Prize. He wrote a short speech which was read by John C. Cabot, the Ambassador to Sweden. In that speech he wrote, 

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”


Hemingway’s cats

At least 40 to 50 cats live on the grounds of the Hemingway House;  many of them are descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s cats. They live peaceful, serene lives, far different from the people who lived there long ago.

What you should know about suicide from the

 NIH: National Institute of Mental Health

  • Suicide is the tenth most common cause of death in the United States.
  • People may consider suicide when they are hopeless and can’t see any other solution to their problems.
  • Suicide may occur with  serious depression, alcohol or substance abuse, or a major stressful event.
  • People who have the highest risk of suicide are white men.
  • Women  and teens report more suicide attempts.
  • Therapy and medicines can help most people who have suicidal thoughts. Treating mental illnesses and substance abuse can reduce the risk of suicide.
  • If someone talks about suicide, you should take it seriously.
  • Urge them to get help from their doctor or the emergency room, or call the

Crisis Lifeline -call 988


available 24/7

A psychiatrist, Dr. Melissa Welby says this about managing bipolar disorder(a form of chronic depression).

“A key to managing bipolar disorder is to recognize early relapse warning signs. Medication will minimize, but not eliminate, mood swings for many people coping with bipolar disorder. “

On her blog she offers offers these 

Keys to Coping with Bipolar Disorder

Understanding mental illness

I hope you will use the following links to resources to help you, your family, or anyone you know who does or may suffer from mental illness. There is help and most importantly, there is hope.

Warning signs of mental illness

“Major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder rarely appear “out of the blue.” Most often family, friends, teachers or individuals themselves begin to recognize small changes or a feeling that “something is not quite right” about their thinking, feelings or behavior before one of these illnesses appears in its full-blown form.”

Technology and the future of mental health treatment

“Excitement about the huge range of opportunities has led to a burst of app development. There are thousands of mental health apps available in iTunes and Android app stores, and the number is growing every year. However, this new technology frontier includes a lot of uncertainty. There is very little industry regulation and very little information on app effectiveness, which can lead consumers to wonder which apps they should trust.” (affiliate link used)

Suicide prevention

“The most important thing to remember about suicidal thoughts is that they are symptoms of a treatable illness associated with fluctuations in the body’s and brain’s chemistry. They are not character flaws or signs of personal weakness, nor are they conditions that will just go away on their own. “

exploring the HEART of health in travel

Thanks for joining me to tour the unique home of Ernest Hemingway, using photos I took myself.

Please consider helping support this blog by using my affiliates. You’ll find links in the side bars, on the home page, and on the resource page.

Thank you for following  and sharing Watercress Words.

man and woman with Key West visitor sign
My husband and I upon arriving in Key West, Florida the farthest south city in the U.S.A.

Dr Aletha

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

25 thoughts on “Hemingway’s study- chaos and creativity”

  1. i’ve not seen Hemingway’s Florida home, but the minute I saw the photo of it you posted I recognized it as Hemingway’s home. It bears such a striking resemblance to the home he had (lovingly preserved, by the way) in Cuba. In Cuba, you can only peek in through the large windows–but they look just like the Key West windows. And the interiors are similar–book lined retreats and airy rooms. He knew what he liked and what kind of atmosphere enabled him to write. Thanks for sharing so much about his home and his struggles..


    1. Thank you Penny, that is so interesting. I knew Hemingway spent time in Cuba but I didn’t know about the house. What a shame visitors can’t go inside. His house in Florida still feels much like a home, you can almost imagine him walking around a corner and saying hello.


  2. It was fun getting a look inside the home of Hemingway. And what a wonderful reminder for those who may need to seek help for depression!


    1. It was fun Mandy, I recommend it if you ever visit Key West. It’s a lovely setting and I understand why he and his wife wanted to live there. While it is regrettable that he suffered so much, sharing his story may help other people with similar problems.


  3. I don’t believe I have ever read any of his books, which is really kind of shocking. Mental illness runs in my family and most is treatable. Thank you for educating your readers!!


    1. You’re welcome Dianna. I think more people are familiar with the movies made from his books, which is true of many books. I recently read Labor Day and didn’t realize it was the basis for a recent movie of the same name. Even though I had seen the movie, I still enjoyed the book.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Carol it was. I went there because I read about the house and thought it sounded worth seeing. I didn’t expect to learn all about him and his illness. Sometimes we learn things in unexpected ways. Thanks for reading and commenting.


  4. Dee thanks so much for sharing. I agree, it is interesting. I wonder if writing helped him cope with his depression. Or did the mental chaos produce the writing? Depression often isolates people, and writing can be a lonely endeavor as you know. As we find all too often, creative, successful people often have private lives that surprise us.


  5. Suicide, and the suffering that proceeds and follows it, is tragic. Thank you for bringing attention to this important topic and sharing resources for mental health and suicide prevention. I found your post on the GRAND Social.


    1. Seren, I believe everyone has a story and I enjoy learning them, even the ones that are disturbing. I understand a person so much more when I learn their “back story” and I appreciate their “now story” much more. Thanks for commenting.


  6. This is so interesting! I had never heard the backstory of Ernest Hemingway’s life. Thanks for sharing!


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