Writing at the Star was determinedly lively. In the 1920s and 1930s, writers included Morley CALLAGHAN, Ernest Hemingway, Gordon SINCLAIR and Gregory CLARK.
The Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper, was established in 1892. In 1899 its Liberal proprietors hired Joseph E. Atkinson to run the paper; by 1913 he had become the majority shareholder. Until Atkinson's death in 1948, the Star reflected the highly personal style of journalism he preferred. Stressing human interest and local issues over broader coverage, Atkinson made his paper dominant in the Toronto area, and then across the south-central portion of Ontario. At the same time, he maintained a liberal attitude to public affairs, and used his newspaper to advocate a left of centre point of view. In 1910 he established the Toronto Star Weekly, which plugged the gap left by the absence of Sunday newspapers in Canada.
Writing at the Star was determinedly lively. In the 1920s and 1930s, writers included Morley Callaghan, Ernest Hemingway, Gordon Sinclair and Gregory Clark. The Star's political stand earned it the enmity of Ontario's Conservative government during the 1940s, and after Atkinson's death there was a spectacular battle between the Government of Ontario and the Atkinson Foundation. Under Harry Hindmarsh, Atkinson's son-in-law, the Star became more partisan and was closely identified with the federal Liberal Party. After Hindmarsh's death in 1956, the paper recovered some of its independence, although it continued to favour the nationalist wing of the Liberal Party and particularly its spokesman, Walter Gordon.
The 1960s and 1970s brought expansion and prosperity to the Star, which dominated the Toronto evening newspaper field after the demise of its longtime rival, The Toronto Telegram, in 1971. A Sunday edition and finally a morning edition appeared. The largest-circulation daily in Canada, the Toronto Star was, until recently, independently owned. Since 1 March 1999, however, the Toronto Star has been affiliated with 4 other dailies through the TorStar Newspaper Group. Members of the TorStar Group include the Hamilton Spectator, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, the Guelph Mercury and the Cambridge Reporter. TorStar purchased these papers from Quebecor for $335 million.
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New letters reveal Ernest Hemingway as proud, competitive – and very nearly a Canadian soldier. The paper played a pivotal role: gave him freedom to write and roam, and develop his craft.
“I may be going to Russia for the Star,” Ernest Hemingway wrote his mother in a 1922 letter from Paris, “. . . am awaiting orders from them now.”
As it turned out, Hemingway never went to Russia for the Toronto Star for reasons that remain unclear.
But what is clear, in new letters just published or about to be published, is how dependent he was on the Star for money, mobility and access to places and events that he eventually shaped into stories and novels.
In four years of writing for the Star, from 1920 to 1924, in Toronto and in Paris, he travelled extensively — “10,000 miles” in one year, he wrote to his family, some on the Orient Express.
The details are contained in some 6,000 letters, 85 per cent of them never before published, to be issued in the coming decades under an ambitious program called the Hemingway Letters Project.
“Being a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star allowed Hemingway to get out and see contemporary postwar Europe in a way he wouldn’t have had he simply been traveling as a tourist,” says Prof. Sandra Spanier, a Hemingway authority at Penn State University and lead editor of the project.
“And he wrote things up for the Star that he later worked into fiction.”
Scott Donaldson, one of America’s leading literary biographers, says the Star gave Hemingway a chance — and great latitude to choose subjects and style.
“He was very, very lucky to get that kind of freedom,” he says. “Their recognizing his ability to do it and giving him that chance is what made that experience so valuable.”
Hemingway the reporter was competitive from the get-go.
In one letter, pencilled from the Star newsroom in 1920, Hemingway told his parents that he had scooped the competing Globe on an important story. The competition was forced to follow him the next day with a lead editorial.
“Mr. Atkinson who owns the Star complimented me on it,” Hemingway wrote.
In 1922, returning to his base in Paris from a conference in Italy, Hemingway boasted to his mother, “Got back here last night after skimming the cream from Genoa.”
And to his father he scribbled on a postcard of the Italian port, “If you’ve read the Daily Star you know all about this town.”
In 1923 his mother wrote asking where he was heading next.
“I don’t know,” Hemingway responded. “It depends what I hear from the Star.”
The first volume of Hemingway letters, dating from 1907 to 1922, was published by Cambridge University Press last fall. Volume two, from 1923 to 1925, will appear next year.
Originally, the project planned to publish 12 volumes. Now it expects 16, as more letters continue to surface.
With detailed annotations to the letters, the project aims to deepen readers’ understanding of Hemingway’s development as a writer from childhood to his suicide in Ketchum, Idaho, in 1961.
The Hemingway who emerges from the early letters is filled with youthful exuberance, thrilled to be traveling through Europe and proud of his journalism.
He kept his Star clippings — neatly trimmed and blemish-free — all his life.
And he sent a stream back to his parents in Chicago, whom he had persuaded to subscribe to the Star.
Hemingway arrived at the paper in January 1920 hoping to freelance. He was an unknown 20-year-old with dreams of becoming a novelist.
His timing was fortuitous. Founder Joe Atkinson was trying to build a world-class paper based on great writing and scoops, with a showcase weekend edition known as the Star Weekly.
The freewheeling Weekly, in particular, demanded colour and human drama.
Hemingway delivered both in spades.
By 22, he was the paper’s European correspondent.
But by 24, following a clash with a senior editor bent on breaking him, he was gone.
He left the paper in anger, going on to become one of the world’s most famous authors and winning a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.
But he always carried with him the memory of being a foreign correspondent for the Star. It was the highlight of his journalistic career.
Managing Editor John Bone and Star Weekly Editor J. Herbert Cranston trumpeted his work, playing it big and promoting it with in-house ads touting Hemingway’s achievements and worldliness, sometimes promising readers that their roving correspondent would deliver the news “through Canadian eyes.”
Hemingway had an obvious incentive to travel: it paid more. For stories from Paris Hemingway earned only modest per-word rates. But for out-of-town assignments he made $75 a week plus expenses.
At the time, it was cheap to live in Paris. Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, were paying $20 per month for a small, cold-water flat near the Pantheon and could live on as little as $1 a day.
In one article Hemingway told of how Canadians could live in Paris “very comfortably” on $1,000 a year.
Still, Hemingway wasn’t above double-dealing. On at least two trips he filed regular dispatches to the Hearst newspaper chain, much to his wife’s chagrin, under a secret arrangement that paid him well, though not as well as the Star.
Managing editor Bone caught him at it — but forgave him.
Hemingway would later wax nostalgic about those years in his posthumous memoir, A Moveable Feast.
But while the story of Hemingway’s journey to Toronto begins in 1920, he nearly came earlier — for military training.
Another newly published letter reveals that an 18-year-old Hemingway, desperate to get into World War I, approached Canadian army recruiters in Kansas City in 1917.
American forces had rejected Hemingway because of his poor eyesight.
At the time he was working as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star.
In a letter first published last fall, Hemingway told his sister Marcelline, “I intend to enlist in the Canadian Army soon,” calling the Canadians “the greatest fighters in the world,” and adding, “our troops are not to be mentioned in the same breath.”
In the end, however, the Kansas City Star sponsored a Red Cross Ambulance unit and he set off for Italy. There he suffered serious wounds, was decorated by the Italians and returned to America in January 1919.
While speaking of those experiences later that year to a women’s group in Petoskey, Mich., where his family kept a cottage, he captivated Harriet Connable of Toronto, whose husband, Ralph, ran the Canadian arm of F.W. Woolworth’s department stores.
The Connables needed a companion and mentor for their disabled teenaged son who could stay with him in Toronto while they vacationed in Palm Beach, Fla.
Hemingway would be paid $50 per month, have the run of the Connable mansion at 153 Lyndhurst Ave. — near present-day St. Clair Ave. W. and Bathurst St. — and be able to dedicate time to his writing.
Arriving in Toronto before Connable headed south, Hemingway persuaded Connable to get him an introduction at the Toronto Star.
Connable did, and Hemingway did the rest.
He befriended writer-editor Greg Clark, who introduced him to Star Weekly chief Cranston, and soon Hemingway had four unsigned pieces in the paper, then his first bylined story ever — about getting a free shave at a local barber school.
In seven months at the Kansas City Star, Hemingway had never earned a byline.
In Toronto at the Star Weekly, he started at a half a cent a word, earning $5 for a 1,000-word piece. In time, his rate doubled.
Memorably, he wrote a scathing satire on Mayor Tommy Church mooching for votes at a boxing match at Massey Hall.
“We’re out to get the mayor,” Hemingway wrote to his father, “. . . and I’ve been riding him.”
On winter evenings, Hemingway tried skating on the Connables’ rink and played pickup hockey with a small group of friends that included the Connables’ daughter Dorothy, the chauffeur’s son, college student Ernest Smith and others.
In warm weather, he played tennis and rode the Connables’ horses along Bathurst.
Hemingway found Toronto expensive and complained that “the Doggone Star” paid him only once a month.
But he was having “fun,” he wrote his parents, and getting published.
When trout season opened, Hemingway, who was religious about fishing, thanked the family and set off in mid-May for Petoskey and the streams of northern Michigan.
Still, he continued to file regular pieces to the Weekly, including one on how Canadians were getting rich running liquor from Windsor into prohibition-era Detroit.
After a spell of boring writing for an in-house magazine for a shady Chicago financial institution, he wrote Star managing editor Bone in October 1921, asking to come back.
He was now married and unemployed, and his creative writing was going nowhere. He dreamt of returning to Europe, which he had seen only briefly in WWI.
Bone was keen to have Hemingway back.
So they struck a deal, and by December 1921 Hemingway and Hadley — the model for the immensely popular novel The Paris Wife — set off for France with the promise of bylines in the Star from across Europe.
The Hemingways were immediately smitten by the City of Light.
In a just-published letter, dated Feb. 15, 1922, Hemingway wrote to his mother, “Paris is so very beautiful that it satisfies something in you that is always hungry in America.”
Fifty years later, in a rare set of tape recordings kept today in the Hemingway collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Hadley told a biographer that Hemingway had been her guide.
“He opened up the world,” she recalled. “He was very tender and sweet.”
He was also hard-working. When he wasn’t assigned by the Star, he was weaving the threads of his journalism and his life into prose and poetry in a small room down the hall in their apartment at 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine.
And he was ambitious. There was an artistic “happening” in Paris in the 1920s — celebrated in the recent film Midnight in Paris — and Hemingway was determined to be part of it.
Originally, he had planned to go to Italy, where he had been during the war. But Hemingway had met the American writer Sherwood Anderson in Chicago.
“Anderson told him that the place for a young writer isn’t Italy right now, it’s Paris,” says Penn State’s Prof. Spanier. “‘That’s where things are happening.’”
While the Star provided him the means to support himself, Spanier says, Anderson provided him letters of introduction.
Within weeks, Hemingway was dining with Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Ezra Pound and James Joyce.
Soon, Pound was shopping Hemingway’s poems.
In the years since, Paris has become part of the Hemingway legend.
So has bullfighting — a Hemingway passion that first saw print in a front-page piece in the Star Weekly.
Hemingway had visited Madrid and Pamplona in the summer of 1923 and participated in the famous running of the bulls. Cranston gave it all the play he could.
“Bullfighting Is Not a Sport — It Is a Tragedy,” the headline read.
“That piece in the Toronto Star was his first working out in print of that material which would show up in his first major novel, The Sun Also Rises, in 1926,” says Spanier.
Today that article, and many of the nearly 200 Hemingway wrote for the Star, can be viewed — not touched — in a securely locked room, under constant supervision by a senior archivist, on the fifth floor of the JFK Presidential Library. The clippings are kept under protective plastic.
In the literary world, they are precious documents.
So in early 1923, when Hadley announced she was pregnant and preferred not to give birth in Paris, Hemingway’s return to Toronto was natural.
He had enjoyed his earlier stay there. He was highly regarded at the paper, where he had friends, and could provide his family a steady income.
Assignments from the Star had always “brought in good money,” he wrote his friend Bill Horne. But now he had to provide stability during what he called, “The First Year of the Baby.”
A steady income of $75 a week would help.
But he also confided to Gertrude Stein that he was uneasy about being a father. He was too young, he said, and did not want to leave Paris.
Hemingway decided they would live in Toronto for one year, and he lined up a Paris apartment for their return in October 1924.
The Hemingways arrived in Toronto in September 1923 and put up at the Selby Hotel on Sherbourne St.
What Hemingway did not know was that he was landing into the middle of a vicious intra-office feud between managing editor John Bone and city editor Harry Hindmarsh.
Hemingway would be caught in the crossfire.
As he explained later to a biographer in an unpublished 1952 letter, Hindmarsh “hated Bone and hated me because I was a project of John. R. Bone.”
Although Hindmarsh was technically Bone’s assistant, he had enormous clout: he was owner Joe Atkinson’s son-in-law.
Hadley’s first letter from the Selby Hotel, dated Sept. 14, 1923, was filled with optimism — and news. She told Hemingway’s parents that a “small new Hemingway” was on the way. They were sure it was a boy and due in late October or early November.
“The Star people are so keen about your son,” she wrote reassuringly. Friends at the paper couldn’t do enough. Greg Clark and his wife had arranged for their own doctor to look after her. And Greg and Ernest were heading out fishing on Saturday.
“I think we shall love many things about Toronto,” Hadley wrote.
But she also noted that Hemingway had “rushed” into work and on his very first day, Sept. 10, 1923, was sent to Kingston to cover a sensational prison break.
Hemingway’s next-day account was gripping, fast-paced and filled with compelling detail and colour, a first-class piece of journalism under pressure.
It was splashed across the front page. But Hemingway was denied a byline.
Then, things worsened.
Three weeks later, he was sent to New York to cover the arrival of former British prime minister David Lloyd George. He was reluctant to leave Hadley in their new apartment at 1599 Bathurst. She was, after all, in her last weeks of pregnancy.
Those fears were well-grounded.
As Hemingway was returning to Toronto by train on Oct. 10, 1923, from his New York assignment, Hadley gave birth to their first son, John Hadley Nicanor, at Wellesley Hospital.
“I was fine,” Hadley recalled years later. “And Bumby (John) was quite something. And then Ernest came in, in tears and sobbing because he hadn’t been there.
“That’s the kind of a guy he was . . . frightfully sensitive. It was a misty, misty occasion.”
Then, things got even worse. While in New York, Hemingway had missed a story that Hindmarsh and Atkinson thought important: the deputy mayor of New York had belittled Britain, and the Star’s readership was largely of British stock.
Hindmarsh hauled Hemingway in and dressed him down, and a shouting match erupted during which Hemingway said any work he would do for Hindmarsh would be with “the most utter contempt and hatred.”
He was on shaky ground now, he wrote Ezra Pound.
Soon Hemingway was reassigned to the Star Weekly and began plotting his return to Paris.
He had complained of staid, conservative Toronto from the day he returned.
But the legendary “Hindmarsh treatment,” as Star staffers called it, put him over the top.
Hemingway blamed Hindmarsh for working him relentlessly, for “spiking” (killing) his stories, and most pointedly, for assigning him out of town when his wife was about to give birth.
Now, he was furious at Hindmarsh, the Star, Toronto and Canada as a whole.
The country whose uniform he once wanted to wear was now “the fistulated asshole of the father of seven among Nations,” Hemingway wrote Pound.
“It is a dreadful country,” he wrote Sylvia Beach, friend and owner of the Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company.
To Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas he wrote, “It was a bad move to come back.”
Hadley recalled later that Hemingway had told her, “If I have to stay with him (Hindmarsh), I’ll go crazy.”
Hadley replied, “Let’s leave.”
Hemingway submitted his resignation, effective Jan. 1, 1924.
They would have to break their six-month lease on the Bathurst St. apartment, for which Hemingway said in a letter to Pound they were paying $125 per month.
In a final, generous gesture, the Hemingways hosted the wedding of fellow Star writer Jimmy Cowan and his bride-to-be, Grace Williams, in the Hemingways’ apartment on Jan. 12, 1924. Hemingway was not only best man but he supplied the liquor from a local bootlegger. A Star announcement whimsically reported that the wedding had been celebrated “very quietly.”
The next day the Hemingways left from Union Station for New York, boarding the Cunard liner Antonia for France on Jan. 19.
There was, however, one more concern. The Antonia would stop at Halifax, and the Hemingways worried that police might board looking for them. They still owed between $250 and $375 in rent.
“We skipped out,” Hadley said later. “The boat did stop at Halifax, but no police came on.”
The Hemingways divorced in 1927.
A year later, John Bone died of a heart attack in the Star newsroom.
Harry Hindmarsh went on to become the most powerful man in Canadian newspapers, elected president of the Toronto Star in 1948.
Years later, Hindmarsh was reported to have said that he had “made a mistake” in the way he had dealt with Hemingway.
But Hemingway never forgave him.
“I would like to propose that Harry Hindmarsh should burn in hell,” he wrote in an unpublished letter in 1952.
The author never set foot in Toronto again.
Categories: Stories by the Star