Just Discovered: Ernest Hemingway's Earliest Known Short Story, Written at Age 10

Courtesy of Sandra Spanier
Courtesy of Sandra Spanier

Ernest Hemingway was a born writer, as seen in a newly rediscovered work by the iconic 20th-century scribe. As Atlas Obscura reports, Hemingway’s earliest-known short story—a 14-page tale he wrote when he was just 10 years old—was recently found in the possession of family friends in Key West, Florida, where the author lived in the 1930s.

Written in a stained brown notebook—which was stored inside a Ziploc freezer bag and safeguarded inside an ammunition box—the untitled story from 1909 recounts a fictional trip to Ireland and Scotland, complete with descriptions of Hemingway’s journey to Europe by train and the ocean liner RMS Mauretania.

A notebook containing an early short story by Ernest Hemingway, written when he was 10 years old, discovered among the collection of Telly Otto “Toby” Bruce.
Courtesy of Sandra Spanier

The narrative is established through a series of diary entries and letters to Hemingway’s parents. The author's precise attention to detail—ranging from the number of propellers on his ship to local landmarks, like Blarney Castle, that he encounters during his stay—initially makes the work appear to be a true-life tale. (The freezer bag the notebook was stored in was also labeled “September 8, 1909, EH diary to Europe.”)

But according to Sandra Spanier, a Penn State professor and general editor of the Hemingway Letters Project, Hemingway didn’t make it to Europe for the first time until he was much older. Plus, he never made the exact journey through Ireland and Scotland that he describes in the notebook.

"It’s a fascinating find, showing the young Hemingway’s interest in getting the details of place exactly right (even as he makes up the characters and incidents)," Spanier tells Mental Floss.

A notebook containing an early short story by Ernest Hemingway, written when he was 10 years old, discovered among the collection of Telly Otto “Toby” Bruce.
Courtesy of Sandra Spanier

The short story was found among the collection of Telly Otto “Toby” Bruce, Hemingway’s friend and former employee, who inherited a portion of the prolific author’s personal archive from the writer's fourth wife and widow, Mary Welsh Hemingway. The collection of manuscripts, photos, and memorabilia is today managed by Bruce’s son, Benjamin “Dink” Bruce, and is occasionally used for local exhibits and scholarly research.

In May 2017, Spanier and historian Brewster Chamberlin were combing through Bruce’s papers in Key West in preparation for the publication of volume four of the 17 total volumes that will comprise The Letters of Ernest Hemingway. While their eyes were peeled for missing letters from 1929 to 1931, they ended up finding the notebook, which also contains snippets of poetry and grammar notes.

It’s unclear whether Hemingway was writing the short story as a school English assignment, a literary contest submission, or simply for his own pleasure. Still, Spanier says that the find is “amazing; a real landmark piece of writing,” she told The New York Times. “It’s the first time we see Hemingway writing a sustained, imaginative narrative.”

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Tax Day for Americans Will Be Pushed Back to July 15

Enterline Design Services LLC
Enterline Design Services LLC

On Friday morning, less than a month before the American tax filing deadline of April 15, treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin announced via Twitter that Tax Day will be pushed back by three months—to July 15, 2020—in order to allow individuals and businesses dealing with the physical, financial, and logistical repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic some extra time to get their financial matters in order.

While the date change applies to all American individuals, businesses, and organizations—and no interest or penalties will accrue during this time—Mnuchin, in a second tweet, did suggest that anyone who has completed their taxes submit them now "to get your money."

No further details were given, though we're sure a more detailed statement will be coming as, at the time of publication, even the IRS's site still noted April 15 as the deadline.

In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln created the first income tax as a way to cover Civil War expenses. Calculating what you owed was a lot easier back then: It was a 3 percent flat tax on all incomes above $800. But it wasn't until 1913, with the passage of the 16th Amendment, that Congress formalized a nationwide income tax. Originally, Tax Day was March 1; a few years later, it was pushed back to March 15.

In 1955, revisions to the tax code moved the date back again to April 15, though there have been some exceptions. In 2016, 2017, and 2018, Americans got a few extra days to file because Tax Day cannot fall on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. But why did it move from March 1 in the first place? The IRS claims it needed more time to process returns, but tax experts believe that an increase in refunds for the middle class meant the agency wanted to hold onto its money longer and collect interest.

We're Hiring a Part-Time Editorial Assistant

zakokor/iStock via Getty Images
zakokor/iStock via Getty Images

Mental Floss is hiring a part-time editorial assistant for our New York City office (though part of your hours can be worked remotely). We’re looking for a rabidly curious individual who is interested in contributing to various aspects of MentalFloss.com.

You can write about almost anything, and you will: Why Paraguay loves Rutherford B. Hayes. What people did for fun in the 16th century. Why the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were so obsessed with pizza. Chaucer. Mini-golf. Drones. Why Syrian golden hamsters spend so much time at the liquor store.

In addition to writing, researching, photo sourcing, web production, and pitching story ideas, you’ll have the opportunity to assist our social media editor with conceptualizing and executing ideas for our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels and sharing the new content we post daily. You’ll also have the chance to work with our video team to write and produce our slate of YouTube series; pitch in on our new podcast; and be a part of our monthly team brainstorms. This is a fantastic opportunity for someone looking to learn the digital publishing industry from the ground up, to be able to contribute to some fun (and sometimes bizarre) projects, and to earn some bylines on our Webby Award-winning website.

You’ll be working approximately 15-20 hours per week (and can spend some of that time working remotely, though onsite hours will be required). The position starts ASAP and pays $15/hour. Though it’s scheduled to be a two- to three-month position, the opportunity to continue on after that may be possible.

Ideal candidates will have:
- At least one year of writing and/or editing experience (classes, school-based projects, and/or personal blogs or websites count)
- A natural curiosity and the ability to generate tons of story ideas and execute timely stories on tight deadlines
- Strong attention to detail and multitasking skills
- Energetic, positive written voice, and the ability to translate complicated concepts into accessible writing
- Strong research skills
- Ability to work and collaborate with a team

Click here for more information, and to submit your application.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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