An offer of $600 from Reader’s Digest to reproduce one of his stories elicited the following response from Ernest Hemingway in November of 1952. Just two months previous, on September 1st, a week prior to its release in book-form, Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea was published in its entirety in LIFE Magazine, and over the course of the next two days five million copies of the publication were snapped up by an adoring readership. Professional reviews were also overwhelmingly positive and served to revive Hemingway’s reputation; the novella later winning the Pulitzer Prize and proving instrumental in Hemingway’s subsequent Nobel Prize in Literature. Little wonder then, that he wasn’t tempted by Miss Johnson’s proposal.
FINCA VIGIA, SAN FRANCISCO DE PAULA, CUBA
November 5 1952
Dear Miss Johnson:
I am very sorry that I cannot give you permission to re-publish “On the Blue Water,” which first appeared in the April 1936 issue of Esquire. There is one book by me about the sea on sale at present and have no wish to saturate the public.
For your future information I would never be interested in re-printing anything, ever, anywhere, for the fee you name.
With best wishes,
Yours very truly,
(Signed, ‘Ernest Hemingway’)
We offered $600