Skip to main content

Mr. Keenan

Go Search
St. Mary's Church
Elementary School
Support Services
High School > Mr. Keenan > The WikiTSAR Library > Lady Duff Twysden  

Lady Duff Twysden

Lady Duff Twysden

Lady Duff Twysden was born on May 22, 1892 as Dorothy Smurthwaite to Baynes Wright Smurthwaite, the owner of a wine shop in Yorkshire, England, and Charlotte Lilias Stirling. Lady Duff had two younger siblings, Jean Margaret Hamilton Smurthwaite and Lieutenant Donald Stuart Smurthwaite. She decided to change her name to Mary Duff Stirling after her parents’ divorce. Lady Duff is most well known for being portrayed in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises as Lady Brett Ashley, whose fictional life parallels that of Lady Duff.


Early Life and First Marriage

Charlotte Stirling had great aspirations for her young daughter and this was reflected in her childhood.  She sent Mary Duff to school in Paris where she became fluent in French; she spent her summers in Scotland with her grandmother. Charlotte even arranged for her daughter to be presented at Buckingham Palace. Mary Duff was engaged to John Churchill Craigie in 1914 but later married Edward Luttrell Byrom instead.


Second Marriage

Mary Duff was volunteering for the British Royal Service when she met Sir Roger Thomas Twysden, tenth baronet, a commander in the Royal Navy. He quickly fell for her, upsetting his family who believed she was only after his wealth and title. Nonetheless, they were married on January 25, 1917 after Duff divorced her first husband. A little over a year later, Lady Duff gave birth to her first and only child, a boy named Anthony who would later succeed his father as eleventh baronet. However it was not long before the marriage took a turn for the worse. The Twysden family still would not accept Lady Duff and blamed her for corrupting Sir Roger. Lady Duff would tell a very different tale;  she claimed that Roger was a brutal drunk. She even supposedly told Ernest Hemingway that Roger forced her to sleep on the floor and that he always slept with a sword. To escape, she often took Anthony to Paris or to her grandmother’s house where she had spent her summers as a child. There Lady Duff fell in love with her cousin, Patrick Guthrie. She abandoned Anthony and Roger to live with Pat in Paris.


Time in Paris & the Trip to Pamplona

Lady Duff spent the winter and spring of 1925 gallivanting around Paris drinking and attracting attention from quite a few men. She became widely known for her simple style of loose sweaters and short hair. It was during this time that Lady Duff began to spend time with many members of the “Lost Generation” including Ernest Hemingway. Ernest was instantly attracted to Duff and often bought her drinks in the Parisian cafes. But Ernest was married at the time to Hadley Richardson Hemingway and Duff would not break up their marriage by having an affair with him. However, Harold Loeb had recently dumped his longtime girlfriend Kitty Cannell and had been admiring Lady Duff from afar. In the early summer Loeb, Hemingway’s good friend and tennis partner, confronted Lady Duff and a secret relationship soon followed including a weeklong vacation in St. Jean de Luz.

            Just weeks later the group of friends, including Lady Duff, Pat, Harold, and Ernest’s pals Donald Ogden Stewart and Bill Smith, decided to join Ernest and Hadley on their annual trip to Pamplona for the Fiesta of San Fermin. Harold had originally planned to go fishing in Burguete with Ernest and Bill but instead decided to wait for Pat and Duff. When Harold picked them up from the train station, Duff told him the relationship was over, that Pat had “broken the spell” and she was in love with him.

Ernest was an avid fan of bullfighting and wanted to share the experience with his friends but the trip was ill-fated. Ernest soon found out about Duff’s excursion with Harold in St. Jean-de-Luz. After that arguments broke out repeatedly, in one instance almost coming to blows. During the bullfights, Lady Duff became infatuated with a nineteen year old matador from Ronda named Cayetona Ordonez. Ernest allegedly arranged for Duff to meet Ordonez and felt responsible for the subsequent short-lived relationship.

After the festival Lady Duff, Pat and Harold returned to Paris but Ernest and Hadley remained in Spain where Hemingway began work on his first book, The Sun Also Rises. Ernest documented the events and conversations from Pamplona and transformed them into a story making himself the narrator making small changes. However, Hadley is not incorporated into the novel at all; instead Jake’s war injury is the only reason he cannot have a relationship with Brett. The original draft shows Lady Duff, as Lady Brett Ashley, as the heroine but in the final revision Harold Loeb (Robert Cohn) is the protagonist.


Later Life

Lady Duff broke off the relationship with Pat not long after returning to Paris and for a while after that she flitted from relationship to relationship. Her divorce with Sir Roger was finally finalized in 1926 and Roger was awarded custody of Anthony devastating Duff. While still living in Paris Lady Duff fell in love with an American artist named Clinton Blair King. They secretly married in August of 1928 in Bloomsbury, England. Duff moved with King, nineteen years her junior, to the United States where they lived in both New York and New Mexico. Although Lady Duff Twysden died on June 27, 1938 of tuberculosis in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she will live on forever as Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises. 


     Ernest and Hadley Hemingway with Lady Duff Twysden and others at a cafe, Pamplona, Spain, Fiesta San Fermin, July 1925

 The group sitting at a café in Pamplona in 1925. From Left: Ernest Hemingway, Lady Duff Twysden, Harold Loeb, Hadley Hemingway, Don Stewart, and Pat Guthrie.

Works Referenced

1.      Baker, Carlos. Hemingway, the Writer as Artist. Princeton UP, 1972. Google Books. Google, 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2010.

2.      "Descendants of Walter Stirling." Web. 11 Dec. 2010.

3.      The Hemingways at a Cafe. 1925. Photograph. Ernest Hemingway Collection, Pamplona, Spain. J. F. K. Library. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Web. 10 Dec. 2010.

4.      Kert, Bernice. The Hemingway Women. New York City, NY: W.W. Norton &, 1999. Google Books. Google, 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. hemingway women&hl=en&src=bmrr&ei=gYD2TKWSDoWdlgfHzb2aBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=duff&f=false.

5.      "Lady Twysden Secretly Weds Clinton King." New York Times 23 Aug. 1928: 27. ProQuest. Web. 11 Dec. 2010.

Last modified at 12/13/2010 11:18 PM  by Reiter, Julie