A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Yaltah MenuhinSept. 3 [1938?], from Grand MananPrinceton 

Thinks of her often. Believes California must be making her homesick for Paris. Failures from all over America drift to the west coast, making it a dismal place. Is returning to New York next week. Isabelle still doing well. P.S.: Miss Lewis sends love.  Aunt Willa   [Stout #1416]


To Ferris GreensletSept. 21, 1940, from New YorkHarvard 

Appreciated his offering her a copy of Lord Tweedsmuir, but didn't answer because completing her new book. Knopf pleased with it. Has not yet received Audubon's America, and looks forward to it as well as the book on Tweedsmuir. Glad they have both known such fine people. Greatly admires the present conduct of the British. Even Stephen Tennant, as pampered as he has been, says he is proud to be in England now. Finished reading Churchill's Life of Marlborough at Grand Manan and considers it a very great work. P.S.: The books have arrived.  Willa Cather   [Stout #1491]


To Alexander WoollcottMar. 17, 1941Harvard 

Appreciates his kind words in his Second Reader, three years ago now, and appreciates his reprinting of Kenneth Grahame's Golden Age, as well as his bringing to her attention the paper on Boswell by Pottle. Recommends Johnson without Boswell, recently published by Knopf. Is it really he who is acting in The Man Who Came to Dinner? Such a surprise! Recommends French Hospital, where nurses speak French and even cooks are French. Had very good care and good food. A Catholic hospital, but nurses not nuns, so no black habits about. One accompanied the wife of ex-president of Chile on airplane when President Roosevelt provided her transportation back to Santiago. American airmen so fine—keep up her faith in America in spite of Communists having gotten hold of much of the country.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1533]


To Laura HillsSept. 23, 1943PM 

Sorry to have to send her a typed letter. Had a wet summer in Maine. Left the New York heat in June for Portland, which she remembered as being very pleasant, but with all the shipbuilding going on it is miserable. So they went to the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor, which was cool but rainy. Bar Harbor is practically deserted. Hitler has ruined the New World as well as Europe. Is looking forward to a visit from her niece in October and Yehudi and Nola Menuhin with their two children after that. Will share a letter from them about their recent tour of South America. Yehudi has been to England to entertain soldiers, went over on bomber.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1639]


To Ferris GreensletOct. 13, 1944Harvard 

Returned a week ago from vacation. Is glad to divide royalty from Armed Services edition of My Ántonia evenly. Puzzled by reference to a proposal for Spanish and Portuguese translations for marketing in South America, having heard from a friend that a translation was being made in Spain to be sold there. This proposal Greenslet presents doesn't sound very profitable. Let it go.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1675]


To Sigrid UndsetMay 20, 1946 [possibly incomplete] ; Oslo 

Has read her letter many times. It must be sad to find her little town so altered and so many young men killed. But to be home, where everyone had a common cause to work for together, must be important; that feeling of working together creates hope as nothing else can. Here in the U.S. things are in a sad way. Yes, she might well lament, "Oh, if Roosevelt were still alive!" Now it seems as if John L. Lewis, President of the United Mine Workers, has more power than anyone else in the country. Is able to stop wheels turning everywhere. Nothing gets accomplished in Washington, due to squabbles and mismanagement. Everyone feels bitterly disappointed. She is fortunate to be in a place where the only "bigness" is that of the spirit. Is glad she saw America when she did, and not as it is now. Now lives, not in the present, but in old histories and great books. Is so glad her Kristin Lavransdatter is out in three volumes again, as it ought to be, instead of jammed into one big one. Hopes she will never let Hollywood film any of her books. Sorry to write such a hopeless letter. Maybe if they can get up to the country again, to the forests and big tides of the Maine coast, can regain her spirits.   [Stout #1732]


To Marine LelandJanuary 31, 1942Smith 

Is compelled by Leland's letter and believes that North America is home to a French language and literature, despite what most American tourists think. It is difficult to understand the French of rural areas, for they seem to leave out syllables in the same way southern Americans do. Loves the French of urban Canadians; it is charming and antique. President Thomas Masaryk wrote after reading Shadows on the Rock that he overheard Canadian soldiers speaking an antiquated French in London during the World War. Masaryk, who studied Old French, could detect patterns in the language that appeared to be from the time of Louis XIV and XV. Appreciates hearing about the new division of the Modern Language Association, and sends her good wishes. P.S.: Please keep Masaryk's story private. He is dead and cannot grant permission to quote from a letter.  Willa Cather 


To Roscoe Cather March 26, [1938?]UNL-Roscoe 

Oh, so they are all going to be married soon! He and Meta should make her their child, as she wouldn't leave them. He should definitely take the automobile tour: at Tucson, he should visit the ancient St. Xavier del Bac mission as many times as possible. It is Franciscan and very nearly the most beautiful thing in North America. Will tell him about Lake Placid details soon. Edith belongs to Delta Gamma and sends greetings to her sorority sister.   W. 


To Roscoe CatherJanuary 7, 1937UNL-Roscoe 

No one can see the sour side of things better than Elsie can. Her letter from Casper details her wonderful trip, but she includes a line saying that she is especially glad to make the visit since Roscoe is leaving soon and she likely won't see him for several years. Where is he going? Alaska? South America? Tahiti? Letters can be sent from Tahiti, as her own correspondence with James Norman Hall proves. Please inform her where he plans to go.   Willie. 


To Roscoe CatherJune 19, 1939, on letterhead of The Chase Safe Deposit Company, New YorkUNL-Roscoe 

Needs his help. Simply must escape business correspondence—also honorary degrees. Could he write to the six businesses shown below and ask that financial correspondence be sent to: Willa S. Cather, Chase National Bank, Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street, New York, NY, attention Mr. Milne. Wants all business correspondence—except from him—sent to the bank, not to the Park Avenue address. Mr. Milne, an officer in the bank, takes care of her accounts. There are so many different apartments in the Park Avenue building that mail tends to go missing. The porters cannot do everything, and now her secretary is away. Wants to reach a sensible stopping place in the book before she leaves— still not know where she is going. Should she give Crowell power-of-attorney for Nebraska concerns? Will in the fall. Must abandon Nebraska real estate and California oil fields now to concentrate on the work she is suited to. Writing is hard work: the revisions and corrections for the Autograph Edition took ten months! Hard to find time for a new novel. Must be hasty if she is to write to him at all. Wishes people understood! Sorry to complain, but it feels like being pulled under by quicksand. PS: These are the companies: 1) TransAmerican Corporation, 2) Bank of America, 3) Ocean Front Oil Co, 4) McVicar-Rood, Montebello Ltd., 5) Barnsdall Oil Co, and 6) Standard Oil of California.  Willie. 


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