Enclosing two letters from Mary Virginia to explain why she cannot come to Red Cloud. Felt energetic while in the cool climate of Maine, but returned to New York to find summer heat lingering on and the apartment a mess. Without a good maid to take over, wore herself out cleaning the place. Has lost five pounds again. Also, found that travel is very difficult these days. Very sorry not to be coming to visit. Did she receive the long letter about Ántonia? Sorry to hear about Willard Crowell's accident. Please don't tire herself out with Red Cross work, and maybe they can have some time together before long. Willie [Stout #1638]
Came to the French Hospital for hand problems several days ago, and May's Christmas wreath has been next to her bed since Christmas Eve. Though she told everyone not to send flowers, a few did come, and they were just right. Thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in the chapel. This is the second time at the French Hospital and, to her surprise, is even more pleasant than the first. Is fortunate to be able to come to this hospital instead of going to a common New York hospital. Hears French spoken all daylong, which is sustaining in itself. Though the hospital is Catholic, the nuns do not do medical care. The nurses are Irish, French, and Italian women, and the head nurse is a Canadian Scotch Presbyterian. An Italian girl, Olympia Fumagalli, the nurse she sees the most, once flew to Chile with the Chilean President's wife on a military plane, then spent many weeks in Chile. All the women speak English. Especially likes the Irish nuns who were taught at a French convent and who bungle the French language as badly as she does. Will go home January 4, as Sigrid Undset is visiting January 11 and does not want to miss it. Will regret leaving the lovely, peaceful isolation of this place for the modern city. Hand is improving well, though mind is even better. The world of Hitler is erased in this lovely atmosphere of old and sustainable practices. Apologize for what is probably a confusing letter, one which she will not be able to revise, but the profound satisfaction of this quiet Christmas is hard to articulate. Happy New Year. Willa Cather, per S. J. Bloom
Has taken a good while to reply to Elsie. Many friends have been dying, and has been dictating sympathy letters to exhaustion. Must take satisfaction from the nice words of the late Justice Holmes in the morning's New York Times [Henry Steele Commager, in "Justice Holmes in his Letters" (a review of The Holmes-Pollock Letters, ed. Mark DeWolfe Howe, New York Times, March 23, 1941, p. BR1, BR30), writes "Willa Cather moved him, 'unexpectedly and deeply.'"] Needs such kind comments now more than she did before. Was glad to hear about the house Elsie built in Lincoln. Agrees with Edith that it was a very intelligent decision. Also pleased that Elsie did not solicit her advice for the choice, as she understands little about the current conditions in Red Cloud and Lincoln. Willard Crowell persists in writing letters saying everything will work out and even persuaded her to let Witwer put a well in the Jewell County, Kansas, land after the creek ran dry. Ran a deficit because of it. Crowell seems to think she would be unfaithful if she did not pay the taxes on the land. This is all to illustrate how little she understands how things are in Webster County. . . . [pages 2 and 3 missing] PS: Sorry that she was so noncommittal about coming to Red Cloud for Christmas. Her hand has worsened rather than improved, and traveling is a real burden. Since she cannot commit to coming to Red Cloud soon, Elsie should do what she wants with the house. The orthopedist from Boston, who only comes to New York a couple of times a month, is the only one who has been heartening. Enjoy your new house. Willie
Has followed his advice and asked Mr. Crowell to ask $3,200 for the Osborne land. Dropping of atomic bomb has made all her doings seem very small and unimportant. He need not return enclosed newspaper clipping; Major Eliot has been the most reliable analyst of the war. Willa Cather
[included with letter are: 1) newspaper clipping announcing that Jervis Bay in New Brunswick has been chosen as the location for a memorial to Capt. Fogarty Fegen, 2) typed copy of Oliver Wendell Holmes's July 25, 1930, letter to Ferris Greenslet about Cather's work, 3) typed copy of Oliver Wendell Holmes's March 24, 1931, letter to Willa Cather] Is sending a review of the Holmes-Pollock letters from the New York Times [Henry Steele Commager, "Justice Holmes in his Letters," New York Times, March 23, 1941, p. BR1, BR30], and suggests Roseboro' read them. Is reading the volumes herself, and is enjoying the exchange between the two towering figures. Was thankful to be mentioned in the letters, and will send her a facsimile of the letter written to Ferris Greenslet regarding the book Roseboro' heroically supported. Is also including the text of the note he sent to Cather when he was ninety years old, though it cannot represent the beauty of his penmanship. Justice Holmes's secretary was the cousin of a San Francisco friend [May Willard?], and told the friend he read Shadows on the Rock to Holmes. Wants to tell her about the terrific joy she has gotten out of delighting old men who thrilled her years ago, like Thomas Hardy and James M. Barrie. Thinks Roseboro', someone who helped her when she was a foolish young person, would appreciate these fruits of her labor. P.S.: Hand is still useless. W.S.C.
[Also included: a calling card with "Miss Willa Sibert Cather/ Fridays/ Five Bank Street" printed on it, with a note in Cather's hand saying that she is welcoming visitors on Friday afternoons until May 1; a second calling card, with "Miss Willa Sibert Cather" printed on it and, in what appears to be Isabelle McClung Hambourg's hand, "Mr. Dwight—We shall be here by half past eight—Will you please wait for us —"]Thanks for dropping her name in the preface to his wonderful book [Stamboul Nights, Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, Page & Company, 1916], which she just received from Pittsburgh. Knows three of the stories, and will know the others within a day (we write slowly but read quickly). Please come to visit some Friday. May and Marie Willard left recently. Perhaps Roselle, New Jersey, is too distant, but hopes he can make the journey some Friday. Willa Cather
Is forwarding a copy of a letter to Elsie. [Enclosed is a copy of letter #1926 to Elsie Cather.] Agrees with his decision regarding the house: why should Elsie worry about its upkeep? Had wonderful times there, as did Douglass, and even gave up European vacations—funded by the Carnegie Foundation—to spend time there. That last winter spent at home with their parents was very happy. The house will be there always for Douglass, and for her as long as she retains her memories. Elsie has not been going it alone as much as he thinks, though: since 1930, has given $1,740 for the care of the house. Some of the checks were sent to Carrie Sherwood since she was there and could attend to things. Hopes Elsie doesn't sell the house to Retta or Jennie. Thanks for good advice regarding the Nebraska property, and will respond to it soon. Has trusted Willard Crowell with the management of the property, and worries he might neglect to send a statement of taxes paid. That is important for income tax purposes. The government is very particular about evidence on property taxes, especially on Western farmland. PS: It's too bad Douglass didn't survive to see the Montebello oil field pay off, since he cared so much about it. It costs one so much to care. Willie.
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.
Is pleased to see the letter from Elizabeth to her mother. Would like to see the baby. On business matters: when he writes Willard Crowell, please be gentle, or he'll be too nervous to ask questions when he needs to. But do tell him will be gone until September 15. Will be rather footloose. Not going to Grand Manan as the well needs to be re-drilled, and she and Miss Lewis feel exhausted at the expensive prospect of bringing men and equipment to the island. [Written in right margin:] July 23—is going to Grand Manan anyway. Work is impossible when one is just roaming around. Mary Virginia has been in the French Hospital for weeks. She is underweight and overworked, and the constant traipsing up six flights of stairs has done her in. She is so wasted that her internal organs—particularly one kidney—are sagging, and she will be wearing a special belt to support her intestines. Don't tell her mother. Mary Virginia is bothered enough. When she can leave the hospital, will pay for her to go on a lengthy cruise where she will do nothing but sleep and eat all day. Keep this from her mother and Elsie, too. [Written in right margin:] No; now it's to be two months in the country. Has not gone to the bank since putting Mr. Milne in charge of checks, so does not know what checks have come in. Will go when Virginia is better. [Written in right margin:] July 23—check did arrive. To her understanding, if the Montebello Oil field begins to earn money, her checks and Jessica's checks will be identical. Until then, wants to give Jessica—through Roscoe—a bit from Ocean Front Oil Field income. Douglass would want that. Before leaving New York, will send a $200 check to him; please pass it along to Jessica with a note that Douglass would have wanted it. Jessica need not thank her. Just hopes the checks are helpful. Would prefer to assist Mary Virginia. In a decade of work at the library, she has never arrived late or refused to work holidays. She certainly shed her mother's ways. One can't work hard and weigh ninety pounds without problems, though. Mary Virginia keeps up her spirits, but is distressed about it herself, as is Dick. If Mary Virginia had told them, could have taken steps sooner. Appreciates his advice, as always. [Note in top margin:] Leaving for Grand Manan on August 31. [Included is a clipping of a notice of a first edition of My Ántonia on sale for $60, and a note in an unknown hand: "Book prices current!"] Willie.
Willard Crowell has informed her that Roscoe paid $152 in taxes for her property in Red Cloud, but doesn't provide section and township numbers. Needs this information for income tax deductions. Crowell also wrote that he paid taxes on land in Smith County, Kansas, and St. Paul, Nebraska. As if that were all the tax people required! Has repeatedly told Crowell she needs descriptions and receipts, which he could certainly get from the county treasurer. Has a March 4 deadline for both state and federal taxes, as Mr. Lesser in Knopf's office leaves after that date. Would appreciate Roscoe's advice if he has any. Willie.