A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Sigrid Undset,  Christmas Eve [Dec. 24, 1941] Oslo 

Flowers she sent brightened the day. Has not felt so excited about Christmas since childhood. Maybe Churchill [who had come to confer with Roosevelt after the recent bombing of Pearl Harbor] traveled by reindeer like Santa Claus. His presence and his shrewd, searching gaze would wither political pettiness. He knows the American idiom from his mother, and American politicians will realize he is sharper than they are. His coming is almost a miracle. Reminds her that the battle cry of the Crusaders was "God with us!"   [Stout #1566]


To Mrs. Flynn [prob. c. Mar. 1943, following German surrender at Stalingrad] transcription made by E. K. Brown; ; Beinecke 

Sorry to be late replying to invitation to tea being held in the Jewett garden in May. Has many happy memories of that garden. Was last there three years before Mary Jewett's illness. Would be too painful to go there again. Sorry the village has not kept up the house where Sarah and Mary Jewett gathered such beautiful things. Similarly, Mme Franklin-Grout's estate in France, which was left as a retreat for women writers, was turned to other purposes by the French government right away and her Flaubert collection sent to a museum in Rouen that no longer exists. Tolstoi's estate has been damaged by the Germans. Sarah Orne Jewett still lives in her work.   [Stout #1621]


To Stephen TennantFeb. 16, 1945Yongue 

Sorry not to have written in so long. Had many irritations during the Christmas season—numerous letters from soldiers to answer, hand very bad. Enough to make her quite misanthropic for a while. The company of Yehudi and his family cheered her up. Still can't write by hand. No need to quarrel because of differing views re. talking about books, as opposed to writing them. Finds the book he sent her at Christmas, The Unquiet Grave, excessively jaded. The frequent short quotations from Flaubert entirely misrepresent him. He was hearty and hardworking, never bored (though sometimes boring when he insists on putting in every detail).   Willa Cather   [Stout #1699]


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 Ferris Greenslet[1917?], from Jaffrey, N.H.Harvard 

No, doesn't want book sent to Mlle Burk but to Mme Burls.   W. S. C.   [Stout #1767]


To Professor HornbergerMay 1946 "DRAFT" is written across the top and the letter is unsigned; ; UNL-Rosowski Cather 

Will never allow Death Comes for the Archbishop to be in an anthology, as anthologies are ultimately shallow [Horberger published The Literature of the United States in 1946]. After speaking to many young people, is convinced that the college classroom is no place for modern books. When a man is in school, he ought to study the classics of the English canon. An energetic undergraduate will read current books for fun. When teaching school in Pittsburgh, was forced to use a set list of texts, which included Silas Marner, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Marmion, Quentin Durward, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Macbeth, and the poetry of Robert Burns. Some students are still in contact. Would Prof. Hornberger consider Silas Marner—a rewarding if unhurried book, good for modern students—worthy of an anthology? Does not know who selected the list and was given no options, but was expected to read them and test the students on them. This is the limit of what a high school English class can be. If one hundred students read a great writer, about two of them will be affected deeply, and the other ninety-eight will not be injured by it. When reading the classics, there needs to be no distasteful argument of a writer's worth. All anthologies make this kind of argument, except for Field-Marshal Wavell's [ Other Men's Flowers: An Anthology of Poetry ], whose notes are sometimes better than even the selected work. Except for the glut of Browning's work, his selections are perfect. He loves The Hound of Heaven and expresses that. He fears neither Rommel nor erudition. PS: Please send a list of pieces in Volume One to aid in thinking about Volume Two.


To Ellery SedgwickJune 7, 1944UNL-Cather Collected 

Enjoyed his letter, but his memory failed him: "A Chance Meeting" was republished in Not Under Forty, and Sedgwick wrote a very pleasant review of it in the Atlantic Monthly. He understood Mrs. Fields and her milieu more than most. Van Wyck Brooks, who is usually so careful, even credited Cather with editing a book of Mrs. Whitman's letters; Miss Jewett was the one who did that. Had not heard the story of Henry James encountering Flaubert before, but recalls that James said he used to send Flaubert and Turgenev copies of his books and never got a response. It was big of James to divulge it.   Willa Cather 


To Mary ColumJanuary 11, [1933], from 570 Park Avenue, New YorkBinghampton 

Sorry that Colum has been snared in the translation negotiations, but thanks her sincerely for her letter. Is returning Mme. Clairomir's [?] note with Knopf's response. Has been traveling, too, and spent much time with ill mother in California. Only recently came back to New York and got belongings out of storage, though is doubting that decision. Will attempt to be content in absurd and difficult city, and will be comforted by friends and music. Sorry that Colum has been ill—probably because of the climate of Paris. She should come to New England to get well. Still fondly recalls meeting her in Peterborough [New Hampshire].   Willa Cather 


To Roscoe CatherApril 25, 1933UNL-Roscoe 

Should have wired him. So pleased that his bank has weathered recent events. Curious about his perspective on the banking sector. Thinks anything is preferable to doing nothing, and though Roosevelt is not a genius, at least the U.S. will be active again. Haven't had a President who can converse in French with the French Ambassador since Theodore Roosevelt. The Laval incident only happened because Hoover and Laval had a misunderstanding. Is very busy, but hopes Roscoe continues to stay in touch about his business activities.   Willie. 


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