No, cannot accept his invitation. Rarely has uninterrupted time to work and would have none if she attended conferences or gave lecturers. Glad he wrote a book about the faults of state universities [The American State University, Its Relation to Democracy, 1937], a threat to public life. Willa Cather [Stout #1436]
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
[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.
Does not lecture anymore, so must refuse his invitation. Has been meaning to write an extended letter to him about his book, which she read closely. Concurs with him generally, but feels he inflates the importance of many of the New York critics. Only Randolph Bourne and, to a degree, Mr. Canby had the essential innate sense of quality needed by critics. Consider, for example, Stuart Sherman (nothing personal to Sherman, as he always treated her well), who did not have such a sensibility. He could research a writer and say many valid things about him or her, but it was an external product of scholarship. To put it another way: if she mixed up a few pages of Nigger of the Narcissus with some of Joseph Conrad's respectable imitators (like Francis Brett Young), Sherman wouldn't know the difference. A critic must be more than idealistic and hardworking. In fact, a good deal of first-rate criticism was done by non-professional critics like Henry James, Walter Pater, and Prosper Mérimée (particularly his essay on Gogol). Not all good writers are good critics; Turgenev was not. That said, writers are the best at evaluating new writing and composers are the top critics of new music, or at least they are better than scholars. Since she wants to say this and so much more, she knows that his book was successful, as a reader's fierce engagement with a book's ideas is always a mark of accomplishment. P. S.: [dated January 20] After writing letter, was asked not to send it by secretary, who thought it would needlessly offend people. Secretary is now on vacation in Cuba, and has decided to risk sending it. Feels that he won't be indiscreet with the letter, even to his talkative publisher. Willa Cather
Is in New York but soon heading West again. Hopes he was not offended by her letter and that they can meet in New York next winter to talk over their ideas. P. S.: Very proud to be listed with Robert Frost in the dedication of his book [Toward Standards: A Study of the Present Critical Movement in American Letters, New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1930]. Willa Cather
She and Knopf cannot allow reprinting something from the new book. Has he considered "The Diamond Mine"? Has heard a rumor that he wants a story that demonstrates a moral; stories ought not to demonstrate anything but an emotion or a response. Willa Cather
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.