Proofs still haven't arrived. When weather improves will start long horseback trip through Canyon de Chelly. So glad cars can't get there. If they prepare a publicity booklet using the London Mercury article, be sure to let her see proof. So easy to get incorrect biographical information into circulation. Please greet Hambourgs while in Paris. Is feeling fine except eyes hurt from the glare of sunshine. P.S.: After June 1 address will be Hotel La Fonda, Santa Fe. Willa Cather [Stout #834]
Sending her publisher's pamphlet with biographical information and a list of books with information about her and her work. Has marked the two best. Hard to answer his question about French influence. From adolescence and for many years thereafter read and liked French prose writers from Hugo to Maupassant. Read all of Balzac more than once before the age of twenty, though not much now. Doesn't believe she ever imitated any French writer, but did admire them more than their English contemporaries because of freer experimentation and greater thematic range. Tone of British writers of that period, before Hardy, sometimes mechanical or patronizing, though it doesn't really bother her. Believes French language itself more exciting to her than English when she was younger. Now prefers Prosper Merimée to the others. Likes his reserve, as well as other qualities. P.S.: Suggests he read "The Novel Démeublé." Willa Cather [Stout #988]
Appreciates the copy of Grey of Fallodon, which she enjoyed reading. Did not like May Sarton's The Single Hound; didn't resemble real people. Very different from The Enemy Gods, which she liked very much. Usually does not care for novels about writers, a genre Robert Louis Stevenson referred to as cannibalism. George Gissing's Grub Street an exception. Doesn't care for very fanciful fiction either, including Walter de la Mare. The fanciful works well in poetry, but not in prose. Willa Cather [Stout #1404]
Likes the cover for Lascar; it transports her to Marseilles. Likes the way the church towers over all while frivolous and shabby and alluring things wash around it. Sense of crowding and human variety perfectly captures Marseilles. Surprising he never read Maupassant until recently. Glad he is feeling well and enjoying himself. Was sorry to learn that Virginia Woolf had died; knows that was a loss to him. Hand improves very slowly. Willa Cather [Stout #1536]
Reply has been delayed by repairs of apartment. Greatly appreciates his insightful reading of her work and generally agrees with his judgments. Is not writing much nowadays because low in spirits since the deaths of her brothers Douglass and Roscoe. Yes, Death Comes for the Archbishop is her best. It was hard to find a structure to pull together so many disparate elements in the Southwest. It simply came to her one day when watching the sunset color the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that the essence of the early Southwest was the story of the missionaries from France. Devoted herself to research on it from that day. Mary Austin claimed the book was written in her house, and now a woman named Wheelwright claiming it was written in hers. Actually, mostly written in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Has always felt disappointed with O Pioneers!. Tried to put together the Norwegian and the French settlers, and they never mixed. Once, not long after it was published, met Louis Brandeis on the street and he told her that what he most liked about the novel was its sincerity of feeling for the place and people. Said that one of the writers in whom he did not find that sincerity was Edith Wharton. Never saw him again. Probably he didn't find her own next two books sincere either. Kept working and trying to learn. Believes Brown underestimates the early railroad builders; Jim Hill, for example, a person of great imagination and personal quality. Never gave great care to language per se in her books, but tried to let the language come to her that would express feeling for the subject. Is pleased by his praise of My Mortal Enemy. Agrees that Lucy Gayheart isn't very good, except in the last part, after the Gayhearts themselves are dead and the book centers on the effect they have in the businessman's memory. Wishes she'd had a better sense of form earlier in her career. Willa Cather [Stout #1741]
Spent entire morning in Louvre. Murillo picture will remind Edith of the Spanish works at the end of the corridor. Murillo's Virgin is the loveliest woman on earth, and Ribera's humble shepherds are wonderful. W.S.C.
Happy birthday from lovely Paris! The crossing was fine, and it is a joy to visit Isabelle daily—room is very close to her apartment. W.S.C.
Is in Marseilles and will sail October 25; will arrive in New York on November 12. The French were very kind and helpful during her trip from Paris, but the Americans were quite ill-mannered. Has to go everywhere in a carriage while she does her business, but can walk some in the hotel. The injured foot is about as expensive as another traveling companion. Thankfully has a terrific masseuse to treat foot twice daily. Will not need to walk on the boat, but will not like being injured when the boat stops in Naples for three days. French people are so courteous. A Major of Artillery with a missing arm did much to help, and even the drivers have assisted her. Hopes everyone is doing well at home. Edith's mother mailed a nice review of the new book [ Youth and the Bright Medusa ] from the New York Times. Willa
Is not angry, just tired from the flu and impatient with all the requests made of her. Is refusing the requests, but even writing decorous rejections is burdensome. Getting the honorary degree from Columbia University was wonderful. Was the sole woman among six aging men, and sat in cap and gown next to the French Ambassador [Paul Claudel?]and the University of California's president [ William Wallace Campbell ]. Edith says that the crowd cheered for her most, and they did. Was applauded when the President [ Nicholas Murray Butler ] called her name and again after two Deans put a beautiful collar on her; the others only got applause after they received their degrees. The Cuban, de Bustamante, was also well-liked. After the ceremony, she went to a supper party hosted by President Butler and spoke with many dignitaries from the university and beyond. It was pleasant, but tiring. She should have invited Mary Virginia along. Is mailing the Columbia collar [hood], along with the Michigan one, to Carrie Sherwood for storage. Hasn't the room to store them, and Carrie has a special place. Hopes mother likes the beads, even if family does usually question her [i.e., Cather's] judgment in such matters. Is planning to go to Grand Manan soon. PS: The traveling done by the men receiving degrees tells one how important they think it is. Willie
He must be inundated with praise since the publication of his [translation of Joost van den Vondel's] Lucifer [New York, London: Continental Publishing Co., 1898]. Hopes he does not mind another. Has been following the positive reception with some surprise at the success, for it is rare that an old, non-English language text can inspire such enthusiasm. Liked the review in the Critic; it was as positive as Vance Thompson's but more focused and intelligent. Had hoped to review it herself and regrets being gone and missing the chance. Wants him to know of her honest approval of his work. And now, though still so young, he is going to talk at Columbia! Hopes his success has made him content. Though he used to doubt his abilities, she never did. With support of cousin Dr. James Howard Gore of Columbian University, Washington, D.C., is hoping to publish a book of essays on theater soon, and hopes he will look at it for her. Wishes him the best. P.S.: Is boarding with some young women from Pittsburgh he met at the Chicago World's Fair, the Miss Davises. Unusual to associate him with those uncomplicated girls. It is an association Balzac would have appreciated. Willa Cather