Taking time out from responding to soldiers' letters to indulge in the pleasure of writing to her and Irene. My Ántonia is twenty-five years old now. It did not sell many copies at first but kept growing and steadily sells four to six thousand a year (though not this past year). Archbishop sells more, but its special appeal to Catholics inflates the market. Moviemakers keep wanting Ántonia, but won't sell it. Had to fight Alexander Woollcott when he wanted to put it into an anthology. Allowed the Readers' Union in England, which serves veterans of the First World War who missed out on higher education, to put out a paperback edition of 20,000 a few years ago, now out of print. Doesn't mean to brag, but feels proud and happy that people still care about the book. Hopes it is a satisfaction for her as well. Enclosing a letter from a Lt. Harrison Blaine that she would like to have back. Willie [Stout #1633]
Regrets her letter has been lying unanswered for two months. Has been in Grand Manan. New York is insupportable, and travel west is difficult because roads [i.e., railroads] almost totally occupied with military transport. Only place she could go for quiet was to the island, and no mail was forwarded. S. S. McClure now lives at the Union League Club in New York. His eruptive energy has dissipated, replaced by an overwhelming gentleness and calm. If the war ever ends, hopes to get back to London and see her. Childhood years in both France and England must have produced an interesting person! Willa Cather [Stout #1674]
The critic who authored the significant review [Bourne, Randolph, "Morals and Art from the West," Dial, 65 (14 December 1918): 557] of My Ántonia she recently sent has just died of influenza. He was among the best critics in the U.S., and she worried about his review of the book. He didn't like Song of the Lark very much, except for the first section. Appreciates his favorable comparison of her with William Allen White. Has always disliked the way White and Graham Phillips wrote about life in the West. Sensed all along that there was a better, truer way of presenting it. Naturally Ántonia could have been written in the same folksy, rolicky way White prefers. He thinks he's being realistic, but he is really only showing off his commonness. Sure, White sells far more books than she does, but she is not trying to connect with the same readers. Doesn't worry about sales too much while she still has the money she saved from her days working at McClure's. Received an encouraging letter a few weeks ago from Edwin Winter, who used to be president of the Missouri Pacific. Winter had earlier worked for Union Pacific in Nebraska and built the first bridge over Dale Creek canyon—actually a wooden bridge! He wanted to visit with her, and he came over on Friday. He is a very impressive person! It's better to have one admirer like him than to sell a thousand copies. He found the book stirring and felt compelled to meet her after reading it. He wondered if she were actually Swedish, as he thought the novel was too literary to be the work of an American. What a vibrant, wonderful new friend to have! Please return the issue of the Dial and other clipping about Bourne, and inform Meta that she continues to enjoy the wonderful jam Meta sent: the scuppernong is gone and the pineapple is next. Would like to have been with them over the holiday.
Received his letter from Del Monte this afternoon, and read it while having tea. Since his letter concerned food, it was enjoyable to read with her tea. Must thank him for his conscientious review of the Union Trust Company papers, and understands that he concurs with her lawyer: the trust is so complicated that it is best just to be content with its paltry returns. Is enjoying the Savings Bank blotters; they recall work by Howard Pyle's students. Has struggled with the flu intermittently for about six weeks and has been bedridden for the last three, during which time it rained continually. The clouds have broken, she's out of bed, and is hopeful for improvement. Willie.
Hastily thanks him for warm letter. Could be more helpful if Nebraska farm loans had succeeded. Does not have a favorite twin (how could she?), but knew Margaret would be a success, and frequently said as much to Edith and Elsie. Margaret is more contemplative and slightly more gentle. Such attributes can delay one a bit, but they always flower. The elevator operators in their building are paid higher than union rates, so they are still working, but they are very nervous. They come to work with a guard and are worried they might be assaulted. Apartment is on the eighth floor, and only stairs are at the rear. True reason for writing, though, is to insist he take a vacation. One gets shingles from stress, and he has been working too much. Should take a car trip south. W.