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]
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
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.