A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Dorothy Canfield Fisher,  n.d. [March 1922?] , apparently a fragment ; UVt 

Proofs have arrived, and Dorothy's questions will help her make improvements. Is certain, though, about the independent or traveling guns of the British. Incident of the killing of the German with the locket was from something a young officer told her; she used it because he didn't seem to understand and she liked that. The little girl and the terrible baby also from something told her by a soldier. Used the diary of a physician [Dr. Frederic Sweeney, Jaffrey, N.H.] for the flu epidemic on the transport ship. Is sure of the date U.S. troops went into battle at Chateau Thierry. Claude's feeling about David's violin was from her own feeling of inferiority when they were in France in 1902. Knows readers won't give the book a chance because it is a war novel.   [Stout #588]


To Mrs. William Stix [Yaltah Menuhin],  Monday [Jan. 23, 1939] , from New YorkPrinceton 

Weather very cold, but still walks around the reservoir [in Central Park]. Misses her. Is dealing with a great deal of business, particularly the effort to prevent publication of a poor translation of Death Comes for the Archbishop into French. Is sending James M. Barrie's The Boy David but suggests she first read First and Second Samuel in the Bible. One needs to know the Biblical story in order to enjoy the play. Is glad Barrie liked Archbishop. P.S.: Has just reread First and Second Samuel and the young David is delightful. Psalms of David are splendid poetry, too.  Aunt Willa   [Stout #1435]


To Bobbie [nickname for Elsie Cather] [October? 1913] , from 1180 Murray Hill Avenue, Pittsburgh, PAUNL-Rosowski Cather 

Is working hard after two weeks in Virginia, and Isabelle is preparing for her sister Edith's wedding.  Pleased Elsie is doing some horseback riding.  Wishes to get back to beautiful Nebraska.  Sending a review from the Nation [97 (4 Sept. 1913): 210-211].  Likes beating out Norris and Phillips [Nation reviewer compared O Pioneers! to their work].   Willie 


To Bobbie [nickname for Elsie Cather] [October? 1913] possibly sent with #1846; UNL-Rosowski Cather 

Enclosed review [of O Pioneers!] is from the Nation [97 (4 Sept. 1913): 210-211], which rarely publishes a positive review of a novel. Used to see Phillips at the Waldorf and said to herself that she understood the west better than he did, but no one would ever believe a woman. Now they do! Is very pleased. Please send back after Roscoe sees it.   Willie 


To Elsie CatherSeptember 19, [1923], from Aix-les-Bains, FranceUNL-Southwick 

Those were just typographical mistakes and they got by both her and Edith. Should have read the first printing [of A Lost Lady] for such mistakes, but has not been well and did not suppose it would sell so fast. Did wonder about using the telephone in the novel, but no specific date was given and the events take place over a rather long stretch of time. The final section was meant to be set in 1900 or so, but it could be 1903 or 1904, and telephones were available at that time. Time was tricky in the book, as about fifteen years preceding and following the action had to be dealt with. The actual incidents of the plot took about a decade, but the reader had to feel the alterations brought by about thirty years, so was not too specific. Has Elsie seen the large advertisement in the Atlantic and the kind pieces in the Bee and World-Herald? Judge Vinsonhaler says it is fine for Mary Virginia to make the presentation of the portrait if mother is unwilling. Vinsonhaler is very kind; Shotwell, that friend of Nell McNeny's, is the problem. Bakst had beautiful photographs taken with her in his studio; would Elsie like one? Will send one to Carrie for sure. Risked illness and ventured up to cold Mount Revard, and it was marvelous. The new snow on Mount Blanc made the scene breathtaking. Paris newspapers have been printing glowing pieces on her recently. She stumbled across them by chance and sent to her publisher. Has a secret: the Figaro editor told her that she nearly received the French Legion of Honor for Claude, and would've gotten it if the full committee could read novels in English. Since it will be translated into French soon, the editor believes she will eventually get the honor. All of the French who have read the book seem to be transformed into her publicists. Would enjoy the attention very much if she were only feeling better. No, did not use Margie's knife as an ice-pick, but damaged it cutting soup bones. Is pleased Sambo's alligator is no longer living; the Mathenys have become ridiculous. Recently had word from Isabelle that her Italian cook delivered a stillborn girl and nearly died in the process. Is very saddened, as Bagina and her husband were so excited about the pregnancy. Did not see the interview mentioning Hochstein, as it appeared in the New York Herald when she was home for Christmas, and all the papers were sold out. Wonders how the Hastings paper got it. [The article, entitled "Fiction Recalls Violinist Lost In War: An Interview With Willa Cather," appeared in the New York Herald, 24 December 1922, sec. 8, p. 4, cols. 1-4; p. 12, cols. 3-4. It was reprinted in the Commercial Advertiser, 3 September 1923, p. 2, cols. 1- 4; p. 3, col. 1.]   Willa 


To Roscoe Cather,  Sunday [January 5, 1919] UNL-Roscoe 

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.