A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To [?] ,  n.d. [prob. 1897 or 1898] excerpt transcribed by Bernice Slote ; UNL 

Enjoyed Thanksgiving visit to Columbus. Canfields away, leaving house to Dorothy, Jim and fiancée, and herself. Many parties. Is spending much of her leisure time with Ethelbert Nevin, a lovable man. Has been reading Kipling's poetry, as she used to at the university.   [Stout #55]


To Chilson LeonardMar. 19, 1936Phil-Ex 

Has no photographs of Nebraska in 1885 or 1895. Understands from Professor Pupin [?] of Columbia that it resembled the plains of Russia. Otto Fuchs not a representation of a specific person but a composite of many, as are most minor characters. Blind d'Arnault modeled on Blind Boone. Has also heard of a similar Blind Tom and Blind Noah. Actress Jim sees in Camille based on Clara Morris. Many relics such as the Spanish sword have been found in southwest Kansas. Good reading does not come from factual information, however, but from cultivated taste. Does not approve of required reading of contemporary writers in English courses, which should center on great English writers of the past and on Latin writers. Wishes his students were reading Kidnapped [ Stevenson ] or Vanity Fair [ Thackeray ] rather than My Ántonia.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1306]


To Carrie Miner SherwoodJune 14, 1941WCPM 

Has read her letter several times. Is glad she and Mary will be together next winter. Will come to Red Cloud in the fall to see them, but wants to keep it a secret from anyone else. Need time together to forget destruction the world is undergoing. Is leaving for California in a few days, Edith going along since she still can't fasten her own corsets etc. Will use this for their summer vacation instead of going to Grand Manan. Doesn't feel up to going to southern California to see brothers Jim and Jack and families. P.S.: Please tell Mrs. Stockman, appreciated her letter.  Willie   [Stout #1545]


To E. K. BrownOct. 7, 1946Beinecke 

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]


To Elsie CatherAugust 30, [1933], from Grand MananUNL-Rosowski Cather 

Thinks Elsie has gotten a lot done this summer. Appreciates her asking about the small house, but will be visiting not working when in Red Cloud.  Sorry Elsie had to deal with the Auld problems.  They made their own mess, and they will have to deal with it themselves.  Jess should have saved the money she got from Bess, and she needs to learn that people must earn their money by working.  Tom, Charles, and Virginia should support Jessica, not her siblings.  Urges Elsie to consult Howard Foe about the note given to Bess.  If Tom is that kind of person, it's best that they're aware of it.  Jim [James Cather, brother?] would not have done that.  All this has kept her awake—as it did Elsie; dishonor like this shows how important honor is.  Please buy Bess a new coat and send the bill, and write if she needs expense money for house maintenance.  August 30 is anniversary of their mother's death.  Thinks she is beginning to understand mother, and thinks shortly before her stroke mother began to understand herself.  Mother gave her some old pictures to keep, but the "sweet sixteen" photograph Elsie wanted not among them.  Thinks Jessie probably took it.  Attempting to stay focused on work and resist interruptions.   Willie 


To Elsie Cather [1923?] fragment, starts on page three; UNL-Rosowski Cather 

. . . Can borrow money but doesn't want to.  Hopes Elsie will watch over things and get father to buy what is needed.  Doesn't want parents to deprive themselves in order to send her money—though he did give a lot to Jack and Jim.  Has warm affection for home, despite occasional irritation.  Will Elsie please show Margie snapshots of Isabelle's French home.  Will visit there soon.  [Cather sailed for France April 1, 1923.]  Margie kept asking to see them—so once again the family will cater to her whims.  The tower shown in the picture is for doves and rabbits.   Willa 


To Ethel Garber Cather [sister-in-law]July 23, 1930, from Paris; postcard showing the St.-Martin's Gate in Paris ; UNL-Rosowski Cather 
Image of postcard showing the St.-Martin's Gate in Paris, France
Front of postcard #1876

Going south soon to see friends near Marseilles. Sends love to Jim and children.   Willa Cather 


To James CatherJuly 12 [1934?]UNL-Rosowski Cather 

Is writing from a bank vault, where she is doing some business before leaving for Canada. Must tell Jim something: would not respect him more if he hit it big in the oil business. Chance and accomplishment are not the same thing. To work a steady job and support one's family is an accomplishment. That is what Roscoe has done. Making money in gold or oil or stocks is just chance. Real accomplishment is only achieved with persistent hard work. Doesn't mean to lecture, but Jim mentioned he would like to tell her of an accomplishment, and he needs to know that working, staying healthy, and raising children is enough. Jim's children [Helen and Charles Cather], who seem wonderful, would not value their father more if he was rich. Californians value chance too much. Tell the children if they begin to evaluate people based upon their wealth instead of their character she will stop loving them. Doesn't believe it will come to that, but is sincere.   Willie 


To Roscoe Cather, February 13, 1910 on McClure's Magazine letterhead ; UNL-Roscoe 

Has had a crazy winter too, but unlike Roscoe's it wasn't from weather. Has had to deal with all kinds of problems while Mr. McClure in Europe. Was ill with bronchitis in December, and Isabelle came to nurse her. Even then had to work on the magazine, for magazines, like sick infants, have to be constantly fed. Thankfully she had the Russian material and the Paoli article [Xavier, Paoli, "Recollections of the Shah of Persia," McClure's Magazine 24.5 (March 1910): 525-538] that she secured when in England. Is improved now, but still has to rest and consume milk like a child. Has had good success with the the magazine, however; profits up $60,000 from the previous year. Doesn't get any of that money herself, but does get praise. Do read the March issue, as she worked hard on it, and definitely read "A Joint in the Harness" ["Ole Luk-Oie" {pseudonym of Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton}, "A Joint in the Harness," McClure's Magazine 24.5 (March 1910): 547-557], which she got in England. Would appreciate his telling her what pieces he likes and doesn't like; it's helpful when people tell her their reactions forthrightly. Certainly doesn't like everything that gets published herself! Has written Mrs. Goudy and Mrs. Fulton. Thanks for the silk stockings at Christmas. Has he seen darling Mary Virginia since she started talking? Has received a letter from Aunt Franc; enjoyed visiting with her, Auntie, and Bess last summer. Loves that far-off, quiet country. If health permits, will go to England in May, and wishes Roscoe could go, too, as she longs for a good talk with him. Wishes she could come out to Lander, but job is very demanding—more so than running Sandy Point. What has become of Jim Yeiser, anyway? Can't get into one letter all the interesting things she'd like to tell him. Will shrug off the office and catch a train west one of these days.   Willie 


To Roscoe CatherJuly 14, [1914] from Red Cloud, NebraskaUNL-Roscoe 

Had wonderful time in Maine, then spent a few days in Chicago for reasons of work before coming to Red Cloud. Plans to visit him in Wyoming, but doesn't know when. Affairs in Red Cloud are pretty messy. James has convinced father to invest in a lot of farm buildings and equipment, but has no interest in doing the work of a farm. All Jim cares about is bossing Jack around and worrying their parents. He persists in nagging father, and, of course, father can't refuse but is worried sick. Thankfully Douglass's work prevents the situation from absolutely crushing their father, but it feels like a return to the hard times of 1893 after so many better years. Isn't at all sure what actually belongs to Jim and what he has just claimed for himself.   Willa. 


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