Is studying Greek and being treated like a goddess. Hasn't seen the Nevins, but they have phoned and he has sent a copy of Shakespeare's sonnets. In Chicago had dinner with Mr. Dooley. He and the Peatties encouraged her to come there to work. Mrs. Peattie's new story in Atlantic ["The Man at the Edge of Things," reviewed by Cather Nov. 4] establishes her as a writer. Was met at the train station by Isabelle, looking beautiful. They have been walking in the hills and going to concerts. Has read all of Dorothy's letters from Paris. Had a nice visit with May Willard last night. P.S.: Will tell her about Alfred next time. Willa [Stout #58]
Is sending a present for Peter Rabbit. Don't open until Christmas! Will send books for Mary Virginia as soon as she and Miss Lewis (with whom she is partners in housekeeping) have read them. Found these nice children's books from England in a local book shop. Willie [Stout #144]
Has a new mink coat purchased by Professor St. Peter [of The Professor's House]. Please ask someone from Mr. Weisz's insurance company to come by and write a policy on it on Friday or Saturday at noon. Is working hard and loving her bishop. Willa [Stout #819]
May quote from the essay she referred to. Believes sketch of Nat Wheeler in One of Ours better than the one of Godfrey St. Peter in The Professor's House. The right readers understand her books instinctually. The wrong ones never understand, but that's all right. Willa Cather [Stout #943]
Gives permission to quote from anything in Not Under Forty and conditional permission to quote from letter to Pat Knopf explaining reasons for structure of The Professor's House. Prefers the distinct separations of that form to the mixture of unexpressed feelings typical of modern fiction, though it could have been done that way. Outland's life had become as real to the professor as his own; he became part of the old house. Glad Pat is studying with him. Willa Cather [Stout #1433]
Elsie is leaving on Friday and is now packing, or trying to. Cather is relaxing on the upper porch and going through the newly-purchased "Rocky Mountain Flowers" book. Virginia has the remarkable ability to recognize familiar shapes and instantly identified flowers she knows from Lander. She can perceive forms so soundly that she sees, in an instant, the difference between snapdragons and peas. Challenged her to distinguish among the pine trees in the yard, and she did it quickly and confidently. Mary Virginia and Tom cannot manage nearly as well. When the others went to the Bladen Fair, she and Virginia shared tea in the upper porch, which they imagined was Wendy's tree house [from J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan]. The summer days are devoted to the porch, where they each have a hammock. Wishes the twins were there. [Note in top margin:]In our botanical craze, we should call the baby Virginia occidentalis. Happy to receive the photographs of Margaret and Elizabeth. Willa.
Wanted to respond right away to his kind letter. Is so pleased that he and their parents like the new novel. It is getting positive reviews from many critics, too. She received a letter from France, even, and it will soon be published there. Prefers the previous one herself, as it is full of intensity and the hardships of life then, but critics prefer the artistry of My Ántonia. A reviewer in The Nation claims "it exists in an atmosphere of its own—an atmosphere of pure beauty." [This quotation has not been found. It does not appear in the review published in "The Nation" in 1918 ("Two Portraits," The Nation [November 2, 1918]: 522-3)] That's silly: the atmosphere is like grandmother's kitchen. Booth Tarkington says it is as "simple as a country prayer meeting or a Greek temple—and as beautiful." [No published or unpublished remarks about My Ántonia by Booth Tarkington have been located. However, Booth Tarkington did write a letter to S. S. McClure praising his "Autobiography" (which Cather ghost-wrote) and used the sentence "It's as simple as a country church—or a Greek statue." See Lyon, Peter, Success Story: The Life and Times of S. S. McClure (New York: Scribner): 1963. 347] Isn't it funny how people who can't create anything of real quality themselves can know it when they see it? And something really honest is honest for everybody. It doesn't work for a writer to be concerned about the pre-formed taste of the audience. They accomplish nothing. Unless one is going to be completely conventional, one has to do something utterly new and un-wished for by readers. Innovative works are never desired, because people have to figure out how to appreciate what they have never encountered before.