- Text Analysis
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To Roscoe Cather, ;
Has been meaning to write about the delightful events of recent days. Finally had a luncheon with Margaret, Virginia, and at Sherry's, and afterwards watched the full-color movie of the twins on that Edith took. None of the girls had seen the movie before, and it is absolutely splendid at capturing the atmosphere of the . Had attempted to make room for a lunch date on fairly short notice with Margaret two weeks ago, but Margaret responded to her telegram with regrets that she had a bridge party, and that refusal was a little painful. Upon seeing Margaret, though, forgot the pain and enjoyed her company. After all, Margaret couldn't have understood her time constraints or what it took for her to clear that day. It is good to be humbled with a refusal now and then. Hopes enjoyed the long lunch at Sherry's as she did. Loved seeing West Virginia again—such a personable young woman. Agrees with in admiring her naturalness and self-assurance. Such attributes are unusual in the younger generation and will stand out more as Virginia matures. Margaret is as dear as ever and was wearing a hat that reminded her of the hats Grandmother Boak kept in her trunk. Appreciated Roscoe's letter from , which she stuck in her copy of , even though she was not aware of when writing it. Thought Mrs. Garber was from , and did not know until Douglass told her that her grandmother was Spanish. Glad she did not know that, for she might have been tempted, like , to add a little exoticism to , which would have revealed her immaturity as a writer. By just capturing Mrs. Garber as she knew her, though, she did provoke some French critics to remark that the character was reminiscent of Spanish women. Mustn't stetch this letter out any further as her right hand is wrapped in a sling from an injury to the thumb tendon: signed 500 de luxe copies of the in three days. May have to retreat to the French Hospital so the nuns can tend to her. Is going to Yehudi's concert on December 2, though, even if she has to wrap her hand in a white scarf. So long. Does love his daughters, especially Margaret. Willie.
To Mary Virginia
Cather, Day After Easter on Grosvenor Hotel letterhead, ;
Was unable to mail Easter cards this year, as she was unprepared to travel during Holy Week and only decided to do it after she saw the twins in their Easter dresses. The twins wear dresses that are identical except for the color now. Those delightful girls are growing up. Inform Elsie that she attended services at Dr. Wade's church. Spoke to Mary Virginia on the telephone and invited her to dinner on Friday. Mary Virginia was recently relocated to the large 42nd street Central Library. Hopes she had a happy Easter. Willie
To Roscoe Cather, ;
Appreciates his advice about Jessica's real assets. Doesn't want her to be hard pressed financially, but needs to live up to his commitment. Elizabeth shouldn't be apologetic about the photograph of the baby—hardy babies should be fat! Thanks for the letters from his . Will take the photograph to so Elizabeth's friends may see it. Dick took Mary Virginia to a country hotel today. Is leaving for Monday. W.
To Meta Schaper Cather,
Tuesday , on 5 Bank Street letterhead, but written from
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 book. Virginia has the remarkable ability to recognize familiar shapes and instantly identified flowers she knows from . 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 Fair, she and Virginia shared tea in the upper porch, which they imagined was Wendy's tree house [from J. M. Barrie's ]. 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.
To Roscoe Cather, ;
Is pleased to see the letter from Elizabeth to her mother. Would like to see the baby. On business matters: when he writes , please be gentle, or he'll be too nervous to ask questions when he needs to. But do tell him will be gone until September 15. Will be rather footloose. Not going to as the well needs to be re-drilled, and she and Miss Lewis feel exhausted at the expensive prospect of bringing men and equipment to the island. [Written in right margin:] July 23—is going to anyway. Work is impossible when one is just roaming around. Mary Virginia has been in the French Hospital for weeks. She is underweight and overworked, and the constant traipsing up six flights of stairs has done her in. She is so wasted that her internal organs—particularly one kidney—are sagging, and she will be wearing a special belt to support her intestines. Don't tell her mother. Mary Virginia is bothered enough. When she can leave the hospital, will pay for her to go on a lengthy cruise where she will do nothing but sleep and eat all day. Keep this from her mother and Elsie, too. [Written in right margin:] No; now it's to be two months in the country. Has not gone to the bank since putting in charge of checks, so does not know what checks have come in. Will go when Virginia is better. [Written in right margin:] July 23—check did arrive. To her understanding, if the Montebello Oil field begins to earn money, her checks and Jessica's checks will be identical. Until then, wants to give Jessica—through Roscoe—a bit from Ocean Front Oil Field income. Douglass would want that. Before leaving , will send a $200 check to him; please pass it along to Jessica with a note that Douglass would have wanted it. Jessica need not thank her. Just hopes the checks are helpful. Would prefer to assist Mary Virginia. In a decade of work at the library, she has never arrived late or refused to work holidays. She certainly shed her mother's ways. One can't work hard and weigh ninety pounds without problems, though. Mary Virginia keeps up her spirits, but is distressed about it herself, as is Dick. If Mary Virginia had told them, could have taken steps sooner. Appreciates his advice, as always. [Note in top margin:] Leaving for on August 31. [Included is a clipping of a notice of a first edition of on sale for $60, and a note in an unknown hand: "Book prices current!"] Willie.
To Elsie Cather,
Received a letter from Roscoe discussing his good trip. Envies Elsie and Virginia's travel in western and would like see the twins. Since Mary Virginia was going to anyway, has invited her to for her vacation. She will stay at the inn, but can come to the cottage when she likes. Not sure she'll like the island life, but it is better than the place she visited in last year. Very sorry about Bess. Wants to help, at least with expenses. Hopes Elsie will get porches painted, with thorough sanding first, and send the bill when it is finished. Pleased she liked The version is preferable to the version. Tell Bessie that Virginia is spending her vacation at . Mother would have liked the idea; has told Virginia so. Travel to no more expensive than to . Mary Virginia may not like isolation and overcast skies, but she can play bridge at inn with nice people there (some rather dull). Tell Jess thanks for the letter and explain the invitation to Mary Virginia. Willie
To Elsie Cather,
Enjoyed Elsie's informative letter, and invited Mary Virginia to come over and read it, too. Have invited twin nieces to with Roscoe's encouragement. Is feeling poorly and could not be a good hostess in the . Sending a check for Elsie's vacation, but offers no travel advice, as it has not been useful in the past. Is Will Andrews there? Maybe he could care for the lawn and perhaps even stay at the house with Elsie, as long as it wouldn't provoke gossip. Edith, Virginia, and she especially enjoyed the part of Elsie's letter discussing . Is not traveling to despite the Menuhins' request, as she has chosen to remain in the east for the twins. PS: Sorry the check is small, but it costs a good deal to bring the twins to . Willie
To Dorothy Canfield Fisher,
Thursday , from
Returned from and on Saturday and found in accumulated mail a copy of her Made-to-Order Stories. Will send it to twin nieces in their Christmas package. Visited niece Mary Virginia at Smith College on the way home. Sorry such an unworthy person [?] is settling near Dorothy. Willa [Stout #807]
To Carrie Miner Sherwood,
Sorry to say, will not be coming to this fall. Had a hard summer and has felt the strain. Edith ill for a week at Lake Louise and travel difficult. Was in hospital with severe anemia after they got back. Still quite weak and becomes faint with any excitement. Very little appetite. Also some family problems. in southern very hurt by her not letting them know she was in the state. Was able to stop using the brace on her hand while in , which pleased Roscoe. Hopes to get really well soon. Mary Virginia cheers her up and does some of her shopping, and niece Margaret, Roscoe's daughter, comes into for tea occasionally. Must not take on anything else until she regains some strength. Hand much steadier now. When destroying some old manuscripts yesterday, compared present handwriting to that of years ago and found it more legible now. Willie [Stout #1553]
To Mary Virginia
, from the La Fonda hotel in
Mary Virginia will read this aloud if Elsie is not in yet. Wishes Mary Virginia could have been in with Roscoe and his family. Hopes one day to have her own adobe home in to invite her nieces to. Elsie will report that the trip was wonderful, if too short. Edith returned to just before Roscoe's family left. Is feeling lonely. Is writing mornings in Mary Austin's house while she is away, but wishes she were not by herself in . Douglass said he was coming, but never did. Is traveling to for a few weeks. Wishes she could come to on the way back to , but it won't work out. Needs to be in the first week of August, and cannot tolerate the hot weather. Mother and Elsie will be better off if she is not there causing problems. Will possibly come in the autumn. Does much better in cool weather; the heat makes her ill. Edith, like her, enjoyed the twins. Mother should allow Virginia to come for a visit, as she really would like to. Virginia is possibly the grandchild most dedicated to her grandmother, and she will not be troublesome. Roscoe's is terrific and he enjoys his very much. How wonderful! Willie
To Roscoe Cather,
Is pleased he had a good time with Douglass on his trip. As to the twins, if they will be in this July, they ought to come to afterwards. They are not likely to be so close again, and there is something exciting about being on an island offshore. To do it, they would need to take a train to and then to , to wait for a boat. They might need to stay at the Admiral Beatty Hotel for a couple of days, but has some appeal of its own. The boat trip to takes a whole day, but is quite nice. They should stay two weeks on , and she will set them up at the same place Mary Virginia stayed during her visits. The trip will likely be expensive—about $100 each. Will send a check to cover the costs when it's all set. Naturally, there will be no costs for them on the , as she will be their hostess. But it is critical they have the right clothing! They should have warm clothing, rain coats (it can rain a good deal there), and the right kind of shoes. Rubber-soled tennis shoes would be perfect. Girls have been injured climbing on the cliffs in high-heeled shoes. Is certain the twins will enjoy the as much as she does. What does he think about this plan? Would love their company. Enjoys having fun with young people. Her joy in the Menuhins is not just because they are supremely gifted, but because of their youth. With them, it seems as if she were heading out for grove. Willie.
To Roscoe Cather,
Sunday , on 5 Bank Street letterhead, but written from
Hasn't had a minute to herself until now. Had to give a talk at Institute. Loves to play with West Virginia—such a lovely, fascinating child. Virginia's grandmother pretends to be a disciplinarian, but really spoils her. Virginia has seemed to want to go home only once, when she saw father without his dentures and started crying. Virginia will be a challenge to raise as she is headstrong and doesn't have a good sense of priorities: will ruin an entire picnic because she couldn't wear a particular ribbon in her hair, though in fact she is indifferent to hair ribbons and loves the idea of the picnic. She seems unable to give in. However, after a big fight with her grandmother about whether it is acceptable to play in the rain barrel while wearing a nice white dress, she is pleasant and not bitter. And Douglass agrees that she has such a delightful voice. Roscoe ought to be firm with her when she gets passionate over small matters. People who lack proper perspective live muddled lives. However, that's really the only improvement she needs. Otherwise, she is very appealing: a smart girl, who will likely respond to guidance. Her grandmother won't be any help, though, as so many of her days have also been spoiled over trifles. Mary Virginia and Tom, despite their upbringing, know they can't be bothersome or they won't be tolerated by their adult aunts and uncles. Doesn't have any idea what Jim's plans are—who could?—, but they should let Virginia stay awhile. Everyone enjoys her company. Loves seeing the way their unsentimental mother keeps looking in on Virginia after she is asleep. Misses Margaret and Elizabeth very much and wishes they could read letters. Please get copies of the photographs of her with the twins made soon so she can mail them to people like Jack and Isabelle. Felt so bleak when she first went to and left feeling revived. The twins took her mind off problems, and taking horseback rides with Roscoe was invigorating and heartening. Had secretly feared that she and Meta would not get along, but found it a real pleasure to become friends with her. Was so relieved, and really feels now that she and Meta could be companionable even on a long trip with the twins. Should have come to long ago. Misses the twins terribly. Wonders if they enjoy Isabelle's gift of a stuffed bear? P.S. Remember to send the pictures! Willie.
To Roscoe Cather, ;
Just returned home yesterday from , where she was recovering her strength after a serious health problem in May. Was in the French Hospital for a week then. Did not tell him about it because she did not want to worry him and the doctor said it would take a while to recover. Had meant to be at the University of Pennsylvania on June 12 to accept an honorary degree, but was not able to go. Received the degree anyway. Is now working regularly, which hasn't happened for a while. Is set on giving the to Alfred Knopf by the fall; the title shall be . After missing so many deadlines, feels honor bound to meet this one. Not sure what made Roscoe think she was reading proof. At the time she went to about a month ago, two crucial chapters were not even written. In her old room in the country, though, was able to write two and a half hours each morning, then rest in bed in the afternoon, on doctor's orders. Drafted the chapters in pencil in two weeks, so will need to revise extensively, and then go through the entire manuscript and pull it together. The writing was going well when Douglass died; had to stop for four months. Then after Isabelle's death, found she scarecely cared about the book. Tried to write again, but felt like an altered woman. As a result, the book broke apart, and despite patching it together the fracture will remain. Found a letter from Margaret waiting in and will write her soon. Margaret does not have a telephone, so can't call; must wait until time permits writing. Has started a two-hour-a-day writing schedule without even unpacking, and will maintain it every day until Knopf has the book, even if it means spending the whole summer in . Please read her about Knopf ["Portrait of the Publisher as a Young Man," in Alfred A. Knopf Quarter Century (New York: Plimpton Press, 1940), 9-26.] to see why she is so committed, and it doesn't even tell half of the considerate things he has done. Must not let him down. No reason not to read proof at , but nowhere near that point. , when she is in , is always helpful with routine needs, but she is on a month's vacation now. Has a lot on her hands, but the will be finished before she goes anywhere again. Sorry for burdening him with all this. Hypertension causes troubling side-effects, especially a fogged short-term memory. Misses her former keen memory. P.S. Hears devastating news from English and French friends. [New note written on back:] July 12. Just received his good explanation of Ocean Front vs. the State of California. Doesn't believe a process server could bother her. Wishes she were already hiding out at . Hopes he has a fine time with his family. W. Willie.
To Elsie Cather,
Those were just typographical mistakes and they got by both her and Edith. Should have read the first printing [of ] 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 , 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 , 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 and the kind pieces in the and ? Judge Vinsonhaler says it is fine for Mary Virginia to make the presentation of the portrait if mother is unwilling. Vinsonhaler is very kind; , 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. newspapers have been printing glowing pieces on her recently. She stumbled across them by chance and sent to her publisher. Has a secret: the editor told her that she nearly received the French Legion of Honor for , 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 alligator is no longer living; the have become ridiculous. Recently had word from Isabelle that her delivered a stillborn girl and nearly died in the process. Is very saddened, as and her husband were so excited about the pregnancy. Did not see the interview mentioning , as it appeared in the when she was home for Christmas, and all the papers were sold out. Wonders how the paper got it. [The article, entitled "Fiction Recalls Violinist Lost In War: An Interview With Willa Cather," appeared in the , 24 December 1922, sec. 8, p. 4, cols. 1-4; p. 12, cols. 3-4. It was reprinted in the , 3 September 1923, p. 2, cols. 1- 4; p. 3, col. 1.] Willa
To Roscoe Cather,
Wants to tell him of few things confidentially: 1) Is sending a letter from Mary Virginia with a marked passage he should read. Did not, nor did Edith hear Douglass mention a will that time, but they perhaps missed it amid the laughter and conversation. Certainly Mary Virginia would not make it up, so she must have heard something. He could have been speaking only figuratively, though, to explain his concern. Must be honest in recalling the speech of a man who can speak no more. 2) Went with Douglass to Tiffany's to pick out a bracelet for , but not one in the case was attractive. Suggested Douglass consider one of the lovely rings, but he thought it a little too committal. While at the sanitarium, saw often, and she seemed inoffensive enough. She wasn't dumb, could do her job well, was polite, and was prettier than Douglass's other sweethearts. Douglass was coming on strong with her, and she seemed to like him, too. He told her the spring before their mother died that he was thinking about marrying . Did not object. It is difficult for a young working woman to bear six or seven years of courting. Believes she lost her job at Las Encinas because of gossip about her and Douglass. Never considered as someone who was after Douglass's money; she behaved like a woman who believes she is in love with a man and wants to please him. In the subsequent six years or so may have worsened; such an unsettled relationship is wearing for a woman her age. She is definitely worse off now than when Douglass first met her: she's lost several jobs, been gossiped about, and is now past thirty (which makes it harder to get a job and get married). Hopes Douglass was openhanded with her when he was alive, for his will does not repay all she's lost. Jessica and Elsie, who are now so upset, were a burden to Douglass in the years was a comfort. Does not mind if Douglass treated her lavishly, as she did more for him than his own family did. They should look at this from her perspective. Wouldn't Roscoe be troubled if one of his own was treated like that? The letter from Elsie, which she has enclosed, speaks for itself. was a decent young woman in those years, and she trusted Douglass's devotion even if it did not profit her. 3) Doesn't want to write about the next topic, but feels obligated to: all of Jim's letters since he left to work with Douglass reek of betrayal except the one since Douglass's death. He complains endlessly that Douglass duped him out of his share of their father's estate! Has told Jim that she would trust Douglass with her own money at the drop of a hat. The few recent ones—maybe two a year—also whined that he was treated like an underling when he understood the oil industry perfectly well. He didn't believe the oil industry took any expertise, just luck, and he planned to speculate independent from Douglass. Roscoe would be affected by these letters as much as she. She thought they were so spiteful, she only kept them a few days before destroying them. Jim has positive qualities and she is very fond of him when he is near, but he is arrogant and provoked by a malicious wife full of cheap aspirations. Knows that Ethel was understanding with Jim for a good while, but when she soured, she turned to poison. It is Roscoe's duty to prevent these angry, self-centered women from harming any further. Their father would have been kind toward her. If has a different version of the will that is fully legal, it must be honored. Elsie's theory that goaded Douglass into drinking is silly. All knew his heart was weak, and he wasn't the kind of man that retired to his bed. He liked a drink, as it allowed him to feel more lighthearted about his future. He was pushing away his fears with his drinking. 4) Usually does not reveal the secrets of others, but thought Roscoe needed to understand Jim's character. Neither he nor Jack should be trusted very far. Better to place confidence in Douglass's business partners. Jack is sweet, but careless and now too old to change. Jim never could handle serious men; his type is or . Douglass's partners aren't sophisticated men, but they understand the oil business. Will not write about this any more. Is soon going to with no typewriter or secretary. Knows that Roscoe wants to support Jim and Jack, but he should keep in mind Jim's disloyalty to Douglass while Douglass lived. Jim treats his well, but he doesn't seem to love them more than Douglass did. When acquainted with , did not think she was pursuing men, but her career. During the trip to , she never behaved vulgarly, but was a straightforward, smart Western woman. She didn't moon over Douglass, and was always well-behaved. Is grieved to see her life ruined. Roscoe should act as their father would have. P.S.: After reading Elsie's letter, get rid of it. Willie.