Children were all dressed up for her homecoming. Is reading Virgil and botanizing. Mr. Wiener now boarding at Mrs. Garber's. Thanks for being mainstay during past winter and spring, when she [Cather] was despairing over the loss of what she had lived for. Appreciates her patience these past years while she raved over a certain girl's beauty, charm, and talent; rhapsodized over merely touching that person's hand; and suffered through the loss of love. Loving too much is a mistake. Hopes they can meet in Crete [Nebr.] Douglass may come, too. Willa [Stout #17]
Enjoyed his book [ The Great Gatsby ] and never even supposed the passage he points out was derived from A Lost Lady. Inevitable that in describing beauty one could only write about the feelings it evoked in oneself. Willa Cather [Stout #781]
Just received copy of Her Son's Wife that she sent to the apartment. What a somber book; has the middle-aged quality Dorothy saw in The Professor's House. Harsh but true that problems are perpetuated in successive generations. Has seen it in action herself. Admires the book but can't enjoy such unrelieved somberness. Mood overwhelms her, much as in Ethan Frome [ Wharton ]. After all, it is possible for a person to emerge from a squalid home and see beauty—like that of Jaffrey. Willa [Stout #849]
Is looking out the window of Edith's room at the woods. Feeling fine, with an embarrassingly hearty appetite, and sleeping soundly. Wakes up during the night long enough to enjoy the mountain air and the moonlight. In an hour will see a confluence of Jupiter and Venus. Last night it lasted about an hour before the lady [Venus] dropped over the horizon leaving him [Jupiter] alone. They were splendid. Can't believe all this beauty and order is only a matter of physics. Has been wearing her white silk suit. All the things Edith packed came through without wrinkling. Now will dress for dinner, so as not to miss a minute of the planets. With love, W. [Stout #1328]
Was pleased with his letter because he writes in good sentence structure. His high school teacher must have taught him well. As to "Paul's Case," once had a student in Latin class who was nervous and always trying to seem interesting, always hanging around actors in touring companies. The part about New York reflects her own feelings when first there. The part about jumping under the train entirely made up. Understands his desire for beauty, but if he has that desire he will find it in the artistic treasures of the world. Willa Cather [Stout #1620]
Is disappointed Elsie won't be able to make it to England, but her plan to drive through New England sounds pleasant. Elsie ought to come to Grand Manan if she is going to be in Maine—so different from Nebraska. One can take a car on the ferry at Eastport, Maine, three times a week. There is no room in the cottage, but Elsie and her friend could stay at Miss Jacobus's inn [The Inn at Whale Cove], where Mary Virginia stayed during her visit. The inn can fill in July and August, so it is best to give a few weeks advance notice. She will have plenty of use for the car. Is occupied with the final stages of her book, but could take walks with Elsie. The tourists on the island—mostly teachers and librarians—are not a formal bunch. Elsie will need practical, comfortable clothing and shoes that can bear up to the rocks and rainy weather. Grand Manan often gets periods of rain alternating with bouts of sunshine, but the rain is part of the island's charm. Since it takes quite a long time to get to Grand Manan, Elsie should stay a minimum of two weeks. The wild beauty is not grandiose, but is pleasing. Edith would be glad to see her too. Doesn't know about camps; Grand Manan was Virginia's choice. Meant to write earlier, but has been working hard on the book. It won't be published as a book until September 1935; it will be in Woman's Home Companion first [Lucy Gayheart appeared in the Woman's Home Companion in 5 parts, March-July 1935; the book was published August 1, 1935]. Is serializing the novel only for the income and hopes friends will only read the book form. PS: The ferry that brings automobiles costs ten dollars. Last year Edith's sister brought her car over. Willie
Scene is typical of the beauty of the area. Please show Virginia. Cannot write due to arm pain, but is improving. Willa
[included with letter are: 1) newspaper clipping announcing that Jervis Bay in New Brunswick has been chosen as the location for a memorial to Capt. Fogarty Fegen, 2) typed copy of Oliver Wendell Holmes's July 25, 1930, letter to Ferris Greenslet about Cather's work, 3) typed copy of Oliver Wendell Holmes's March 24, 1931, letter to Willa Cather] Is sending a review of the Holmes-Pollock letters from the New York Times [Henry Steele Commager, "Justice Holmes in his Letters," New York Times, March 23, 1941, p. BR1, BR30], and suggests Roseboro' read them. Is reading the volumes herself, and is enjoying the exchange between the two towering figures. Was thankful to be mentioned in the letters, and will send her a facsimile of the letter written to Ferris Greenslet regarding the book Roseboro' heroically supported. Is also including the text of the note he sent to Cather when he was ninety years old, though it cannot represent the beauty of his penmanship. Justice Holmes's secretary was the cousin of a San Francisco friend [May Willard?], and told the friend he read Shadows on the Rock to Holmes. Wants to tell her about the terrific joy she has gotten out of delighting old men who thrilled her years ago, like Thomas Hardy and James M. Barrie. Thinks Roseboro', someone who helped her when she was a foolish young person, would appreciate these fruits of her labor. P.S.: Hand is still useless. W.S.C.
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.
Can't decide what books to get for the twins, as she doesn't know what they have. Do they have Kipling's Jungle Books or Louisa May Alcott's novels? How about Little Lord Fauntleroy, Hans Brinker, Pilgrim's Progress, Black Beauty, Tom Sawyer? Please send a list of what they would like. Won't be able to buy them for this Christmas, but would like help for the future. Just received her pleasant letter. Is pleased not to be an embarrassment to her nieces. Hopes Virginia will write when she's read the first installment of Death Comes for the Archbishop. That is her real holiday gift for her family: the Archbishop can't be purchased; one needs a crafty aunt to invent him. Willa Cather.