A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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Results 11-15:

To Douglass CatherJuly 8, 1916, from Taos, NM on letterhead of the Brown Palace Hotel, Denver, CO; ; UNL-Southwick 

Has returned to Taos with Edith after days in the heat of Denver. Taos has very mild evenings and only brief periods of heat during the day. Fine horses are available; Edith is an accomplished rider, and Cather can get along well enough to handle irregular terrain. Is Douglass still coming north this July? How far? To Albuquerque? If it is possible to see him, would like to, but otherwise won't travel far, though if Edith is up to it they might drive near Espa´┐Żola around the Rio Grande pueblos. Edith has to return to New York by July 25, and her holiday, though fascinating, has not been relaxing. When she leaves, Cather might travel to Lander, and will get to Red Cloud as some point. Hopes to convince mother to spend some time in Denver with her, since Elsie reports that she isn't in good health. Would like to be in Red Cloud for several weeks, but won't do it if no one wants her around. Regrets coming home the previous summer. Her very being seemed to annoy everyone. Douglass shouldn't think her too smug, it's just that writers have to promote themselves or forget about it. Doesn't self-promote near as much as most. Doesn't believe it would do family any good for her to give up, though quitting is tempting sometimes. Had a difficult winter and wrote very little, just two short stories [possibly "The Bookkeeper's Wife" and "The Diamond Mine"], and one of them was really weak. The death of Judge McClung and the marriage of Isabelle were big blows and gave her the unsettling sense of losing a home. Will survive, but is not too enthusiastic. Maybe going on trying after losing interest is a sign of character. Doesn't want to dwell on depressing facts, though. Why can't she and Douglass have fun together more? Yes, is difficult to be around, but any woman who has made good money in a business is difficult and she's no different. Nevertheless, the two of them still ought to enjoy one another's company, as they did in Denver the year before. Likes Douglass more than nearly everyone else, except when he's grumpy; and when he's grumpy, will just leave and accept it with detachment. Will, however, relish all positive feelings from her family, all of whom she likes very much, even more so now than when she was young and tried to change everybody. Still tends to believe in her own way of thinking first, but now tempers it with the knowledge of past errors. Has mellowed since last year. Three close friends died [?], and the family's displeasure last summer may have helped too. Is drained of spirit now--but that's bad for writing. Will probably never write well again. One needs to be transfixed with the material to write well. Hopes at least to be able to support herself still. Two stories were rejected recently for being dull, and the editors were right. Please plan on meeting somewhere—really has gotten more easy going.   Willie 

To Roscoe Cather [1913?] , possibly a fragment ; UNL-Roscoe 

Has gotten many responses, but does Roscoe like the novel? He should read July 25 piece on O Pioneers! in the Denver Republican ["Some Real American Literature," The Denver Republican, (July 25, 1913): 4].   W. 

To Roscoe CatherJuly 8, [1916], on letterhead of the Brown Palace Hotel, Denver, Colorado, but written from Taos, New MexicoUNL-Roscoe 

Received Roscoe's letter just as she and Edith Lewis were starting out from Denver for Taos. Wanted to come to Lander, but Edith was intent on coming back here, where they had such a wonderful week last year. Hopes that after two weeks in Taos, she can stop by Lander on the way back east. At some point, will make it to Red Cloud. Hopes Mother, whom Elsie reports as being unwell, can be convinced to spend some time in Denver. Does long to meet young West Virginia [her nickname for Roscoe's oldest daughter, Virginia]. May remain in Nebraska until well into autumn. Felt so overwhelmed by deaths and marriages of friends this past winter that she only managed to produce two pieces of short fiction the entire winter and spring. He likely noticed the one in The Century—not of much merit ["The Bookkeeper's Wife," The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, 92 (May 1916): 51-59]. McClure's bought the second one, which is considerably more successful ["The Diamond Mine," McClure's Magazine, 47 (October 1916): 7-11; 66-70]. Would like to discuss her conception for a new novel—not striking in itself. Hasn't had a really striking idea since Sandy Point [a play town Cather constructed out of packing boxes with her brothers and friends as a child in Red Cloud, Nebraska]. The challenge of the new novel, an especially difficult challenge for a woman writer, is that it must center on a man. Gets a lot of credit for her male characters, but they are successful only because a woman is always at the center of the story and the men are seen only through them. Can manage that much quite well, but is nervous to go beyond that strategy. Nevertheless, a boy and a man must be at the center of this new book. Wishes she could discuss it with him; he could give her some guidance. If only he had written a diary on his trip to Yellowstone. The book she has in mind is somewhat similar. Apologizes for the bad penmanship, but there are five Jewish salesmen in line for the hotel's one bottle of ink. Is staying at a comfortable hotel run by a dignified Mexican woman and her French-speaking parrot (her dead husband was a Frenchman). Taos is wonderful, if one is up to crossing forty miles of canyons to reach it. The population is completely Mexican and there is a lovely Indian pueblo nearby. Would be wonderful if Roscoe could come along on these adventures. Life is so unforgiving: remain independent and one feels unanchored; get bound up and, well, that's it. Isabelle's new husband is a terrible Jew that nobody likes. It's a dilemma. Plans to remain less encumbered from now on. Goodbye and hopes to see Roscoe and Meta soon.   Willie. 

To Roscoe CatherJune 9, [1927?], on letterhead of Garfield State Deposit Company, Fifth Ave Building, 7 West 23rd St, New YorkUNL-Roscoe 

Is leaving Monday the 13th from Chicago on the Burlington Number One, and will pick up Helen Louise in Hastings. Will arrive in Denver that evening, stay the night there, and go on to Casper the following day. Will he please write to the Albany and reserve a quiet room for "Miss Cather, his sister"? If he gives the first name, she'll be pestered. Is writing in the cool bank vault to escape the heat. Sends love to his daughters.   Willie. 

To Roscoe Cather [July 4?, 1934] , on W.S.C. letterhead ; UNL-Roscoe 

The new novel is called "Lucy Gayheart." It has romance, a contemporary western setting, and is not Catholic. Knopf wonders why people seem so interested in the settings of her novels. PS: Is grateful he told her about the opinion of the doctor in Denver, who is surely correct. They all ate too much dessert. Having a French cook changed that habit for her: unless it is a celebratory meal, dessert is always fruit and cheese. Thumb remains sore, but her wrist is now flexible. W.  Willie. 

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