A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Zoë AkinsApr. 19, 1937Huntington 

Here are comments on Mr. Totheroh's play. When Mrs. Forrester enters the judge's office she says, "My, your stairs are steep!"—very low class usage, makes her look common. Then he has her refer to her age; she would never have done so. She tells a Swede his son's eyes are as blue as mountain lakes—language of a pretentious social climber. Same when she says she would die to have eyes like that—makes her seem low class. Repeatedly so. On p. 13 he has the judge imply that Captain Forrester has behaved un-ethically—contrary to the whole ethical foundation of the book! Couldn't read beyond the first act. It was like a betrayal of the person she knew after whom Mrs. Forrester was modeled. Once again, thanks for sending the verses. Is not irritated with her any longer and is sorry this incident has caused disharmony between them.   Willa   [Stout #1364]

To Zoë AkinsJune 4, 1938Huntington 

Right hand was smashed in a drug store door in May. Can't write. Appreciated the orange blossoms, which came while she was in Atlantic City but were still fragrant when she returned. Orange marmalade a treasure. Is feeling reconciled to Hephzibah's and Yehudi's marriages. Isabelle wrote from Sorrento that the entire family, including the new husband and the new wife, visited her there. Though usually so critical of people's shortcomings, Isabelle likes them in spite of theirs. Is herself somewhat like a porcupine when meeting people, so is glad Isabelle reassured her about these new members of the Menuhin family. Thinks Thornton Wilder's new play quite good, authentically in the spirit of New England. Has felt that the dead remain part of people's lives there, as in the play.   Willa   [Stout #1407]

To Zoë AkinsNov. 13, [1938], from Jaffrey, N.H.Huntington 

Douglass, the brother she most loved, died in June of a sudden heart attack. He had spent her birthday with her last December. Only four months later, on October 10, Isabelle died. Wrote many letters to inform people— the only service she could give Isabelle. Feels emotionally numb. Regrets Yehudi's wife takes such bad pictures. She is Scotch, not Jewish. Feels confident it is a good marriage. Was happy to see them. Then Douglass died the next week. P.S.: No, does not like Hephzibah's mother-in-law.  Willa   [Stout #1423]

To Edward WagenknechtJan. 23, 1939PM 

Appreciates his agreeing not to publish commentary on uncollected stories. His inquiry reminds her to indicate her wishes about them in her will. Regrets acerbic tone of her letter, but was afraid he meant to reprint the stories. Has had to stop some impositions of this sort over the years, for example when a magazine printed "Her Boss" without permission. Such matters take up time that could be spent in new writing. Wishes he had explained his intentions more clearly in his first letter.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1434]

To Dorothy Canfield FisherMar. 5, [1939]UVt 

Has not been writing many letters recently, except to family and to friends of Isabelle. In December 1937 brother Douglass came to New York to spend her birthday with her. He died on June 13, 1938, age fifty-two, the only joyful and attractive member of the family. On October 10 Isabelle died in Sorrento of nephritis after four-year illness, during which her loving though unreliable husband cared for her. This has been the hardest year of her life. Is enclosing a letter from Jan Hambourg. Please return it, but don't write back. Is worn out with letters about Isabelle. Enjoyed [the picture of ?] Dorothy's two granddaughters. Enjoyed having her two nieces with her at Grand Manan in the summers of 1936 and 1937. Both married this year—as well as three Menuhins! Likes Yehudi's wife. Appreciates receiving Dorothy's new book and will read it soon. Eyes giving her trouble, but what is worse is the trouble of keeping people away who want to come and comfort her. Doesn't want them; wants quiet for reflection.   Willa   [Stout #1440]

To Zoë AkinsMay 20, [1939?]Huntington 

Was ill with influenza from February until end of April. Was in Atlantic City in March, but it rained all the time. Only cheerful spot of entire winter was the presence of Yehudi Menuhin and his wife. Can't get over loss of Douglass and Isabelle. Has been too ill and glum to work. Hasn't even been writing letters. Failed to thank her for the nice cutting board; will keep it at Grand Manan. Wishes to be back at Bank Street and Zoë on Fifth Avenue. P.S.: The current state of the world casts a cloud over everything.  Willa   [Stout #1452]

To Carrie Miner SherwoodJune 28, 1939WCPM 

Is sending a book she meant to send at Christmas, about several modern writers [apparently including herself]. Recommends she read chapter in School of Femininity, by Margaret Lawrence. Only Carrie and Mary, among people in Red Cloud, would read it without feeling spiteful. Has heard someone in Red Cloud claims to be the original of Lucy Gayheart, but Carrie knows who the skater was. Does she remember for sure the color of Sadie Becker's eyes? Hasn't been writing letters; still can't get over grieving for Douglass. They had such a joyful time when he came for her birthday. Will never be the same since losing both him and Isabelle. Only the affection of the Menuhins cheered her this past year. Enjoys knowing Yehudi's wife P.S.: Sorry to have missed seeing Father Fitzgerald; was in New Hampshire. Leaving for Canada soon.  Willie   [Stout #1455]

To Carrie Miner SherwoodJan. 29, [1940?]WCPM 

Showed Dr. Lewis's letter to an orthopedic surgeon, and he understood the nature of Mollie's injury from the description and agreed with the treatment. Is sending a check to help pay for nurse. Would like to cover the cost of the nursing, if Carrie will let her know how much. Very cold here; has had bronchitis. Appreciated her letter and Mary's. Yehudi and wife now gone to California.   Willie   [Stout #1468]

To Alexander WoollcottMar. 17, 1941Harvard 

Appreciates his kind words in his Second Reader, three years ago now, and appreciates his reprinting of Kenneth Grahame's Golden Age, as well as his bringing to her attention the paper on Boswell by Pottle. Recommends Johnson without Boswell, recently published by Knopf. Is it really he who is acting in The Man Who Came to Dinner? Such a surprise! Recommends French Hospital, where nurses speak French and even cooks are French. Had very good care and good food. A Catholic hospital, but nurses not nuns, so no black habits about. One accompanied the wife of ex-president of Chile on airplane when President Roosevelt provided her transportation back to Santiago. American airmen so fine—keep up her faith in America in spite of Communists having gotten hold of much of the country.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1533]

To Carrie Miner SherwoodMar. 22, 1941WCPM 

Keeps thinking about her and wishes she could write a real letter, by hand. Was saddened by Mary's telegram telling of Walter's [Carrie's husband's] death, but had heard how ill he was. Also heard how beautifully she was taking care of him. Remembers first seeing his picture in her watch case when she was going away to school at St. Mary's. Has spent a great deal of time alone this winter enjoying precious memories like that. Sees very few people besides Mary Virginia and Yehudi Menuhin and wife. Will write again soon. Hand is improving since going to Dr. Ober, a surgeon from Boston. Enjoys remembering evenings she spent with Carrie and Walter ten years ago, when they both gave her good advice.   Willie   [Stout #1534]

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