A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Argus Book Shop, Inc. [Chicago] Apr. 24, 1933Beinecke 

Sorry to have been slow answering, but has been away. Biography of Mary Baker Eddy was the product of a group of four or five staffers at McClure's. Merely brought together parts written by others. Was only an editor, not a writer. P.S.: Must not use her words in catalogs, and so on, which would be illegal.  Willa Cather   [Stout #1173]

To Burges Johnson, n.d. [1939?] Beinecke  Partial transcription by E. K. Brown. Pub. CEA Newsletter Dec. 1939; quoted in Bohlke.

Like Henry Seidel Canby, does not believe in teaching contemporary literature. More important to use limited school time to teach classics of English literature. Essential reading in school includes Shakespeare, Milton, Fielding, Jane Austen, with Thackeray, George Eliot, George Meredith, and Thomas Hardy as the most recent. Young people should read contemporary literature as they want to, not as assignments. True literary taste is as rare as perfect pitch, but students can glean something from exposure to the classics, even if they don't have real aptitude.   [Stout #1454]

To Zoë AkinsDec. 4, [1942?]Huntington 

Didn't tell her when they spoke on the telephone last summer that reason for going into the hospital was to have gall bladder and appendix removed. Operation went well, but recovery difficult. Went from 126 pounds to 110. Dreadful heat during August and September made matters worse. Is now feeling better and up to about 115, but still hasn't felt like shopping and dresses all too big. She has surely realized something was wrong for some time; recalls her asking once if she had offended in some way. Of course, they have always had different ideological views, but it's true, was cross and irritable. Hopes to develop greater patience now, maybe even with filmmakers who take advantage of fine old books. [some of letter cut away] Likes a good film, such as Noel Coward's, but absolutely hates filmed versions of classics. Anyway, Happy New Year.   Willa   [Stout #1599]

To Houghton Mifflin CompanyOct. 14, 1943 [typed form letter supplied by Ferris Greenslet with letter showing the same date; postscript added in Cather's hand] ; Harvard 

Gives permission to print copies of her books published by Houghton Mifflin with a second publisher shown as distributor, under War Production Board Order L 245 and Interpretation no. 1 of that order. Other aspects of contract with H.M. to remain the same. P.S.: Agrees to Literary Classics, Inc. as the least objectionable cooperating "publisher," though dislikes their advertising.  Willa Cather   [Stout #1641]

To E. K. BrownJan. 24, 1947Beinecke 

Does not yet know plans for spring and summer. Anticipates being in California for part of that time to see two brothers [Jack and James]. Will hope to meet with him when he is in town. Would have many things to talk about—such as the new edition of Shakespeare that cuts out what the editor considers unimportant. Does not want writers like John Dos Passos to be legally stopped from writing as they want, but wishes law would stop editors who tamper with classics. Brandeis's death a great loss to the work of the Supreme Court. Spent many evenings at his home during years in Boston and often saw the Brandeises at the opera. Was introduced to Mrs. James T. Fields by Mrs. Brandeis, who was a fine and intelligent woman in her own right. Life sometimes seems dreary when one thinks about the people who have gone. Remembers William Archer well; remembers being in Lady Gregory's box with him the night the Abbey players made their London debut. Saw Synge's The Playboy of the Western World. Archer helped open her mind to new kinds of theatrical drama. Looks forward to discussing their personal values when he comes to New York.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1749]

To Professor HornbergerMay 1946 "DRAFT" is written across the top and the letter is unsigned; ; UNL-Rosowski Cather 

Will never allow Death Comes for the Archbishop to be in an anthology, as anthologies are ultimately shallow [Horberger published The Literature of the United States in 1946]. After speaking to many young people, is convinced that the college classroom is no place for modern books. When a man is in school, he ought to study the classics of the English canon. An energetic undergraduate will read current books for fun. When teaching school in Pittsburgh, was forced to use a set list of texts, which included Silas Marner, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Marmion, Quentin Durward, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Macbeth, and the poetry of Robert Burns. Some students are still in contact. Would Prof. Hornberger consider Silas Marner—a rewarding if unhurried book, good for modern students—worthy of an anthology? Does not know who selected the list and was given no options, but was expected to read them and test the students on them. This is the limit of what a high school English class can be. If one hundred students read a great writer, about two of them will be affected deeply, and the other ninety-eight will not be injured by it. When reading the classics, there needs to be no distasteful argument of a writer's worth. All anthologies make this kind of argument, except for Field-Marshal Wavell's [ Other Men's Flowers: An Anthology of Poetry ], whose notes are sometimes better than even the selected work. Except for the glut of Browning's work, his selections are perfect. He loves The Hound of Heaven and expresses that. He fears neither Rommel nor erudition. PS: Please send a list of pieces in Volume One to aid in thinking about Volume Two.