A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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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 Dorothy Canfield FisherNov. 8, [1939?]UVt 

Read Seasoned Wood while at Grand Manan. Especially enjoyed Aunt Lavinia and Miss Peck, who has a great reality about her. Surprised she gave Mr. Hulme her father's middle name, since the character lacks Mr. Canfield's sturdiness and humor. The state of the world is very somber. Wishes people had never learned to refine petroleum.   Willa   [Stout #1459]

To Dorothy Canfield FisherOct. 14, 1940UVt 

Is unable to write by hand because of sprain. Now they are even on misquoting titles. Has regretted calling her last book "Seasoned Wood" [instead of Seasoned Timber]. Now Dorothy has called hers "Sapphira and the Slave Maid," which loses the doubling of the "r" sound. Glad she likes what she has read of it. Galley proofs need a lot of correction. Abandoned it in the middle when Douglass and Isabelle died, but had already written the epilogue, which was the target. Has overridden her reluctance to shift from third person to first because the incident such an important one in her childhood. Grandmother Boak a Confederate and lost two sons in the South's army, but cared about justice and actually did take Nancy across the Potomac. Postmistress was her great aunt, Sidney Cather Gore. Enjoyed hearing the southern speech in her mind as she wrote it, especially the black people's speech. Realizes their speech patterns are not consistent in the book, but house servants varied their speech. Might not have finished the book had it not been for the war, but writing it helped her escape the anxiety.   Willa   [Stout #1497]

To Mrs. Ackroyed [Ackroyd]May 16, 1941UVa 

Enjoyed her letter. Her grandmother, Mary Ann Anderson, a childhood favorite in Virginia. Used to watch out the window for her to come up the road when in bed sick. Saw her again on visit to Virginia after graduating from college. Walked together up the beautiful Hollow Road to her house on Timber Ridge. Mrs. Anderson always took such a keen interest in people's lives. Mrs. Ackroyed's Aunt Marjorie and Uncle Enoch went to Nebraska with the Cather family. He went to California two years later with two other men from Winchester and only wrote once after that, but Marjorie stayed with the family until she died. Remembers hours spent with Marjorie on the back porch or in the kitchen. Is enclosing a recent picture of Willow Shade, now in bad repair, and has circled the window from which she used to watch for Mrs. Anderson. P.S.: The woman who wove their rugs was Mrs. Kearns.  Willa Cather   [Stout #1542]

To Mrs. AckroydDec. 27, 1941UVa 

Treasuring the card and photograph [of Mrs. Anderson], taken when she was older, but recognizes her nonetheless. Yes, remembers her Uncle Snowden clearly. Remembers once when she was about five years old, when she and Marjorie had gone to visit at Mrs. Ackroyd's grandmother's house on Timber Ridge, a heavy rainstorm came up and Snowden rode up on his horse and took her home riding in front of him on his cavalry saddle.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1569]

To Miss MastersonMar. 15, 1943WCPM 

Her letter was marvelous, with a true sense of personality. People have been set traveling to Quebec by Shadows on the Rock and to New Mexico by Death Comes for the Archbishop, and now she to Virginia by Sapphira and the Slave Girl. Hasn't been back since completing it, or to Quebec since Shadows or New Mexico since Archbishop. Loses a place once she writes about it. Area around Timber Ridge and the Capon River is beautiful. Was very sad to see the double ess curve on the road up from Gore to the top of the ridge. Sorry to have seen Willow Shade in ruins; so pretty forty years ago, but then turned into an apartment house. Still remembers it as it was when Nancy came back. Grandmother really did take Nancy across the Potomac.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1622]