A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Sigrid UndsetDec. 2 [1941]Oslo 

Feels very happy about her letter. There were not so many serious admirations in one's life, and has long felt such admiration for Undset. Glad she had felt it in return. The fact that they care for the same things is a strong foundation for friendship. Sorry her handwriting is not clear. P.S.: So glad the good news from Russia! [The New York Times of Dec. 2, 1941, reports that the German Army had been driven out of Rostov in a "rout."] [Stout #1560]

To Ferris GreensletFeb. 16, 1942Harvard 

Has received his letter but wants to think about proposal from Reader's Book Club. Not sure she wants her income increased, with income tax taking so much of it. Believes this would cut into regular sales. News from England very bad. Wonders if even Churchill is losing his strength. Undset's book about escape from Norway and journey through Russia is extraordinary. Wishes she had titled it more simply. Willa Cather. P.S.: Has thought about it and does not agree. [Stout #1571]

To Mary Miner CreightonFeb. 19, 1942WCPM 

Please tell Carrie, will write as soon as possible. Was selecting some books from her shelf to send to military camps and found the enclosed about Prague; thought they would enjoy it. Has read Sigrid Undset's book about escape from Norway and except for the title likes it very much. Undset found Russia simply filthy but managed to take an interest in it nonetheless. Fears there will be strong public reaction against Undset's admiration for Japan, but she will not take back what she believes.   Willie   [Stout #1572]

To ?n.d. note written on a printed page showing pictures of Clement C. Moore and his house, with the beginning of the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas"PM 

Was Moore a real person, then?   [Stout #1815]

To Sister [probably Elsie Cather]August 11, [1923]UNL-Southwick 

Had first session with Léon Bakst yesterday. He pronounces his name like "boxed," but if one insists on making it sound mid-western, it can be pronounced to rhyme with "waxed." Please tell the family to learn how to pronounce it, as his name will be associated with hers often. Bakst's studio is made up of large rooms filled with gorgeous, meticulously arranged objects from Asia and Europe. In those rooms, it seems as if one is in a church dedicated to all the world's religions. Bakst is the kind of person she has always loved—like Annie Sadilek and Joe Pavelik Sr. and other childhood friends. Though he doesn't speak English well, he is trying to read One of Ours using a dictionary. He uses French to speak to her, and has told her fairy tales from Russia. Thankfully, he did not ask her to dress formally and is painting just her head and shoulders. He picked a green shirt she had, reminiscent of a Russian blouse. Sittings remind her of the days listening to Mr. Ducker as he spat tobacco juice, she is such a student to the master. Time will go quickly in those wonderful, scrupulously neat rooms. [Pasted at the top of the second page is a newspaper clipping in French listing results in horse races, including a horse named Red Cloud, with a note written by Cather pointing out that Red Cloud is winning in Paris.]   Willa 

To Roscoe Cather April 18, [1908] on letterhead of Royal Mail Steamship "Carpathia" ; UNL-Roscoe 

Saw Cape St. Vincent, Portugal, this afternoon, a place sacred to all with ties to England, and soon will see Trafalgar Bay, the site of Nelson's victory over Napoleon's navy. The sea floor here is covered with the skeletons of French, Spanish, and Italian sailors, thanks to Nelson. A British captain onboard commented that he thinks of Nelson's victory every time he passes this place. Is thinking of Nelson atop the column in Trafalgar Square, London, and his letter to Lady Hamilton [Nelson's mistress] in the British Museum, written the night before he died. "If Blood be the price of admiralty" [line from Rudyard Kipling's "Song of the Dead"]. Enjoys thinking of Nelson and the dead on the sea floor and the glory of the English navy and of his statue in Trafalgar Square protected by Landseer's lions, and the people's affection for Lady Hamilton. Wishes Roscoe could see these things with her. 

To Bobbie [nickname for Elsie Cather]May 4, [1917]UNL-Roscoe 

Has been embarrassed to write after so long. Has put off writing everyone but mother and Jack, who was ill. Is mortified that she even neglected writing Mrs. Deland, for now her sick husband has died. It is the war that is causing the problems: it even makes writing books seem trivial. Can't make progress on the new book, and will probably have to rewrite or abandon it. Houghton Mifflin people are very displeased that it will not be ready for fall publication. There are good things in the new book, but it does not seem to be working. Is going to put it aside for a while and write some short stories—needs the money. Has Elsie heard that Rudyard Kipling's son, the prototype for Dan in the Puck tales, is missing in action? It has been over a year now, and hope seems lost. Mr. Greenslet, who just returned from England, said Kipling is devastated. What a shame, as Kipling has given so much joy to so many. Edith's health was good this winter. Helps Edith with eye treatments. They plan to go to Washington tonight. The war and resulting rise in costs have hurt the magazine publishing business. Has had many wonderful musical get-togethers with the Hambourgs, and had dinner with the recently-married Olive Fremstad and her husband [Harry L. Brainard and Fremstad were married November 4, 1916]. They had a fine evening. Has already written mother describing it. People she knows in the British war department say the war will go on at least two years. When Greenslet was in London, he had trouble getting decent food and enough of it, and many buildings had to go without heat. Newspapers aren't really providing the whole story: if not for the entrance of the United States, the allies would have been defeated, for the submarines prevented proper food from getting to the army. Germany's food supply is much better than that in England and France. If the U.S. can produce enough ships and men, the allies may yet win in two years. If not, we will all be Prussian. The Russians can't hold the eastern front unless the allies keep Germany tied down in France. If not, St. Petersburg will soon fall, and then the German army will be fed from the vast agricultural output of Russia. The U.S. has a unique opportunity: we can protect or lose Democracy for the entire planet. And yet a letter from her Mesa Verde guide claims the war is taken as a joke out west. Like Russia, the U.S. is so enormous we can't get things together. Believe it: dark times are ahead. Needs to stop now, but hopes to be better about writing in the future.   Willie. 

To Roscoe CatherMay 16, 1936UNL-Roscoe 

Is pleased he had a good time with Douglass on his trip. As to the twins, if they will be in Lake Placid this July, they ought to come to Grand Manan afterwards. They are not likely to be so close again, and there is something exciting about being on an island offshore. To do it, they would need to take a train to Montreal and then to St. John, New Brunswick, to wait for a boat. They might need to stay at the Admiral Beatty Hotel for a couple of days, but St. John has some appeal of its own. The boat trip to Grand Manan takes a whole day, but is quite nice. They should stay two weeks on Grand Manan, and she will set them up at the same place Mary Virginia stayed during her visits. The trip will likely be expensive—about $100 each. Will send a check to cover the costs when it's all set. Naturally, there will be no costs for them on the island, as she will be their hostess. But it is critical they have the right clothing! They should have warm clothing, rain coats (it can rain a good deal there), and the right kind of shoes. Rubber-soled tennis shoes would be perfect. Girls have been injured climbing on the cliffs in high-heeled shoes. Is certain the twins will enjoy the island as much as she does. What does he think about this plan? Would love their company. Enjoys having fun with young people. Her joy in the Menuhins is not just because they are supremely gifted, but because of their youth. With them, it seems as if she were heading out for Garbers' grove.   Willie. 

To Roscoe Cather[pm August 3, 1939], from St. John, New Brunswick, on postcard of salmon fishing in New Brunswick, CanadaUNL-Roscoe 
Image of front of postcard showing salmon fishing in New Brunswick, Canada
Front of postcard #2154

Please have Meta inform the twins that they are finally nearing Grand Manan. New York was much too warm the last couple of weeks.   W. 

To Roscoe CatherFebruary 24, [1940]UNL-Roscoe 

Willard Crowell has informed her that Roscoe paid $152 in taxes for her property in Red Cloud, but doesn't provide section and township numbers. Needs this information for income tax deductions. Crowell also wrote that he paid taxes on land in Smith County, Kansas, and St. Paul, Nebraska. As if that were all the tax people required! Has repeatedly told Crowell she needs descriptions and receipts, which he could certainly get from the county treasurer. Has a March 4 deadline for both state and federal taxes, as Mr. Lesser in Knopf's office leaves after that date. Would appreciate Roscoe's advice if he has any.   Willie. 

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