A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Albert G. FeuilleratNov. 6, 1929Yale 

Sending her publisher's pamphlet with biographical information and a list of books with information about her and her work. Has marked the two best. Hard to answer his question about French influence. From adolescence and for many years thereafter read and liked French prose writers from Hugo to Maupassant. Read all of Balzac more than once before the age of twenty, though not much now. Doesn't believe she ever imitated any French writer, but did admire them more than their English contemporaries because of freer experimentation and greater thematic range. Tone of British writers of that period, before Hardy, sometimes mechanical or patronizing, though it doesn't really bother her. Believes French language itself more exciting to her than English when she was younger. Now prefers Prosper Merimée to the others. Likes his reserve, as well as other qualities. P.S.: Suggests he read "The Novel Démeublé."  Willa Cather   [Stout #988]

To Albert G. FeuilleratDec. 16, 1929, from the Grosvenor Hotel, New YorkYale 

Is pleased with his article on her books. Interesting that the first he read was Death Comes for the Archbishop. Would like to read the article he mentioned on Mérimée, who was also a fine critic, especially his essay on Gogol.   Willa Cather   [Stout #995]

To Cyril ClemensDec. 28, [1933?], from 570 Park Avenue, New YorkWCPM 

Glad to accept the medal of the International Mark Twain Society. Is proud to think, as Albert Bigelow Paine reports in his biography, that Mark Twain expressed admiration of one of her poems [later letter says "The Palatine"]. P.S.: Sorry to be slow responding, but is just back from northern Canada [?].  Willa Cather   [Stout #1208]

To Elsie CatherNovember 11, [1918]UNL-Rosowski Cather 

Has been meaning to answer Elsie's letter about My Ántonia.� Readers seem to respond more personally to Ántonia than they did with the others.� One must be more experienced and skilled to write truly about actual events than to invent stories. �Increasingly desires to write true stories.� So many average people seem to really love the purely literary treatment in My Ántonia.� Was recently in a book store and saw two women buying it!� One very striking woman wearing furs told the store-keeper to send the other copies of the novel, then left carrying an unwrapped copy.� Edith is better, but has no job yet.� Alfred is near death, and Isabelle is strained.� Food so expensive and influenza all around. Scrimping on household costs is depressing, especially when one wants to serve a good dinner to friends.� Today is Peace Day.� Sad that the Kaiser ended so many monarchies; would like a few weak ones left.� Hopes she won't get too exhausted during her vacation.� Why should flu strike Albuquerque? [In Elsie Cather's hand:� "Please send this letter back.� Elsie"]�    Willa 

To Elsie CatherSeptember 21, 1940UNL-Rosowski Cather 

Knows a lot about the young Queen [Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother] discussed in enclosed article. The queen is friends with Myra Hess and Anita Gunn. The Queen's father is a poor Scottish landowner, and another daughter of a poor Scottish landowner, Lady Dolly Mackenzie, married into the Hambourg family and is very economical. Anita Gunn was raised on a farm that adjoined the Queen's before there was any thought that she would be Queen. The royal family summered in the Scottish Highlands and George [George VI, Albert Frederick Arthur George Windsor] liked to play tennis with Elizabeth. As Duke of York he had no hope of ascending the throne, so could marry a poor girl. Queen Mary [Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes, Princess of Teck], being Scottish, did not object. Elizabeth a natural queen. She did lovely things in Canada; ordinary people are full of stories about her visit. Had heard a great deal about her from Myra and Anita Gunn, so was not taken by surprise. 

To Mary Virginia Cather,  Monday after Easter [April 9, 1928] UNL-Southwick 

Easter was very cold after some warmer weather. Decorated the altar with Elsie in father's memory. Gave lilies to Molly and Hazel Powell and took daffodils to father's burial place. He always loved them; daffodils in Virginia are the earliest flower in her memory. Went to dinner with Will and Charles at the hotel, then saw Mrs. Turnure and Clifford. Had supper with Molly. Since the weather was poor, was glad Elsie did not travel. Odd to get a card from the Peggs. When that young man's wife and baby died, sent him snapdragons like those sent to father. It was very sad. His wife had a tumor within her when she was pregnant, and the tumor choked the baby. With proper medical care, she could have been saved. For many days the baby within her was dead. Dr. Stockman did not call Creighton until it was too late. Albert is devastated. Lizzie is now at the Macs [McNenys], though she comes by and lights the fire in the kitchen every morning. Has been to dinner there. Helen has the grippe. Has put silk curtains up in the dining room. The old bed is painted, and old "walnut" table mended and painted. Molly came over for dinner on Good Friday and Saturday and complimented her cooking. Has polished father's oak furniture, but will have it painted if mother wishes. Please write.   Willie 

To Mary Virginia Cather [January 25, 1929?] , from the Grosvenor Hotel, New York CityUNL-Southwick 

Is not typing the letter because Edith is sleeping. Has a bad, atypical cold—no cough but a very hoarse voice. Didn't mother used to get such an ailment? Had tea with Myra Hess recently, but could not talk, so she played the piano. Donovan [Albert Donovan?] came over—saw him last at Christmas. Jessie's Christmas letter preached about diet and reported that she convinced a doctor to feed mother barley water exclusively. Did not bother to respond. Will stay in a hotel when she comes to see mother so as not to burden her and Elsie. Sleep well.   Willa 

To Roscoe Cather January 25, [1932]UNL-Roscoe 

Douglass did not come. Is busy closing up the house. Will leave for New York Friday. Has handled this for Roscoe; Jess would take six weeks and see a lawyer! He should know this about his family. PS: Could he send thanks to Bert Ducker? He refused money.  Willie. 

To Roscoe CatherJune 12, 1935UNL-Roscoe 

Is sending Virginia's letter back for him to keep. Clearly she is thinking through matters herself, and that is preferable to Roscoe's or Cather's doing the thinking. Thanks for the interest check. Did he get Mary Virginia's notification of her wedding? It was a beautiful ceremony in the "Little Church Around the Corner," the same church father liked to rest in when he visited. Both Mary Virginia and Adelaide looked lovely. Isabelle Hambourg insisted on going to the wedding in spite of her illness and even to the reception afterwards in Donovan's [Albert Donovan?] apartment. Has known Dick Mellen, the groom, since Mary Virginia's engagement last autumn. He is from a fine Vermont family. Liked to read the letters from his mother to Mary Virginia, which were so loving and gracious. Mellen is a smart, somewhat withdrawn graduate of Harvard Medical School and was Thomas Auld's roommate in Amherst. He even has met Mary Virginia's mother and father! Thinks it is a good match, and Mary Virginia will certainly be helpful to him as he develops a medical practice. For the next two years, however, he will be interning at Bellevue Hospital, which will be trying for them. Mary Virginia will continue to work at the library and will have to be alone often. Did not get involved with the decision, but once they determined to be married immediately, tried to be of help to them. Please forward letter to West Virginia if she is not with Roscoe. Will inform him of her own intentions later. Will stay in New York with ailing Isabelle for now.   Willa.