Thanks for the letter about the baby [probably Mary Virginia Auld, niece, born November 11, 1905], who likely had a rich Christmas. Had a good trip to New York, but unfortunately was too busy to see the Wieners. Will someday show Bess the beautiful dress she bought for the dinner [Cather attended a dinner at Delmonico's in New York celebrating the 70th birthday of Mark Twain in December 1905]. Auntie Gore's letter said that Douglass Clark has nine children, that Perry's kids are living in Winchester and Walter works at a bank, and Howard Gore's wife is wintering in Switzerland and sending Sidney to school there. Auntie doesn't seem to enjoy their living abroad. Was good of Alec Bentley to visit his father. Is Mrs. Governor Garber still in Red Cloud? Sends affection to everyone, particularly the baby. Tell Mollie hello and please write and get Jess to write, too. PS: Is wearing garters Jess gave her. Received many Christmas gifts, including silk stockings, a leather bag, a pin, hand-embroidered clothing, and books. Willie
Visited Mary Smith with Isabelle yesterday and brought roses. Though Mary looked bettered and is still sore, she was lively and talkative. She's much older now, but is still herself, and she sends greetings. Saw Walter Gore at the bank. He was civil, but not too friendly; did not invite her to visit his wife a block away. Father will recall that when Aunt Lillian Gore arrived from Europe with silver for Walter and his new wife, she was not treated very cordially, and she left for Washington very angry. Walter is fine: he isn't too concerned with his extended family and doesn't behave otherwise. Enjoyed seeing Jennie Smith, now Mrs. Garvin, in Gore [Virginia]. She's heavy and has hardly any teeth, but manages to seem distinguished nonetheless. She has seen many weddings and funerals, the most recent being Aunt Mary (Liza) Trone, who was a housekeeper for Captain Mure. Saw the old Captain—complete with fine white beard—on horseback as straight as ever. Spent a gorgeous day hiking to Anderson's Cove, seeing the wonderful view there for the first time. Talked with Ellen Anderson near her well-kept house and garden; she was eager to talk, and so serious about her claims to like city living that they dared not smile. Later, Ellen came down on horseback for another visit together. Saw Giles and Dorothy leave for the North River on their ancient boat; they returned dressed for winter, complete with fur cap and veil. They drove a fat, drowsy horse and carried some watermelons. Did not get to eat any before leaving. Giles will be pleased to see the seeds father sent; saw them in the post office. Sends love. Willie
Are having a terrific winter, and Montana is a wonderful housekeeper. Work is going well. Is in a wonderful state of mind—much better than in Paris. Did Achsah know that Edith received a $1,000 Christmas bonus and a raise in her salary? She is clearly appreciated by the firm [ J. Walter Thompson Company ]. Both Claude and A Lost Lady are selling well, so she and Edith are enjoying themselves heartily. Feels very good to be working, and is sure Achsah feels the same. Appreciates the vaporizer Achsah sent. Best to Earl and Harwood. It is wonderful not to be worrying over inconsequential things! W.S.C.
Does not lecture anymore, so must refuse his invitation. Has been meaning to write an extended letter to him about his book, which she read closely. Concurs with him generally, but feels he inflates the importance of many of the New York critics. Only Randolph Bourne and, to a degree, Mr. Canby had the essential innate sense of quality needed by critics. Consider, for example, Stuart Sherman (nothing personal to Sherman, as he always treated her well), who did not have such a sensibility. He could research a writer and say many valid things about him or her, but it was an external product of scholarship. To put it another way: if she mixed up a few pages of Nigger of the Narcissus with some of Joseph Conrad's respectable imitators (like Francis Brett Young), Sherman wouldn't know the difference. A critic must be more than idealistic and hardworking. In fact, a good deal of first-rate criticism was done by non-professional critics like Henry James, Walter Pater, and Prosper Mérimée (particularly his essay on Gogol). Not all good writers are good critics; Turgenev was not. That said, writers are the best at evaluating new writing and composers are the top critics of new music, or at least they are better than scholars. Since she wants to say this and so much more, she knows that his book was successful, as a reader's fierce engagement with a book's ideas is always a mark of accomplishment. P. S.: [dated January 20] After writing letter, was asked not to send it by secretary, who thought it would needlessly offend people. Secretary is now on vacation in Cuba, and has decided to risk sending it. Feels that he won't be indiscreet with the letter, even to his talkative publisher. Willa Cather