A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Dayton M. KohlerMar. 16, 1939VTech 

Feels hopeless with the news that Hitler has gone into Prague. Is thinking about her friend President Masaryk and the Czech people she knew years ago. Britain seems to have lost its sense of honor, which she always thought was so strong. Hardly feels like going on living in this deteriorated world. Appreciates his letter, however.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1442]

To Sigrid UndsetMay 18, 1941Oslo 

The lilies of the valley have been delightful, and her letter as well. So happy that after knowing each other through their books for so long they now know each other personally and realize how many tastes and beliefs they have in common. Scarcely maintains a desire to live, with so much bad news, especially agreement of Hitler with the Vichy French. Hopes she will come to visit again soon.   [Stout #1543]

To Laura HillsSept. 23, 1943PM 

Sorry to have to send her a typed letter. Had a wet summer in Maine. Left the New York heat in June for Portland, which she remembered as being very pleasant, but with all the shipbuilding going on it is miserable. So they went to the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor, which was cool but rainy. Bar Harbor is practically deserted. Hitler has ruined the New World as well as Europe. Is looking forward to a visit from her niece in October and Yehudi and Nola Menuhin with their two children after that. Will share a letter from them about their recent tour of South America. Yehudi has been to England to entertain soldiers, went over on bomber.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1639]

To Elsie CatherMarch 16, [1939]UNL-Rosowski Cather 

[written beside date, before greeting:] So Hitler is in Prague! [then after greeting:] Enclosed is the promised money for Red Cloud house, five percent of the $5000 value of the home. Regards it as an investment. Asked earlier that Elsie not make more changes to the house, but received no response. Sorry not to write a longer letter, but has had influenza and a relapse, and is just today out of bed. What a difficult time this is! Feels her faith in British honor shaken in recent weeks. [The Munich Conference was in September 1938. Cather may bereferring to Britain's having subsequently refrained from opposing Hitler's takeover of Czechoslovakia.] Enjoyed sending flowers—no thanks needed. Enjoyed Mollie's letter. Doesn't yet feel like tackling correspondence. Has many letters, including one from Bishop Beecher, asking things of her. Harder to say no to Beecher than the others.   W. 

To Edith McClungSeptember 26, 1938UNL-Rosowski Cather 

Understands anxiety about Isabelle and Jan in Italy, but it seems Mussolini is only forcing out Jewish people who are working jobs that Italians might fill (he does not share Hitler's fierce abhorrence of Jews). Since Jan is not taking any employment away from an Italian, he probably won't be bothered. Elizabeth Vermorcken, who is in Sorrento at the Hotel Cocumella, will likely cable if it gets dangerous. Recent note from Isabelle suggests she is comfortable in Italy, and she says that many Americans have been staying at the Cocumella, including Miss Overton of the New York Public Library. Will go see Miss Overton soon, and will write if she knows anything new about the Hambourgs.   Willa Cather 

To May [Willard?]December 30, 1940, from French Hospital signed by Sarah J. Bloom, and accompanied by a note in her hand reading, "Miss Cather dictated this letter to me on Sunday after Christmas, and I am hurrying it off without her corrections, as she still cannot use her right hand at all."; UNL-Rosowski Cather 

Came to the French Hospital for hand problems several days ago, and May's Christmas wreath has been next to her bed since Christmas Eve. Though she told everyone not to send flowers, a few did come, and they were just right. Thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in the chapel. This is the second time at the French Hospital and, to her surprise, is even more pleasant than the first. Is fortunate to be able to come to this hospital instead of going to a common New York hospital. Hears French spoken all daylong, which is sustaining in itself. Though the hospital is Catholic, the nuns do not do medical care. The nurses are Irish, French, and Italian women, and the head nurse is a Canadian Scotch Presbyterian. An Italian girl, Olympia Fumagalli, the nurse she sees the most, once flew to Chile with the Chilean President's wife on a military plane, then spent many weeks in Chile. All the women speak English. Especially likes the Irish nuns who were taught at a French convent and who bungle the French language as badly as she does. Will go home January 4, as Sigrid Undset is visiting January 11 and does not want to miss it. Will regret leaving the lovely, peaceful isolation of this place for the modern city. Hand is improving well, though mind is even better. The world of Hitler is erased in this lovely atmosphere of old and sustainable practices. Apologize for what is probably a confusing letter, one which she will not be able to revise, but the profound satisfaction of this quiet Christmas is hard to articulate. Happy New Year.   Willa Cather, per S. J. Bloom