A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Van Wyck BrooksOct. 14, 1940Penn 

Shares his high opinion of Archibald MacLeish's statement about the war. [MacLeish called on the U.S. to enter the war in order to defend democracy against fascism.] People pay far too little attention to statements by important leaders. No one has made more forceful and important statements than Winston Churchill, but neither he nor MacLeish is likely to be able to wake people up to the dangers.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1496]

To Ferris Greenslet [from Sarah J. Bloom, secretary]Dec. 9, 1944Harvard 

Please return Archibald MacLeish's letter.   [Stout #1681]

To Sigrid UndsetApr. 8, 1947Oslo 

Has read over and enjoyed her letter many times. Past few months very difficult. Tendon in right hand relapsed in January, and since then has been immobilized in a brace. Isn't the world acting strangely now? Miss Lewis was lunching with some advanced Hindus and heard them speak absurdly, boasting and exulting about India's independence from England as an escape from despotism. When thousands die of famine in their cities and there is no Wavell [Viceroy of India 1943–47] to supervise rescue squads in Calcutta, they may change their tune. England still suffering regimentation and shortages. An elderly friend there tried to get enough lumber to repair his porch floor, but fell and broke his hip before the permission came. Doubtful he will survive the accident at his age. New York's winter was dreary and demoralizingly mild. Perhaps she knows the Irish proverb, "A green Christmas makes a full graveyard." New York has become the world's most foolish place to live. All the old women dye their hair yellow, or cut it short and frizz it wildly, and no one dresses tastefully any more. Is glad she remembers the shadbush and dogwood so fondly, and wonders if she had ever seen a Judas tree (Cercis canadensis) in bloom. Apologizes for writing such a foolish letter. The warm, soft winter, and the strange deterioration of humankind has robbed her of her spirit. Everyone seems to want to live in New York and wear outrageous outfits and drink cocktails. When she goes North, will feel better and write again.   [Stout #1757]

To Professor HornbergerMay 1946 "DRAFT" is written across the top and the letter is unsigned; ; UNL-Rosowski Cather 

Will never allow Death Comes for the Archbishop to be in an anthology, as anthologies are ultimately shallow [Horberger published The Literature of the United States in 1946]. After speaking to many young people, is convinced that the college classroom is no place for modern books. When a man is in school, he ought to study the classics of the English canon. An energetic undergraduate will read current books for fun. When teaching school in Pittsburgh, was forced to use a set list of texts, which included Silas Marner, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Marmion, Quentin Durward, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Macbeth, and the poetry of Robert Burns. Some students are still in contact. Would Prof. Hornberger consider Silas Marner—a rewarding if unhurried book, good for modern students—worthy of an anthology? Does not know who selected the list and was given no options, but was expected to read them and test the students on them. This is the limit of what a high school English class can be. If one hundred students read a great writer, about two of them will be affected deeply, and the other ninety-eight will not be injured by it. When reading the classics, there needs to be no distasteful argument of a writer's worth. All anthologies make this kind of argument, except for Field-Marshal Wavell's [ Other Men's Flowers: An Anthology of Poetry ], whose notes are sometimes better than even the selected work. Except for the glut of Browning's work, his selections are perfect. He loves The Hound of Heaven and expresses that. He fears neither Rommel nor erudition. PS: Please send a list of pieces in Volume One to aid in thinking about Volume Two.