A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Zoë AkinsApr. 19, 1937Huntington 

Here are comments on Mr. Totheroh's play. When Mrs. Forrester enters the judge's office she says, "My, your stairs are steep!"—very low class usage, makes her look common. Then he has her refer to her age; she would never have done so. She tells a Swede his son's eyes are as blue as mountain lakes—language of a pretentious social climber. Same when she says she would die to have eyes like that—makes her seem low class. Repeatedly so. On p. 13 he has the judge imply that Captain Forrester has behaved un-ethically—contrary to the whole ethical foundation of the book! Couldn't read beyond the first act. It was like a betrayal of the person she knew after whom Mrs. Forrester was modeled. Once again, thanks for sending the verses. Is not irritated with her any longer and is sorry this incident has caused disharmony between them.   Willa   [Stout #1364]

To Captain HazlewoodJune 1, 1946Beinecke 

Thanks for his interesting letter. If her health were better, would want to talk with him about the Spanish missionary he described. His question about how an author decides what material will be artistically successful is based on misconception. The subject comes, it awakens a spark of something, and there should not be any further thought about whether the result will be successful. Suggests he read her letter to Commonweal about the writing of Death Comes for the Archbishop.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1733]

To Charles CatherSeptember 25, [1913], from the train ; UNL-Southwick 

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 

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.