Appreciates the copy of Grey of Fallodon, which she enjoyed reading. Did not like May Sarton's The Single Hound; didn't resemble real people. Very different from The Enemy Gods, which she liked very much. Usually does not care for novels about writers, a genre Robert Louis Stevenson referred to as cannibalism. George Gissing's Grub Street an exception. Doesn't care for very fanciful fiction either, including Walter de la Mare. The fanciful works well in poetry, but not in prose. Willa Cather [Stout #1404]
Likes the cover for Lascar; it transports her to Marseilles. Likes the way the church towers over all while frivolous and shabby and alluring things wash around it. Sense of crowding and human variety perfectly captures Marseilles. Surprising he never read Maupassant until recently. Glad he is feeling well and enjoying himself. Was sorry to learn that Virginia Woolf had died; knows that was a loss to him. Hand improves very slowly. Willa Cather [Stout #1536]
Reply has been delayed by repairs of apartment. Greatly appreciates his insightful reading of her work and generally agrees with his judgments. Is not writing much nowadays because low in spirits since the deaths of her brothers Douglass and Roscoe. Yes, Death Comes for the Archbishop is her best. It was hard to find a structure to pull together so many disparate elements in the Southwest. It simply came to her one day when watching the sunset color the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that the essence of the early Southwest was the story of the missionaries from France. Devoted herself to research on it from that day. Mary Austin claimed the book was written in her house, and now a woman named Wheelwright claiming it was written in hers. Actually, mostly written in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Has always felt disappointed with O Pioneers!. Tried to put together the Norwegian and the French settlers, and they never mixed. Once, not long after it was published, met Louis Brandeis on the street and he told her that what he most liked about the novel was its sincerity of feeling for the place and people. Said that one of the writers in whom he did not find that sincerity was Edith Wharton. Never saw him again. Probably he didn't find her own next two books sincere either. Kept working and trying to learn. Believes Brown underestimates the early railroad builders; Jim Hill, for example, a person of great imagination and personal quality. Never gave great care to language per se in her books, but tried to let the language come to her that would express feeling for the subject. Is pleased by his praise of My Mortal Enemy. Agrees that Lucy Gayheart isn't very good, except in the last part, after the Gayhearts themselves are dead and the book centers on the effect they have in the businessman's memory. Wishes she'd had a better sense of form earlier in her career. Willa Cather [Stout #1741]
Spent entire morning in Louvre. Murillo picture will remind Edith of the Spanish works at the end of the corridor. Murillo's Virgin is the loveliest woman on earth, and Ribera's humble shepherds are wonderful. W.S.C.
Happy birthday from lovely Paris! The crossing was fine, and it is a joy to visit Isabelle daily—room is very close to her apartment. W.S.C.
Is in Marseilles and will sail October 25; will arrive in New York on November 12. The French were very kind and helpful during her trip from Paris, but the Americans were quite ill-mannered. Has to go everywhere in a carriage while she does her business, but can walk some in the hotel. The injured foot is about as expensive as another traveling companion. Thankfully has a terrific masseuse to treat foot twice daily. Will not need to walk on the boat, but will not like being injured when the boat stops in Naples for three days. French people are so courteous. A Major of Artillery with a missing arm did much to help, and even the drivers have assisted her. Hopes everyone is doing well at home. Edith's mother mailed a nice review of the new book [ Youth and the Bright Medusa ] from the New York Times. Willa
Is not angry, just tired from the flu and impatient with all the requests made of her. Is refusing the requests, but even writing decorous rejections is burdensome. Getting the honorary degree from Columbia University was wonderful. Was the sole woman among six aging men, and sat in cap and gown next to the French Ambassador [Paul Claudel?]and the University of California's president [ William Wallace Campbell ]. Edith says that the crowd cheered for her most, and they did. Was applauded when the President [ Nicholas Murray Butler ] called her name and again after two Deans put a beautiful collar on her; the others only got applause after they received their degrees. The Cuban, de Bustamante, was also well-liked. After the ceremony, she went to a supper party hosted by President Butler and spoke with many dignitaries from the university and beyond. It was pleasant, but tiring. She should have invited Mary Virginia along. Is mailing the Columbia collar [hood], along with the Michigan one, to Carrie Sherwood for storage. Hasn't the room to store them, and Carrie has a special place. Hopes mother likes the beads, even if family does usually question her [i.e., Cather's] judgment in such matters. Is planning to go to Grand Manan soon. PS: The traveling done by the men receiving degrees tells one how important they think it is. Willie
He must be inundated with praise since the publication of his [translation of Joost van den Vondel's] Lucifer [New York, London: Continental Publishing Co., 1898]. Hopes he does not mind another. Has been following the positive reception with some surprise at the success, for it is rare that an old, non-English language text can inspire such enthusiasm. Liked the review in the Critic; it was as positive as Vance Thompson's but more focused and intelligent. Had hoped to review it herself and regrets being gone and missing the chance. Wants him to know of her honest approval of his work. And now, though still so young, he is going to talk at Columbia! Hopes his success has made him content. Though he used to doubt his abilities, she never did. With support of cousin Dr. James Howard Gore of Columbian University, Washington, D.C., is hoping to publish a book of essays on theater soon, and hopes he will look at it for her. Wishes him the best. P.S.: Is boarding with some young women from Pittsburgh he met at the Chicago World's Fair, the Miss Davises. Unusual to associate him with those uncomplicated girls. It is an association Balzac would have appreciated. Willa Cather
Must refer to her as Miss Guiney due to long history of admiration, though such a habit does not mean she feels distant. Returned from travels in the West recently, and is glad to be back. Typically is longing for it, but got her fill during the recent trip. The people seem so fat and overconfident, as if they are trying to meet the expectations of Owen Wister and Remington. The land in Arizona and New Mexico is amazing, though. As Balzac commented, the desert has both all and nothing, God without humankind. That line has to be lived awhile before its profundity sinks in. The spirit gets lonesome in a place where the only history is geologic. Glad she liked "Alexander," but thinks "The Bohemian Girl" is even better. Mrs. Fields did not like it, however, but she just could not get past the crudeness of the characters' behavior. Will Guiney let her and her sister rent the cottage? Did she know Andrew Lang or the unfortunate Mr. Stead [possibly William Thomas Stead, British writer who died when the Titanic sunk in April 1912]? Mrs. Vermocken writes that she loves Guiney's house, and hopes she can see it (and Guiney) soon. Was planning to stay with Mrs. Fields in October, but work is keeping her in the city. Willa
Has been meaning to write about the delightful events of recent days. Finally had a luncheon with Margaret, Virginia, and Mary Virginia at Sherry's, and afterwards watched the full-color movie of the twins on Grand Manan that Edith took. None of the girls had seen the movie before, and it is absolutely splendid at capturing the atmosphere of the island. Had attempted to make room for a lunch date on fairly short notice with Margaret two weeks ago, but Margaret responded to her telegram with regrets that she had a bridge party, and that refusal was a little painful. Upon seeing Margaret, though, forgot the pain and enjoyed her company. After all, Margaret couldn't have understood her time constraints or what it took for her to clear that day. It is good to be humbled with a refusal now and then. Hopes nieces enjoyed the long lunch at Sherry's as she did. Loved seeing West Virginia again—such a personable young woman. Agrees with Mary Virginia in admiring her naturalness and self-assurance. Such attributes are unusual in the younger generation and will stand out more as Virginia matures. Margaret is as dear as ever and was wearing a hat that reminded her of the hats Grandmother Boak kept in her trunk. Appreciated Roscoe's letter from Grass Valley, which she stuck in her copy of A Lost Lady, even though she was not aware of Grass Valley when writing it. Thought Mrs. Garber was from San Francisco, and did not know until Douglass told her that her grandmother was Spanish. Glad she did not know that, for she might have been tempted, like Hergesheimer, to add a little exoticism to the novel, which would have revealed her immaturity as a writer. By just capturing Mrs. Garber as she knew her, though, she did provoke some French critics to remark that the character was reminiscent of Spanish women. Mustn't stetch this letter out any further as her right hand is wrapped in a sling from an injury to the thumb tendon: signed 500 de luxe copies of the novel in three days. May have to retreat to the French Hospital so the nuns can tend to her. Is going to Yehudi's concert on December 2, though, even if she has to wrap her hand in a white scarf. So long. Does love his daughters, especially Margaret. Willie.