A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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Results 11-15:

To Burges Johnson, n.d. [1939?] Beinecke  Partial transcription by E. K. Brown. Pub. CEA Newsletter Dec. 1939; quoted in Bohlke.

Like Henry Seidel Canby, does not believe in teaching contemporary literature. More important to use limited school time to teach classics of English literature. Essential reading in school includes Shakespeare, Milton, Fielding, Jane Austen, with Thackeray, George Eliot, George Meredith, and Thomas Hardy as the most recent. Young people should read contemporary literature as they want to, not as assignments. True literary taste is as rare as perfect pitch, but students can glean something from exposure to the classics, even if they don't have real aptitude.   [Stout #1454]

To Ferris GreensletDec. 13, 1940Harvard 

Trusts Mr. Rogers to place the explanatory note for the Autograph Edition where he thinks best. Right hand in splints, so can't even sign checks for Christmas presents.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1517]

To Bruce RogersJan. 25, 1941Newberry 

Sorry not to have seen him when he was in New York, but has been in hospital. Does not mind omitting capitalization of "o" in Moses, which was there to emphasize the way Negros sing the word. "Milldam" was often used instead of "millpond" in Virginia. "Down the millrace" is true to the localized use for going either way, but it might be better to make it "along the millrace." Stairs did creak; house built of unseasoned wood. Realizes excisions of extraneous material may have left some details like these unclear, and appreciates his calling them to her attention.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1523]

To Sister [Elsie Cather]June 17, 1937, partial letter; only first page extant ; UNL-Southwick 

Yesterday mailed a check and now is compelled to write again after reading Elsie's nice letter. Has been very busy with details surrounding Houghton Mifflin's publication of a new edition of all her works [the Autograph Edition, the first volumes of which were published in 1937]. Bruce Rogers is designing them. He is the finest designer in the United States or England and has recently gone to England to design the Oxford Bible. There will be limited sets for the U.S., library, and English markets. Knopf agreed to this arrangement, and this edition will correct many of her lapses in taste and the mistakes of proofreaders. Knopf will still publish future books first. Not much money to be made in this endeavor, but Knopf thought she should do it. The work involved has been tedious. . . . [part of letter missing]. 

To Roscoe CatherJune 29, 1938UNL-Roscoe 

Wants to tell him of few things confidentially: 1) Is sending a letter from Mary Virginia with a marked passage he should read. Did not, nor did Edith hear Douglass mention a will that time, but they perhaps missed it amid the laughter and conversation. Certainly Mary Virginia would not make it up, so she must have heard something. He could have been speaking only figuratively, though, to explain his concern. Must be honest in recalling the speech of a man who can speak no more. 2) Went with Douglass to Tiffany's to pick out a bracelet for Miss Rogers, but not one in the case was attractive. Suggested Douglass consider one of the lovely rings, but he thought it a little too committal. While at the sanitarium, saw Miss Rogers often, and she seemed inoffensive enough. She wasn't dumb, could do her job well, was polite, and was prettier than Douglass's other sweethearts. Douglass was coming on strong with her, and she seemed to like him, too. He told her the spring before their mother died that he was thinking about marrying Miss Rogers. Did not object. It is difficult for a young working woman to bear six or seven years of courting. Believes she lost her job at Las Encinas because of gossip about her and Douglass. Never considered Miss Rogers as someone who was after Douglass's money; she behaved like a woman who believes she is in love with a man and wants to please him. In the subsequent six years or so Miss Rogers may have worsened; such an unsettled relationship is wearing for a woman her age. She is definitely worse off now than when Douglass first met her: she's lost several jobs, been gossiped about, and is now past thirty (which makes it harder to get a job and get married). Hopes Douglass was openhanded with her when he was alive, for his will does not repay all she's lost. Jessica and Elsie, who are now so upset, were a burden to Douglass in the years Miss Rogers was a comfort. Does not mind if Douglass treated her lavishly, as she did more for him than his own family did. They should look at this from her perspective. Wouldn't Roscoe be troubled if one of his own daughters was treated like that? The letter from Elsie, which she has enclosed, speaks for itself. Miss Rogers was a decent young woman in those years, and she trusted Douglass's devotion even if it did not profit her. 3) Doesn't want to write about the next topic, but feels obligated to: all of Jim's letters since he left Nebraska to work with Douglass reek of betrayal except the one since Douglass's death. He complains endlessly that Douglass duped him out of his share of their father's estate! Has told Jim that she would trust Douglass with her own money at the drop of a hat. The few recent ones—maybe two a year—also whined that he was treated like an underling when he understood the oil industry perfectly well. He didn't believe the oil industry took any expertise, just luck, and he planned to speculate independent from Douglass. Roscoe would be affected by these letters as much as she. She thought they were so spiteful, she only kept them a few days before destroying them. Jim has positive qualities and she is very fond of him when he is near, but he is arrogant and provoked by a malicious wife full of cheap aspirations. Knows that Ethel was understanding with Jim for a good while, but when she soured, she turned to poison. It is Roscoe's duty to prevent these angry, self-centered women from harming Miss Rogers any further. Their father would have been kind toward her. If Miss Rogers has a different version of the will that is fully legal, it must be honored. Elsie's theory that Miss Rogers goaded Douglass into drinking is silly. All knew his heart was weak, and he wasn't the kind of man that retired to his bed. He liked a drink, as it allowed him to feel more lighthearted about his future. He was pushing away his fears with his drinking. 4) Usually does not reveal the secrets of others, but thought Roscoe needed to understand Jim's character. Neither he nor Jack should be trusted very far. Better to place confidence in Douglass's business partners. Jack is sweet, but careless and now too old to change. Jim never could handle serious men; his type is Roy Oatman or Russell Amack. Douglass's partners aren't sophisticated men, but they understand the oil business. Will not write about this any more. Is soon going to Grand Manan with no typewriter or secretary. Knows that Roscoe wants to support Jim and Jack, but he should keep in mind Jim's disloyalty to Douglass while Douglass lived. Jim treats his children well, but he doesn't seem to love them more than Douglass did. When acquainted with Miss Rogers, did not think she was pursuing men, but her career. During the trip to Caliente, she never behaved vulgarly, but was a straightforward, smart Western woman. She didn't moon over Douglass, and was always well-behaved. Is grieved to see her life ruined. Roscoe should act as their father would have. P.S.: After reading Elsie's letter, get rid of it.  Willie. 

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