A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Albert G. FeuilleratNov. 6, 1929Yale 

Sending her publisher's pamphlet with biographical information and a list of books with information about her and her work. Has marked the two best. Hard to answer his question about French influence. From adolescence and for many years thereafter read and liked French prose writers from Hugo to Maupassant. Read all of Balzac more than once before the age of twenty, though not much now. Doesn't believe she ever imitated any French writer, but did admire them more than their English contemporaries because of freer experimentation and greater thematic range. Tone of British writers of that period, before Hardy, sometimes mechanical or patronizing, though it doesn't really bother her. Believes French language itself more exciting to her than English when she was younger. Now prefers Prosper Merimée to the others. Likes his reserve, as well as other qualities. P.S.: Suggests he read "The Novel Démeublé."  Willa Cather   [Stout #988]

To Ferris GreensletMar. 22, 1938Harvard 

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]

To Laura HillsNov. 9, 1940PM 

Has to send a typed letter because right hand is unusable. Damaged it signing five hundred copies of a deluxe edition of Sapphira and the Slave Girl. Is sending her one of only two advance copies she has received so far. Book not officially out until December 7. Epilogue is absolutely true, a very vivid memory from childhood.   W. S. C.   [Stout #1503]

To Stephen TennantApr. 15, 1941Yongue 

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]

To Laura HillsDec. 29, [1942]PM 

Very happy to receive her letter. Dr. Ober's brace cured the damaged tendon in her right thumb, after ten months of having no use of it. Even slept in the brace. Likes her "Hurricane" picture a great deal. Misses niece Mary Virginia, with her husband at an Army camp in Colorado, but enjoys her nice letters. She and Edith Lewis have no maid at present, so she spends most of her working time in the kitchen.   Willa Cather   [Stout #1607]

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 E. K. BrownOct. 7, 1946Beinecke 

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]

To Edith Lewis [1923?] , postcard showing Murillo's "La Naissance de la Vierge" (Louvre Museum), from Paris, FranceUNL-Rosowski Cather 
Image of postcard showing Murillo's "La Naissance de la Vierge" (Louvre Museum),
      Paris, France
Front of postcard #1934

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. 

To Helen Louise Cather [niece]June 2, [1930], postcard showing Avenue de l'Opéra, Paris, FranceUNL-Southwick 
Image of postcard showing the Avenue de l'Opera, Paris, France
Front of postcard #1947

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. 

To Mary Virginia CatherOctober 24, [1920], on letterhead of "Campagnie des Chemins de Fer P.L.M., Hotel Terminus et Buffet Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles"UNL-Southwick 

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 

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