A Calendar of the Letters of Willa Cather

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To Sigrid Undset,  Christmas Eve [Dec. 24, 1941] Oslo 

Flowers she sent brightened the day. Has not felt so excited about Christmas since childhood. Maybe Churchill [who had come to confer with Roosevelt after the recent bombing of Pearl Harbor] traveled by reindeer like Santa Claus. His presence and his shrewd, searching gaze would wither political pettiness. He knows the American idiom from his mother, and American politicians will realize he is sharper than they are. His coming is almost a miracle. Reminds her that the battle cry of the Crusaders was "God with us!"   [Stout #1566]

To Sigrid Undset, Saturday [Jan. 24, 1942] [with a clipping from the Commercial Advertiser, Red Cloud, Nebr., dated Monday Jan. 5, 1942: "'Bob' Smith Shoots Down Four Jap Planes."] ; ; Oslo 

Has been thinking about Undset since reading her Elleve Aar, or The Longest Years. [Elleve Aar, literally "eleven years," was an autobiographical novel about Undset's childhood. It was first published in English translation in 1935, titled The Longest Years.] Was in France in 1937 when the translation appeared, but had not read it until now. Would like to ask about many things in the book. Can claim that in one way she surpassed Undset in childhood, in that when she was seven, she could sew quite well! Was pleased to read that on Christmas Day a Nebraska boy had taken down four Jap planes—even more pleased to discover he was Bob Smith from Red Cloud, who had gone to school with her nieces. Liked his cable to his father [quoted in the clipping: "Just arrived from Kumming. Came through both battles of Rangoon safely. Knocked down four ships personally. Happy New Year."]. There are millions of American boys like him, but not from big cities. Please come spend an evening as soon as their siege of visitors from the West is lifted.   [Stout #1570]

To Ferris GreensletFeb. 16, 1942Harvard 

Has received his letter but wants to think about proposal from Reader's Book Club. Not sure she wants her income increased, with income tax taking so much of it. Believes this would cut into regular sales. News from England very bad. Wonders if even Churchill is losing his strength. Undset's book about escape from Norway and journey through Russia is extraordinary. Wishes she had titled it more simply. Willa Cather. P.S.: Has thought about it and does not agree. [Stout #1571]

To Mary Miner CreightonFeb. 19, 1942WCPM 

Please tell Carrie, will write as soon as possible. Was selecting some books from her shelf to send to military camps and found the enclosed about Prague; thought they would enjoy it. Has read Sigrid Undset's book about escape from Norway and except for the title likes it very much. Undset found Russia simply filthy but managed to take an interest in it nonetheless. Fears there will be strong public reaction against Undset's admiration for Japan, but she will not take back what she believes.   Willie   [Stout #1572]

To Mrs. George WhicherApr. 22, 1942PM 

Was in hospital with a bad throat and high temperature when her letter came. Right hand doing well now, under Dr. Ober's care. Did she get to hear Jack sing at St. Paul's Chapel March 15? Was in the hospital then, so couldn't go. Surprised to hear Jack is studying law, though his innate brightness will surely enliven the level of law practice in this country. Life is so hectic nowadays, with the stressfulness of world events. P.S.: Understands she met Sigrid Undset at Mount Holyoke. Glad American readers have been willing to read Undset's Return to the Future in spite of its praise for Japan. Undset liked the cleanness and elegance of the Japanese, in contrast to the dirtiness of the Russians. Gunnar's Daughter [translation of "FortÓ•llingen om Viga-Ljot og Vigdis," published by Knopf in 1936]probably her best book. W. S. C.  Willa Cather   [Stout #1578]

To Sigrid Undset,  n.d. [May 14, 1942] Oslo 

Please come to dinner at seven on Saturday. Sorry for the short notice, but is on a tight schedule. Is beginning to feel like herself again, and no longer dismal. Would love to see her.   [Stout #1583]

To Sigrid Undset,  Wednesday [June 3, 1942] Oslo 

Please come to dinner at seven on Saturday, June 6, if she is in town. Seeing Undset again would be a great joy. Is not an invalid now  [Stout #1584]

To Sigrid UndsetOct. 23, [1942], from the Williams Inn, Williamstown, Mass.Oslo 

What a heartwarming little book! [Undset's memoir for children Happy Times in Norway, published by Knopf in 1942] It flooded her with memories of days when the world was free, and the beautiful, variegated pattern of different countries lay under a sky undarkened by death. Spent a dreary summer drearily, hospitalized four weeks for removal of gall bladder. Has had a slow recuperation, which has tried her patience. Has been here in the Berkshires a few weeks, and has enjoyed the quiet. Will leave for Boston tomorrow.   [Stout #1594]

To Sigrid Undset,  Monday [Nov. 23, 1942] Oslo 

Received her letter before she left Williamstown. Is amazed she was able to coax the gardenia plant into a second bloom. Has never been able to do so herself. War news is looking hopeful. Looks forward to seeing her. Housekeeper has been ill, but they've had rugs and curtains out for cleaning and the apartment is getting back to normal.   [Stout #1597]

To Sigrid UndsetDec. 27, [1942]Oslo 

The narcissus she sent for Christmas was like a promise of spring, reminded her of Schubert's "Dream of Spring in Winter" [from Die Winterreise, 1827]. Has had a strange Christmas, both secretary and housekeeper ill for weeks and she and Miss Lewis on their own, with just a cleaning woman and a part-time housekeeper. Does not really mind washing dishes, but it keeps her from other things. Has not regained full strength, but has gained five pounds and can at last enjoy eating again, after months of feeling repelled by food even though hungry. This explains her seclusion recently.   [Stout #1606]

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