Will let him know her plans as soon as they are made. Hephzibah Menuhin, her husband, and their two little boys were there to see her yesterday morning. Yehudi and his family arrived soon afterward. Visited happily until 11:30, then rose and quietly got the children into their wraps, went down on the elevator, and took cabs to the North River docks for lunch before sailing on the Queen Elizabeth at one o'clock. They never seem to get into a flurry. Yehudi and Hephzibah to give concerts in London and other cities in Europe. Have been a joy to her for sixteen years. Are people with beautiful natures. Still feels their presence in her rooms. Willa Cather [Stout #1755]
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.
Cannot get German version of book, and people traveling don't need large books, so is sending him a small one of the correspondence of an artist who died young [ Franz Schubert ]. Very sad letters, but likes to believe that if Yehudi had been there, his insight would have helped Schubert. But don't his beautiful creations overpower his hardships, and is not hunger irrelevant to one whose mind is on fire? Happy Birthday, and wishes him long years of accomplishment and joy. Aunt Willa
[included with letter are: 1) newspaper clipping announcing that Jervis Bay in New Brunswick has been chosen as the location for a memorial to Capt. Fogarty Fegen, 2) typed copy of Oliver Wendell Holmes's July 25, 1930, letter to Ferris Greenslet about Cather's work, 3) typed copy of Oliver Wendell Holmes's March 24, 1931, letter to Willa Cather] Is sending a review of the Holmes-Pollock letters from the New York Times [Henry Steele Commager, "Justice Holmes in his Letters," New York Times, March 23, 1941, p. BR1, BR30], and suggests Roseboro' read them. Is reading the volumes herself, and is enjoying the exchange between the two towering figures. Was thankful to be mentioned in the letters, and will send her a facsimile of the letter written to Ferris Greenslet regarding the book Roseboro' heroically supported. Is also including the text of the note he sent to Cather when he was ninety years old, though it cannot represent the beauty of his penmanship. Justice Holmes's secretary was the cousin of a San Francisco friend [May Willard?], and told the friend he read Shadows on the Rock to Holmes. Wants to tell her about the terrific joy she has gotten out of delighting old men who thrilled her years ago, like Thomas Hardy and James M. Barrie. Thinks Roseboro', someone who helped her when she was a foolish young person, would appreciate these fruits of her labor. P.S.: Hand is still useless. W.S.C.
Will not be able to contribute much to her thesis, as she does not think about her characters in such a way. Disdains terms fancied by many English instructors, like "contacted" and "motivation," as books based upon a writer's technical plan are dreary to read. Among the many writers she knows, none of them conceive their works by determining how one character will respond to another; instead, the writer is taken with an idea and needs to give it voice. Characters cohabit a story because it seems inevitable to the writer that they should, not because of some kind of calculated response. Is mailing a copy of the truthful report she wrote about how she conceived of Death Comes for the Archbishop ["A Letter from Willa Cather to the Editor of the Commonweal," Commonweal 7 (November 27, 1927): 713]. All great writers do this: they write to express passion or outrage, something heartfelt and unplanned. It is too bad that teachers convince students that books are an elaborate scheme, when they are something much more extraordinary: a deep expression of the author's caring and joy.
The green bowers [on the postcard] are lemon trees. Can't imagine leaving this place—mere breathing is a joy here. Willa
Glad he enjoyed the story [possibly "The Joy of Nelly Deane," which appeared in Century in October 1911], and thanks for the kind letter. Had surgery and has not completely recovered from three hours of ether. W.S.C.
Has been embarrassed to write after so long. Has put off writing everyone but mother and Jack, who was ill. Is mortified that she even neglected writing Mrs. Deland, for now her sick husband has died. It is the war that is causing the problems: it even makes writing books seem trivial. Can't make progress on the new book, and will probably have to rewrite or abandon it. Houghton Mifflin people are very displeased that it will not be ready for fall publication. There are good things in the new book, but it does not seem to be working. Is going to put it aside for a while and write some short stories—needs the money. Has Elsie heard that Rudyard Kipling's son, the prototype for Dan in the Puck tales, is missing in action? It has been over a year now, and hope seems lost. Mr. Greenslet, who just returned from England, said Kipling is devastated. What a shame, as Kipling has given so much joy to so many. Edith's health was good this winter. Helps Edith with eye treatments. They plan to go to Washington tonight. The war and resulting rise in costs have hurt the magazine publishing business. Has had many wonderful musical get-togethers with the Hambourgs, and had dinner with the recently-married Olive Fremstad and her husband [Harry L. Brainard and Fremstad were married November 4, 1916]. They had a fine evening. Has already written mother describing it. People she knows in the British war department say the war will go on at least two years. When Greenslet was in London, he had trouble getting decent food and enough of it, and many buildings had to go without heat. Newspapers aren't really providing the whole story: if not for the entrance of the United States, the allies would have been defeated, for the submarines prevented proper food from getting to the army. Germany's food supply is much better than that in England and France. If the U.S. can produce enough ships and men, the allies may yet win in two years. If not, we will all be Prussian. The Russians can't hold the eastern front unless the allies keep Germany tied down in France. If not, St. Petersburg will soon fall, and then the German army will be fed from the vast agricultural output of Russia. The U.S. has a unique opportunity: we can protect or lose Democracy for the entire planet. And yet a letter from her Mesa Verde guide claims the war is taken as a joke out west. Like Russia, the U.S. is so enormous we can't get things together. Believe it: dark times are ahead. Needs to stop now, but hopes to be better about writing in the future. Willie.
Is pleased he had a good time with Douglass on his trip. As to the twins, if they will be in Lake Placid this July, they ought to come to Grand Manan afterwards. They are not likely to be so close again, and there is something exciting about being on an island offshore. To do it, they would need to take a train to Montreal and then to St. John, New Brunswick, to wait for a boat. They might need to stay at the Admiral Beatty Hotel for a couple of days, but St. John has some appeal of its own. The boat trip to Grand Manan takes a whole day, but is quite nice. They should stay two weeks on Grand Manan, and she will set them up at the same place Mary Virginia stayed during her visits. The trip will likely be expensive—about $100 each. Will send a check to cover the costs when it's all set. Naturally, there will be no costs for them on the island, as she will be their hostess. But it is critical they have the right clothing! They should have warm clothing, rain coats (it can rain a good deal there), and the right kind of shoes. Rubber-soled tennis shoes would be perfect. Girls have been injured climbing on the cliffs in high-heeled shoes. Is certain the twins will enjoy the island as much as she does. What does he think about this plan? Would love their company. Enjoys having fun with young people. Her joy in the Menuhins is not just because they are supremely gifted, but because of their youth. With them, it seems as if she were heading out for Garbers' grove. Willie.
What lovely tulips he sent the day before Easter. Sitting on her writing table, they will provide joy for many days. Willie.