#0026: Willa Cather to Mariel E. Clapham Gere, July 13 [1896]

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My Dear Mrs. Gere1;

Why dont some of your heartless daughters3 write to me? If they only knew how lonely and alone I am they surely would. I can stand it very well through the day when there is plenty of work and bustle at the office4, but at night my soul yearns a good deal for my own kind and for those three beloved girls of yours. I would give anything just to see Jack5 ten minutes. I dream about those big tender gray eyes6 of his every night. The Axtells7 are gone West now, and from days end to days end I see only the prim old maid8 who keeps my boarding house9 and my stenographer. —Dont that sound large,my stenographer!— 2You see the entire responsibility of the first issue10 devolves on me. We are of course short of Manuscript on the start and I have written fully one half of the magazine11. Then the foreman is not used to magazine work and I have to oversee everything that goes on in the composing room. I'll tell you my old Hesperian12 experience13 helps me out there. I was down in composing room until one oclock last night sweating over those forms and making up the pages. Then I have all the my manuscript reading and purchasing for the September number, and all the correspondence with literary people, which of course demands some care. Fortunately the stenographer is an exceptionally good one and knows how to 23 spell. The responsibility is something awful. I dream about that magazine every night.

Now Mrs. Gere I want to ask a big favor of you, and no one but you can do it. I want to write an article14 on Mrs. W. J. Bryan15 and Mrs. McKinley16 before any of the other magazines do. Its a chance for a big "scoop" and I want to make a grand success of it. The old maid who keeps my boarding house knew Mrs. McKinley well in her youth. I have worked her for all she is worth and got lots of valuable data. Next week I go down to Canton Ohio17 to get early photographs18 of Mrs. McKinley etc. Now I cant go to Lincoln19—how I wish I could—so I want you to please send me all the facts you know and can get about Mrs. Bryan. What her literary tastes are, her club standing, her home, her legal studies, how she came to take them up etc. You know what I want, personal matter that the newspapers dont give. Of course I will keep your name out of it, and mine too for that matter. I will use a pen name20, I have had to use half a dozen in the first number21. Now dont fail me, Mrs. Gere, for this means lots to me. Mr. Axtell22 will be delighted if I can work it up thoroughly. I will write to Captain Phillips23 and ask him to try to get me Mrs. Bryan's photograph24. I must have some if they are to be had.

The magazine is not all I could desire from a literary stand point, its policy is rather namby-pamby, but of course that is the publishers'25 business, not mine. I want to show you all that I can take up a thing and stick to it even if it dont just suit me. The great key of success is to work when you are not suited, I fancy. You would'nt know the lazy girl I used to be in me now. Even the stenographer has been lectureing me about working too hard. If Mr. Axtell is suited, I'll make this thing succeed. I never felt so able to work before. My own literary work I will have to keep up outside largely, its a little too heavy for whats wanted in the monthly. Of course its a little hard for me to write gentle home and fireside stuff, but I simply will do it. Its so satisfactory to be really of some importance, to have something to do that no one else can do quite as well. It takes all the ennui out of life. At first I rebelled at some things, I had to learn that every editor is not a Mr. Gere26 or a Mr. Jones27. But I have learned that now and have resigned myself to the fact. I mean to stick this thing out. Thats the size of it. Three tall, plain, stiff, prim, Presbyterian Miss Rushes28 called on me this evening, three of Lydas29 ten thousand cousins. I was very demure and discussed flower gardening church music.

Give my love to the three girls who have forgotten me, and much to yourself and Mr. Gere.

As ever yours Willa.