#0732: Willa Cather to Ferris Greenslet, May 10 [1924]

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FG ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ Dear Mr. Greenslet1;

I do beg you3 not to use the Fairchild4 sonnet.! As the tribute of a friend, even, it is not convincing, because it is so full of artificial, colorless phrases. Many a college undergraduate could do better. The sonnet is distinctly third rate as poetry. I had hoped that this would be an edition5 of Miss Jewett6 for writers. If Mme. Tchekova7, or Lawrence8, or Middleton Murray9 picked up these volumes and ran them over, the first thing their eye would light upon would be a tiresome piece of "old-lady-poetry." Why put a piece of feeble, foolish verse into a volume whose avowed excuse for being is its literary excellence?

I wish you would read10 "Decoration Day."11 It's simply one of the times when Miss Jewett didn't accomplish what she longed to do. It scarcely belongs in the second grade of her work, much less the first.

However, if Miss Mary12 is set upon it13, and you feel that you must sconcede to her, put it in,; and I will, in that part of the preface where I say that the stories in Volume II are of unequal merit, simply say that I do not consider that one among her best, but include it at the request of friends. I'll try to word it niecely. But do not take out "The Hiltons' Holiday".14! I don't greatly love it, but Oone of the longest talks I ever had with Miss Jewett was about that story, and she felt strongly about it. I wonder what was the date of her letter to Mrs. Richards15? To me she spoke differently. When I told her that "Decoration Day" to me seemed more like other people's stories, she said with a sigh that it was one of the ones that had grown old-fashioned.

You see, in the preface I've made a very high claim for these stories, and I can defend it with any really first rate writer of any country; but no critic, no writer, could make su such a claim for a conventional magazine story16 like "Decoration Day." If you have to include it, I must say it that it is done by request (which sounds foolish); or (otherwise) that one story would quite invalidate the preface.

About this story you must do as you think best. I wish you could omit it. But Aabout the Fairchild sonnet I can't compromise- - - what has an "occasional" sonnet to do with a literary work, even if it were a good sonnet.? If you use the sonnet, I must withdraw the Preface altogether. I won't be one bit disagreeable about it, you understand,but I shall be firm.

Faithfully yours Willa Cather

Won't you take this up with Miss Mary17? As an editor, with a publishing interest, you will have more influence than I.