#2134: Willa Cather to Roscoe Cather, May 23, 1938

More about this letter…
Plain view:

Guide to Reading Letter Transcriptions

Some of these features are only visible when "plain text" is off.

Textual Feature Appearance
passage deleted with a strikethrough mark deleted passage
passage deleted by overwritten added letters overwritten passage
passage added above the line passage with added text above
passage added on the line passage with added text inline
passage added in the margin passage with text added in margin
handwritten addition to a typewritten letter typed passage with added handwritten text
missing or unreadable text missing text noted with "[illegible]"
uncertain transcriptions word[?]
notes written by someone other than Willa Cather Note in another's hand
printed letterhead text printed text
text printed on postcards, envelopes, etc. printed text
text of date and place stamps stamped text
My dear Roscoe1:

I have been wanting for weeks to write to the little widowed4 Margaret5, but for the last month life has been very crowded. Edith6 and I went down to a mild part of Virginia7 because I could not seem to check my bronchitis here. As soon as we got back, wireless messages and letters began arriving from the Menuhins. I answered Yehudi's8 first wireless and then gave it up – there were too many.! A week ago Edith was badly, but not seriously, hurt in a taxicab collision. She has been in bed ever since, and will be for days to come. She will have a long scar on her upper lip, but it will not be so bad as we first feared.

No, I first met Mr. Ehrman9 when I went from Pasadena10 up to Berkeley11, to take a Doctor of Laws degree from the University12. Mr. Ehrman was President of the Board of Regents of the University, and I sat next him at the alumni dinner. I don't think we even mentioned Yehudi that night,. bBBut within a few days Yehudi and his father13 arrived from New York2, leaving the women folk14 here. The Menuhins stayed at the Ehrman house, and of course we all got together very soon.

It was Mr. Ehrman, you know, who financed the Menuhins when they had not a cent in the world and when the father was working for two dollars a day. Mr. Ehrman plays the violin himself, is very musical, and had a sound musical education. When Yehudi was six years old Mr. Ehrman resolved to back him. When Yehudi was ten, Mr. Ehrman sent the whole Menuhin family to France15, so that the child could study there under normal circumstances, with his home people about him. Of course, the Menuhins have long ago paid back the money debt, but the other debt they feel they can never pay. For about four years Mr. Ehrman put his money solidly behind him them, and his only complaint was that the family were much too frugal. In short, Sidney Ehrman began Yehudi's career. There were thousands of people who said "wonderful!", but just one man who quietly put his money behind him and his family.

Now as to the present situation: your letter has been a great comfort to me. It came at a strategic moment. It is a great relief to me to know that Mr. Ehrman feels exactly about these many marriages16 as I do. No one knows these three children better than Mr. Ehrman, and Ehrman is one of the few old fashioned gentlemen left in the world. It is about the little girls that I feel most perplexed and disturbed. Even their letters do not greatly reassure me. Hepzibah17 does not write like herself, neither does Yaltah18. But no, they do write like themselves – pages of warm confidences, but they do not seem to know what they are doing. They write as if they were telling me all about a thrilling trip they were going to take. I cannot understand it.

As for Yehudi, I am not worried about him. She19 may not be the right girl, but even if he is disappointed it won't hurt him in the deepest part of his nature. The deepest part of his nature simply is music, has been from his infancy. Yet, if he were to lose his right hand, I am quite sure it would not ruin his life. Nearly all the great music of the world he knows by heart and carries in his mind and consciousness. It flows through his mind just as a scene from one of the great Shakespearian plays often flows through mine, line by line, and it is just as satisfying to me as if I said it aloud. But inwith music this process is much more complex and gratifying. Furthermore, Yehudi is a very deep thinker, though he is very modest and very seldom talks to people about anything serious. I had known him for three years before we organized our Shakespeare20 Club21, and not until then did I know anything about what laidlay beneath in this boy of gentle voice and charming manners.

But he has the right attitude toward life. He will get great sweetness out of it always, no matter what happens to him. His own beautiful nature makes him happy – he gets happiness out of the smallest things. In short, the "Lord has anointed him with the oil of gladness above his fellows."22

All these reflections, my dear, are of course very confidential – strictly for you and Margaret and Meta23. Next to the Lindberghs24, the Menuhins are the "best news" in the world, and I scarcely dare whisper any fact or opinion about them for fear of seeing myself quoted in the New York Times25 next morning. Tell dear Margaret I shall write her a very special letter soon. aAnd ask her, please, not to get married right away. I want to take a trip with her first. I seem to be losing all my young companions at once!

Lovingly Willie
FROM CATHER 570 PARK AVE., NEW YORK CITY Mr. R. C. Cather,1 First Savings Bank of Colusa, Colusa,3 California. 754 Oak Street NEW YORK, N. Y. STA. Y2 MAY 24 1938 2 PM