#2236: Willa Cather to Roscoe Cather, June 13, 1945

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 very dear Brother1:

Certainly I have been putting it over on you pretty heavily for the last few months. First I bother4 you about the sale of that miserable property in Nebraska5 and then I trouble6 you to forward a letter to Jack's7 palatial residence. Probably Catherine8 wrote her address on the envelope. When I have a pile of letters I don't even look at the envelopes. I open them with a paper-knife, throw the envelopes in the waste basket and pile the letters under a paper-weight. (My paper-weights are amusing. Three are bronze and two are gold9 with no alloy – you can cut them with a good sharp penknife. They all make good substantial paper-weights.)

Then after doing me so many kindnesses, you go and order a copy of Wavell's10 anthology11 for Jack! Now, of course, I ought to have sent this delightful book to you and to Jack, but at the Channel Bookshop, where I get all my books, there is only one person whom I can trust to do things properly, and when I called up the shop she was taking a month's vacation, so I hung up the telephone.

When one isn't very strong one gets behind in everything; in clothes and shoes and in personal contacts. Many of the things which are not desperately important simply remain undone. As Solomon12 said, "The grasshopper is a burden."13 The day before yesterday I actually went to see Alfred Knopf14 at his office for the first time in seven months. I have made and broken off a dozen engagements with him simply because I did not feel able to make sensible decisions. All the books had to have special war conditions15, you know, and I just passed it up and left it to him. I could not make decisions. I am sending you by this mail the war edition16 of the Archbishop17, which I think is very good considering all the terrible restrictions. It is a perfect de luxe edition compared to the books that come to me from England18. I am sending you a page from a war edition of an English writer whom I greatly admire. Alfred Knopf got me several of his most recent books by taking great trouble. I thanked him but simply passed up this book - I can't read it. Collis19 is one of my favorite latter-day writers, but I want to save some of my eyes to read writers not so latter day. Compared to this paper and this typography, I think Alfred has done mightly well with my books. The Government restrictions are terrible. He has promised me that as soon as business straightens out again, he will issue the beautiful illustrated edition20 which has sold so well and so long, though I doubt whether he can sell it at $2.50, as he has done for years.

I wish, dear, that I could write nice, intimate, tactful letters, like yours, to nieces whom I have never seen. I did write with sincere feeling and interest to Ella Virginia21 after her terrible accident, and again at Christmas time. You know, it is a queer thing about families. I was very, very fond of Jack, and did the best I could for him. You remember I took him back to Pittsburgh22 with me when he was growing up at home to be just a good-natured errand boy. I did all I could for him, and so did Isabelle23. His professors at Carnegie technical school liked him, and passed him when his marks didn't deserve it. There was a charm about his personality. I never really lost faith in him until he persuaded Father24 to put money into some crazy chemical manufacturing company up in Pennsylvania25. The company broke up after a few months and Jack promptly married a rather ordinary girl26. The one time I saw him after his marriage he kept explaining to me how his wife had explained to him why Caruso27 couldn't sing! She told him that Caruso hit the note with his breath – you could hear him hit it! I have lived in New York2 a good many years since then and I have often wished that we had one tenor who could hit a note so well, with his breath or his fist or a brickbat. I used to send him Jack a check sometimes when he was working on the snow gang in Pennsylvania. But I had really done my very best to help him get the kind of education he said he wanted, and when it didn't work he sort of passed out of my life – then Douglass28 took over. After all, my life has been a pretty crowded one and I have dropped a good many people who were dear to me. Yehudi29's mother30, when she was in New York for a little while this winter, reminded me that I hadn't written to Hepzibah31 in Australia32 for three years. The girl was one of the most loveable and brilliant children I have ever known, and she wrote me faithfully for a long time after she married and went to Australia. But the physical strength that it takes to keep up with so many, many young people, isn't with me any more.

Lovingly always Willie
The above was dictated, dear, in an hour of peace. Then your letter came and I hastily returned the check. I have only one comment to make. The one important thing is that you should not let this disturb or worry you.
Mr. R. C. Cather1 First Savings Bank of Colusa Colusa, California3 NEW YORK2 [illegible]