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From Cather Studies Volume 13

Prologue: Becoming "Miss Cather from Pittsburgh

What happened to Willa Cather in Pittsburgh? For me, the answer begins in the location she once termed “Siberia”—her Nebraska hometown, Red Cloud. After graduating from the University of Nebraska in June 1895, Cather spent several months in Lincoln and several at home with her family. In Lincoln she continued to work as drama critic for the Nebraska State Journal and for three months served as associate editor for the weekly Courier, writing her popular “Passing Show” column and other features. And she was writing fiction, as well; her first story in a national magazine, “On the Divide,” would be published in January, in The Overland Monthly. By the end of December, Cather at last “moved her trunk” back to her family home to Red Cloud, although she returned to Lincoln regularly to review plays and search for a full-time job.

Back in Red Cloud, Cather reluctantly celebrated the advent of 1896 by attending a “New Year’s Dance” with her seven-years-younger brother, Douglass. In a letter datelined “Siberia,” she reported to her close Lincoln friends, the Gere sisters: “Of all rough-house affairs, of all cake walks! . . . The refreshments consisted of ice water in a wooden pail, coffee and ham sandwitches which they passed in a bushel basket. . . . The men fell down every now and then and you had to help them up. Yet this was a dance of the elite and bon ton of Red Cloud” (Selected Letters 24–25). When her cousin Etta was married a few weeks later, Willa took charge of the wedding breakfast, for which she extravagantly ordered strawberries, tomatoes, and watercress from Chicago—in February!—perhaps wanting to raise the “tone” of Red Cloud social life. When she was in Lincoln, her social life seems to have been active, and her name appeared often in the society news. In the same month of her Red Cloud cousin’s wedding, the Lincoln Journal noted that Miss Willa Cather had attended a fashionable masquerade ball, dressed “as folly in pink and silver, with silver bells and a harlequin hat and staff” (Kingdom of Art 28).

In May, Cather wrote again from Red Cloud, apologetically, to Mariel Gere, her most sympathetic Lincoln friend, who had been supportive throughout a series of undergraduate crises and crushes:

I think I should get so disgusted with myself that I would just quietly take a dose of Prussic acid to rid myself of my own company if it were not for this one thing, that most of my idiocy has come from liking somebody or other too well. . . . In the years I have been away I have kind of grown away from my family and their way of looking at things. . . . They sort of expect something unusual of me and the Lord only knows where it’s coming from for I don’t. I feel all played out. How can I “do anything” here? I have’nt seen enough of the world or anything else. . . . There is nothing to do but quietly peg along and lie low until I get out of debt, for I haven’t got the nerve to ask my family to help me out any more. Besides they cant. Hang it, I’ve made a sweet muddle of things for a maiden of one and twenty. (Selected Letters 27–29)
This letter expresses familiar postgraduate anxieties, as young Cather agonizes over recent “idiocies” (perhaps including anxieties about how to perform gender), worries about alienation from her family and their expectations, and about post-college debts. Half-jokingly, she flirts with suicidal language. However, as Bernice Slote reminds us in her commentary accompanying Cather’s The Kingdom of Art, this anxious “maiden of one and twenty” (she was already shaving a year off her age) was already widely recognized as one of Nebraska’s “chief newspaperwomen.” The Omaha World Herald praised her “genius for literary expression. . . . If there is a woman in Nebraska newspaper work who is destined to win a reputation for herself, that woman is Willa Cather.” The Beatrice, Nebraska, paper went even further: Cather was “one of the ablest writers and critics in the country, and she is improving every week.” As Slote wrote, in the early months of 1896 this accomplished young woman was “in the confusing position of being a star without a firmament” (26). In June that changed. On 17 June the Journal reported that Miss Willa Cather would soon depart for an editorial position with The Home Monthly magazine, in Pittsburgh. Cather left Lincoln for Red Cloud on the very day of that announcement, and six days later, she and her trunk boarded the train for Pittsburgh.

Except for her weeklong trip to Chicago in 1895 to hear “grand opera,” Cather had not returned “back East” since her family moved to Nebraska in 1883. On the train, she reported to Mariel Gere, she “began to feel good as soon as I got east of Chicago. When I got to where there were some hills and clear streams and trees the Lord planted [very much the landscape of her native Virginia, and very unlike the largely treeless Nebraska] I didn’t need any mint julip. The conductor saw my look of glee and asked if I was ‘gettin’ back home’” (Selected Letters 33). After thirteen years away from her birthplace, the Shenandoah Valley was now a part of her firmament again; a few months later, she would take a bicycle trip there and visit some favorite childhood haunts.

Just a few hours after her arrival in Pittsburgh on 26 June, in another letter to Mariel, Cather christened her new home “this City of Dreadful Dirt.” Pittsburgh was famous for its iron and steel mills and their noxious fumes and was also “the production and marketing heart of America’s glass industry” (Rosenthal iii). The conical furnace stacks of glassworks marked the skyline and produced “dense black smoke,” their ample share of “Dreadful Dirt.” The local glass industry, begun in 1797, took advantage of the area’s abundant supply of coal and the mobility offered by its rivers. In the ten years Cather lived in Pittsburgh, the glass industry continued to grow, taking advantage of new technologies. By 1920, 80 percent of the glass made in the United States came from the Pittsburgh area. And Cather’s growing awareness of this industry, as well as the iron and steel mills, became a part of her Pittsburgh fiction.

A month later, Cather wrote to Mariel again, just back from an “excellent” evening at the opera “with a little Chicago chap.” Her self-esteem is clearly in good order. She chides Mariel for considering her “bohemian.” “If I haven’t any regard for myself I have just a little for my family. I may go to New York sometime, but not for the express purpose of going to the bow-wows, and certainly not until I get some money ahead.” She’s blunt, confident, and practical—and then, in the same paragraph, we find one of her quintessential statements of artistic belief: “There is no God but one God and Art is his revealer; that’s my creed and I’ll follow it to the end, to a hotter place than Pittsburgh if need be” (Selected Letters 39). This young woman has clearly expanded her firmament. She is enjoying an active and apparently conventional social life, free from the embarrassment and self-reproach that she confessed three months before. She realizes that The Home Monthly, where she is writing much of the content of the next issue, is likely to be “great rot, home and fireside stuff, about babies and mince pies” (Selected Letters 37). But she admits, “I really like the work. . . . Its a great boon just to be of some absolute use somewhere, to be at the head of something and have work that you must do. . . . Then the town and the river and the hills would compensate for almost anything” (39). In Pittsburgh Cather has found the landscape that was her first love—the wooded hills and rivers of Virginia—and the enticements of absorbing work in a modern city. Here she meets “so many different kinds of people”—drama critics, actors, musicians, writers—and her head is “thumping full of new ideas. I seem . . . to be able to do better work than ever before.” But then—almost as if she fears she has gone too far—she pulls back: “I doubt if I ever do anything very good though. I seem to lack the one thing” (39–40).

The massive Carnegie Institute had just opened in Pittsburgh, and during her first month in the city, Cather wrote to another Gere sister, Ellen, full of enthusiasm for its rich resources:

We went [to] an organ recital . . . at the great Carnegie music hall Saturday night. It was great. . . . The music hall is in the same huge building with the Carnegie library and art gallery. I thought the U. of N. [Nebraska] Library was nice, but this—its marble from one end to the other and the colors and frescoes are just one artistic harmony . . . they have all the books in the world there I think. And right near it is the Casino theatre and my old friend Pauline Hall plays there all next week. I foresee alas, that I will not go to the library on matinee afternoons but will slip across to the Casino to look upon Pauline’s glorious anatomy once again. The old Nick is in me . . . it’s no use talking. (37)

This welcoming Pittsburgh seems the very antithesis of Siberia. But the fiction that Cather wrote for her first five issues of Home Monthly also suggests that her family in Red Cloud was very much on her mind. The August issue features a story for “Young Folks” to which she signed the name of a favorite brother, Charles Douglass. It is a fairy tale of sorts, “The Princess Baladina—Her Adventure.” Young Baladina has been “unusually naughty that day.” She has “scratched and bitten the nurse who combed her golden hair,” lost her golden ball in the moat, and poured custard into the ear trumpet of her fairy godmother. Shut up in her nursery as punishment, she resolves to make her family repent by getting “enchanted by a wizard. . . . [S]ome young Prince would . . . break the spell and bear her triumphantly off to his own realm. . . . Then her unfeeling parents would never see her any more, and her sisters and brothers would have no dear sweet little princess to wait on” (1–2). This plan does not work out—the one prince she encounters calls her a “silly little girl” and says,“go home to your parents.” The only friend she finds is a little miller’s boy who lets her ride on his donkey, and Baladina declares him “Prince enough for me.” On their way home to the palace, they meet a search party led by her father the king.“Ha there, you precious run-away. . . . Come here, you little baggage.” Baladina demands that her prince must come too, and “‘have half the kingdom.’ . . . But the king only laughed and gave the boy a gold piece and rode away. . . . The miller’s boy stood by his donkey, looking wistfully after them, and the Princess Baladina wept bitterly at the dearth of Princes” (5).

This tale is told with a facility that reminds us that Willa Cather had spent many years spinning such tales for her six younger siblings. An indulged and willful daughter with problematic hair and multiple siblings devises a plan to defy her family and find a life elsewhere. But she ends up, as little girls often do, being carried home by an affectionate, laughing father. This suggests that the author has been thinking about family dynamics in a large family of siblings—and of what happens when a beloved daughter decides to leave home. In the same issue, “Tommy, the Unsentimental,” signed by Willa Cather, also touches on matters that were central to her Red Cloud life, with a female protagonist who wears a boy’s name and clothes, and ably runs her father’s banking business.[1]

One of the stories that Cather thought showed the improvement of her writing was a two-part serial, “The Count of Crow’s Nest,” which conveniently filled a number of pages in the September and October issues of The Home Monthly. She proudly told Mariel Gere that she’d been offered a hundred dollars for it by Cosmopolitan (Selected Letters 39). The protagonist, Buchanan, is just out of college, an “honor man of whom great things were expected.” He is holed up in the cheapest respectable boarding house in Chicago, “Crow’s Nest,” trying to be a writer—or something. “He knew that he was gifted in more ways than one, but he knew equally well that he was painfully immature, and that between him and success . . . lay an indefinable, intangible something which only time could dispose of” (1; pt. 1). (This paradoxical knowledge of great potential, perhaps stifled by immaturity, sounds oddly familiar.)

Buchanan makes friends with a fellow boarder, an elderly, indigent European count who is admired for his elegant style and sense of gentlemanly honor, which forbids him to make much-needed monetary profit from a cache of revealing letters written by members of European aristocracy. His daughter, also transplanted to Chicago, is an inept singer who prides herself on her practicality and modernity. She has no scruples about profiting from those revealing letters, which she steals from her father. Buchanan helps the count retrieve the letters, and honor is (somewhat) preserved. But the count finds no satisfaction in this, and the story ends abruptly with his words to Buchanan: “It is a terrible thing, this degeneration of great families. You are very happy to have nothing of it here.” He is eager to die and “free the world” of the blood he carries. “When all sense of honor dies utterly out of an old stock . . . It should be buried deep . . . blotted out like the forgotten dynasties of history” (9–10; pt. 2). What will young American Buchanan make of this tale of decline, fall, and the incipient death of honor? And, indeed, what will Home Monthly readers make of it? There is nothing of “babies and mince pies” here. Nevertheless, the story—Cather’s longest so far—does indeed show improvement, with, as James Woodress says, “developing skill in narrative technique” (121).

The December issue of Home Monthly was put together as Cather was anticipating a Pittsburgh Christmas, her first far away from her family. “The Burglar’s Christmas,” the magazine’s requisite December holiday story, is not Cather at her best and is signed with the name of her cousin in Red Cloud, Elizabeth L. Seymour. Again, the setting is Chicago, and the protagonist is a young man whose father and fond college friends once had high hopes for him. But on Christmas Eve, his birthday, he has hit rock bottom, having failed at journalism, business, and all other efforts. Wandering the festive streets, desperately hungry, he decides to attempt burglary. He slips into a house where a holiday party is in progress and begins to pocket valuable jewelry. Looking for more, he discovers a cup he recognizes: “the silver mug he used to drink from when he was a little boy” (4). At this point the door opens, and a white-haired woman enters, unafraid. After a moment’s look, she embraces the burglar, who struggles to disengage himself. She protests, “Who is it says I shall not kiss my son?” (5). He tries to confess—“I came here to rob.” But she tightens her embrace and says, “How could you rob your own house?” Her jewels are (she says) “‘all yours, my son, as wholly yours as my great love.’ . . . He held fast to her and bowed his head on her strong shoulder.” This indomitably forgiving mother surrounds the failed burglar with food, comfort, and relentless love. The story ends with a sermon-like exaltation of the mother-love that saves this failed burglar and finally suggests that the great “Potter” will offer similar Christmas salvation to all his human “Things of Clay”—in language that we are probably relieved to note is not signed by “Willa Cather” (8).

However, Cather did sign Home Monthly’s December story for “Young Folks,” “The Strategy of the Were-Wolf Dog,” illustrated with a fine portrait of Santa Claus and his helper, the White Bear. This bear, “a most gentle and kindly fellow” who loves children, is the tale’s hero. His adversary is the “shaggy and monstrous” Were-Wolf Dog, who hates “good little children” and is determined to prevent Santa’s Christmas Eve deliveries (13). One year he manages to entice Santa’s reindeer, who are resting up for the next night’s deliveries, to go out for a midnight run toward the Polar Sea. Perhaps foreshadowing Lucy Gayheart, the reindeer find themselves on cracking ice, and, in a horrific scene, “the black current . . . whirled them down under.” Only one reindeer, Dunder, survives. “Cruelly cut and bleeding,” he makes his way back to Santa’s castle and awakens White Bear. “Come out, brother,” he gasps, “the others are all dead and drowned. . . . [T]he treacherous Were-Wolf Dog . . . lured us to go with him toward the Pole, promising to show us the Northern lights. . . . But black Death he showed us, and the bottom of the Polar Sea.” “Santa’s heart will be broken,” and there will be no Christmas Eve deliveries (14).

But White Bear saves the day. Riding on poor Dunder, he goes to the distant spot where “the animals of the North all gather to celebrate Christmas” (14) and entreats them to replace Santa’s drowned reindeer. Only one volunteer comes forward, slightly drunk on Christmas punch—“a poor old seal” who “had fallen into the seal fishers’ hands and been maimed.” Nevertheless, he promises to drag “the sleigh full of presents to the World-Children.” Then the reindeer all sprang forward and cried,“We will go,take us!” So the story comes to its inevitable end: “The next day . . . Santa Claus . . . and seven new reindeer, headed by Dunder, flew like the winged wind toward the coast of Norway. And if any of you remember getting your presents a little late that year, it was because the new reindeer were not used to their work yet, though they tried hard enough” (24).

This is a surprisingly original Christmas tale—far more so than “The Burglar’s Christmas”—and it is narrated by a storyteller of considerable skill and assurance. The Were-Wolf Dog is a more murderously malicious antagonist than his twentieth-century successor, the Grinch, and his drowning of the reindeer must have fully satisfied the “Young Folks’” appetite for chills and horror, and probably generated some nightmares. Again, this may be a tale Cather told her younger siblings. She was especially attached to her youngest brother, Jack, whom she missed painfully in Pittsburgh. In “My Little Boy,” a poem about him that appeared in her first Home Monthly, she recalled storytelling: “At the curious tales that I used to tell / His big eyes would open so wide, / And for fear of the terrible werewolf’s spell / He used to creep close to my side” (April Twilights 39). Apparently the Were-Wolf Dog made his first appearance in the Cather home in Red Cloud. Another poem addressed to the “little boy” appeared in the October issue: “When the loneliness is heavy, / And the dark seems coming on, / Your dear eyes look out and tell me / That you’re sorry I am gone” (“Thine Eyes So Blue and Tender,” April Twilights 32–33). And in November, there he is again, in “My Horseman,” as the poet’s “Little boy in the West Countree,” a thousand miles away, whom she implores to “jump upon your steed [a rocking horse] and ride / Across the hills to me” (April Twilights 35–36).

Cather’s younger sister Elsie also makes an appearance in an October Home Monthly poem—but a far less flattering one. Elsie’s family nickname was “Bobby Shafto,” from the familiar nursery song. Her poem begins,

Bobby Shafto fat and fair Would not comb her yellow hair; Every morning just at eight She bewailed her bitter fate. Then the combs and brush would fly. But one morning while she cried Mamma found a mouse inside, Found a mousie pink and bare, Who had crept for warmth in there, Right in Bobby Shafto’s hair! Pretty Bobby Shafto! (April Twilights 34)
This “Jingle,” as Cather titled it, probably recalls a family story that Elsie would have preferred to forget.

Willa’s own family nickname was “Willie Winkie,” and the next month, Winkie also appeared in Pittsburgh in a brief story Cather wrote for the children’s page she edited for another local publication, the National Stockman and Farmer. In “Wee Winkie’s Wanderings,” the little girl, tired of playing with her “sullen dolls,” decides that she wants to go out and ride with her father, who is mowing the meadow. But her mother forbids this: “‘I think you are tired now and need a nap more than anything else.’ When Winkie wanted anything she wanted it very much, as mamma knew.” She begs and pouts and threatens,“I just think I’ll run away to the mountains.” “Her mamma thought this was as good a time as any to cure her of the notion....‘Very well, just get your hat and go.’” Mamma helps Winkie pack up cookies and dolls and puts on her hat. “Then she said,‘Hurry up, little daughter, you will have to go fast if you get to the mountains,’ and shut the door.” Predictably, Winkie’s plan (like Princess Baladina’s) does not go well; it seems to her “that the sun did not shine so brightly as it had.” Reluctantly, she starts to climb up the big hill that leads to the mountain, but “someway she could not go over the brow of the hill and lose sight of the house. She sat down despondently . . . and watched the sun going down, without the heart to even eat her cookies.” Watching from the window, Mamma at last sees her daughter climb back down the hill. Tired and dusty, Winkie slips silently into the house. “Mamma washed her and gave her supper, and tucked her into her little bed and never said a word about her running away, and neither did Winkie” (18).

The wooded, mountainous farm setting of this slight story suggests the Blue Ridge, Virginia, home of Willa Cather’s own early childhood. And it portrays a mother who knows well how to deal with a willful young daughter who threatens to run away, but cannot bear to lose sight of home. Cather’s relationship with her own mother was complex and sometimes conflicted. However, as Edith Lewis recalled, she praised her mother’s ability to leave her children alone to make their own discoveries (6–7), as Winkie does.

Cather’s editorship at The Home Monthly lasted for less than a year. Since September of 1896 she had been writing drama criticism for the Pittsburgh Daily Leader, in addition to her continuing contributions to Lincoln papers. By January of 1897 she was already looking for a full-time newspaper job in Pittsburgh. By June she had either resigned or been fired from The Home Monthly. She enjoyed a long summer visit in Red Cloud (Byrne and Snyder 7–8, 10). In September she received a job offer from the Pittsburgh Leader (seventy-five dollars a month), which she accepted at once. She told her Lincoln editor that she “almost hated” to go back, since in Red Cloud she had been “writing stories ... and getting better at it than ... ever.”“I do the society act too much in Pittsburgh . . . and can’t do the hermit act one bit. But dear me there is next summer and a lot of summers ahead, and in Pittsburgh there will be . . . Bernhardt and all the rest of the great[s], so I guess I’ll go” (Selected Letters 45).

Less than two weeks later, well started in the new job, Cather wrote to Mariel Gere that she liked it “very much” and reported with pleasure that “Five gentlemen met me at the train and every one seems really glad to see me back!” (46). In the coming months she continued to report on a dizzyingly active social life and a lengthening list of new acquaintances and friends, with composer Ethelbert Nevin the “prince and king of them all” (59). But the summer in Nebraska had intensified feelings that Cather would never entirely resolve. She told Mariel that, as her train pulled out and “I watched you all get further and further away from me . . . I had to overcome a mighty impulse to jump off the train and run back to Lincoln.” As she was coming to realize, distance meant loss. A year later she would write to Mariel’s sister Frances, “There is nothing I fear so much as that I may gradually drift out of your lives . . . I think nothing in life could quite make up that loss to me” (51–52). The thread of homesickness runs through her Home Monthly contributions—even the family names she substituted for her own suggest an effort to keep cherished connections. This was powerfully expressed to her friend in 1897: “Mariel, I will not be away from Nebraska another year. Of what use are money and success if one is not happy? And I cannot be happy so far away from home.” Her heart is “aching for one little lad who is asleep in his bed a thousand miles away. . . . I don’t want money or fame anymore, but just my three boys always . . . life is too short for love anyway, one is a fool to be an exile” (46–47).

Cather’s partner of forty-four later years, Edith Lewis, had an intimate understanding of this period:

[T]he three or four years she worked on the Leader were, I think, her hardest years. In spite of perpetual homesickness, she would not have wanted to—she could not, in fact—go back. One does not go back. But after the first excitement of being on her own had worn off, she felt herself at a sort of standstill. She was living in cheap boardinghouses, on miserable food, and sending as much money as she could to her family in Red Cloud. . . . There were times when the sense of the best years of youth going by, and nothing to show for it, no real advance toward the kind of accomplishment she wanted, filled her with discouragement. (43)
Lewis’s account must have come from hearing Cather’s memories of those earlier Pittsburgh years, since she did not meet Cather until 1903. When Cather wrote to Mariel and others in 1897 and 1898, she was many years away from reaching—or at least admitting—the blunt conclusion that Lewis implies the two women shared: “One does not go back.” Cather did go back to Nebraska, of course, for multiple visits—until both her parents were dead. But it was always with the knowledge that, leaving Red Cloud, she would return to a kind of exile. Lewis acknowledges the “perpetual homesickness” of which Cather must have told her.

In fact, homesickness seems to have been a constant note in Cather’s life. She first experienced it at the age of nine, when she left her beloved Virginia with her family and miserably promised herself that she “would not eat much until I got back to Virginia and could get some fresh mutton” (qtd. in Willa Cather in Person 10). And it was still with her in 1945, two years before her death, when she wrote to her closest Red Cloud friend, Carrie Miner Sherwood, “I am not exaggerating, Carrie, when I confide to you that I would rather go home to Red Cloud than to any of the beautiful cities in Europe where I used to love to go” (Selected Letters 647). As a child she had imagined that she could not be fully nourished until she “got back to Virginia.” And in 1945, having lived by choice in New York City for thirty-nine years, she still longs to “go home to Red Cloud”—although she has not chosen to return there since 1931, and never would again.

In My Ántonia, ten-year-old Jim Burden, Cather’s autobiographical stand-in, well understands that homesickness can be a fatal affliction. He recognizes it as the reason for an immigrant’s suicide: “I knew it was homesickness that had killed Mr. Shimerda” (97). Perhaps the only cure for such homesickness—and for Cather, obviously, it was only a partial cure—is to make a home of the place where you are. And she had already set about doing that. Her extraordinarily profuse journalistic output from those years provides ample evidence of how well she was coming to know Pittsburgh—by bicycle, streetcar, interurban railway, boat, or on foot. In one column she wrote, after a Wagner performance, that “Wagner is perhaps not so effective [here] as elsewhere, we are all so used to the noise of the iron mills” (Lewis 46), including herself in the “we” that lived with the sound of a major Pittsburgh industry. She regretfully missed one of her much-enjoyed evenings with friends George and Helen Seibel, spent reading French and discussing literature, “because she had promised to attend a picnic of the Glassblowers’ Union with the labor editor of the Leader” (Byrne and Snyder 44). Obviously, she was becoming familiar with the Pittsburgh-area glass industry and, since she was in the company of her newspaper’s labor editor, she was also certainly becoming more aware—as most of the country was—of local labor issues. In the glass industry, child labor was a major issue. Of more than six thousand glassworkers in the Pittsburgh area, 1,470 were boys under sixteen, more than half of whom worked twelve-hour night shifts. The glass industry considered these boys an essential source of cheap labor, and thus opposed—often successfully—intensifying efforts to pass child labor laws (Madarasz 53–54).

Like the rest of the country, Cather would almost certainly have become aware of Pittsburgh-area labor issues with the news of the 1892 steelworkers’ strike at Andrew Carnegie’s Homestead plant. When workers went on strike to oppose lowered wages, Henry Clay Frick, who managed the plant, hired three hundred armed Pinkerton detectives to quell the strike. In the resulting conflict, nine steelworkers were killed, and the riot could only be ended by thousands of armed state militia troops. Frick, adamantly anti-union, refused to negotiate with union workers, and the widely publicized “Battle of Homestead” was a grave setback to unionization in the expanding steel industry. Soon after the riots, an assassination attempt was made on Frick. He was injured, but survived. Both the doctor who treated him and the judge who presided over the would-be assassin’s trial—Samuel McClung—later became good friends of Cather’s. And Cather’s Pittsburgh journalism is judiciously silent about Frick, who was still very much a presence in the city during her years there.

But when she wrote for a Lincoln audience in an 1897 piece, Cather described a “little supper” Frick gave for men friends at the Duquesne Club, noting that, in Pittsburgh, “everything ‘swell’... is called either ‘Duquesne’ or ‘Carnegie’ . . . everything that is big and expensive.” The evening’s entertainment was the “fair and fascinating” singer Anna Held, whom Frick paid five hundred dollars.

At first all went well, but after the champagne had been flowing freely Anna began to sing her seductive little gem, “O, Won’t You Come and Play with Me?” and the crowd got so frightfully merry that mademoiselle’s manager had to pick her up bodily and take her to her hotel. . . . Mr. Frick’s little escapade didn’t go down very well . . . Mr. Frick is a gentleman well along in years, who is a pillar in the [Presbyterian] church and directs the manifold interests of the Carnegie Steel Company, and writes didactic articles on “How to Succeed in Life” for the Youth’s Companion, and people were surprised at him. He is the same Mr. Frick, by the way, who made all that sensation about being shot at years ago just after the Homestead strike. He wasn’t shot at all, as everyone here knows, but his would-be assassin is doing time in the pen just the same. (The World and the Parish 505–6)

Writing for newspaper audiences in both her old hometown of Lincoln and her new city allowed Cather to maintain multiple voices and to express in Lincoln opinions about Frick and other Pittsburgh matters that she did not publish—or probably voice—in Pittsburgh. In 1905 Frick moved to New York, and his house there, with its great art collection, is now a museum. In 1943 Cather wrote in a letter that she had just taken two of her adult nieces “up to the Frick Art Gallery, we had a very jolly time” (Selected Letters 624–25). I can’t help wondering what she told her nieces about Mr. Frick.

Lewis’s appraisal of the fiction Cather wrote during her early Pittsburgh years, working for The Home Monthly and the Leader, is merciless. For her, those stories “are an indication of how valueless this sort of writing can be for a truly original writer. They were . . . a kind of practice—but practice in the wrong direction, in doing over and over the kind of thing most destructive to talent” (42). I wouldn’t be quite so dismissive—those stories show tendrils of growth, and they will continue to prove revealing for Cather’s biographers. But Cather’s mature evaluation of them probably matched Lewis’s; she never permitted any of them to be reprinted after she left Pittsburgh. In the spring of 1900, she resigned from her job at the Leader, spent a few months on the staff of The Library—a short-lived weekly magazine—and then, in the fall, moved to Washington dc for several months, where she worked as a translator and as a Washington correspondent for Lincoln and Pittsburgh papers. Clearly, she was casting about for work that would nourish her growth as a writer. During the Washington experiment, she returned at least once to Pittsburgh, for her customary Christmas celebration with her friends the Seibels. Then, in February, she was deeply grieved by the death of another friend, composer Ethelbert Nevin, and returned to Pittsburgh two weeks after his funeral. She was now deeply committed to a web of friendships and associations that were making Pittsburgh more and more homelike to her.

The most important of these friendships was with Isabelle McClung, which began in the spring of 1899 and almost immediately became centrally important to both women. Cather spent summer 1899 in Red Cloud, and when she returned, she wrote to Dorothy Canfield that she was “studying Greek to beat the band” with “the Goddess,” and “Say, do you know, it’s not half bad to be back.” Isabelle met her at the station,“looking as though all the frieze of the Parthenon ought to be tripping after her, and I began to have a better opinion of Pittsburgh. She’s so darned good to me that she’s making me positively kiddish. . . . We’ve been . . . having no end of a frivolous good time” (Selected Letters 52–53). As their friendship deepened, Isabelle must have observed the strains of Cather’s continuing newspaper job and then her efforts to find work that would allow her to become the writer she aspired to be. The move to Washington seems an especially drastic, and perhaps desperate, step when we consider that it interrupted what was becoming the most important relationship in Cather’s life thus far. After several months there, Cather wrote to Preston Farrar, a friend and former suitor, for advice about finding a teaching job. In Washington, her working “headquarters” were “in a university . . . and the atmosphere has appealed to me very strongly. . . . It seems to me to be a good time to begin to think about making the change which I have always intended to make, and my family are very anxious for me to do so.” She has prospects for finding a teaching job in Washington, she thinks,“but for personal reasons I would a little rather be in Pittsburgh next year” (55–56). A few weeks later, she was back in Pittsburgh and soon accepted a job as a replacement for a teacher who had just resigned, at Central High School. She taught composition, Latin, and—or just one difficult semester—algebra. The job offered a steady (though not large) salary, regular hours, summer vacation, and—as must have pleased at least the older members of her family—it was the most conventionally respectable profession for a nineteenth-century single American woman. And Isabelle McClung—surely the most pressing of the “personal reasons” for which Cather had wanted to return to Pittsburgh—invited Cather to move in with her socially prominent family in their capacious and elegant new house on Squirrel Hill. Cather lived there, enjoying free room and board (Byrne and Snyder 41) and Isabelle’s intelligent and solicitous companionship, until she left Pittsburgh five years later.

Those last five Pittsburgh years were marked by growth, discovery, and achievement. With Isabelle, she made her first, revelatory trip to Europe in 1902; in 1903, her book of poems, April Twilights, was published. Her stories began to be accepted by magazines with wide national circulation, such as The Saturday Evening Post and Scribner’s. And she began to write of her Nebraska home in new ways. The first example of this was “The Sentimentality of William Tavener,” in 1900. The story shows a subtle understanding of what it might mean to simultaneously have two home places. Tavener, who emigrated with his wife from Virginia to Nebraska, as Cather’s parents, grandparents, and aunt and uncle had, is “the most prosperous farmer” in his county. His wife, Hester, a “strong” “executive woman, quick of tongue,” has been a major reason for their farm’s success. Their relationship is practical and businesslike, and William has become “a hard man . . . even towards his sons,” whom he has “worked . . . hard” all summer. When they ask for a day off to go to the circus, their father refuses. Hester tries to make the sons’ case: “our boys don’t get to see much out here on the prairie. It was different where we were raised.” She goes on to reminisce about a circus she attended as a child, in Virginia, remembering her delight in the animals, including two camels. William interjects gravely, “No, there was only one camel. The other was a dromedary” (1–2). They discover that they both attended that same circus as children, as yet unknown to each other. They draw closer and talk on, remembering “old neighbors . . . weddings, picnics, sleighing parties and baptizings.”“This exchange of confidences . . . had all the miracle of romance.” After years of discussing only “butter and eggs and the prices of things . . . now they had as much to say to each other as people who meet after a long separation” (4). When William finally goes off to bed, he gives Hester a ten-dollar bill for the boys to take to the circus. While waiting for the boys to come in, and thinking with renewed tenderness of her husband, Hester goes into the bedroom to check on him and finds him sleeping, but plagued by flies. She goes to the parlor where a basket of wax fruit, made by her dead sister and hand-carried from Virginia with great care, is covered by a square of protective mosquito net, which she takes to the bedroom and spreads gently over William’s head. “Then she sat down by the bed and listened to his deep, regular breathing.”

The Taveners, who have been so occupied with surviving and succeeding in their new home, have rediscovered, through mutual memories, the old home where their enduring love began. And Hester’s repositioning of the mosquito net, so that it protects her living husband and not a lifeless relic, signals an important readjustment of priorities. When the boys come in, she gives them the circus money and, feeling “a sudden throb of allegiance to her husband . . . said sharply, ‘you be careful of that an’ don’t waste it. Your father works hard for his money.’ The boys looked at each other in astonishment and felt that they had lost a powerful ally” (5). This story articulates a fuller understanding of how an emigrant family can be sustained by both its past and present homes; it replaces the misery of homesickness with the mutual sustenance of memory. And the Taveners’ Virginia is clearly the Cathers’ Virginia as well, as the familiar Shenandoah Valley place names in the story confirm.

Another fine story, “A Wagner Matinee,” appeared in 1904. The central character, Aunt Georgiana, is modeled on Cather’s Aunt Franc, wife of her uncle, George Cather. A New England native, Georgiana is a trained musician who taught music in Boston until she impulsively married a handsome younger man and went to Nebraska to homestead with him. The story’s narrator, her nephew Clark, lived with his aunt in Nebraska as a boy. Now living in Boston and enjoying the city’s cultural resources, he remembers how his beloved aunt understood and shared his homesickness. When he was “ill with a fever she used to sit by my cot in the evening . . . and sing ‘Home to our mountains, oh, let us return!’ in a way fit to break the heart of a Vermont boy nearly dead of homesickness” (4). In the Boston concert hall where Clark takes her to hear Wagner’s music, Georgiana has returned to her former home and is deeply moved. When the music ended, she “burst into tears and sobbed pleadingly, ‘I don’t want to go, Clark, I don’t want to go!’” Clark thinks he understands—that for his aunt, “just outside the door of the concert-hall” stands the ugly world of the Nebraska farm, to which Georgiana must return, with “black pond . . . unpainted house,” and “gaunt, moulting turkeys picking up refuse about the kitchen door” (6).

This story again explores what it means to be caught between two homes. Cather would later tell Elizabeth Sergeant, “Life began for me . . . when I ceased to admire and began to remember” (117). She wrote to Witter Bynner, “[Y]ou simply can’t imagine anything so bleak and desolate as a Nebraska ranch of eighteen or nineteen years ago. In ‘A Wagner Matinee’ I used some of the features I best remember of the one on which I lived. . . . [D]uring the first year that we spent in the West I came . . . near dying from homesickness” (Selected Letters 88). With this great early story (which she would revise again and again before republication), Cather learned some of the possible costs of honestly writing her memories of her Nebraska home. Her Lincoln editor, Will Owen Jones, a longtime friend and advocate, rebuked her sharply for painting such a grim picture of Nebraska. She told him, “I simply used the farm house we used to live in and a few of my recollections of life there. It is so beastly true that my own family are quite insulted—they say it isn’t nice to tell such things.” She ended by telling Jones, “Maybe it will relieve you to know that the [story] under discussion is the only Nebraska tale” that will be included in her forthcoming book of stories, The Troll Garden, which appeared in 1905, through the enthusiastic support of her new mentor and publisher, S. S. McClure (Selected Letters 80).

In the spring of 1902, when Cather had lived in Pittsburgh for six years, the city at last became a setting for one of her stories, “The Professor’s Commencement.” After one year of teaching at Central High School, Cather wrote this story about a thoughtful, generous man who is retiring from high school teaching after thirty years. His sister chides him that he’s been wasting his gifts teaching, and “Now it is time that you do something to justify the faith your friends have always had in you. You owe something to them and to your own name.” But the Professor fears the radical change of his retirement. “It is absolutely cutting my life off at the stalk, and who knows whether it will bud again?” (2). He had planned to complete his book on modern painting, but now “his heart told him that he had no longer the strength to take up independent work” (5). The Professor is fifty-five, and Cather, when she wrote his story, was approaching her twenty-ninth birthday and realizing that teaching was something she could do well—and that might threaten her life as a writer. Would her books get written and published—or would she, like the Professor, lose the strength to do independent work?

Pittsburgh does not wear its best face in this story: “The beautiful valley, where long ago two limpid rivers met at the foot of wooded heights, had become a scorched and blackened waste . . . [while] bellowing mills . . . broke the silence of the night with periodic crashes of sound, [and] filled the valley with heavy carboniferous smoke.” The Professor’s students are the products of that environment: “boys and girls from the factories and offices, destined to return thither, and hypnotized by the glitter of yellow metal. They were practical, provident, unimaginative, and mercenary at sixteen” (3–4). This Pittsburgh seems very different from the city that had so delighted young Cather six years before, when “the town and the river and the hills would compensate for almost anything.”

In March 1904 Cather wrote to Dorothy Canfield about their mutual concern that their long, close friendship had become distant:

We have both changed. Teaching school is a quieting, settling, ageing occupation, that makes one reliable and thoughtful and conscientious, but it is not good for ones disposition. I think I must take it too seriously, for it seems to take out of me most of the elements that used to be most active between you and me. . . . I’m really alarmed, Dorothy, at the rate at which I seem to be losing the capacity for emotion. . . . I don’t know myself.
Cather reports that Isabelle is also concerned and saddened by “this prolonged winter of discontent. . . . If I had left Pittsburgh when my judgment told me to, four years ago . . . I might not be so far afield now.” As the long letter draws to an end, she assures Canfield that “this period of hibernating will pass. I will cast my dead skin and emerge.” The letter has a troubling postscript: “I can’t in common decency say much about the trying and complicated household in which I live, but you must realize that such conditions do not contribute to ones being oneself. There is a continual restraint necessary” (Selected Letters 77–79).

When this letter was written, Cather already had her contract with McClure for the publication of The Troll Garden and future fiction; in 1903 she had written “with a light heart” that she was “fairly launched at last” (72–73). Through the kind help of Isabelle’s father and uncle, she had a job at a better high school, in Allegheny, and had been elected head of the English Department, with shortened hours and a salary double her starting salary at Central (Byrne and Snyder 59). What triggered the letter to Canfield? Depression? Disorder in the changing McClung household? Cather had her thirtieth birthday—a traditional milestone for women then—just four months before she wrote that letter. In some ways, despite her claims of having been changed and aged by teaching, she sounds much like the new university graduate who wrote to Mariel from Red Cloud that she felt estranged from her family and “all played out,” with “nothing to do but quietly peg along and lie low” (Selected Letters 28). The “solution” to that malaise was to leave her home in Red Cloud. Now she has a comfortable home and situation in Pittsburgh, but again, the “solution” to her loss of self seems to be to leave home behind.

When The Troll Garden appeared the next year, it ended with “Paul’s Case,” Cather’s second Pittsburgh story, and one which, to the end of her life, she seems to have considered one of her very best. Adolescent Paul, whose mother is dead, has no one to understand and sympathize with his malaise, as Aunt Georgiana did with young Clark in “A Wagner Matinee.” To Paul, his home in middle-class Pittsburgh, the world that most of Willa Cather’s high school students inhabited, is as bleak as that naked house on the prairie that Clark remembers. This story is full of closely observed details of life on Cordelia Street, where Paul’s family and neighbors spend Sunday afternoons sitting on their porches. Paul’s father and the other men tell “legends of the iron kings” (109)—such as Carnegie and Frick—for whom they work. His sisters trade church gossip and, if their father is in “a jovial frame of mind,” bring out lemonade “in a red-glass pitcher, ornamented with forget-me-nots in blue enamel. This the girls thought very fine” (109). The pitcher is a reminder of the special importance of glass in Pittsburgh. A pitcher almost identical to this description appears in a catalogue for a local glass company in 1904 (Madarasz 10)—the year that this story was probably written. Glass trade shows, displaying the latest merchandise, were important events in Pittsburgh, and such a fashionable pitcher might well have been considered “very fine” in a middle-class home like Paul’s.

But Paul disdains such accessible pleasures as a fancy glass pitcher. He has glimpsed another Pittsburgh world at Carnegie Hall and its art gallery, the local theater and the Schenley Hotel, where “actors and singers of the better class stayed,” and wealthy manufacturers spent their winters. To Paul’s enchanted eyes, the hotel shines like “a lighted cardboard house under the Christmas tree.” On the evenings when he ushers at Carnegie Hall, he experiences a “delicious excitement which was the only thing that could be called living at all” (106). This, of course, was a world that Cather had come to know well, and her own “delicious excitement” with it is apparent in her early letters from Pittsburgh.

When Paul is banished from this shining other world, “when they had shut him out of the theater and concert hall, when they had taken away his bone” and he was put to work at Denny and Carson’s, “the whole thing was virtually determined” (114). He must steal money, take the train to New York, and briefly live in a world of beauty and luxury where he feels entirely at home, finally “at peace with himself” (117). When, after eight days, Paul reads in a Pittsburgh paper that he will not be prosecuted for his theft and that his father is on his way to New York to find his son and return him to a long, unbearable life on Cordelia Street, Paul is not homesick; he is sick of home. His suicide, leaping in front of the train that would return him to Pittsburgh, signals his refusal to return there.

Despite her anguished letter to Dorothy Canfield in 1904, Cather did not leave Pittsburgh that year or the next, although her visits to New York—often staying with Edith Lewis—became more frequent. After The Troll Garden’s publication in March of 1905, she spent two summer months in the West, traveling with Isabelle. They visited Cather’s brothers in Wyoming and South Dakota, and, as she wrote to Mariel Gere, “we were in Red Cloud for four weeks,helping father fix up his new house.” Obviously, the pull of homesickness is still real for Cather; she tells Mariel that “I think, more and more, that the West is the only place I want to live, and I am planning to get home to Red Cloud for a year before very long.” But for now, she is happily returning to her Pittsburgh home and her work teaching: “I like it better every year and feel that I do it better” (Selected Letters 90). She did not finish that school year, however—for in March, 1906, she left Pittsburgh to become an editor of McClure’s Magazine, based in New York.

The first story she published after the move was “The Namesake,” in March 1907. The story begins with seven young American men in Paris, art students in what must have seemed the current center of the world for visual artists. One of them has suddenly been called home, and the narrator says, “we all knew what it meant to him to be called home. Each of us knew what it would mean to himself, and . . . felt something of the quickened sense of opportunity which comes at seeing another man in any way counted out of the race. Never had the game seemed so enchanting, the chance to play it such a piece of unmerited, unbelievable good fortune” (3). They wait with their departing friend for his train in the studio of an older and extremely successful sculptor, Lyon Hartwell, whom they consider the quintessential American artist. “He seemed . . . to mean all of it—from ocean to ocean” (2). He “had thrown up in bronze all the restless, teeming force” of iconic male figures in American history, on Western frontiers and in the Civil War. His most recent work, ready to cast for a battlefield monument, is “‘The Color Sergeant’ . . . the figure of a young soldier running, clutching the folds of a flag, the staff of which had been shot away.” The young men admire “the splendid action and feeling of the thing” (4). Moved by the student’s departure, Hartwell shares an account of his own homecoming.

He was born in Italy, son of an expatriate and unsuccessful American sculptor who desired that his son “should carry on his work” and died when the boy was fourteen. Young Lyon “studied under one master after another,” in Italy and then Paris, “until . . . nearly thirty.” Then he was called home to Pennsylvania—where he had never been—as the only remaining family member available to care for an old aunt, victim of a “cerebral disease.” He planned to take her back to Paris with him, but when he met her he realized this was not possible. So he stayed with his aunt in his ancestral home for two years, until she died. The large brick house,“in the midst of a great garden,” was on

the high banks of a river in Western Pennsylvania. The little town twelve miles down the stream . . . had become, in two generations, one of the largest manufacturing cities in the world [Pittsburgh]. . . . [T]he gentle hill slopes were honey-combed with gas wells and coal shafts, oil derricks . . . the brooks were sluggish and discolored with crude petroleum. . . . The great glass and iron manufactories had come up and up the river almost to our very door . . . and their crashing was always in our ears. But, though my nerves tingled with the feverish, passionate endeavor which snapped in the very air about me, none of these great arteries seemed to feed me. (6)
Hartwell was “‘never at home’” in the family house. The only link he felt was to a portrait of a young uncle, his namesake, who enlisted in the Union Army at fifteen and died at sixteen, running as he carried “the Federal flag.” This uncle is the subject of Hartwell’s sculpture, “The Color Sergeant.” He is buried in the family garden.

On Decoration Day, the aunt insists that Hartwell put up bunting and decorate her brother’s grave with flowers, and he finds some relics of the boy—toys, schoolbooks—in the attic, in a trunk marked with the name that is also his own, “Lyon Hartwell.” All night he sits in the garden by his uncle’s grave:

The experience of that night . . . almost rent me in pieces. It was the same feeling that artists know when we, rarely, achieve truth in our work; the feeling of union with some great force . . . of being glad that we have lived. For the first time I felt the pull of race and blood and kindred, and felt beating within me things that had not begun with me. It was as if the earth under my feet had grasped and rooted me. . . . [A]ll night long my life seemed to be pouring out of me and running into the ground. . . . And so . . . I naturally feel an interest in fellows who are going home. It’s always an experience. (9)

This is not, as we might expect at this moment in Cather’s career, a story about leaving Pittsburgh—but about a man who, in coming home to this place, found roots, kinship, and the sources of his own best American art. Among the student artists in Paris, we feel the competitive excitement of “the game” and the good fortune of being “a player” in Paris. “Going home,” they think, means being “counted out of the race.” For Cather in 1907, going to New York—then the center of “the game” for American writers—must have held the same excitement, and “going home,” especially as far as Red Cloud, must have held the same potential for loss. And yet, both Lyon Hartwell and Willa Cather found the material for much of their own best work by “going home”—where they did not choose to stay.

This was the second time Cather had written “The Namesake.” In the first, a poem in the 1903 April Twilights, a young man stands at the grave of his—and the author’s—young uncle, a Confederate Civil War casualty, who is identified, in a dedication, by his initials (which Cather got wrong) and his regiment. The poem’s speaker is also a namesake, who promises the dead uncle that he will “be winner at the game / Enough for two who bore the name” (April Twilights 84). For her story, Cather made her dead uncle a Union soldier, perhaps not wanting to be identified with the sentimental Confederate fiction that was then flooding markets. Both “Namesake” texts have male narrators and protagonists. The young artists who listen to Hartwell’s story include no women. In the years to come, Cather would bring women artists to New York to play the game as well—first Thea Kronborg, then, among others, the unnamed woman writer that Jim Burden meets on the train, at the beginning of My Ántonia.

Going home is, as Hartwell says, “quite an experience.” And it is one that Willa Cather wrote about, again and again, during her forty-one years in New York. After the false start of Alexander’s Bridge, she “hit the home pasture” in O Pioneers! (Willa Cather to Carrie Miner Sherwood, qtd. in Stouck 283), My Ántonia (which ends with Jim Burden’s homecoming), “Old Mrs. Harris,” Lucy Gayheart, and—at last—Sapphira and the Slave Girl, in which Nancy, a free, successful, urban Canadian woman, returns to the Virginia home where she lived as an abused slave girl, and in which Willa Cather herself, in an unprecedented first-person epilogue, returned to her own first home in Virginia.

Pittsburgh belongs on that list of homecomings as well. For me, Cather’s most resonant Pittsburgh story is her last one, “Double Birthday,” set in the changing city of the 1920s, from which both Cather and the now-married Isabelle McClung Hambourg had departed. It was published in 1929, just before the crash. The story celebrates the “double birthday” of an uncle and nephew, heirs of a fortune from a large Pittsburgh glass factory, who have both “squandered” that fortune through their devotion to art. The birthday celebration includes an elegant and responsive middle-aged woman friend, Marjorie, who, more than any other Cather character, resembles Isabelle McClung, and is the daughter of a conservative judge who resembles Judge McClung, Isabelle’s father. And the story is lit by the memory of a radiant, glowing window made of Pittsburgh art glass.“Double Birthday” is, obviously and beautifully, Willa Cather’s fond evocation of the city that was her home for ten years. For her, writing the story more than twenty years after her move from Pittsburgh to New York, it must have been a sort of homecoming.[2]

When Kathleen Byrne and Richard Snyder wrote their indispensable book Chrysalis: Willa Cather in Pittsburgh, they began with a chapter titled “Miss Cather from Nebraska” and ended with one titled “Miss Cather from Pittsburgh”—implying, presumably, a transformation. But I suspect that Miss Cather was both, as well as Miss Cather from Virginia and Miss Cather from New York. And I also suspect that, at moments, she was homesick for them all. The evidence is the books.


 1. For a pertinent discussion of this story, see Daryl Palmer's essay "Bicycles and Freedom in Red Cloud and Pittsburgh," pages 33-62 in this volume. (Go back.)
 2. For a much more complete discussion of this story, see Joseph Murphy's essay "Venetian Window: Pittsburgh Glass and Modernist Community in 'Double Birthday,'" pages 255-82 in this volume. (Go back.)


Byrne, Kathleen D., and Richard C. Snyder. Chrysalis: Willa Cather in Pittsburgh, 1896–1906. Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, 180.
Cather, Willa. April Twilights and Other Poems. Edited by Robert Thacker, Everyman Library, 2013.
—. “The Burglar’s Christmas” [Signed “Elizabeth L. Seymour”]. The Home Monthly, vol. 6, December 1896, pp. 8–10, Willa Cather Archive, edited by Andrew Jewell, U of Nebraska–Lincoln.
—. “The Count of Crow’s Nest” (pt. 1). The Home Monthly, vol. 6, September 1896, pp. 9–11, Willa Cather Archive, edited by Andrew Jewell, U of Nebraska–Lincoln.
—. “The Count of Crow’s Nest” (pt. 2). The Home Monthly, vol. 6, October 1896, pp. 12–13, 20–23, Willa Cather Archive, edited by Andrew Jewell, U of Nebraska–Lincoln.
—. The Kingdom of Art: Willa Cather’s First Principles and Critical Statements. Edited by Bernice Slote, U of Nebraska P, 1967.
—. My Ántonia. 1918. Willa Cather Scholarly Edition, historical essay and explanatory notes by James Woodress, U of Nebraska P, 1994.
—. “The Namesake.” McClure’s Magazine, vol. 28, March 1907, pp. 493–97, Willa Cather Archive, edited by Andrew Jewell, U of Nebraska–Lincoln.
—.“Paul’s Case.” The Troll Garden. A Variorum Edition, edited by James Woodress, U of Nebraska P, 1983, pp. 102–21.
—.“The Princess Baladina—Her Adventure.” The Home Monthly, vol. 6, August 1896, pp. 20–21, Willa Cather Archive, edited by Andrew Jewell, U of Nebraska–Lincoln.
—.“The Professor’s Commencement.” The New England Magazine, vol. 26, June 1902, pp. 234–39.
—. The Selected Letters of Willa Cather. Edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout, Knopf, 2013.
—.“The Sentimentality of William Tavener.” The Library, vol. 1, 12 May 1900, pp. 13–14, Willa Cather Archive, edited by Andrew Jewell, U of Nebraska–Lincoln.
—. “The Strategy of the Were-Wolf Dog.” The Home Monthly, vol. 6, December 1896, pp. 13–14, 24, Willa Cather Archive, edited by Andrew Jewell, U of Nebraska–Lincoln.
—. “A Wagner Matinee.” Everybody’s Magazine, vol. 10, March 1904, pp. 325–28, Willa Cather Archive, edited by Andrew Jewell, U of Nebraska–Lincoln.
—.“Wee Winkie’s Wanderings.” The National Stockman and Farmer, 26 November 1896, pp. 8–10, Willa Cather Archive, edited by Andrew Jewell, U of Nebraska–Lincoln.
—. Willa Cather in Person: Interviews, Speeches, and Letters. Edited by Brent L. Bohlke, U of Nebraska P, 1986.
—. The World and the Parish: Willa Cather’s Articles and Reviews 1893– 1902. Edited by William M. Curtin, U of Nebraska P, 1970. 2 vols.
Lewis, Edith. Willa Cather Living: A Personal Record. 1953. Ohio UP, 1989.
Madarasz, Anne. Glass: Shattering Notions. Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, 1998.
Rosenthal, Ellen. Preface. Glass: Shattering Notions by Anne Madarasz, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, 1998, pp. iii–v.
Sergeant, Elizabeth Shepley. Willa Cather: A Memoir. 1953. Ohio UP, 1992.
Stouck, David. Historical Essay. O Pioneers! Willa Cather Scholarly Edition, edited by Susan J. Rosowski and Charles W. Mignon with Kathleen Danker, historical essay and explanatory notes by David Stouck, U of Nebraska P, 1992, pp. 283–303.
Woodress, James. Willa Cather: A Literary Life. U of Nebraska P, 1987.