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#0097: Willa Cather to Dorothy Canfield, [March or April 1904]

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My Dear Dorothy1;

It was good of you to write me what Miss Roseboro'3 told you about the yarns4. I hear from her occasionally, but she has said nothing about them. I am surprised to hear that you heard some good ones from her own fair hand. The only ones I have seen were ludicrous muddles of sentimentality. There was one5 in Scribners6 that was a fright, a crazy sort of condensed novel.

You surely have my prayer for your ordeal7 in May. However, I cant believe that you are really apprehensive about it. You are usually pretty cocksure about anything before you allow yourself to go into it, arent you? You never struck me as a person who took chances, especially in a thing of that sort. I can understand though, how, even after the most sound preparation, you might wish it well over. Let me hear as soon as you get a verdict, please.

I may get to Vermont8 this summer, for my pesent plan is to spend the summer in New York9, down near or with Edith Lewis10, in Washington Square11. She has been a regular trump about looking up rooms for me and such things. I want to get off somewhere and make a final struggle with this accursed underdone novel12, and New York seems a good place to do it. When the thumb screws are on o so hard I can't endure it, I might be able to run up to see you for a few days and seek for sympathy. Is there a summer course in English at Columbia? I should like to take one, I think,—that is, if I'm not too much worn out when summer comes. I've been up to my ears in school work13, altering the course, looking and writing for two new assistants. This is new work, for me, and I find it a lot of worry. It's the first really hard pull I've had. Responsibility for other people's work is certainly a cross, even when they do it pretty well. you cant make them work I've not left the school building before six at night for two weeks.

What a villain you were to inflict my labored attempt14 at literary criticism upon your poor father15 and mother16. It was absurd, I know, but then I found it hard to say just what I wanted to say, I can tell you much better than I can write it. If I can get up to Hilhouse we can thrash it all over under the peaceful brow of equinox17, cant we?

Isabelle18 is still wretched19, her throat is bad all the time and she does not seem to gain strength at all.

My family20 have moved into a big, comfortable house21 they have just built, and are more comfortable than they have ever been. They would like me to go home22 this summer to help them with the selecting of wall paper and furniture, and to admire the big lawn and fine pines and maples and locusts in which they take much pride. I'd like to go, I hate to let a year pass without seeing Elsie23 and Jack24—I wish you could see that dear, clever, high-hearted little sister of mine—but I know I would'nt work there, and it does seem that the McClures25 will lose patience if I dont get this novel to them in some shape or other. Then dont you really think that I ought to get into a more stimulating atmosphere for a few months in the year? Something that will, as you say, waken me up. I almost think that I need that more than rest and quiet. I have food and sleep and regularity enough all year, I dont need that sort of rest. I think Miss Lewis would be a good pilot for me, she's all wrapped up in her discoveries in local color.

Let me hear what you think about it, and what your mother thinks, too. I believe New York would be next to going abroad, for me.

Here's hoping the best for the examinations, and that all will go well with you. I'm pretty confident about that, though.


Dont talk about trouble until you have had to make out in detail a four year's course of study in such a vague endless subject as English Literature & Composition! Map out the work for eight teachers!