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#0323: Willa Cather to Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, September 21 [1915]

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R Frost ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ Dear Elsie1:

Your letter has just reached me, after countless forwardings. Five chunky pounds were the worst misfortune I got out of the Mesa Verde4. We5 had a rough twenty-four hours6, certainly, but I never learned so much in any other twenty-four hours, and most of it was glorious. Of course one would never knowingly go in for anything so difficult, no matter what the possible rewards, so it was good luck to have it thrust upon one, since we didn’t break any bones. If we had had such a mischance I don’t see how the men would have got us out in a week’s time. It is the worst canyon7 in Colorado8—I believe there are some in Utah9 even worse. I was on my horse again four days afterward, and I want to go right back into that canyon and be mauled about by its big brutality, though all my bruises are not gone yet. It’s a country that drives you crazy with delight, and that’s all there is to it. I can’t say anything more intelligible about it.

Mr. G.10 has sent me an advance copy of my book11; an example of the worst proof-reading I’ve ever seen. Mostly my fault, of course, but the Riverside Press is surely not blameless. “The be beauty born of murmuring sound12” appears “the music born of etc.” I don’t doubt it was so in the copy, but a proofreader ought to justify quotations. There are a lot of others, quite as amusing. I am going to adopt a more sober method of composition, and I’ll never hurry a book again. The result is too untidy. All Mr. Greenslet’s work—cover type etc—is very satisfactory. The carelessness is mostly up to me.

I got a lot of glorious photographs in the Southwest13—most of them belong to the President14 of the Denver & Rio Grande, but I hope I can show them to you before I send them back to him15. They are the pick of hundreds of attempts; that in that light, and before such heights and depths the camera becomes inarticulate—it stutters and it raves. What that country waits for is a painter, but he’ll have to be a big one, with an egotism as big as the Cliff Dwellers’16 was. Otherwise he’ll only do colored photographs.

Have you see “A Boy’s Will”17 Elsie? I like it better than “North of Boston”18; a good deal better. Let me hear how my messy book strikes you when it comes along. I’m not a little anxious! Now as I read it over, I wonder why it was so much [illegible] work!

With joyful greetings—joyful because the Mesa Verde exists!— Yours W.
Miss Elizabeth S. Sergeant1St. Huberts New York 4 Hawthorn Road Brookline Mass. Essex c/o c/o Mrs Broe RED CLOUD NEBR.2 21 SEP 1915 7 PM BROOKLINE MASS.3 SEP 24, 1915 12 PM R FrostSt HubertsNew YorkR Frost