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#0340: Willa Cather to Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, December 7 [1915]

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Dear Elsie1:

Miss McClung4's father5 died three weeks ago, a week after my arrival here, and since then we have been in a half-awake state, which is why you have had no answer to your hearty and cheering letter. I do wish you might have reviewed the book6. I'm especially glad you like the Mexican ball—which means the flowering of the whatever is feminine in her, really—for before that she is not much more than a struggling mind. I miss the companionship of the character in a degree that is really laughable. In spite of the fact that I had given her a good many of my own external experiences—because they were handy to get at—she remained so objective that I had grown to depend on her companionship more than I realized. So often she set the pace herself, and she pulled at me until I was hers more than she was mine. I would like to feel her stretching herself inside my skin again. Another story7 that I have in hand hand seems spineless—a thing I can bully at my pleasure.

I had the good luck to meet8 Fremstad9 in Lincoln10 just after she had finished the book—she had seen it in Brentanos11 on her way to the train before leaving N.Y.12 and had snatched it up. I felt rather as if I had received a decoration after our first interview about it. I had thought she might be furious, but she was glowing with excitement. She declared that even the latter part had the right "stimmung13" and said "you might think that was all old stuff to me, and yet I know what she was up against and I wanted her to pull it off." But she said a great many things, which you can hear if you wish; among them was the gratifying remark that it was the only book about an artist she'd ever read in which she felt that there was "something doing doing in the artist."

I always regretted the rather coarse necessity of crowding her out before the footlights, but since the people interested in her were all like Dr. Archie and Johnny14, it had to be done. I felt that it was up to me to give her the kind of success that even Tillie could understand, to meet the issue and do it poorly if I couldn't do it well. I dreaded it from the first chapter on, and spent many more hours in trying to shirk it than I spent in doing it at last. At any rate, I kept within the [illegible] range of the Moonstone comprehension, and gave them a triumph that they could could get their hands on.

I'll be in N.Y. after the Holidays. If I run down for a few days before, I'll let you know. Just now I'm finishing off a lot of small jobs. For this time, goodbye. Take warning! It's a great mistake to get in to too deep with your heroine and set your watch by her; you miss her too drearily when she's gone.

Yours W.

I enclose a notice you may not have seen.