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#0349: Willa Cather to Helen Hiller Seibel, January 31 [1916]

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I put your letter by for a rainy day; first because it is a nice sort of letter to read on a rainy day, and second because I wanted to answer it when I was not rushed and in a hurry. I have seldom got a letter about a book that pleased me more than this one of yours. You seem to have liked the book4 in the way in which I wanted it liked and to have read it in the spirit in which I wrote it. If I had written a preface to the book, I would have said "I for one am tired of ideas and 'great notions' for stories. I don't want to be 'literary'. Here are a lot of people I used to know and love; sit down and let me tell you about them."

From your letter, I judge that you took the book up with just such an open mind, and I am pleased to the heart of me if it gave you that sense of real people and real feelings and places which I seem to gather from your words that it did. I am just answering a letter from an American artist in Italy5 of whom I've never heard who wants to know if there ever was such a "piece-picture"6 as Mr. Kohler's, or if I made it up. That's the kind of question I like to answer. I didn't play any sentimental tricks about that picture, but I cared about it, and so he cared. (Perhaps you know it hung in the fitting room of a German 'Ladies Tailor' in the East End7, long and long ago. I always felt injured that I could not have had it to look at when I was a child, and this was my revenge on Fortune. It looked just as I say.)

It was a joyful book to write, I assure you; never a dull day while I was at it and only one long interruption—a month in Roosevelt Hospital from blood poisoning resulting from an infected scratch. That knocked me out four months altogether, but at other times all went well. It was while I was in the hospital that Mr. Seibel8's mother9 died. I heard of it afterwards.

You are good to say you have believed in me. I haven't always in myself. But if I've made this little town full of people quite live and real to you, why then I have in a measure made good to you, have I not, though I have been absent for so long in body. I'm glad you still like those old simple things we used to laugh about and enjoy. If you did not like them, you would not like this book. Thea4 herself is a little different, and yet she is made up out of those same things,—plus one other big thing.

Please come to see me when you are in New York2. I am afraid I shall not be in Pittsburgh7 very soon again, but I shall hope to see you here in my own place sometime.

Faithfully always Willa S. C.