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#0372: Willa Cather to Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, November 13 [1916]

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Since September 1st my mother3 has been seriously ill, and I have been cook and housekeeper. I had a dear willing old servant4 to help me, but she could not cook. There have been eight in the family all the time, and it has kept me hustling. On the whole, I’ve rather enjoyed it. I’ve really got the secret of good pastry at last, and I shall never be intimidated by a kitchen range again. Mother is much better now, and will go to Arizona5 for the winter in two weeks, and I shall eat Thanksgiving dinner in Bank Street6. All’s well that ends well.

I’ve done nothing but ride with Mother when I was out of the kitchen, so I did not even have time to answer your postcards from the West,—though I was so glad to get them and delighted that you went to Walnut Canyon7.

Yesterday, in a wild snowstorm, I took a day in bed, and read “French Perspectives”8. I think the papers are so much more effective all together in a volume than they were printed singly. They present a larger and fuller scene than I had thought, and even the lighter ones like the Curé's lunch party9, which taken alone I thought graceful but not, somehow, conclusive as a pice of writing, seem here perfectly to belong. The more analytical es papers give one the requisite saturation, the preparation to catch the lightest shadings in the more impressionistic ones. It is really necessary, to enjoy all of these studies to the full, to have your point of view, to get the sort of moral revelation which seems to be go deeper than anything else you’ve got out of your French experience. Surely it was wise to put these papers first, as you have. With them tingling in the back of one’s mind, all the others go beautifully and one is glad to flower a little in the rich Provençal weather.

I would not have thought that the order of a collection of essays would make so much difference in their effectiveness. But then, these are not really separate articles, each with its own purpose. They all flow together under the external divisions. They have varius various lights and feelings, but the main purpose and the deepest feeling are the same in all of them,—or so it seems to me.

The first paper10 is still one of my favorites, though it seems less 'related' to the general scheme than any of the others.

Oh Elsie, on page 96 why cañons of polite usage.”11 Haven’t the Riverside Press the worst proof readers! That reminds me of Tooker12's favorite “moral canyon.”

If you are to be in N.Y.13 after Christmas, I shall see you there. Meanwhile, I am so glad of the book. I have been in this utterly-without-purpose part of the world, that it’s tonic to bite down on something real like the Ravignacs14. I’m so glad to be reminded that there are people who have learned something from the ancient and unchanging necessities, and who have conviction and a point of view. Here there are surely more. With many felicitations to you.

W. S. C.