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#0585: Willa Cather to Dorothy Canfield Fisher, [April 17, 1922]

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I don't see how you managed to get the proofs3 back to me before I left on Saturday afternoon, but you did. They arrived at eleven A.M. and I left at four p.m. I wish so much that I could talk to you about them. I know that a lot of people, perhaps everybody, will feel as you do about Emid Enid—and yet there I am just as sure! Of course it happened4—it's the sort of thing one wouldn't have the courage to invent—and it happened some- what differently, but it was a part of the original conception of the story. Perhaps it got in because the story was worked out in about half an hour on the train, and this depressing adventure which happened to a Pittsburgh5 boy I knew got worked into it. But it got worked in because my poor real Claude6's real wife7 had a gentle habit of locking him out, when she wasn't going away from him to spend the winter in Florida8. She was a lot more Enid-y than Enids Enid, truly!

I know it's raw—it gave my GALEN HALL
HOWARD M. WING MANAGER WERNERSVILLE, PApoor publisher9 a shock—but it saves an awful lot of writing of the kind I hate to do, that episode. I hate writing about people's feelings, or their lack of them. And that episode seems conclusive.

Don't hurry to get the second lot of proofs back to me—anytime next week will do. And just make your comments on the margins of the proofs themselves—that will really be easier for you, and that set will not go back to the printer, anyhow.

By now you know the most of poor Claude—I expect the last part runs pretty thin—not that I didn't try. I tried just awfully hard. But that's the fascinating thing about art, anyhow; that good intentions and praiseworthy industry don't count a damn. If they did, it wouldn't be much more interesting than bookkeeping. I knew when I began this story that it was, in a manner, doomed. External events made it, pulled it out of utter unconsciousness, and external events mar mar it—they run through it ugly and gray and cheap, like the GALEN HALL
HOWARD M. WING MANAGER WERNERSVILLE, PA stone flaws in a turquoise matrix. It had to be that mixed up sort of thing, or not be at all. If it wasn't strangled by those external dates and facts and feelings, it would be a good book. But it's a "my only love sprung from my only hate"10 sort of thng thing; it's the one I love best and can do least for. But do you know; listen: I came off here to this sanitorium11 in the mountains with those proofs you sent back, feeling so aggrieved that I had to read them now when I am so weak and miserable, and today I took them out and mournfully began, and read 30 pages. And as as truly as I sit here tonight, Dorothy, he got me again! After all this work and worry for these years, after the last wearing six weeks, he got me again, he was real to me again! So you see he must be true.

This gigantic prison is set in beautiful country, just coming green, lovely soft warm air, so that I can work out of doors in a cedar wood. I'm getting better already, though I was pretty sick12 when GALEN HALL
HOWARD M. WING MANAGER WERNERSVILLE, PA I got here. As I read your letter with the proofs in hand today, I felt what a lot I had asked in asking you to read them and to read them so quickly. But I'm glad I asked it, anyhow. It lets a lot of light in when another person reads it a story. I've kept this one in a dungeon all this while, hoping I could hide the dark secret that it gets into the war. But that won't matter so much ten years from now—perhaps. Anyhow, I couldn't help it. The war gave him to me. I never knew him till then. And it gave him to himself. He never knew himself till then. He was—but there! How foolish to keep defending my hero! If I couldn't do it in three years, I'll hardly do it now. The queer thing is that someway I care about him more than I did about the others. Even if it the book falls down, I'd somehow like Claude himself to win through in spite of that—I'd like to save him outside h the book; have him jump from it as from a GALEN HALL
HOWARD M. WING MANAGER WERNERSVILLE, PA burning building and catch him in a blanket, perhaps! You see, he "got me going", indeed!

Goodnight, dear Dorothy, and thank you a thousand, thousand times for the trouble you've taken and the heart you have given to it. I'm still not up to writing a long letter, and with hotel pens I can never write at all. When I'm better you'll hearr hear from me. I go back to New York13 on Monday, so you'll mail the proofs to me there. Thank you so, so much.


I remember tonight—I suppose because the rustic orchestra is trying some Tannhauser14, a letter of Wagne[illegible]Wagner15 to Wesendonck16 in which he said "Tristan17—Tristan—he lags behind, and yet to him, I to save him, I would sacrifice all the unborn!"