Skip to main content

#0588: Willa Cather to Dorothy Canfield Fisher, [April 25, 1922]

More about this letter…
Plain view:

Guide to Reading Letter Transcriptions

Some of these features are only visible when "plain text" is off.

Textual Feature Appearance
passage deleted with a strikethrough mark deleted passage
passage deleted by overwritten added letters overwritten passage
passage added above the line passage with added text above
passage added on the line passage with added text inline
passage added in the margin passage with text added in margin
handwritten addition to a typewritten letter typed passage with added handwritten text
missing or unreadable text missing text noted with "[illegible]"
uncertain transcriptions word[?]
notes written by someone other than Willa Cather Note in another's hand
printed letterhead text printed text
text printed on postcards, envelopes, etc. printed text
text of date and place stamps stamped text
passage written by Cather on separate enclosure. written text

The proofs3 have come, dear Dorothy1, and God reward you for your comments, for I can't. There is so much I want to tell you about. So many of your queries will help me to better it.

Yes, the English had independent guns that wandered about, I know the captain of one of them. I could never tell you what work I put in on these details. I got a great deal of it in the hospital here, winter of 1918, when a lot of Western boys lay here in the Polyclinic4 all winter with no one to talk to and were so glad to talk to me. Such clear, vivid memories come back to sick men. The young captain who killed the degenerate German officer didn't know what it meant5, that was why I used it, it see seemed so sweet. He had his wonderful rings etc. I spent a large prt of that winter listening to quiet memories,,—like that about the terrible little girl6 and the horrid baby7.

The For the transport part8 I had the diary of a New Hampshire9 doctor10 who was on one of the worst influenza transports. How that diary came into my hands is a story that would thrill you as a writer. Every one of those episodes is chosen from many, many, which all reinforced it. They nearly all cost somebody's blood, and they cost a good deal of mine. You have to give out a whole lot to make people remember aloud to you. I saw many, many well ones, too, here and in Canada11,; but the sick ones often talked like men in a dream, softly remembering dead lives.

No, Dorothy, our men went into action at Chateau Thierry12 on the 31st of May, 1918, and the Marines marched in Paris13 on the Fourth of July.

There are a hundred things I'd like to tell you the how and why of, and as I'm going over these proofs I'll write again.

But how I laughed when you lighted upon Claude and David's violin14. That, my dear, I didn't get from any soldier boy. That was the way you made me feel when we were in France15 together that time16; and that, was the way that I made my poor cousin17 feel. You never meant to, you couldn't know it? Neither could David ,! neither could I, when Grosvenor's lips used to twitch and curl. It's the way helpless ignorance always feels, and so many of the best of ours felt it in France. This book gathered up everything,; even you did not escape, you see.

All the same, it's a war book, and most of my few readers, even, won't give it a chance.

But of all these things, much more hereafter.