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#0595: Willa Cather to Dorothy Canfield Fisher, [May 8, 1922]

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I am so grateful to you for sending me that sketch4 about the University boy, for of course it's the same idea; the roughneck's miracle. It takes something so tremendous to give them a chance. The more more this idea of him got through to people, the righter I am. That's the way he seemed to me, the hundreds of him here in New York2, for two years, Before and After, and I want to leave my picture of him. Perhaps his sons will feel it's truer than "Three Soldiers"5.

I lunched with Knopf6 the other day and of course he was delighted to hear that you had offered to review7 the book8. He will arrange it9 for either the Times10 or Canby's11 sheet12,-- poor rags, both, surely, but he says they're the most influential.

And Knopf will be more than glad if he can see you when you come down in June. Of course no race of human beings, except lyric tenors, need "heartening up" and encouragment as publishers do about their own authors! The only way to make them appreciate you is to betray them; Houghton Mifflin13 are quite admiring of me now. Knopf, however, really is a very white man. All the same, I know a talk with you would make him feel more valiant. He's too nice to rub it in, but I know he feels that the War Theme is a terrible handicap to run against. Be sure to let me know the date when you come beforehand, so that I can arrange it.

I'd love to talk to you about being a roughneck in France14--which you never were! You never were a roughneck, Dorothy,--behold us disputing for that honor!-- because you grew up in a college atmosphere, and because your father15 and mother16 were intellectual people. Yes, in a way, it is an old misunderstanding, and surely we're old enough to thrash it out. You never understood why I was always suffering so, but maybe now, with Claude17 as an opening wedge, you can get what was the matter. It's long past, because I'm not so vain any more, but it explains a good deal of my behaviour.

I'll finish the page proofs this week. Really, it's like putting away a dead lad's things. I wish I could have gone on writing him as long as I lived. But he's alive for you, I feel sure, I feel it in those heart-warming letters you've written me. And I did need them, and keep them by me, just as people do when a very dear friend dies. Nothing, nothing that people can ever say about him counts at all, at all, at all, beside the companionship of him, living with him and growing into him day after day. But if he goes on living to you and a few others who saw him and his peers over there, who jealously cared for his honor- - - - Why, there was never anything like him in the world before, not in all the wars of all time, our common soldier! But there; I'm done with that. Will I ever be done with it, I wonder? Can I ever shake it off?

Goodbye, and God bless you for being kind to him. You've been as nice to him as the French lady on the hilltop18. (She was really like that. She helped me19 to find my cousin's grave20. She was wonderful.) You are the first person who has seen him except the poor three, Edith21 and Isabelle22 and Jan Hambourg23, who saw him in the making and are worn out with always adjusting life to his needs. I felt that you would put any soldier before any book And so do I, and so do I! That's why I wanted hims to come up against you first. I knew if you thought I'd done a Soldier in, you'd tell me—with a curse, I hope!, and the Lord knows I would never have had the presumption to touch him at all if it hadn't been for Grosvenor24.