Skip to main content

#0972: Willa Cather to Dorothy Canfield Fisher, [April 7, 1929]

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
⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My Dear Dorothy1:

About Christmas time mother3 had a stroke here where she was spending the winter with my bachelor brother4. At that time I was ill with bronchitis and in the Grosvenor5 hotel, New York6 and could not come. I got away in February and have been here ever since, first hunting a little home with a porch and yard to move mother to, then moving her, then spending days and days shopping for hardware, linen, furniture, dishes, mattresses—everything a home requires. Mother is completely paralyzed on the right side, and speechless. Yet behind the wrenched machinery her mind and strong will, her whole personality is just the same. She can moan some times—oh so seldom!-we can understand. My sister Elsie7 has been here from the first. We have excellent women, thank God, but a tall, strong woman paralyzed is the most helpless thing in the world. She has to be fed with a spoon like a baby. Constant changes of position give her the only ease she can have. My brother carries her from bed to bed to rest her, and takes her out on the porch in a wheel chair for a couple of hours. Your letter came while I was rubbing her yesterday. I read part of it to her and she remembered you perfectly, and the time she met you at the door. She made me understand that she had seen you much oftener than that once.

This is the most horrible, unreal ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ place in the world, on a dreary curve of the coast, I have rheumatism dreadfully here, and never felt so down-and-out anywhere. My mail is a horror—all the greedy, grasping, intrusive people who want things from writers have never been so merciless. I live at a hotel and taxi-cab out to see mother in the afternoon at the above address. The mornings I spend shopping—the thing that was always the hardest of all things for me to do. Elsie stays at the house to regulate the nurses and the servant.

Oh if only this dreadful thing had happened at home8, in a human land, where mother would have had her lovely grandchildren to watch and work, where there were dear old friends, kind neighbors, memories, God. There is no God in California9, no real life. Hollywood10 is the flower of all the flowers, the complete expression of it.

I stayed at home two months last spring, after mother came to California, having the old house11 made more comfortable for her—worked awfully hard, took as much out of me as a book—now she will never see it. Well, there is nothing to write, nothing to say or do, my dear, except to stand until one breaks, and the quicker that happens the better, if only one can break clear in two, and not just half-way. This is why I’ve not written, because I’ve lost my bearings and can’t write except as bitterly and desperately as I feel. Father12’s death was swift and gay—he was laughing two hours before he died. Goodbye. God bless you, and don’t remember this letter after you read it. There are enough people crushed under this poor sick woman who defied time so long.

Goodbye, dear—nothing to say. Willa