Skip to main content

#1087: Willa Cather to Ferris Greenslet, November 26 [1931]

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⬩ FG Dear Mr. Greenslet1;

I'd be very pleased3 if you did get out a new edition, with a new jacket minus4 the Breton5 picture6. on it. I'm just leaving for a family reunion7 in Red Cloud8, and could not possibly write a preface now. I've thought a good deal about prefaces, Knopf9 suggested one for a certain book of his, and I've decided not to write any more prefaces10 at all. They stimulate a temporary interest and curiosity, but in the long run they are a mistake , for an author still living and still working. I shall leave various comments on some of my books, out of which you can make prefaces after my decease.

If the writers of various novels I like had written prefaces to them, it would rather spoil the books for me. I think even stupid people like to puzzle over a book. A slight element of mystery is a great asset. The explanation11 of the "Archbishop"12 which n I wrote for THE COMMONWEAL13 has been much used and quoted,; but it would be a great mistake to use it as a preface to the book. It is too much like selling my own goods. One has to follow one's instinct in these matters, for that is the only guide one has. I know you will not misunder- ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩stand my refusal. I don't mean to be disobliging, and I am glad to help my publishers in any way that seems to me the right way for me. I am sure, for instance, that the article14 I wrote for the COLOPHON15, which has been so much quoted16, stimulated interest in "O Pioneers"17 and "Antonia"18. Indirect methods are the best, I am sure.

I have not a copy of "The Song of the Lark"19 at hand, but I think of one change I beg you to make. Leave the dedication to Isabelle McClung20, but please cut out the limping verse21 which follows it,- an idiotic attempt to immitate22 the metre of Walther's 'Prize Song'23.

Yes,24 the new book25 is doing wonderfully well. I really think the feeling in Knopf's office had a lot to do with it. They were all keener about it than about any other book of mine, even the salesmen. Mr. Stimson26 thought better of it than I did, a good deal. I turned in the first two-thirds of the manuscript to him when h the Knopfs27 were abroad. I was feeling rather low about it, and he gave me a tremendous hand-up. I could see at one once that it was personal, not publishing, enthusiasm. He and his staff did a lot for it.

Faithfully yours Willa Cather