Skip to main content

#1133: Willa Cather to Jennie C. Morse Carstens, November 21, 1932

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
⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My dear Mrs. Carstens1:

Of course, I have not time to reply to all the letters that come in to me; it is rather an unfair contest in correspondence, one against many.

But your letter has a nice friendly, neighborly ring that makes me wish to answer it, though it lay on my desk a long time unread while I was traveling. On reading it I feel as if I had been to a Sunday evening service in my own town of Red Cloud4 and heard some one talk about somebody's books - not mine. You say you wonder why I have never written anything sympathetic about religion, and this rather astonishes me. I have had so many, many letters from clergymen, both Protestant and Catholic, telling me that they find a very strong religious theme in at least two of my books5.

Perhaps you think that because "Death Comes for the Archbishop" is about the work of Catholic missionaries, it is not concerned with religion as you know it.

Now, my dear lady, I am not a Roman Catholic. I am an Episcopalian, as were my father6 and mother7. Bishop Beecher8 of Hastings, Nebraska9, confirmed me. I am a Protestant, but not a narrow minded one. If you make a fair minded study of history you cannot be too narrow. What organization was it that kept the teachings of Jesus Christ alive between the year 300 A.D. and the days of Martin Luther10? I am sure that your minister will admit that nothing but a powerful organization could have brought the beliefs of the early church across to us through the anarchy and brutality that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.

This is a rather solemn and pedantic reply to your pleasant and neighborly letter, but I do think all Christians ought to know a little more history before they decide that there is only one kind of religion. I am sure I need not tell you, dear Mrs. Carstens, that this letter is entirely personal and confidential, and is not for quotation or publication. I have no objection, however, to your showing it to your minister; perhaps he can prove to me that there were "Protestant" churches before Martin Luther, but I have never yet been able to find any convincing evidence that there were . any such.

Very sincerely yours, Willa Cather
Mrs. Alfred Carstens1, Fremont3, Nebraska. MADISON SQ STA NY2 NOV 22 1932 9-PM