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#1379: Willa Cather to Fanny Butcher, February 4, 1937

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My dear Fanny1:

You must be thinking me a very callous person, but I have read your letter over a good many times, and I sympathize with you with all my heart. The nearest that I ever came to such an experience was a pernicious carbuncle3 on the back of my head. I put off the operation because I was red hot into the Chicago4 part of The Song of the Lark5 and simply would not go into a hospital. All the best part of that book (about the singing lessions, etc.) was written when I was taking codeine all day and all night, and was so stimulated by pain that I kept telling myself I could surely climb up the side of the Flatiron Building. Finally, after I became more delirious, I was put into a hospital and had a close shave coming through at all,. sSo I know all about the stimulating effect of intense pain and how much perfectly sane work one can do under it.

I have not written you, my dear, simply because I had to go to see an old uncle6 who is very ill in Chevy Chase, Maryland7. And because my dear little niece8 (the redheaded one, whom I love - I think you met her once) has been in such distress and anxiety. Her young husband9, such a splendid fellow, had pneumonia, was sent home from the hospital for a little while after Christmas, and then had another pneumonia all over again, three nurses on the case and every anxiety and woe. He is in their little apartment again now, but we are all just holding our breath. With all this such a rush of work has come upon me, to get all my books ready for a subscription edition (to be published by Houghton Mifflin and designed by Bruce Rogers10), With Alfred's consent—he has no subscription department. that I feel sometimes absolutely bewildered. I have had to cut out concerts for the time being, and my hour a day in the Park has had to go. But I have, thank Heaven, kept well. Sometimes my sleep gets knocked out, and then I find pleasure in thinking about Fanny Butcher and my other friends, even though I cannot write to them.

With love, my dear Fanny, Willa Cather