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#1393: Willa Cather to Ferris Greenslet, January 24, 1938

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#I sent him there to stay for a three weeks' stay; to recover from a cold he caught on landing. He stayed there the winter, all alone with his valet. ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My dear Ferris Greenslet1:

I am going to ask a favor of you and I have put it off a long time. Under another cover I am sending you a book of drawings3 by young Stephen Tennant4, the fourth son of Baron Glenconner5. Anne Douglas Sedgwick6 wrote to me some twelve years ago and asked if she might give this boy permission to write to me. Since then Stephen and I have been good friends, and two years ago he spent the winter at the # Shattuck Inn7 in Jaffrey8 and gained thirty pounds. He is a very handsome fellow, with great talent, but very frail health. I enclose with this letter two of the notices which greeted his book in England9. The review10 of by Connolly11 is really very discerning12.

Of course, since the book has attracted attention in England and has delighted Margot Asquith13, Stephen's publishers do not see why they should not be able to export a few hundred sheets to the States. I promised Stephen that I would present his book for the consideration of the only two publishers with whom I have direct relations. I made this promise before I saw the book.! He warned me that the tone was ribald. But when it arrived I saw at once that it wasn't the kind of ribaldness that goes in America (I think myself that these sketches, done in 1929, were a natural reaction of the young man's upbringing, which was very puritanical). Viscount Grey14 was a firm stepfather and his feeling about "Nature" was certainly very ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ different from young Tennant's; I should liked to have heard their breakfast table conversation.

You will enjoy looking through this book,- the drawings are really remarkable, you know. All I beg of you is to write me a personal letter15, telling me how the book strikes you and giving me a few words of explanation as to why it would be rather impossible for an American publisher to handle this book. (Of course, if you know of any publisher who would be able to use imported sheets, I would be delighted to send the book to him.) It is difficult to explain to Stephen why, when we are so indecent in some things, we draw the line at others: certainly we simply won't stand for any "lyrical beauty", as Mr. Connolly calls it. We want Hemingway16 and words of four letters, without any perfume.

I hate to bother you about this, but you see I promised the young man (he is twenty-nine, but he seems about nineteen) that I would show you and Alfred17 his book, and I have to keep my word. Alfred wrote me a nice letter to send him and I don't feel that I am imposing on you greatly when I ask you for one, because I think you will really enjoy running through the book some evening. Please return the two press cuttings and mail the volume back to me when you have looked it over.

Faithfully yours, W. S. C.

On second thought I decide to enclose a letter in which Stephen comments on, and explains, the book himself. Please return it to me. All his letters are illustrated like this—he does them at top speed—in a few minutes.