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#1400: Willa Cather to Henry Seidel Canby, March 2, 1938

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My dear Mr. Canby1:

I am just back in town2 after a long absence, and hasten to reply to your letter. Of course, you have my permission to keep my name in the P. E. N. Club3 through 1939, itf it will oblige you. I warn you, I shall be on the other side of the world in 1939, and as for the "distinguished group" which you purpose to bring over, I had rather they stayed at home and wrote something interesting.! I do not believe you could look me in the eye and tell me that you think all this getting together and talking with the mouth, has anything but a bad effect on writers. I wonder, indeed, whether it has anything but a bad effect on human beings in general? I wish the Tower of Babel4 would happen all over again.

Now, another thing: I want to thank you for your review5 of Katharine Anthony6's book7 on Miss Alcott8. I see the Freud9 fanatics are getting on your nerves10, as they are on mine. It happensed that my old friend Mrs. James T. Fields11, born a May, was a cousin of Louisa May aAlcott. Several years before she died, Mrs. Fields asked me to destroy a great number of more-or-less-family letters, which she did not wish to leave among her drawers-full of correspondence. There were a great many from Miss Alcott, who used often to come for long New England12 visits at her cousin's house. Anything more lively and "pleasant" and matronly you could not imagine. She was often a good deal fussed about money, because, apparently, she was practically the only earning member of the family. You know the tone and conversation of the warm-hearted distinctly "pleasant" New England woman. The later letters showed her warm pleasure in "getting on" with her work and earning money that was so much needed. If the "naked bodies" of the ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ men she nursed in her hospital experience left any "wound", it was certainly not perceptible to her relatives, or in her letters - or in her very jolly books, as I remember them. Catherine Tthe Great13 might be called fair game14 for Miss Anthony's obsession, but certainly that warm-hearted and very practical New England spinster was not. I wish now that those letters to Mrs. Fields had not been destroyed. All these remarks, of course, are entirely confidential and are meant for you and Mrs. Canby15 alone, but the tone of your review is so right that I want to add my hearty word of confirmation.

I am going to write to Mrs. Canby very soon, and I hope that we three can get together again before this almost-gone winter is over.

With my warmest greetings to you both, Willa Cather