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#1438: Willa Cather to Yaltah Menuhin Stix, February 28 [1939]

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My Darling Yaltah1;

A rainy day—I wish I had you here2 for company. Since you mentioned Stephen3 in your last letter, I am sending you an extremely “flowery” letter from him, which I regret to say has remained unanswered. Sometimes I loss lose patience with his ultra-emotionalism. (What an awkward word-division!) If I told him I liked the plain, unperfumed English sentence, I meant it! 2 The English can extravagant only in their poetry. There they are very rich; they have a dozen spontaneous lyrical forms to for every one of the French metres. The French are poor in singing metres, and the few they have are seldom robust. But good English prose is at it’s best when it is plain, simple, stalwart,—not exclama exclamatory or vague or full of long-drawn sighs. Their emotion is of another kind—deep feeling under strong control. The old French prose was like that, somewhat.


I am so glad you like Barrie4. He could be sentimental without offending one, for he was always laughing at himself a little. In one of his letters he says; “I am told that some of my young fellow playwrights made a great effort and one morning got up early and climbed a hill to see the sun rise. They were greatly disappointed.” On Saturday morning your father5 and Yehudi6 telephoned me just before they sailed. The day was a brilliant one and they seemed hopeful and happy and looking forward to a quiet week at sea.


Darling Yaltah, I am so sorry you have that choaking feeling at night. I know how discouraging it is. I had that struggle every night when I had influenza some weeks ago. It did make the world seem dark. Your mother7 is right. The only escape is to forget it in so far as you can. During those two weeks I read more than I usually do in a year. Miss Lewis8 once sent Yehudi Trevelyan9’s wonderful three books10 on Garibaldi11 and the freeing of Italy12. If they are anywhere about, I think you would love those books. I read them 5 over again when I was ill and loved them as much as I did years ago. I call that good writing. They were long ago translated into Italian, but I am sure the English version is best. A book never can be as good in translation, even when the translator is a genius.

Oh, I almost forgot! Myra Hess13 was here for tea yesterday, and she sent you love and love and love! (She sails on Saturday) So I will keep my promise to you her, and send you her love, but not enough of it to crowd out my own—which is always yours.

Your very own Aunt Willa P. S.

Stephen was right to go to Egypt14—he is always ill in the English Winter months. So we must forgive him for being ecstatic!

For Yaltah1.