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#1440: Willa Cather to Dorothy Canfield Fisher, March 5 [1939]

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My Dear Dorothy1;

For a good many months I've taken a vacation from writing letters, except numerous family letters and many to Isabelle3's friends all over the world.

Last winter (1937) my dearest brother Douglass4, flew on from California5 to spend my birthday with me—in December 1937. We had two wonderful weeks together. He died of a heart seizure on June 13th, 1938, having had no previous illness. He was fifty-two years old, the only gay and handsome and successful member of the family,—and the one who enjoyed life most. He was the one who took care of mother6 during her long illness. He was six feet-two, very athletic, and had never been ill for a day since he had measles as a child.

On October 10th, four months after Douglass' death, Isabelle McClung Hambourg died in Sorrento7, of nephritis of the kidneys, after an illness of four years, during which she was nursed by a devoted, if erratic husband8. I was with them in France9 for six months of that time, so I know. All the letters from France her friends in France and Italy10 tell me that she kept her beauty to the end. This last year has been the hardest of my life. I need say no more about it. But perhaps you would be interested to read one of Jan's letters which I am enclosing. Send it back to me, Dorothy, but don't try to reply to this letter. In the last eight months I have had to write more than fifty replies to letters about Douglass and Isabelle—it takes one's strength so, and is useless. My brother you did not know, but I thought you might like to know how Isabelle died. Don't try to reply. Merely mail the Jan's letter back to me.

I love your two grand-daughters11—so busting with life! In the summer of '36 and '37 I had young nieces12, busting ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩with life, at Grand Manan13 with me for many weeks. We had a glorious days then. This summer two of the little wretches got married! I lost five gay companions in one year, Three Menuhins14 and two Nieces! But I didn't lose Yehudi, for I love his wife15 almost as much as I love him. No artist ever made so fortunate a marriage.

You were good to send me the new book16, Dorothy, and I will write you when I've read it. I am slowly getting over a long and hard attack of influenza, and my eyes are my eyes are good for nothing except very large print, even that tires them in an hour or so. But eye-afflictions never stay with me very long. My chief affliction is having to keep away people who want to come and hold my hand and comfort me. One doesn't want comfort. One wants th quiet and peace and time to think—about a great many things.

This is a disjointed sort of letter, but it carries my love and good wishes to you.