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#1506: Willa Cather to Ferris Greenslet, [November 24, 1940]

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ F.G. Dear F.G.1

Despite coincidental misfortunes (secretary3 out of town and the thumb4thumb of my right hand badly sprained), I must venture a scrawl to tell you what deep pleasure the letter5 from you and Mrs. Greenslet6 gives me. I prefer to think it is from both of you—indeed, you practically say so. The [illegible] rush of Virginia7 memories, when once I began to call them up, was heavy upon me. I wrote many chapters of Virginia ways and manners, just as things came back to me, for the relief of remembering them in an a a time of loss and personal sorrow.8 That "eased" me, and comforted. Then I cut what was too solidly "manners and customs" and re-wrote the story according to the design I had in mind when I wrote wrote the first chapter—a pleasant breakfast table, and incidental discussion of disposing of a gentle and affectionate girl—(not slave girl really, but a member of the family). The real Nancy9's real mother10 was a a real member of my family when I was little. The stories about that strange relation (those I have happened to read) were all so partisan for or against. The institution was neither a torture prison, nor a benevolent training school. It had its pleasant domestic surfaces. Underneath? Well, "down with us" we didn't think much about the underneath. Aunt Till was no pitiable person figure to me—nor to herself. Dignity, personality!

W But a sore thumb can't go into these matters seriously, analytically. It (the original conception) was all light and shade, was meant to be neither wise nor instructive—certainly not heavy. Some weeks ago I put the discard (the excised chapters & paragraphs) on the bathroom scales, and they weighed six pounds. I was very pleased.

Affectionately to you both W.S.C

P.S. Certainly11, I am perfectly willing you should place the note on names where Alfred12 places his notes on design. I placed it out of place in 1st edition because I feared some people of the same name were in story, Frederick County13 people, might feel hut hurt. Second edition14 will probably change that.

Do you know there is nothing at all to a hand but a thumb?