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#1524: Willa Cather to Henry Seidel Canby, February 4, 1941

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ Dear Mr. Canby1:

I want to explain why I have not replied to any of the letters and invitations which told me of the interesting things the Academy3 is doing. Since the middle of November, I have been incapacitated by a injury to my right hand4, which kept me in the French Hospital5 for the month of December. My hand is still in splints, when it is not under massage. But for the last few days I have been able to write my signature, which is an encouraging advance.

May I take this occasion to express my appreciation of your review6 of my new book7? I know that a reviewer has to take some pains to see what the writer of a book was really trying to do8. Naturally, I feel very appreciative of such a clear statement as yours of just what I was trying to do in Sapphira.

I am just as uncertain as you about the ending of the book, and I dislike the jump from the third person to the first person9. But Nancy's return, which I witnessed in just the fashion I describe was really the live core of the story. If I had not seen the meeting between my old nurse and her daughter, and heard, during Nancy's visit, so much of their talk about the old times before the war, I never would have written the story. The narrative worked round in a circle, and its end was really it's beginning. It may interest you to know that at one time I thought of using a subtitle like this: SAPPHIRA AND THE SLAVE GIRL
(A Conversation Piece)

Of course, the idea wasn't very practical from a publishing point of view. When I saw the title of your review, I thought this was a coincidence which was flattering to us both.

Faithfully yours, Willa Cather