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#1533: Willa Cather to Alexander Woollcott, March 17, 1941

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ F Dear Alexander Woollcott1:

I am always just three years behind in my correspondence. This is not an affectation, but a frailty. Since Woollcott's SECOND READER3 appeared three years ago, it follows automatically that I should now thank you not only for the kind words which you said about me, but for the pleasure you gave me by reprinting Kenneth Grahame4's GOLDEN AGE5. I loved that book many years ago, but my own copy disappeared in the course of many movings. With your book it came back to me as if I had never read it before.

I am even more indebted to you for introducing me to Pottle6's paper7 on the other side of Boswell8. The well-known side of Bosell, odious as his self importance may be, does, after all, give us a convincing picture of town life in the eighteenth century. But I do urge you to read a new book published by Alfred Knopf9, called JOHNSON WITHOUT BOSWELL10. The letters and diaries of Mrs. Thrale11 make a much more human figure than all Mr. Boswell's scrupulous annotations. When Alfred Knopf brought the book over to me, I groaned and told him that I had read my little six volume Dent edition of Boswell's Johnson12 through at least four times. But when I began to read this book by a man13 who is a scholar, but not without a sense of humor, I got a very much more striking portrait of Dr. Johnson14.

And here you are, back on the stage again! Or is it some double who is playing the man who came to dinner?15 Ethel Barrymore16's play17 (to my mind it's all her's) is the only one I have seen since I came back from Canada18. In the latter part of November I had a serious accident to my right hand19. It had to be immobilized, and is still tied up in splints20 - about as much use to me as if it were locked away in a drawer. I spent the Christmas Holidays and a part of January at the French Hospital21. I mention this only to urge you to go to that ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ hospital, if you ever have to go to any hospital. The rooms have glorious light and sun, and none of the ugly furniture that I always find in other hospitals. You hear the pleasant French language about you all day. All of the service staff are French, and the two cooks (thank God!) are both French. They gave me the only hospital food I have been able to eat - and gave it to me hot. It is a wonderful place to know about if you ever need a hospital. And the roof gardens are real roof gardens, and look out over an interesting part of the town2. It is a Catholic hospital, of course. But none of the nurses are nuns. You don't have black robes fluttering around your bed there, but young girls - some of them very pretty and all jolly. My very special nurse was Olympia Fumagalli22, who was chosen by the medical staff to accompany the wife23 of the ex-President of Chile24, when Roosevelt25 sent her, in a bomber, back to Santiago26. After her vacation, she came back in the same bomber. That's a nice situation for your next play - a handsome and very intelligent Italian girl coming back over the Andes with eight American boys of the finest kind. If it weren't for the airmen, there wouldn't be much to live for in these days, when the Communists seem to have got us pretty well by the throat from coast to coast.

I don't know when I have dictated a letter so long as this, but I won't have another return of communicativeness for three years, so be hopeful!

Faithfully yours, Willa Cather Excuse left hand!