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#1571: Willa Cather to Ferris Greenslet, February 16, 1942

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ FG. My dear Mr. Greenslet1:

I received your letter3 this morning and though I acknowledge it at once, I would like to have several days to think over the proposition made by the Reader's Book Club.

You see, I am not at all sure that I want my income increased in 1942 or 1943. The Government is cutting large stakes steaks out of me this year. As I figure it, the less money I have coming in, the more money I have for myself and my own uses.! And certainly the publishers can not be strongly tempted to accept the half of the sum offered, or even of the larger sum mentioned as possible, since "My Antonia"4 quietly does her duty every year by you and by me. Furthermore, I would be rather loathe to make any outside-the-regular-trade arrangement, since I have turned down so many propositions to omnibus it. I would especially hate to make any unorthodox arrangement for Antonia, when I so firmly refused to let Robert Morse Lovett5 use the book in the omnibus he made for you. He is a man whom I would have liked to accommodate, and he seemed hurt when I refused his request for the third time.

I can't myself quite see that even if the book went only to members of the Reader's Club, this arrangement would not more or less cut into the natural sale.

From the beginning Antonia has been advertised only by its her loving friends. I am sure that if you will look into the total cost amount the publishers have spent in advertising Antonia over the period of twenty-four years, you would find the expenditure very small. This is not a complaint. It is better to have a book make its own way, if it can!

Probably if the book were sold to the Reader's Book Club on the ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ terms they offer, i.e., half of the total payment going directly to the publishers, the publishers would make a larger present profit, but I doubt if they would make a larger profit in the long run. From the number of gins, and traps, and suggested transformations, and sweet persuasions, that have been employed to sneak Antonia out of your possession and mine, I should think that we might both conclude that she was is a fairly decent piece of property to keep to ourselves. Perhaps I have always been a little sentimental about the book, for the distressful stroke its youth had suffered. Never a book that seems to have had "go" in it had so bad a start.

Today, the 16th, the news looks pretty bad from all quarters. This morning when I read Churchill6's speach, I felt that even his enormous vitality had been a good deal bled out by the happenings of the last week7. Undset's8 new book9 about her escape and journey through Russia is very, very interesting, though I wish she could have been persuaded to call it simply, My Escape From Norway. She is a very extraordinary person, and one of the most mercilessly truthful people I have ever known.

Faithfully always, Willa Cather

P.S. Tomorrow I am going to think solemnly over the Reader's Book Club proposition.


I have thought it over, and I am of the same opinion still. Will that disappoint you very much? I hope [illegible] not.