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#1586: Willa Cather to Viola Roseboro', August 29, 1942

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ Miss Roseboro'1, my dear Lady and Friend:

I asked Miss Bloom3 to write you some account of my rather unfortunate summer and of the final results4 at the Presbyterian Hospital. I now have the most fashionable type of figure, but am quite comically feeble in body. I think my headpiece is quite clear, however, and I hope you do not regret having sent me the manuscript. In my languid state it was bracing to have a friend's manuscript to read.

I read your chapter on Jerry Macauley5 carefully twice. My adventure in the second reading was quite different from my adventure in my first reading. All through the first reading I kept expecting a more detailed description of the man Jerry himself; of the mission he ran, what and of what sort of services were held there. I suppose I wanted to walk into that mission with you on some afternoon in 1882, sit down beside you on the bench, look about at the people, and get the picture in which you sat and which moved you so strongly. I must be a very literal minded person, for I always recall things in pictures.

When I got to the end of the article I had not got a picture of Miss Roseboro sitting in a certain room along with other people who were enveloped in the same atmosphere. I pondered on this for a while and then I realized that I had expected what you never in the least intended to give me; your purpose was evidently not to make a picture, but to impart to me the feelings and thoughts which Jerry Macauley stirred up in you yourself. Your impulse had ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ been entirely to impart something subjective, and that was where I had missed out.

The next morning, with a clear head, I read the manuscript for the things you did intend to give me, and I forgot all about the things you had not intended to give me. That simplified everything, and I got great pleasure out of the second reading. And this time I even got something of the man, Jerry Macauley, and that the feeling he inspired was the most important and mysterious thing about him. After all, we have no personal description of Christ6, and none of the people who heard the Sermon on the Mount7 left any record of their personal impressions.

I wish I could explain myself better, dear Miss Roseboro', but this is the first dictation that I have attempted for many weeks. Though I had those two definite experiences in reading the manuscript, I find it hard to put them clearly into words. But on my second reading I was convinced that the storm of feeling which the man stirred up in you was the real story, and more important than any presentation of him or his mission could have been. What treasures of emotion young people have to spend, haven't they?

Dear Miss Roseboro', I hope your eyes are better than they were when you mailed this manuscript to me, and that the terrible heat and humidity of this month of August did not bear as heavily upon you as it did upon me.

Affectionately and gratefully, Willa Cather