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#1609: Willa Cather to Alexander Woollcott, [January] 4, 1943

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ Dear Alexander Woollcott1:

When I received your second letter, dated December 10th, Alfred Knopf3 was in the West. Years ago I had to make it a rule to hand over to him all requests for serial publication and reprint. About twelve years ago, when Mr. Knopf was in Europe4, the Modern Library people came to one of the employees5 in the office and urged her to give them the right to republish one of my books6 three years from that date. She telephone me to get my consent. I was living at the Grosvenor Hotel7: I was writing another book8, and three years seemed a long way ahead. I gave the young woman my consent9 and hung up the telephone. The result was that I lost a good deal of money, since the Modern Library pays a royalty of only six cents a copy. aAnd I quite deserved to be the loser for my short sightedness. But Alfred Knopf, also, lost a good deal of money: which was clearly unfair, as I had no right to give such permission to another publishing company without his consent. He was very nice about the matter and realized that I had not been aware of the extent of my presumption. Since that time I have handed all requests for serial publication over to Mr. Knopf, and have abided by his decision.

After I received your first second letter I awaited his return from the West and telephoned him that I was perfectly willing that you should publish the two chapters10 you named, if he saw no objection. What his decision has been I do not yet know, as I was out of town2 for two weeks at Christmas time. After all, I realize that no matter ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ what you and your assistants do, this anthology11, when it actually appears in book form, will be the result of business arrangements between publishing houses.

Probably long before this the Viking Press12 and Mr. Knopf have made their arrangements. I write this letter only to let you know that whatever the publishers decided, I had no personal objection to your using the material you asked for. But from sad experience I have learned that I have no qualifications, and really no right to interfere in decisions which mainly concern my publisher.

With all my heart I wish you, dear friend, a good New Year. None of us, I am afraid, can have a very happy one. I begin to wonder why this little planet was not left empty of life, like the rest of the solar system and all the great heavenly bodies.

Faithfully and affectionately yours, Willa Cather