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#1659: Willa Cather to Viola Roseboro', February 12, 1944

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ Very dear Miss Roseboro'1:

I expect you will wonder why I have not written to you when I tell you that scarcely a day has gone by this winter that I haven't thought of you. No, not at all because of dear Miss Tarbell3's death. I have been thinking of you in connection with the death of the world - the death of the world you loved so well, and roamed about it so much. Oh, I am so gald you did roam about - roamed as far as Constantinople4 and saw the Saint Sophia5 - which I shall never see. What a grand old sailor you were! - just drinking your fill of that beautiful old world which we thought would last forever. Why should the beautiful cities that were a thousand years a-making tumble down6 on our heads now, in our short lifetime? What is the sense of it? We saw one war, and there was sorrow a-plenty. But why do we have to see our world destroyed? and See countries sponged off the map, as we used to erase them from the blackboard - after we had drawn them at school?

Sir James Jeans7 said in a lecture I heard him give: "Next to man's longing for personal immortality, he longs to feel that his world is immortal and will go on indefinitely as he has known it." This has been the feeling of human beings in all ages. Why on earth do we, in all the countless stretch of years, just in our little moment, have to witness everything laid waste? I write to you in this strain because you were one of the few people I knew who cared intensely and personally about ---well, about Saint Sophia for instance.

The reason that I haven't written to you before is that two of my younger brothers8, all my nieces and nephews9, and the children of my friends in the many States I have lived in - these young people are all uprooted and some of them quite lost. None of the young people are doing what they wanted to do, or prepared themselves to do, or were already accomplishing with great happiness. ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ Two young professors of Amherst, such nice boys, write me from the mud of Guadalcanal10. My dearest young niece11 only knows of her husband12 that he is commanding an airplane carrier "somewhere in the Pacific13". I feel bitterly because so many of the boys from my own little town14 in Nebraska15 have been shunted out to those terrible Pacific Islands16, where the hardships are so much greater than they can be anywhere in Europe17. To be killed may be uncomfortable, but to lie in slime and be eaten up by bugs is a punishment no boy deserves. I somehow am sure that you feel these things more than most people, and that maybe you would like an expression from an old friend who also feels the outrageousness of fate. Of course, we have brought it all on ourselves - or, rather, our smart scientists have brought it on us.

Good-by, my friend, and I hope you are more successful than I in keeping calm. It is bad enough to have all our splendid young men die. But even they, plucky fellows, do not want the world to die! I think of you often, dear friend. I would come to see you if I could. I haven't been very well since that miserable gall bladder18 operation was put over on me.

Affectionately Willa Cather