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#1759: Willa Cather to Dorothy Canfield Fisher, April 17, 1947

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ My dear Dorothy1:

I have wanted to write to you for a long while, but I hate to send you a typewritten letter. Early in the winter I "pulled" the tendon of my right thumb, and since then have been carrying my right hand in a light metal and leather brace3 which comfortably isolates my thumb. It has responded to its vacation and I hope soon to get it out of the brace altogether.

This is a letter of inquiry, merely. I long ago promised an editor4 to sometime furnish him with an account of the short call5 which you and Isabelle6 and I paid on Houseman7. In such an article I would wish to admit that you saved the day (which might have been embarrassing) by the blessed and time-honored avenue of Latin scholarship.! You had a bridge for approach, congenial approach, to Professor Houseman, which Isabelle and I had not. If I make such a statement about you, I want to be accurate. As I remember it, you had come from studying for your Ph.D. degree with8 Gaston Paris9, in France10.? That fact interested Professor Houseman and turned the conversation in safe and impersonal channels. Several rather mushy boys (young men they were, apparently) have sent rather horrid manuscripts on Houseman to me. I could not destroy them, but if they should ever get them published I should like to leave a plain statement of an uninvited call upon a scholar and a gentleman - a stiff and angular gentleman at that.! Why do all these Willie boys sigh for him so, and claim him for their own? The word 'lad' seems to hypnotize them.

You may remember that Isabelle and I had just come from Ludlow11, where we had spent two weeks. We get were on friendly terms with the bookseller there, Mr. Woolley12, who often sent us things which he thought might interest us. He ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ would say: "You must not carry these books; I will send them up to your hotel by my lad." At that date "lad" was the common name for errand-boy - for any young man who was hired by a merchant or by the old Feathers Hotel13.

Our punishments are strange in this world. Why should a severe Latin teacher (a real scholar) be made the apologist for lazy youths who whine that the world owes them a living - a living with laurel and roses!

Affectionately alwaysWilla

Houseman taught Latin at the University of London did he not? Do you remember what branch of Latin? Curse my metal thumb!