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#1842: Willa Cather to Henry Goddard Leach, September 1 [1931]

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ Dear Mr. Leach1;

The article3 about which I wrote you is not exactly a review of my new book4, but a general estimate of all my books and of me. From the letters I have received about it, I gather that it is accepted as your opinion and the Forum5's opinion; Mr. Hicks6 is not mentioned. It is probably your policy to give your reviewers a free hand, but there are limits to all edotorial policies. When I was editing McClures7 I would certainly not have allowed an article so generally derogatory to you to appear in the magazine. Had Mr. McClure8 and I both been abroad, the office staff would not have allowed an article so detrimental to an author for whom we had any regard to be printed, without first consulting us.

Granted that you felt the time had come to utter a few unpleasant truths, it is possible to say uncomplimentary things in a courteous and even a respectful way,. bBut the tone of this article is sarcastic and contemptuous throughout, and no desk editor representing you in your absence would have printed such an article about any writer for whom you had much regard.

The Forum, I realize, has a right to put as low an estimate as you think just upon any writer's abilities, but I question the editorial ethics of printing a statement like the following: Like most of her books, it is elegiac, beguiling its readers with pictures of a life that has disappeared, and deliberately exploiting the remoteness of that life in order to cast a golden haze about it.


To 'deliberately exploit' is certainly to use things or p persons rather craftily for one's own advantage. Those words have a bad history, and their connotation is worse than their literal meaning. You must know that I am not an opportunist or a trickster. If you wished to tell the public a few plain truths about me, you could surely have given the job to someone who was not malicious.

A good many reviewers do not like this book very well. Dr. Cross9, who reviewed10 it for Mr. Canby11, is, I gather, somewhat disappointed in it. But he has enough scholarship and literary background to see just what I was trying to do, and he gives me credit for an honest effort even though he wishes I had done something else.

An article of in this tone, appearing in a magazine of The Forum's standing, does one harm, certainly, as it was intended to do;. But I think the hurt it gives my feelings, coming from a publication with which I had always had most pleasant and friendly relations, far outweighs any other harm. This is the first letter of protest I have ever written an editor concerning a review, and I am very sad that it is to you I am addressing it.

Sincerely yours Willa Cather