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#1881: Willa Cather to Alexander Stuart Frere-Reeves, September 9 [1931]

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Dear Mr. Frere-Reeves1;

During the last four months, because of the illness and death3 of my mother4, I have not attended to business correspondence. I tell you this not as an explanation of my decision5 regarding the English publication of "Shadows on the Rock"6, but in apology for my discourtesy in not replying to your letters.

I have never had any fault to find with my treatment by the house of Heinemann7 in the past, and I have never bothered the house with letters urging them to push my books in England8. I thought if the books were good the sale would in time take care of itself. But it seemed to me that with this book the time had come to push matters a little. I was disappointed in the terms offered by Heinemann, and the very small advance offered, 250 pounds, as against 750 offered by another publisher. That offer seemed to me to express very little confidence in the book.

The thing that most influenced me to let this book y try its fortunes with another publisher was the note of irritation and extreme annoyance in Mr. Evans'9 letter to Mr. Salzberg10. I have never met Mr. Salzberg, but I cannot believe that Alfred Knopf11 would have a very unreasonable man for his English representative. When there is friction between two publishing houses, it is almost sure to make a certain amount of unpleasantness for the author whose interests depend on the co-operation of the two houses. I am very stupid in business matters, anda a business transaction which would be very simple for most people causes me a great deal of worry and indecision. That is why, for years, I have let Alfred Knopf manage my business affairs for me, very largely. He did not however, attempt to influence me in my decision regarding "Shadows on the Rock". He merely put the correspondence before me. I felt that I would rather have the book go to a publisher who was eager to do his best with it than leave it with Heinemann, where the advance offer was not encouraging and where there seemed to be some antagonism toward me, or Knopf, or both.

As for a collected edition, if Mr. Evans had said he would attend to it in three years, or four years, that would have been definite enough for me, but he was unwilling to set any date.

I have none but the most friendly feelings for the Heinemann, and admiration as well. I let this book go elsewhere not because of any dissatisfaction with our relations in the past, but because the terms offered for this particular book indicated that Mr. Evans thought less of its possibilities than I did. Perhaps I made a wrong decision, but, at any rate, I beg you to believe that there is nothing piqued or offended in my attitude, and that my feeling for the house as a great business and a friend to Letters is what it was when I expressed myself fully to you in New York12 last winter. I did not transfer my books to the Knopf English branch, you will remember, though it would have pleased Alfred, I think. I believed that the time would come when, without interference from me, you would find it advantageous to push my books a little more. With this last book, I thought that time had come. I may, of course, be mistaken. If you are in New York this winter I hope I may have an opportunity to see you.

Very sincerely yours Willa Cather

P. S. Please excuse the rough form of this letter. I am off on this little island2 in the Bay of Fundy13, without a secretary or typist, and I type very badly.