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No, my dear Roscoe1, it was not business troubles that I meant to write you about when I asked where you would be in January. Sometimes I wish to speak to you "personally", as you do to me in your letter which just came.
Since I have lost Isabelle3 there is now no one
to whom I can show things to—no one who will take pleasures in pleasant recognition
that comes my
w way. Of course Alfred Knopf4 is 2always
interested, but he takes the lofty stand that whatever I do is pretty good, and it's
no matter what people say. While to me it does matter what some people say. People
like Tweedsmuir5—because his book6 on Augustus
Caesar7 seems to me the best piece of historical writing that has come
along in years, and because he is a finished scholar.
The Swedish review8 is a fine piece9 of critical work because it tells
exa exactly 3why
the book10 was written as it was; the low
tone, the respectful distance which I tried to keep between the characters and
myself. And he11 is equally good on Lawrence12, whom I knew very well.
So if you are not too busy, I would like to send you such things from time to time. The Menuhins13 are like Alfred—they think high praise comes naturally to me, as to them. A few years ago Yehudi14 told a reporter that his favorite authors were Victor Hugo15 and Willa Cather!4
But you know it's a long road from Red Cloud16 to any sort of finish.
Look the enclosures over when you have liesure and a good cigar, and when you and Meta17 have read them, mail them back to me, registered post.Lovingly Willie
Cather is probably referring to Anders Österling's joint review of D.H. Lawrence's The Plumed Serpent and Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. The original review, entitled "Ormen och Korset," was published on November 16, 1938, in Stockholms-Tidningen.
Cather, Roscoe (1877-1945) (“Ross”). Cather’s brother. Roscoe was born in Virginia, the second child and oldest son of Charles and Virginia Cather. After graduating from Red Cloud (NE) High School in 1895, he taught country school for two years, attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln for one year (1897-1898), taught high school in Carlton, NE, and Oxford, NE, and finally became superintendent of schools in Fullerton, NE. There he met fellow teacher Meta Schaper, whom he married in 1907. They relocated to Lander, WY, in 1909, where he opened an abstract office and where their three children, Virginia and twins Margaret and Elizabeth, were born. In 1921, they moved to Casper, WY, where Roscoe became president of the Wyoming Trust Company, and in 1937 to Colusa, CA, where Roscoe and his brother Douglass had acquired a controlling interest in the First Savings Bank of Colusa. Roscoe served as president of the bank until his death. Willa visited Roscoe and his family in Wyoming several times and shared important travel experiences with them, including a 1926 trip to New Mexico with Roscoe, Meta, and their children and a 1941 San Francisco vacation with Roscoe and Meta. She also relied on him to handle family-related business as well as personal financial matters, and he was one of her chief correspondents throughout her life. Roscoe served as a prototype for one of the twin brothers in the Templeton family in “Old Mrs. Harris” (1932).
Hambourg, Isabelle McClung (1877-1938). Cather’s longtime friend. Cather met Isabelle McClung, the daughter of a socially prominent, Pittsburgh (PA) family, in 1899 in the dressing room of actress Lizzie Hudson Collier. McClung seems to have been the first woman to reciprocate Cather’s romantic affections. In 1901, McClung invited Cather to live in her family’s large home in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. She and Cather traveled together to Europe in 1902, and McClung accompanied Cather on a visit home to Nebraska in 1905. After Cather moved to New York City in 1906, she frequently visited McClung in Pittsburgh, finding the familiar house a congenial place to write, and McClung visited New York City, staying with Cather and Edith Lewis. Cather and McClung also rented a vacation cabin in Cherry Valley, NY, in 1911, and traveled together to Virginia in 1913. In late 1915, shortly after the death of her father, Judge Samuel McClung, Isabelle announced her intention to marry violinist Jan Hambourg. Cather reacted negatively to the marriage (which took place in 1916) but eventually reconciled herself to it, enjoying long visits with the Hambourgs in Toronto, Ontario, in 1921 and France in 1923 and 1935. Isabelle’s death in Italy from kidney disease, which came only four months after Cather’s brother Douglass died, left her feeling bereft. “No other living person cared as much about my work, through thirty-eight years,” she wrote her brother Roscoe (#2137). After Isabelle’s death, Jan sent to Cather the three hundred letters from Cather to Isabelle in his possession, and Cather destroyed them.
Knopf, Alfred A. (1892-1984). President of New York publisher Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Knopf received his B.A. from Columbia University in New York City in 1912 and founded Alfred Knopf, Inc., in 1915 with his future wife Blanche Wolf. They married in 1916, and their son Alfred “Pat” Knopf was born in 1918. Cather chose him as her publisher beginning with Youth and the Bright Medusa (1920) and One of Ours (1922), partly because she was dissatisfied with the promotion of her books by Houghton Mifflin but also because she recognized the high quality of Knopf's books, as well as what she regarded as his intelligent advertising. Knopf was noted for publishing the work of leading European and South American writers in translation, as well as original works. Knopf and Cather’s extensive correspondence testifies to their mutual professional respect and to what also became an important personal friendship.
Buchan, John, Baron Tweedsmuir (1875-1940). Scottish novelist and politician. Born in Scotland and educated at Oxford University, Buchan pursued his writing career, at the same time as his political career led to serving in South Africa, in Parliament, and in the British army in World War I. In 1935 he was appointed Governor-General of Canada and elevated to the peerage; that same year Alfred Hitchcock made one of Buchan’s most popular books, The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), into a film. Buchan also wrote histories, biographies, and a 1940 memoir Memory Hold-the-Door (published as Pilgrim’s Way in the U.S.), which Cather read at the suggestion of Ferris Greenslet, a friend of Buchan.
Augustus (63 B.C.-14 A.D.) ("Caesar Augustus"). Roman Emperor. Born Gaius Octavius Thurinus, he became the first Roman emperor following the destruction of the republic by his great-uncle and adoptive father, Julius Caesar. After consolidating his power, Augustus transformed Rome from a republic to an empire and brought about the peace and prosperity that led to the Pax Romana. During his forty-year rule, he doubled the size of the empire.
Österling, Anders (1884-1981). Swedish poet, translator, and literary critic. Anders Österling published his first book of poetry, Preludier, in 1904. He went on to produce several more volumes of collected verse and also worked translating major works into Swedish. In 1919 he was elected as the youngest member of the Swedish Academy. Two years later, he joined the Academy’s Nobel Prize Committee, eventually becoming its longest-serving member. Having worked as literary editor for two other newspapers, in 1936 Österling was appointed literary editor of Stockholms-Tidnigen, in which he published a joint review of D.H. Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent (1926) and Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927) in 1938.
Lawrence, David Herbert (1885-1930) (“D.H.”). British novelist. Born in Nottingham, England, into a working-class family, Lawrence left high school in 1901 to work as a clerk, although he soon secured a position as a pupil teacher and earned his teacher’s certificate at the University of Nottingham. His first novel, The White Peacock (1911), was published by William Heinemann while he was still a schoolteacher. After a bout with pneumonia ended his teaching career, he met and fell in love with Frieda Weekley, the wife of one of his professors at Nottingham. Frieda left her husband and three young children to travel to Germany with Lawrence. After they had settled in Italy, Heinemann rejected Lawrence’s novel Paul Morel as indecent. The publisher Duckworth encouraged him to revise it, and published as Sons and Lovers (1913) it made his reputation. He and Frieda returned to England and married in London in 1914. Lawrence struggled to make a living: The Rainbow (1915) was ruled obscene and withdrawn from circulation, and Women in Love was repeatedly rejected by publishers before publication in 1920. After World War I he and Frieda returned to Italy, settling in Capri, where in 1921 they met expatriate American painters Earl Brewster and Achsah Barlow-Brewster, with whom they traveled to Ceylon in 1922. The Lawrences eventually traveled to the U.S. by sea to the west coast and spent time in New Mexico and Mexico before returning to Europe in early 1923. In July 1923, the Brewsters gave the Lawrences Cather and Edith Lewis’s address in New York City, and D. H. and Frieda, accompanied by Dorothy Brett, visited 5 Bank Street. From New York City the Lawrences and Brett traveled to New Mexico and settled on a small derelict ranch, which D.H. purchased from Mabel Dodge Luhan, and where he wrote fiction set in the U.S. Southwest and Mexico. During their July 1925 visit to Luhan’s compound in Taos, NM, Cather and Lewis made visits on horseback to the Lawrence ranch. The Lawrences soon returned to Europe, however, where D.H. died of tuberculosis. His literary reputation and fame increased after his death. Cather’s attitude towards him was ambivalent. She liked him personally, praised him as “unquestionably the most gifted writer of his generation” (#1118), and praised memoirs of him by Luhan and the Brewsters. However, in “The Novel Démeublé” (1922), she criticizes Lawrence for failing to distinguish between “emotion and mere sensory reactions” and reducing his characters in The Rainbow to “mere animal pulp.” “Can one imagine anything more terrible,” she queries, “than the story of Romeo and Juliet, rewritten in prose by Mr. Lawrence?”
Menuhin, Hephzibah (1920-1981). Pianist. Born in San Francisco, CA, to Moshe and Marutha Sher Menuhin, immigrant Russian Jews by way of Palestine, Hephzibah began studying piano at the age of four and gave her first recital at age eight. The studies and career of her older brother, violinist Yehudi, dominated the family (the youngest child, Yaltah, was also a pianist). In 1930, the Menuhin family took up residence in Paris, where Cather first met them in the home of Jan Hambourg and Isabelle McClung Hambourg and became a family friend; the children called her “Aunt Willa.” In the 1930s the Menuhin family made the Ansonia Hotel its home base during their frequent stays in New York City. Cather took the Menuhin children on walks around Central Park, read Shakespeare with them, and gave them books as gifts. Hephzibah served as Yehudi’s accompanist; they made their first recording together in 1933 and often performed together. The family purchased a ranch in Los Gatos, CA, in 1935. In 1938, after a concert in London, England, Hephzibah met Australian Lindsay Nicholas, whom she soon married (Yehudi married Lindsay’s sister Nola). She abandoned her plans for a solo debut at Carnegie Hall, moved with Nicholas to Australia, and had two sons, Kronrod and Marston. She continued to perform occasionally in Australia, including with Yehudi when he toured the country. Although Cather mentions carrying on a correspondence with Hephzibah after her move to Australia, these letters have not been located. Cather enjoyed a late life visit from Hephzibah and Yehudi and their families in 1947. In 1955, Hephzibah divorced Nicholas and married Richard Hauser. Together, they were active in human rights advocacy, and Hephzibah continued to perform. She died in London, England.0171
Menuhin, Yaltah (1921-2001). Pianist. Born in San Francisco, CA, to Moshe and Marutha Sher Menuhin, immigrant Russian Jews by way of Palestine, Yaltah began studying piano at the age of three. The studies and career of her older brother, violinist Yehudi, dominated the family (their second child, Hepzibah, was also a pianist). In 1930, the Menuhin family took up residence in Paris, where Cather first met them in the home of Jan Hambourg and Isabelle McClung Hambourg and became a family friend; the children called her “Aunt Willa.” In the 1930s, the Menuhin family made the Ansonia Hotel its home base during their frequent stays in New York City. Cather took the Menuhin children on walks around Central Park, read Shakespeare with them, and gave them books as gifts. The family purchased a ranch in Los Gatos, CA, in 1935. As Yaltah grew older and wanted to pursue her own musical career, her relationship with her mother grew difficult—Marutha supported Hepzibah’s role as Yehudi’s accompanist but believed a solo career inappropriate for a woman (even though many recognized that Yaltah was the most gifted musician of the three children). In June 1938, just shy of her seventeenth birthday and apparently under duress from her mother, Yaltah married William Stix, a lawyer from St. Louis, MO, who worked in Washington, DC; Cather attended the wedding. In 1939 Yaltah first separated from and then divorced Stix. In 1941, she eloped with U.S. Army officer Benjamin Rolfe. Her parents publicly disavowed the marriage and she and her mother stopped speaking to one another. The Rolfes had two children, Robert and Lionel. None of Cather’s extant letters to Yaltah mention the turmoil surrounding her marriage, divorce, and remarriage, however. Yaltah’s final marriage to American pianist Joel Ryce was long and happy, and during it she pursued a performing career. According to her son Lionel Rolfe, she treasured her letters from Cather and often reread them. She eventually gave them to him so he could sell them and use the funds to support his aspiration to become a writer.
Menuhin, Yehudi (1916-1999). Violinist and conductor. Born in New York City to Moshe Mnuchin and Marutha Sher Mnuchin, immigrant Russian Jews by way of Palestine who changed the spelling of their surname and moved the family to San Francisco in 1918, Yehudi started violin lessons at age four and made his first public appearance in 1922. His two younger siblings, Hepzibah and Yaltah, studied piano, although his parents prioritized the musical career of their son over their daughters. With the support of patron Sidney Ehrman, the Menuhin family followed Yehudi’s teacher Louis Persinger to New York City. Ehrman also sponsored Yehudi for a year of study in Paris, France, with Georges Enesco. Yehudi began attracting national attention in 1927 and recorded and toured the U.S. in 1929. That year at Carnegie Hall, his performance of concertos by Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms with Bruno Walter and the Berlin Philharmonic inspired Albert Einstein to proclaim “now I know there is a God in Heaven”; Cather was also in the audience for this concert. In 1930, the Menuhin family took up residence in Paris, where Cather first met them in the home of Jan Hambourg and Isabelle McClung Hambourg and became a family friend; the children called her “Aunt Willa.” In the 1930s, the Menuhin family made the Ansonia Hotel its home base during their frequent stays in New York City. Cather took the Menuhin children on walks around Central Park, read Shakespeare with them, and gave them books as gifts. Yehudi’s sister Hepzibah accompanied her brother on piano; they made their first recording together in 1933 and often performed together. The family purchased a ranch in Los Gatos, CA, in 1935, and after a world tour that year, Yehudi withdrew from performing for 18 months and stayed at the ranch with his family. He returned to the concert stage in 1937 and met and married Nola Nicholas in 1938 (Hepzibah married Nola’s brother Lindsay). Yehudi and Nola had two children, Krov and Zamira. Cather enjoyed a late life visit from Hepzibah and Yehudi and their families in 1947. Cather corresponded regularly with the adult Yehudi, giving him personal advice, although only one original letter has surfaced. In 1947, Yehudi and Nola divorced and he married British ballerina Diana Gould, with whom he had two more children. Living in Europe, he continued his career as a performer and also became a conductor, established a school in England, and became a British citizen. He died in Berlin, Germany, while on tour.
Hugo, Victor (1802-1885). French poet, author, and playwright. Born in Besançon, France, Victor Hugo began his professional life as a lawyer but ultimately became a writer and an important figure of French Romanticism. He wrote poetry, novels and plays, and founded the literary journal Conservatuer Litteraire. His most famous works are The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) and Les Misérables (1862). Cather began reading French literature as a teenager and especially enjoyed Hugo’s novels.
Cather, Meta Schaper (1884-1973). Cather’s sister-in-law. Meta Schaper was born in Plattsmouth, NE, the second daughter of Robert and Julia Ramke Schaper. After graduating from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln 1903, Meta Schaper taught at Havelock High School in her hometown of Havelock, NE (now part of Lincoln). She met Roscoe Cather when teaching in Fullerton, NE, and they married in 1907. They moved to Lander, WY, in 1909, where she gave birth to three daughters, Virginia and twins Margaret and Elizabeth. The family moved to Casper, WY, in 1921 and Colusa, CA, in 1937. Willa visited Meta and Roscoe’s family in Wyoming several times and shared important travel experiences with them, including a 1926 trip to New Mexico with Meta, Roscoe, and their children and a 1941 San Francisco vacation with Roscoe and Meta. Meta and Willa remained friends until Willa’s death.
Augustus (1937) by John (Lord Tweedsmuir) Buchan
"Ormen och Korset," Stockholms-Tidningen (November 16, 1938) by Anders Österling
Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927) by Willa Cather