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#2970: Willa Cather to Jane Wyndham-Lewis Priestley, August 23 and 29, 1945

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Dear Mrs. Priestley1:

I wish I could really tell you how much pleasure your letter gave me -- still gives me. I first read it on the train when I was leaving New York5 after an exhausting month of heat -- and I have read it many times since.

It gave me a better idea of V-E Day6 in London3 than all the printed columns by our best journalists, and told me several things which I particularly wanted to know. I was so grateful for a word about Casals7. None of the musicians in New York (and practically all the musicians in the world have been here for the last few years) seem to know anything about Casals and some of them felt that he might have been liquidated in the Franco8 regime. I wonder if your daughter9 knows the Victor record of Beethoven's10 Archduke Trio11, directed by Casals. He has made so few records that this one stands out as the richest phonographic record of the cello ever made.


I began this letter by dictation, Dear Mrs. Priestley, because the right hand which was hurt12 so badly five years ago had succumbed to a long spell of damp weather and gone stiff on me. I can never write anything—not even a letter, except I do it with a pen.

It will be wonderful if you can come, here, to New York this summer winter. But here, too, you will find a changed world, To be sure there is "plenty" of everything—except good food—but so long as there is plenty of gasolene and hideous clothing and millions of cocktails, our people can be quite cheerful with bad food. I am afraid New York has become quite the most dreadful city in the world. It has become 3 ASTICOU INN
the vomitorium of ill-got and quick-got money. I would leave it if I could.

Arizona13, I do believe, has escaped all the horrible transformations. Many of the places I loved in New Mexico14 are were made hideous in the process of manufacturing the unspeakably frightful atomic bomb. Miles and miles of hideous windowless cement cement and concrete buildings, four to six storeys high, lighted by electricity, ventilated by electricity. In these hideous places they brought forth a hideous birth. Now the Government experts are trying out new modifications of the atom-breaker, in the deserts of Idaho15 and Utah16. They must have "deserts" to work in—they are quite as necessary necessary as "heavy water." 4ASTICOU INN
The destruction of matter seems to require a technic different from than the destruction of form or substance. Every bomb is an experiment:—will it be effective in an area of fifteen square miles, or twenty? Only experiment will tell. So he we need the deserts. Maybe that was what deserts were made for. These experiments are getting dangerously near the Rainbow Bridge country17. As for the "weapon"—Good God, to call that a weapon!—it hath the eldest primal curse18 upon it. The victory it produces is not a victory of arms, and the result of it will be that your people and my people will have to police a hundred islands for a hundred years—and one on one of these islands, you may be sure, the Japs will be making atomic bombs, most efficiently.


I write you these ugly details because you and I truly loved the Southwest19. I thought its beautiful barrenness would always save it from commercial enterprises. And now its very unproductiveness may be its doom! But at any rate you and I have had it and loved it. That is a strong bond between us.

Faithfully yours Willa Cather
Willa S. Cather ASTICOU INN NORTHEAST HARBOR2 MAINE Mrs. J. B. Priestley1 B 3 Albany London3 W. I England NORTHEAST HARBOR, MAINE2 AUG 31 1945 6—PM Air