Skip to main content

#3157: Willa Cather to Willard Crowell, December 11, 1938

More about this letter…
Plain view:

Guide to Reading Letter Transcriptions

Some of these features are only visible when "plain text" is off.

Textual Feature Appearance
passage deleted with a strikethrough mark deleted passage
passage deleted by overwritten added letters overwritten passage
passage added above the line passage with added text above
passage added on the line passage with added text inline
passage added in the margin passage with text added in margin
handwritten addition to a typewritten letter typed passage with added handwritten text
missing or unreadable text missing text noted with "[illegible]"
uncertain transcriptions word[?]
notes written by someone other than Willa Cather Note in another's hand
printed letterhead text printed text
text printed on postcards, envelopes, etc. printed text
text of date and place stamps stamped text
passage written by Cather on separate enclosure. written text
Dear Mr. Crowell1:

Immediately after I received your letter of October 26th, I went up to a small hotel3 in the New Hampshire4 woods for a period of concentrated work on my new book5. When I go away for hard work of this kind, no mail is forwarded to me, as the worries and interruptions which business mail often bring would very seriously distract me. I returned to New York2 only a few days ago, and in working through a great accumulation of mail I have just come upon the enclosed letter from Walter Sherwood6.

While I was in the quiet and peace of the country, I did sometimes turn over in my mind the problem of my holdings in Nebraska7, and I think I came to a clear vision of my position.

If I were twenty years younger, I would certainly want to hold on to those farms, and with your kind and loyal help I would expect to realize a profit from them, for I by no means despair of the future of that country as a farming country.

But my own profession is the safest and surest source of income for me. The more time and attention I can give it, the better off I will be in money,- and in peace of mind.

You write me that some very undesirable farms have been unloaded upon me. If you refer to Mr. Sherwood's letter, you will see that he states that considerable amounts in unpaid taxes are due on these farms. I have just written him begging him not to pay these taxes unless he has already done so. If he has -2-already paid them, he did the logical thing from a business man's point of view, and I will simply take it as a necessary loss resulting from the fact the I did not see his letter of November 4th. because until today. This neglect resulted from the fact that I was giving all my time and attention to my real business, i. e., making headway on the work book upon which I am engaged.

I judge that the Merrill8 and Osborne9 are among the undesirable ones, and if the back taxes have not already been paid I feel sure that the best course for me is to refrain from paying any taxes on them - either back taxes or future taxes. Am I correct in thinking that the county would in time take over the land without bothering me further about it.?

If among the farms that have been deeded to me, you find one or even two which you feel confident you could put on a paying basis, then upon your advice, I would be willing to pay the back taxes. As to the poor farms, I am sure that you would save me a good deal of money and yourself unrewarding trouble by simply letting the land go for the taxes due.

I repeat that if I were twenty years younger I would certainly hold on to the farms, for I have not lost faith in that country. But as the facts actually are, there are to considerations of chief importance in my situation:
  • 1. Not to send good money after bad.
  • 2. To give all my time and strength to my own profession and to the many demands which it makes upon me.

Each year I have sent a considerable sum of money to old friends and neighbours in Nebraska, to help them through these hard times. I had much rather spend money in this way than in paying back taxes.


I assure you Mr. Crowell that your appreciative words about my father10 and my brother Douglass11 went to my heart, and I shall always keep your letter for that expression of real friendship. A good many people in Red Cloud12 thought Father an ineffectual sort of man, just because he was so kind and courteous. It always takes a good man to appreciate a good man.

Believe me when I repeat that your friendship and loyalty to our family has been deeply appreciated by every one of us. When my brother Roscoe13 was in a serious condition following a surgical operation, he simply telegraphed me: "Turn everything over to Crowell. He will do best by you."

Very sincerely yours, Willa Cather