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#3214: Transcription of Letter from Willa Cather to Yehudi Menuhin, October 12, 1936

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My very dear Yehudi1!


When I am out in the woods or on the mountain trails I often think of you and all the family4 so dear to me. I got your letter just before I left New York5, and I believe you are going to let your real feelings and your real nature decide this matter for you. One’s physical nature may be charmed by many things and people (and that is quite right) but, as you realize there is another nature in one which demands certain loyalties. Not personal loyalties, but unwavering , unquestionaing loyalties towards abstract things-matters of sound taste in conduct, a true sense of values. If you one has to live with anyone who has not good honesty of nature, the dignity of one’s life is somehow destroyed. I have seen it happen so often.

I hope you are suffering keenly but pleasurably from the absence of your friend6. A little heartache is a good companion for a young man on his holiday. Every light attack will prepare you for the serious one which will inevitably come. You will have to be more deliberate than other young men in studying the girl who charms you. Why so? Well, you know really, my boy. Because “fame” which means so little to those who have really earned it in any noble pursuit ,has a fatal, an incredible attaraction for the great house of humanity. It sweeps an impressionable girl off her feet. You know I never flatter you,-even when you were a little boy I respected you too much for that. But since you brought this question up, we must admit the facts in the case. You are almost in the position of poor Lindberg7 after his first flight to France8; you appeal to the imagination. May you have as good luck as he! She (Mrs. Lindberg)9 has been through the worst kind of suffering and has never failed him. Most women would never have got over the horror of the first baby10’s death, the suspense, the horrible publicity, the ugliness of it all. She will never get over it, either. But she goes flying with him all over the world just the same. She stands right behind him and his career, is part in all his life. And, strange to sayin spite of all her newspaper pictures, she is really very lovely, the most beautiful eyes, and something bewitching about her.

Fortune has always been good to you, my boy, and I rather suspect her crowning favor will be a girl like that: Slight, heroic,; delicate, unconquerable. (sounds as if I were descrivbing Marutha11, does n’t it!). Well; like Lindberg you will marry someone much your mother’s type.

If I’d foreseen that a note would spin out into a letter, I’d have begun it on my own kind of paper, but off this must go with my warmest love to you and yours. and did you think you were telling me anything new when you told me about Esther12? (Esther Ehrman from San Francisco13….) Why, I have always known that, ever since the first winter that I knew you all in New York. I was delighted. She was somehow so right for a young lad’s devotion .I thought it very pretty, and I think it was the way she played her part in that little romance that made me like Esther so much. I got a great deal of pleasure out of that dream of spring, and I hope you will always have a special kind of feeling for Esther. To let it go would be to lose something real and poetic in your boyhood. Not always poetic? Nonsense, my boy! The final extract is poetic. It takes many great things to make a poem or a really poetic memory: to make a true love or a true work of art. The sources are beautified by the sublimated end of it all. Good graciousness, must I even apologize for the length of this letter? I do apologize. I had no intention of rambling on so. But I always have your future very much at heart.

Your devoted Aunt Willa