Yours Willa Cather

You Looked Handsome Last Night

Listen to the 1892 Letter to Louise Pound

Please note this audio is abridged.

1:30 PM [June 15, 1892]

My Dear Louise,

      I am just about half through a nasty job of packing, and the idea has suddenly occured to me that after going up to your place tonight to see your new “Worth Costume,” I did not give voice to my admiration. I dont know just why I did not, but it rather overcame me, the general effect struck me so hard that I lost track of the incidentals. I find that I have four very distinct louisepound-willacather.jpgLouise Pound & Willa Cather impressions left with me; the neck, the train, the color, and what the whole affair set off. I suppose you would object to my saying that you looked very handsome last night; well it is true at any rate, and the man in the dress coat had the greenest envy that I was able to generate,—I am not sure that it is the first time he has had it.

     Just a word about that Persian poem with a name which I have forgotten how to spell [The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám by Edward FitzGerald]. I wanted to get some thing that I liked awfully myself, something that I liked in its self, then it would not seem so formal, and so like carting merchandise up to your house. I thought of sets and sets, Ruskin etc. but, well, sets are sets. Then I thought of that Rubyat, I have liked it thing ever since I was a kid, and they are not so beastly common as every thing else, and I got awfully smitten with the illustrations [by Elihu Vedder], they are so queer, unlike any one else, and that swirl he brings in so often is a great idea if you take the note’s explanation of it. I dont know of any thing that has the horror and mystery of the whole thing so strongly as those whirling curves. I got that instead of any other or others because I just loved the book through and through as much as it is possible to love another persons work, and because of that I felt more of a right to inflict it upon you, see?

louise-pound-portrait.pngLouise Pound as a young woman       I was rather a bore tonight, or rather last night now, wasn’t I? Well, I could not help thinking that it was the last time I should see you for some time, and it affected me rather strangely. If I had known how queer it would make me feel I would not have gone up to your house. I suppose you did not feel just as I did because I was only one out of a great many who was going away while Miss [Minnie] DePue and the Deputy Governor and all the rest will be on deck so that one gone wont make much difference with you. I did feel queer, I did’nt know it had gotten such a hold on me, I shook myself after I got away, but it did’nt alter the facts of the case any. I wanted very much to ask you to go through the customary goodbye formality, but I thought it might disgust you a little so I did’nt. It was so queer that I should want to, when three years ago I had never seen you, and I suppose in three years more—but I dont like to think of that, three years have’nt any right to make any difference and of course they will, and I suppose we will laugh at it all some day as other women do, it make[s] me feel horribly to think of that, it will be worse than if we should hate each other. It is manifestly unfair that “feminine friendships” should be unnatural, I agree with Miss De Pue that far.

    I did’nt congratulate you today because I did not know what to say, I care more for what you will do than for what you have done. I want for you in every channel just about the best that life has to give, thats all.

    This epistle is infinitly sillier than one I tore up last March and did not send you, but I am tired and just have’nt physical energy enough to tear it, so you will have to pardon my “frame of mind,” and lay it all to the weather.


I suppose you will get this in bed, for goodness sake dont let Tude [Olivia Pound] look over your shoulder.
Save that Union photo, please


Read the Story Behind the Letter

Read the Story Behind the Letter

Learn more about the relationship between Willa Cather and Louise Pound.