Yours Willa Cather

Rekindling their friendship

Listen to the 1921 Letter to Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Please note this audio is abridged.

Friday [April 8, 1921]

Dear Dorothy: 

    It’s foolish for people who have so much to say to each other not to get into communication with each other, don’t you think? Can’t we manage better in the future? You do come to clfisher1.pngDorothy Canfield FIsher town sometimes, and I’ll manage to get at you if you’ll let me know. I believe we could quite come together again now—and oh how good that would be for me! I know I was sullen and defiant for a good many years—like Paul in “Paul’s Case”, all mixed up—but getting started at my own job has straightened me out inside. Try me on again, and you’ll find I’m reasonable now!

    After you left the other night I was thinking about that very time in Pittsburgh, while I was undressing, and wondering how people who had that basic understanding and affection could ever drift apart. But that person who made such a fuss about a story [“The Profile”]—a rotten bad one, of course—was not I, “it was the fool of me”, as the Diamond Mine’s husband remarked,—the wrong-headed and tormented fool of me. Discouraging years those were, you know; teaching all day, writing at night, never getting on. They are over—let’s forget them.

   I’ve always kept the letters you wrote me about each of my books. If you had, for instance, written me a discouraging one about “O Pioneers!” it would have frightened me a great deal—and the one you did write helped me a great deal. I suppose its because you know me so well—and so much—that it means so much to me to please you—and because you know “the fool of me” also! I think you over-estimate my “success”, both the inner and the outer. I’ve really a very small public, and, of course, I’m a rather one-sided writer. But those thingsdon’t trouble me if I can have the fun of doing what I like and only that, and can manage to please you and half-a-dozen others.

   Willa Cather posing for a studio portrait Willa Cather posing for a studio portrait in the fall of 1921   But what I started out to say was, why can’t we see each other sometimes? We own a considerable bit of “past” in common—nearly all of it delightful to remember. The people with whom one has that grow always fewer. There are years when life is a frenzy—a crazy affair, you know. But now, jamais plus [never again]! I can take as much or as little as I like of several kinds of insanity. A new kind of freedom for me, when the trees grow thin enough so that one can see the wood! And dear Dorothy, let’s see some of the rest of the wood together! There were long years when I loved you very, very dearly, you know—and when one is older that comes back, with a difference, and the new people can’t mean as much. I feel very happy in my heart about you, as if we were going to have a great many lovely hours together.

With my love and gratitude

I’m off for Toronto tonight
c⁄o Jan Hambourg
38 St. Vincent St
Toronto, Canada

Read the Story Behind the Letter

Read the Story Behind the Letter

In 1902, when Cather went on her first trip to Europe, she met Canfield in Paris. Accompanying them on their tour of the city was Evelyn Osborne, a woman whom Canfield had befri...