The archives at the University of Nebraska libraries are posting a video series on the letters of Willa Cather. The overview video is here.
Cather’s letters have long been accessible to scholars, but her will prevented anyone from publishing or even quoting from them. So while nothing there is much of a surprise, very few readers have had access to her private words. For years, most readers believed that Cather had burned her letters before her death and asked her correspondents to do the same. While that isn’t the case, there are a few notable omissions: almost no letters to Cather’s longtime companion Edith Lewis survive. Another video reads from the one letter to Lewis.
The letters were edited and published for the first time this month in The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, which includes 566 of about 3000 letters in the archive. The collection is edited by Andrew Jewell and Janice Stout.
Of particular interest to students in ENGL 3102 might be Cather’s 1925 letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald, in reply to a letter he wrote to her admitting his concern that his new novel, The Great Gatsby, borrowed too heavily from Cather’s A Lost Lady. She reassures him that she does not think the similarities are excessive, but it’s another reminder of what a huge influence she was on Fitzgerald.
To see more videos, just search YouTube for “Willa Cather Letters.” There’s a whole series.