Ladies Home Companion (September, October & November 1932) and one of three stories in Obscure Destinies: Thre New Stories of the West (New York: Knopf, 1932), containing many deletions, re-writings and emendations. Datelined at end: "New Brunswick 1931."" /> CATHER, Willa Siebert. Typescript of the story "Old Mrs. Harris," published in the <I>Ladies Home Companion</I> (September, October & November 1932) and one of three stories in <I>Obscure Destinies: Thre New Stories of the West<I> (New York: Knopf, 1932), containing many deletions, re-writings and emendations. Datelined at end: "New Brunswick 1931."|
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    Sale 2272

    Fine Books & Manuscripts including Americana

    24 June 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 12

    CATHER, Willa Siebert. Typescript of the story "Old Mrs. Harris," published in the Ladies Home Companion (September, October & November 1932) and one of three stories in Obscure Destinies: Thre New Stories of the West (New York: Knopf, 1932), containing many deletions, re-writings and emendations. Datelined at end: "New Brunswick 1931."

    Price Realised  

    CATHER, Willa Siebert. Typescript of the story "Old Mrs. Harris," published in the Ladies Home Companion (September, October & November 1932) and one of three stories in Obscure Destinies: Thre New Stories of the West (New York: Knopf, 1932), containing many deletions, re-writings and emendations. Datelined at end: "New Brunswick 1931."

    71 pages (11 x 8½in.), plus a page numbered "1½"; many additional sheets bearing new text neatly cut out and pasted in (minor staining from adhesive). A ribbon typescript, boldly titled by Cather at the top of page 1, with extensive corrections and revisions in oencil and occasionally ink.

    A NEWLY DISCOVERED WORKING TYPESCRIPT OF CATHER'S "OLD MRS. HARRIS"
    "Old Mrs. Haris," one of the three stories comoprising Not Under Forty, constitutes one of Cather's most deeply personal late writings. Cather's elderly parents and a number of friends and acquainatnces had recently died, and the themes of aging and mortality, the alienation of the elderly and the generaitonal relationships between mothers and daughters were very much on her mind. The story was first serialized under the title "Three Women," and Cather received the enormous sum of $15,000 for magazine rights. The story was quickly recognized as one of Cather's most powerful. A front page review of Not Under Forty in The New York Times was headed "The return of Willa Carther," and one reviewer, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, singled out "Old Mrs. Harris" as "a creation of unexpected beauty. There is mighty stuff in this story, handled with marvelous tact and restraint..." The rediscovery of Cather's corrected typescript will yield valuable insights into the creative process.

    Cather's careful shaping and polishing of the story is evident in numerous partial pages bearing inserted text--ranging from 2-3 lines to half a page--neatly cut out and pasted in place. A number of such insertions have been made in certain key scenes, like the extended description of Vickie (on pp.20-22), in which Vickie is looking at an illustrated edition of Faust, and translates the "Dies Irae" for Mrs. Rosen. On some pages, whole passages or sentences are lined out--but remain easily readable. On page 3 she deleted a passage reading "The best of everything that went on the table was her natural tribute. Theerw asn't much, to be sure, but what there was was Victoria's." And on page 21, Cather has deleted several lines of s=dialogue and added "'Where did you get that?--Out of Rigoletto?' It looked like that--but how would Vickie know?" On pages 30-31 she has lined out an observation about Mrs. Holliday: "One could never be sure just how much she meant to hurt people." In early pages, Cather has altered the name "Topaz Valley"--the western town in which the story is set--to "Skyline." There are extensive inserted blocks of text in Section IV (pages 26-27) and one passage is completely deleted: "There was no Presbyterian church in Skyline, so Mrs. Holliday attended the Methodist." On page 32, a four-line and a five-line passage are deleted;p on page 33 Cather has lined out the sentence: "Victoria was naturally hearty and warm hearted and good humored"; on page 34, a passage reading "Whenever she 'bridled' or woithdrew herself, something of that kind had occurred," is crossed out.

    The last sentence reads: "They will say to themselves: 'I was heartless because I weas young, and so strong, and because I wanted things so much.'" The published story adds the concluding observation: "But now I know." In addition to the substantive changes and rewritings, Cather has carefully corrected and regularized punctuation, capitalization and typing errors."


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