CATHER, Willa Siebert. Typescript of the essay, "A Chance Meeting," published in the Atlantic Monthly (February 1933), and collected in Not Under Forty (New York: Knopf, 1936), containing numerous revisions, deletions and emendations. [1932 or 1933].
23 pages (11 x 8½in.), additional text on neatly attached sheets, two clippings from Flaubert's letters pasted in at page 21. Boldly titled in ink by Cather at the top of page 1, most of the author's revisions in pencil, a few in ink. First few pages with rust stain from a paperclip, a few marginal tears."
CATHER ENCOUNTERS GUSTAVE FLAUBERT'S NIECE. The corrected typescript of Cather's wistful and evocative account of her chance meeting, in a hotel in Aix, with a striking and energetic elderly woman whom Cather eventually discovers to be the 84-year old niece of Gustave Flaubert. Cather describes her astonishment when the old lady reveals her literary connections: "there was no word with which one could greet such a revelation. I took one of her lovely hands and kissed it, in homage to a great peiod, to the great past, to the names that made her voice tremble."
Later, at a performance of Boris Godunov, Cather recalls "It was interesting...at the opera that night, to watch the changes that went over her face as she listened with an attention that never wandered, looking younger and stronger than she ever did by day, as if the music were some very powerful stinulant." After extensive conversations in which the two discuss Flaubert's work ("les oeuvres de mon oncle"), her friendship as a young girl with Turgenev, Pauline Viardot and other luminaries of the remote past, Cather and the old lady bid an emotional farewell: "The last glimpse I had was as she stood in the dining room, the powder on her face quite destroyed by tears, her features agitated but her head erect and her eyes flashing. A great memory and a geat devotion were the things she lived on, certainly; they were her armour against a world concerned with insignificant matters."
Cather later used this encounter as the basis for a story, "The Old Beauty" (1936), in which the cataclysm of a recent war shadows and profoundly alters the life of its central character.