Willa Cather died on April 24, 1947. Our story this month is “The Old Beauty” from The Old Beauty and Others, which was published posthumously on September 13, 1948.
“The Old Beauty” is the first of three short stories in this collection. The other two are “The Best Years” and “Before Breakfast.” The blurb at the bottom of the book’s cover above reads, “The last three stories of a writer who has given us some of the greatest literary creations of our time.”
Cather didn’t publish the “The Old Beauty” in her lifetime. She’d sent it to the Woman’s Home Companion in 1936, but withdrew it. In a 1940 letter to her brother Roscoe, she tells him that she had sent the story to her old friend and muse Isabelle. Upon Isabelle’s death, her husband returned it and other items to Cather. When Cather’s publisher Alfred Knopf found out about the story — Cather had mentioned to him how nice it was that Jan had returned the story — he asked to read it.
This letter to her brother is included in The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout. Click here to read the letter at The Willa Cather Archive.
Read “The Old Beauty” sometime this month. I’ll have my response post up on Wednesday, April 22nd. Come back to share your thoughts about the story on that post or, if you can’t wait, feel free to leave a comment on this post.
New to this blog? Learn more about the Willa Cather Short Story Project here. In a nutshell, we’re reading one short story a month. I remind everyone what story we’re reading on the second Wednesday of the month and then share a response post on the forth Wednesday of the month.