Sarah Orne Jewett House

Willa Cather

When a carriage accident effectively ended Jewett’s ability to write productively (she suffered ongoing and severe headaches and neck pain), she continued to write letters to friends and family, and now, mentored the emerging and admiring writer Willa Cather.

She gave Cather advice that Cather later credited with her growth as a writer, including from a 1908 letter: “…You must find your own quiet centre of life, and write from that to the world that holds offices, and all society, all Bohemia; the city, the country – in short, you must write to the human heart, the great consciousness that all humanity goes to make up. Otherwise what might be strength in a writer is only crudeness, and what might be insight is only observation; sentiment falls to sentimentality – you can write about life, but never write life itself.” (13th of December, 1908), Annie Fields, Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett (1911).

Later, in her preface to the 1925 collection The Best Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett, Cather wrote that The Country of the Pointed Firs was one of three books by American authors (with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, and The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne), “which have the possibility of a long, long life.”

Willa Cather photo credit: Photo Credit: Pho-4-RG1951-1750. WCPM Collection. Willa Cather Foundation Special Collections and Archives of the National Willa Cather Center, Red Cloud Nebraska