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Dear Melissa, Kari, and Diane,

Thanks for the additional information. I think my underlying question is whether Cather herself preferred British spellings (in moderation: the "basic" ones like "colour" instead of "color," etc.). From what I've seen and from your very helpful information in this discussion, it's starting to sound like it's really hard to know for sure, that is, the British spellings may have been introduced by Knopf copyeditors, as Melissa pointed out, and/or to make texts easier to market (without completely reprinting them with UK spelling) in Britain and Canada.  In short, it's hard to know what she herself actually preferred.

There is certainly no doubt she preferred "good English"--there is abundant evidence of that, but from her letters it seems this may primarily mean well-constructed, thoughtful, grammatical English. I've been looking at the letter on p. 503 in Letters in which she says that she wishes that "college students were taught to write good, sound English sentences (sentences with unmistakable articulation) and to avoid hackneyed platitudinous, woman’s-club expressions," etc. But as we all know, she also relished western expressions and wrote The Song of the Lark "in the language of Moonstone." Given the wealth of information about her thoughts about written English, I'm concluding that whether she preferred English spellings is a red herring. 

Thanks again to everyone for sharing their expertise on this!

Best,
Julie
 

On Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 4:10 PM, Kari Ronning <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Dear Julie and Diane,

 

Diane, thanks for bringing out those other spellings that I didn’t remember off hand; I’m reminded of another one, “plough” for “plow.”

 

A note from David Stouck reminded me of some other considerations. Matthew Bruccoli wrote and essay (1969) about west to east transatlantic texts, which I think suggested that at least a modest amount of British spellings might have made the sheets of US texts more marketable in the UK, where they often were just bound by the UK publisher. David reminded me that Canada uses British spellings also, and Cather’s Knopf books were (almost?) always sent to be bound and distributed in Canada.

 

Hope this doesn’t just complicate things for you!

 

Sincerely,

                Kari

 

From: 5 Bank Street: The Listserv for Willa Cather Scholars [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Diane Prenatt
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2016 2:33 PM


To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [5BANKSTREET] Cather and British spelling

 

Julie,

 

One of James Woodress’s  textual notes in the scholarly edition of My Antonia reads: “Cather had begun to adopt British spelling conventions in the 1920s, and [the 1937 Autograph edition of] My Antonia was brought into conformity with her later preference” (p. 517, n. 16); the note continues to list some of those changes—not only “-our” instead of “-or,” but doubled L before a suffix, “moustache” instead of “mustache,” “cheque” instead of “check,” “draught” instead of “draft,” etc.

 

Diane

 

From: 5 Bank Street: The Listserv for Willa Cather Scholars [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Olin-Ammentorp, Julie
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2016 12:29 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [5BANKSTREET] Cather and British spelling

 

Thank you both so much, Melissa and Kari. This is a big help. I will revise accordingly!

Best,

Julie

 

On Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 11:25 AM, Kari Ronning <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Dear Julie,

 

I don’t recall any specific place where Cather outright says she wants British spellings, or at least the ‘-our’ one. I agree with Melissa that she didn’t use it in her letters or her own typing of her manuscripts.

 

Alfred Knopf told Sue Rosowski that house style was never imposed on Cather—see A Lost Lady textual essay, p. 323. It is, of course possible that he was romanticizing the relationship.

 

It may still have been Knopf house style but one to which she agreed; he was positioning himself somewhat as an international publisher.  It would be interesting to look at other Knopf books from the same period as Cather’s to see if they have the same style. I suspect she was valuable enough to Knopf that she could have asked for something different.

 

Houghton Mifflin did not use British spellings—but the house style of the Autograph Edition was very British, going much further than ‘-our’—grey, programme, axe, waggon, whiskey, and others. We have always thought Cather agreed to this, even if she did not originate the idea. And she made other, more slightly more substantive revisions that followed the same path—enquired is the only one I can think of off the top of my head.

 

Hope this is of some help.

 

Sincerely,

                Kari

 

From: 5 Bank Street: The Listserv for Willa Cather Scholars [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Olin-Ammentorp, Julie
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2016 9:11 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [5BANKSTREET] Cather and British spelling

 

Dear 5 Bank Streeters,

 

I'm trying to locate a solid source that states that Cather preferred British spellings to American spellings, but so far have come a cropper. Online I found the Bernice Slote edition of Uncle Valentine and Other Stories, which states that “In ‘Coming, Eden Bower!’ Willa Cather for the first time used the English spelling in words like ‘neighbour’” (183), but felt this was inconclusive. I checked the textual essay in the Scholarly Edition of Youth and the Bright Medusa, which confirms the substitution of English spelling for American in this book (470, 478), but does not indicate that this was Cather’s personal preference; on the contrary, it may have been house style (470). I checked Woodress on the publication of YBM, and found lots of publishing details, but nothing about Cather's spelling preferences; I also checked the online Calendar of Letters to see if I could find anything, but had no luck; the same with re-reading some key letters in the print Cather Letters, though it may be there someplace.

 

If anyone has any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it. Please feel free to tell me, too, if I'm fabricating the idea of "Cather preferred English spellings" because it fits an argument I'm making!

 

Thanks so much.

Julie Olin-Ammentorp

 

 

--

Julie Olin-Ammentorp
Dept. of English
Le Moyne College
1419 Salt Springs Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13214



 

--

Julie Olin-Ammentorp
Dept. of English
Le Moyne College
1419 Salt Springs Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13214




--
Julie Olin-Ammentorp
Dept. of English
Le Moyne College
1419 Salt Springs Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13214
315-445-4429
[log in to unmask]