The Only Wonderful Things: The Creative Partnership of Willa Cather & Edith Lewis


American Antiquarian Society
185 Salisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

What would Willa Cather's widely read and cherished novels have looked like if she had never met magazine editor and copywriter Edith Lewis? In this groundbreaking book on Cather's relationship with her life partner, author Melissa J. Homestead counters the established portrayal of Cather as a solitary genius and reassesses the role that Lewis, who has so far been rendered largely invisible by scholars, played in shaping Cather's work. Inviting Lewis to share the spotlight alongside this pivotal American writer, Homestead argues that Lewis was not just Cather's companion but also her close literary collaborator and editor.

Drawing on an array of previously unpublished sources, Homestead skillfully reconstructs Cather and Lewis's life together, from their time in New York City to their travels in the American Southwest that formed the basis of the novels The Professor's House and Death Comes for the Archbishop. After Cather's death and in the midst of the Cold War panic over homosexuality, the story of her life with Edith Lewis could not be told, but by telling it now, Homestead offers a refreshing take on lesbian life in early twentieth-century America.


Melissa J. Homestead is Professor of English and Program Faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she also directs the Cather Project and serves as Associate Editor of The Complete Letters of Willa Cather: A Digital Edition. Her work on The Only Wonderful Things: The Creative Partnership of Willa Cather and Edith Lewis was supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. Her first book, American Women Authors and Literary Property, 1822-1869 (Cambridge University Press 2005), was supported by a Mellon Post-Dissertation Fellowship at the AAS. She maintains an active research agenda in nineteenth-century American women’s authorship and publishing history and is president of the Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society.