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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, April 3, 1903

Villa Saint Charles

Biarritz

April 3d

Dear Mildred.

Thank you so much for your nice long letter. I got it yesterday. I wish I could begin this one with a bucolic rhapsody like the one you gave me. The quotation from Noah was quite correct and pleased me very much. I hope you will be glad to hear that I passed my additional subject last term, it was Herodotus,Herodotus (ca. 484–ca. 425 BCE), an ancient Greek historian often called the "Father of History." and that I am now directing my energies to Spanish. I go to a nice little man, called Garcia y Tola, who is of course a Radical and an anti-Catholic and in fact holds all the views which a healthy young Spaniard should. I enjoy my lessons with him very much, but my real reward for the trouble taken is being able to speak Spanish with my caddie. He is a Basque of San Sebastian, and his Spanish is consequently bad, so he doesn’t suspect that I take some 5 minutes to make up such sentences that I fire at him with such volubility.

I never meant to say that VoltaireFrançois-Marie Arouet (1694–1778), better known by his pen name Voltaire, a French writer, historian, and philosopher. was insincere in his political and philosophical opinions, See letter of January 23, 1903. but some of his letters don’t seem quite right to me. Of course it is difficult to decide how much is polite patter of the 18th century and how much insincerity, but I don’t feel at all sure of many of the letters to Mme. De Bernières.Marguerite-Madeleine du Moutier, the Marquise de Bernières (d. 1757). Lionel Gossman ("Voltaire's Heavenly City," Eighteenth-Century Studies 3, no. 1, special issue, The Eighteenth-Century Imagination [Autumn 1969]: 71) similarly discusses the growing "literariness" of Voltaire’s letters where there is a distance between the writer and his words and between the words and "reality."

I must congratulate you on your recovery from pneumonia. I wonder why so few people get it in England and so many in America. I have been enjoying my usual health, broken only by the 1/4 hour of torture on 30 mornings in each term. Probably the required “four 8 AM chapels in every 6 days.” See letter of October 29, 1902. If you will give me your charming friend’s Possibly Alberta Sturges Montagu. address I should love to call on her. I don’t think you quite do me justice in thinking I am so fearfully anti-American. I am sure it is more the fault of American sightseers that I have met on the Continent. There is an extraordinary woman here called Calverley, a relative of the poet’s,Charles Stuart Calverley (1831–1884), an English poet. who tells fortunes by cards—but I must have told you about her last summer. When she last told me my fortune she said, "There is a friend of yours who is going to have trouble and people are going to misunderstand and talk about her, but you will know all about it and will understand." After what you told me when we last met in London This reference is unclear. I think that is quite remarkable, don’t you? She told me a lot of things that were perfectly true and most of them were very pleasant. She makes one shuffle the cards, and think at the same time of what one wants to know, and she really does tell one about the things one has thought of.

Your account of the Southerners Probably Cyrus Townsend Brady, The Southerners, A Story of the Civil War (New York: Scribner, 1903). is depressing. The old negro must be delightful, so different from the hero of Mr. Rossefelt’s (is that right) adventure. Although the references here are obscure, Royall Tyler is likely referring to President Theodore Roosevelt’s problems with the issue of Black rights during his administration (1901–1908). See Seth M. Scheiner, “President Theodore Roosevelt and the Negro, 1901–1908,” The Journal of Negro History 47, no. 3 (July 1962): 169–82. My stepfather is here, busy as usual, and sending telegrams all the time. Before he arrived my Mother had almost entirely lost her American accent, but now she is picking it up again fast. I saw a delightful paragraph in the New York something about Oxford “Why do Americans go to Oxford. To acquire an English (!) accent or that indescribably superior air that only Oxford men possess?”

I wonder if you have seen the Recollections of a Diplomatist by Sir Horace Rumbold. Horace Rumbold, Recollections of a Diplomatist, by the Right Honourable Sir Horace Rumbold (London: E. Arnold, 1902). It is charming, so indiscreet and the man must be very nice. He begins in such a stilted, formal style, which in a few pages, changes into an easy narrative. I find my heart warming to him for that. Are you coming back this summer? And if you do what do you propose to do? My Mother is taking a house at Dinard in the North of France.

Yours sincerely

Royall Tyler

 
Associated Places: Biarritz (France)

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