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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, June 3, 1905

Venice

June 3rd 1905

Dear Mildred.

Verily they do “of our pleasant vices make whips to scourge us.”William Shakespeare, King Lear (ca. 1603–1606) (“the gods of our pleasant vices make whips to scourge us”), after Juvenal (Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis), Satirae (late 1st–early 2nd century CE) (“Occultum quatiente animo tortore flagellum”). Not an hour ago did I receive your second letter, presumably, beginning somewhat abruptly with the Roman characters XI—and the first part I never have seen! owing I fear to my zeal in trying to prevent any letters reaching me while I was at Ravenna.In his Autobiography (4:16), Royall Tyler wrote of this trip as “a reward in the shape of a visit to Ravenna and Venice. No sooner did I feel my German coming with complete ease than I bolted for the South.” Some few were naturally lost, and I was congratulating myself upon my fortune, when I discover the hideous fact that I have missed ten sides from you.

I used to know your ParsonsWilliam Barclay Parsons Jr. (1859–1932), an American civil engineer and founder of the firm that became Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the largest civil engineering firms in the United States. Parsons married Anna DeWitt Reed (1858–1858) in 1884. when a child. His wife asked me to stay with her last summer when I was in America, but I didn’t get the letter till I got home.

I haven’t the slightest idea where I am to begin, or how. I left Cassel in the first week in April, and went and stayed a month at Berlin, and enjoyed it very much. They have two splendid theatres there—three, in fact, and they have some actors. I met lots of very interesting people—Von Tschudi,Hugo von Tschudi (1851–1911), an Austrian-born Swiss art historian, museum curator and director, and collector. Tschudi served as director of the Königliche National-Galerie zu Berlin (1896–1909) and the Munich Bayerische Staatsgemälde Galerie (1909–1911). See Barbara Paul, Hugo von Tschudi und die moderne französische Kunst im Deutschen Kaiserreich (Mainz: P. von Zabern, 1993). the director of the National gallery. Liebermann the painter,Max Liebermann (1847–1935), a German artist and friend of Hugo von Tschudi. von T’s wife—a Spanish woman—but you can’t appreciate what I did at Berlin till we meet and I tell you how things stand in that very interesting town. I also made a friend there—and a man! I had thought that I would not, but I did. His name is von KardorffKonrad von Kardorff (1877–1945), a painter and member of the Berlin Secession. He primarily painted portraits, flower pieces, and landscapes. See letters of September 1, 1905; January 12, 1908; and April 12, 1910. and he is a painter in the SecessionBerlin Secession (Berliner Secession), an art association founded by Berlin artists in 1898 as an alternative to the conservative state-run Association of Berlin Artists. Notable members of the Berlin Secession included Max Beckmann, Lovis Corinth, Lyonel Feininger, Georg Kolbe, and Käthe Kollwitz. See letters of June 4, 1905; September 1, 1905; and April 12, 1910. (all the people who are of any use there are in the Secession). His fatherWilhelm von Kardorff (1828–1907), a conservative German Parliamentarian and a supporter of the policies of Bismarck. It is unclear why Royall Tyler refers to him as a “large man in the University.” See Siegfried von Kardorff, Wilhelm von Kardorff, ein nationaler Parlamentarier im Zeitalter Bismarcks und Wilhelms II, 1828–1907 (Berlin: E. S. Mittler, 1936). See also letters of January 12, 1908, and April 12, 1910. is a large man in the University and an old Prussian landowner, and you can imagine he views the Secession with no friendly eye. Berlin is a hideous town with unattractive inhabitants for the most part, but there is a large set who are fighting and pushing and shouting and all for the things I care about—or against then—which is just as good provided they are not philosophers. As we agreed when I was trying to sneak out of going to Germany, I am now inexpressibly glad I did go. I am told I speak German well—and it is worth learning, if only to read HeineChristian Johann Heinrich Heine (1797–1856), a German writer. and see some plays in it, and talk to Jews. It is maddening that I can’t see you and tell you a few of the things that I saw in those five weeks at Berlin. But if one were to try to construct a model atmosphere, could one do better than the Lord has in making the one now existing at Berlin—a military and bureaucratic aristocracy with the Kaiser at its head ruling, with an official gang of painters, playwrites [sic], sculptors, and composers creating official truck—and over against these the men who care for their work as such and not for what it leads to—with Max Harden’s ZukunftMaximilian Harden, the pen name of Felix Ernst Witkowski (1861–1927), the editor of Die Zukunft (“The Future”), a German social-democratic weekly newspaper. Harden was an admirer of Bismarck and after Bismarck's fall, he used his newspaper, Die Zukunft, to attack the men surrounding William II. as their organ and a legion of clever Jews writing satires, drawing caricatures, and spending their holydays in dungeons.Probably a reference to Maximilian Harden’s six-month imprisonment in 1899 for lèse majesté in comparing the kaiser to a poodle prince. Add to this a few men of mighty talent and most seductive cynicism on the other side, like BegasReinhold Begas (1831–1911), a German sculptor. Although he had Spanish ancestry, he was born in Berlin. the sculptor (a Spaniard) he who perpetrated the famous Alley of Victory, termed the Puppen AlleeThe Victory Avenue (Siegesallee) was conceived by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1895 as thirty-two commemorative displays of sculptures and portrait busts of Prussian rulers placed in bays along the avenue that terminated at the Victory Column in the Thiergarten in Berlin. The sculptural program was under the direction of Reinhold Begas (1831–1911) and the ensemble was completed in 1901. The design concept was widely derided by art critics and was soon dubbed the “Puppenallee” (Avenue of the Puppets). The sculptures were relocated in 1938 under the order of Adolph Hitler. and who realizes what he has done, who gets drunk with some people who are so clever that to keep the thing going Begas tells how he began as a young man to do good work, how he saw he’d never become a rich man if he stuck to his ideals, and how (his own words) “he went into the brothel of art” and became the Kaiser’s darling and rich and has the Kaiser say of him (after dinner) that his school of sculpture is unequalled by anything in the history of art renaissance included—then, to cap it all, the Kaiser having to dally with the Catholic center to keep up his end against the Socialists—and hence the Center holding the balance of power in the State. Is it not a magnificent guild? I thank Heaven that it has been given to me to see such a thing. The most sympathetic types are the gentlemen who could have fat jobs under the government, like my Kardorff, and who have cut loose and followed what really amused them. I hope it has taught me a lesson, or rather, put a little determination into my hitherto vague feeling that officialdom of any sort was not for me. It was a feeling of that sort that made me tell you as I was leaving Oxford that I believed my hour was approaching, and I believe it’s approaching now. And I should not be surprised if I bade farewell to fears of Hell and hopes of an official Paradise, and had the sense to see that if I am to do any good in the things I really care for, Hell is a much more suitable place for me, at least at present, and the places are not so far off that I shall be unable to see angels sometimes.

You can’t imagine how much I should like to see you. I don’t suppose that I have as much from Germany as I had from Spain—for after all I love the Spaniard and I don’t love the German. And it’s all head in Germany with me, and the head unaided is a poor thing at the best of times.

And now I must say farewell to Germany and go to Ravenna, which is almost as difficult to set on paper as the former. There I met the boy who spent the winter in India,Tudor Castle. at the courts of some dozen Rajput Rajahs. I learnt from him, I think, or am learning, as we are still together, that the white man had better not go and monkey with Indian things. I also got an inkling of the utter futility of this—and also of monkeying with anything oriental from my readings of Germans on these subjects. I would have to write all night and all day tomorrow to tell you why, but when we meet I can do it in fifteen minutes. We are happily able to condense to a marvellous extent when we can see each other’s faces and hands. There are exceptions to this rule—or perhaps an exception—Buxton—but the regular cases are without number, and I do implore you never to go and be a white tourist in India. I have heard many blood curdling tales, but none to equal those my friend tells me of white tourists in India.

I know no town in Italy that I like as well as Ravenna. I mean of course, as it stands and taking into consideration how it is possible to live there. Venice is one of the saddest towns I have ever seen—perhaps the saddest. It is impossible to enter a church, how much less the AcademyAccademia (Gallerie dell'Accademia), a gallery of pre-nineteenth-century art in Venice. or Saint Mark’sBasilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco, the cathedral church of Venice. without running into a band of Americans improving their minds, one of whom reads out pages of Grant AllenGrant Allen (Charles Grant Blairfindie Allen) (1848–1899), a Canadian science writer, author, and novelist who traveled frequently and wrote a number of historical guidebooks. at a perfect roar. The other day at the Academy I was looking at a picture by Cima,Giovanni Battista Cima, called Cima da Conegliano (ca. 1459–ca. 1517), an Italian painter. Royall Tyler is possibly referring to Madonna of the Orange Tree, ca. 1487–1488. when a square American came running in, with his arms full of Grant Allen, RuskinJohn Ruskin (1819–1900), an English art critic and social thinker whose essays on art and architecture were extremely influential in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (another blackguard) and three huge ledgers, calling out at the top of his voice ‘Cimer-r-r, Cimer-r-r, Cimer-r-r, where ar-r-re you Cimer-r-r’’ his wife following in the wake. He read what his books said about poor Cima at a breakneck pace, entered the picture in his ledgers, and went on with hardly a look at the painting itself. Then there are the stupid English tourists, the dirty German tourists, the miserable painters and the horrible shops with artistic bindings, artistic glass, everything high art, and the grisly writers, and—the people who save it to a certain extent—a few intelligent Italians and French people and still fewer Germans who come to see the paintings and the exquisite city. Then the evenings on the Grand Canal made hideous by the music boats, and the huge parasite populace of guides, tours for lace and glass, tours of every sort. It is too disgusting to interest me.

I pray that no one will ever vulgarize Spain as Ruskin vulgarized this town.Ruskin published his three-volume work The Stones of Venice between 1851 and 1853. I wish you were here if only that we might fall upon Ruskin together. I’m sure you would be ready to. Of course many people are trying to vulgarize Spain, but they are a stupid lot of people and the hotels are bad, thank God.

I love Ravenna, and have found such a book to read while one is there—a history of the Saints to whom the churches are dedicated, by an abbot Agnellus,Agnellus of Ravenna wrote the Liber pontificalis ecclesiae Ravennatis between 830 and 846. The book provides a history of the churches of Ravenna. See Deborah M. Deliyannis, “The Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis: Critical Edition and Commentary” (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1994) and Joaquín Martínez Pizarro, Writing Ravenna: The Liber pontificalis of Andreas Agnellus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995). IXth cent. in Latin. One can reconstruct Ravenna and ClassisClassis (Classe), the nearby port city of Ravenna. with it. And it is such a book to help one with Byzantine things.

I intend to stay a short time in town and then to go to Spain. I would love to come to America, but are you not coming to this side?

Yours sincerely

Royall Tyler.

 
Associated People: Leland Buxton; Tudor Castle
Associated Things: Autobiography

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