Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, January 6, 1907
55, Rue de Verneuil.
Jan. 6th 1907
Your letter to the Père DufayetFather Dufayet, a Dominican priest of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul in New York City. See Thérèse Vianzone, Impressions d’une Française en Amérique (États-Unis et Canada) (Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1906), 218. and the newspaper cutting have arrived. Your letter accompanying the former fills me with protests which would cover many sides. I often wondered whether the letter was being withheld for my own health’s good—please remember that during much of these two and a half years, I have been living in constant contact with clerical influences, and I think that if it were to be, it would have happened long ago. Not merely at Salamanca, but since then, in Germany—and I have also known English, Irish and French proselytizers. I am free to confess—moreover wholly impenitent—that whenever it was attended by but little risk—nearly always in fact—I disarmed them by pretending to be a Catholic already. It was more instructive in some ways, less in others, but above all it gave me opportunities of exercising a real histrionic talent. And as I talked much over matters of religion, it needed considerable skill not to give myself away.
Personally, I have tried to convert several people—that is, I have tried to convert myself by the arguments I used to them. Incidental it would have pleased me had they listened. But neither the one thing nor the other succeeded. I never convinced myself. I knew that conviction was always ready for me—at a price. The price is a sacrifice of my head. But in the last two years I have come to regard my head as of incalculable value, and now I see only one possibility of my entering the fold—despair. A sort of uncleanly suicide. Brandis,Christian August Brandis (1790–1867), a German scholar. writing of Friederich Schlegel’sKarl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829), a German poet, critic, and scholar. last years in Vienna, says that he was overshadowed by a cross, which was built of a knife and fork. I don’t think mine would be built of a knife and fork. Possibly of a bottle and a long glass, but much more likely merely a cross. Knives, forks, bottles, etc., are nothing compared with the opiate of that cross.
I wish you a glad New Year, above all I hope you will come to Paris in the Spring. When you say in your letter that your Mother thinks of taking you I am so much excited that I can’t sit still but stump round the room. Apart from the numberless things that I would discuss with you—it is so long since the last time that everything under heaven has changed and cries aloud for fresh setting aright—there is this flat with many things in it which I would gladly show you. Your papa came to see me, and was very nice and appreciative. Salute him from me and your mother also to whom I am really obliged for speaking well of me.
This letter is to be limited to two pages, as when you write to me next, I would have you reply rather fully to the last one, which I am glad to hear was intelligible. Will you?
My stepfather seems to be well and writes me nice letters. They say his wifeMary Honey Quincy (1873–1941). is devotion itself for the boy, who is flourishing. I believe she has approached his point of view—Christian Science—or at least I have been told so. This surprised me very much and has given me much food for thought.
My poetTudor Castle.—whom your Papa saw and can perhaps give you some account of—has left me. His family are going from bad to worse financially, and insist on his earning money. He earns a little with his pen—but so little. So now he has accepted a mastership in History at a “United Service College”United Services College, a private English boys’ boarding school for the sons of military officers, located at Westward Ho! near Bideford in North Devon. The college was founded in 1874 and was absorbed by the Imperial Service College in 1906.—for officers’ sons. He gets his board and £80 per annum only, and his family he says are indecently pleased. I forbear speaking on the subject of his family. I am heavy at losing him. He and I understood each other, and I love him dearly. We didn’t see very much of one another, but he is the salt of the earth and as hard headed as he can be. I think he will write good prose, he has such an extraordinarily level head—I remember you saying that of his handwriting as we stood on the Quai Voltaire after St. Germain-des-Prés.The Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, on the Left Bank in Paris, was built between 990 and 1014. This church was the site of the Anniversary. But he is not strong and not very well and in an uncongenial atmosphere he droops and nothing says a word to him. I remember when he had spent 3 months with his family I found him in the most frightful condition. He lay and slept all day long. If you could see the numberless protestant dévotes of rising 50 who form his family and whose one diversion it is to complain to him about the others! I hope the United Service College will be better.
Well, he is gone, and Lyulph Howard is there in his stead. I feel as if I had lost a friend and been given a son to console me. I teach him German and watch him with interest, but he is a person whom one has to watch oneself to avoid talking down to—not that he is stupid—he is very sharp indeed, but he has no sort or kind of character and se paye de mots.“He engages in empty talk.” The first week after my poet went I positively hated him and began to scheme to get rid of him, but I like him now, devoted in fact, and all is going well. He greets you.