Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, April 11, 1906
55, Rue de Verneuil.
April 11th 1906
Judging by the amount I had to pay on your letter for extra postage, I imagined the tome had really arrived. And I confess to disappointment on finding only—clippings, amusing as they, in themselves were. The wives of Brigham Young!Brigham Young (1801–1877), the first president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877. Young was a polygamist with fifty-five wives. As you say, he was a great man. As to the contribution of Rush C. Hawkings [sic],Rush Christopher Hawkins (1831–1920), an American lawyer, politician, book collector, and art patron. or whatever his/ her name is, I would much like to see the picture of Greco of which he disapproves so strongly.Rush Christopher Hawkins wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times that was published on March 4, 1906, under the heading “Buying Poor Pictures; Lack of Discretion Charged Against Metropolitan Museum Management.” In his letter, he describes three recent acquisitions as being unworthy of the museum’s collection: “The most noticeable of the number is a nativity by Domenico Theotocopuli, commonly known as Il Greco. This work, if by the artist to whom it is attributed, is unworthy of his representation, and, if assigned to an artist of less standing in the history of art, would not bring $50 in any auction room in either of the large cities of the world. It is in all essential respects, from an art viewpoint, as complete a failure as possible. As to composition, it is a jumble of carelessly thrown together, badly drawn human figures seemingly without purpose or artistic unity of colors. The whole is as far off from expressing the solemn dignity of the occasion as possible; and in no sense does it rise to the common level of serious work by second or even third rate painters of the Il Greco period.” El Greco, The Adoration of the Shepherds, ca. 1610, was acquired in 1905 and remains in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (05.42). He writes the worst English I remember to have seen even in an American newspaper, and when he says the Greco would not bring more than $50 in an European auction, he is not very wise. If I were so fortunate as to have $50 and the chance, I would pay it for anything which bore any resemblance to Greco’s work or showed his extraordinary way of seeing lines and colour, and this I imagine from the terms of Mr. Hawkins’ abuse the picture in question does.
When he speaks of Watts and Etty, he is more in his element and I have no objection to make.George Frederic Watts, Ariadne, 1894, Metropolitan Museum of Art (05.39.1); and William Etty, The Three Graces, n.d., Metropolitan Museum of Art (05.31).
I enclose your Latin sheet. I wish you would tell me where it comes from. The Latin is very queer indeed—or perhaps I have not read your copy aright.
Just at this present moment, my temper is savage to the last degree. I am in travail with a sort of book which I am trying to write.See also letter of November 12, 1906. It is very difficult, and so far not at all satisfactory, though the idea is good. Add to this that last week I imprudently supped upon oysters at Montmartre, and was poisoned so that I had to spend some twelve hours at a Turkish bath before I could summon strength to get home. I arrived here in the afternoon and still in the torments of hell. At 6:45 I had invited several people to dinner, among them a mad Russian woman, to appreciate whose very exquisite charm one should be in the best of health—and after dinner, Opera Comique, a new thing called Aphrodite, music of Erlanger,French composer Camille Erlanger (1863–1919) premiered his opera Aphrodite in Paris in 1906 with Mary Garden as the leading soprano. Aphrodite remains his most popular opera. which is raising much dust at present. I barely lived out the evening and have not yet wholly recovered, and this evening I accepted an invitation to dinner to go to the theatre—and find it is to be Manon!Because of Royall Tyler’s later reference to “the dreary wastes of Manon,” he most likely is referring to Giacomo Puccini’s opera Manon Lescaut, which was first performed in Turin in 1893. Woe is me—and day after tomorrow is Friday, Good Friday and the 13th, and Vesuvius is in eruption and the end of the world is at hand. I really must discontinue this for the present, the thought of so much human affliction overwhelms me. Pity and terror are uppermost in my breast.
Since writing above I have smoked a cigar in the Tuileries,Gardens of the former Palais des Tuileries on the Right Bank of the Seine in Paris. casting a benevolent eye upon the gambling [sic] brats there—the population of France, by the way, is not decreasing. I have also had tea. It is warm enough to take lemon instead of milk. And have you read Max Harden’sMaximilian Harden, the pen name of Felix Ernst Witkowski (1861–1927), the editor of Die Zukunft (“The Future”), a German social-democratic weekly newspaper. article in this week’s Zukunft, which I would send to you, only I fear to bore you with periodicals. But it is so good. The German is the dialect of the Berlin intelligent adult and is very acid and pleasant. My temper is accordingly better, and until it is time to dress for dinner I will try to forget that that usually blueprint repast is in this case to be a prelude to the dreary wastes of Manon. You really do my San MoiseThe church of San Moisè, Venice, was rebuilt in 1632 with a Baroque sculptural facade on the foundations of an earlier ninth-century church. See letter of February 20, 1906. injustice. It is not of a piece with my Tynan performances.The meaning of this reference is unknown. See letter of June 4, 1905. These I still indulge in, but not in treating such weighty matters. I fear we must leave Baroque for the present. I think we shall eventually come to a modus vivendi about it though, especially as you say TiepoloGiovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770), a Venetian painter and printmaker. See also letters of October 10, 1905, and February 20, 1906. perhaps, Italian never, Spanish perhaps. I pay you a compliment in saying that I don’t think you will have to go to Berlin first. Come to Spain.
I will wait for a time and give your friendProbably Benjamin Burges Moore (1878–1934), an American writer and statesman who studied the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi and wrote about his travels. See also letters of October 29, 1906, and November 12, 1906. who dresses in brown a chance to warn me before I go to see him. I don’t know how it will go between us. I am not fond of much Florentine art, and I am not enthusiastic about much French poetry, and I have quarreled with a good many French people of late.
At present I am trying to learn about the early Spanish Liturgies and Rituals. They are very beautiful and if you take my Baroque flirtation philosophically, I hope you may also look with indulgence upon a fondness for Low Latin. I heard an idiot say that it was quite impossible to write more than a note to a person whom one has not seen for six months—that is, if writer and recipient are both live people. I know the period to be of at least two years’ duration—perhaps more.
The Scoundrel has returned from the wilds of Asia, where he travelled with Aubrey Herbert,Aubrey Nigel Henry Molyneux Herbert (1880–1923), a British diplomat and intelligence officer who was appointed honorary attaché in Constantinople in 1904–1905. Lyulph Howard’s cousinAubrey Nigel Henry Molyneux Herbert was married to Elizabeth Howard. who is attaché at Constantinople for three months, leaving him under the impression that he (the Scoundrel) is a Puritan. The Scoundrel is at least thorough. Lyulph Howard is arriving tomorrow to spend ten days with us. The poetTudor Castle. is engaged in writing two plays, one in prose, one in verse.
I have been devoting a good many evenings of late to reading the plays of Grillparzer.Franz Seraphicus Grillparzer (1791–1872), an Austrian poet and playwright. You probably know him by name, an Austrian dramatist contemporary with HeineChristian Johann Heinrich Heine (1797–1856), a German writer.—but rather older. Read his “Jüdin von Toledo,”Die Jüdin von Toledo (The Jewess of Toledo), a play written by Franz Seraphicus Grillparzer circa 1851. “Der Traum ein Leben,”Der Traum, ein Leben (Dream is Life), a play written by Franz Seraphicus Grillparzer in 1834. “Ein treuer Diener seines Herrn.”Ein treuer Diener seines Herm (A True Servant to his Master), a play written by Franz Seraphicus Grillparzer in 1826. They are very extraordinary and in form very beautiful. I won’t say exactly what I find in them till you have read them too. Byron,George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (1788–1824), known as Lord Byron, an English poet. on reading him said “Grillparzer, what a funny name! But we must remember it.”On January 12, 1821, Lord Byron wrote in his diary: “Read the Italian translation by Guido Sorelli of the German Grillparzer—a devil of a name, to be sure, for posterity, but they must learn to pronounce it.” See George Gordon Byron, The Life of Lord Byron, with His Letters and Journals (London: Murray, 1847), 477.
Last night I dined with your sister and a nice woman called Mrs. Griggs,Mrs. Griggs has not been identified. and she gave me your house for Bog Wan,Royall Tyler's references to “Bog Wan” (sometimes “Bogwan”) are unclear, but it would appear to be an object—possibly an Asian sculpture—that he displayed hanging against a piece of brocade, that received a “house” from Mildred Barnes, and that was given eventually to the Blisses by Royall Tyler as a wedding gift. See also letters of February 16, 1905; June 4, 1905; May 19, 1908; and October 26, 1908. for which I bless you from my heart. Bog Wan at present hangs on a wall upon a piece of early 16th cent. Italian brocade. When he decides to retire himself from the eyes of beholders he will henceforth have a sanctuary.
Today I get your letter, and I think I have cause to crow. I have not yet visited the gentleman in brown!Probably Benjamin Burges Moore (1878–1934), an American writer and statesman who studied the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi and wrote about his travels. See also letters of October 29, 1906, and November 12, 1906. I thought I would give you a little rope. I will do so soon now however.
Upon reading that you are to be at RidgelawnRidgelawn, a rental cottage on Vernon Hill at the edge of George W. Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate near Asheville, N.C. Mildred Barnes occupied this property on two occasions (May–June and October) in 1906. in October I decided to come, only please write to me at once how it will be, for you see I had planned to go to Spain in July and never come back. So I do not wish to abandon Spain—it will not be worth going there at all if I go to Ridgelawn—unless I am sure to find you and sure that you will stay put.
So I beseech you—as soon as you get this let me know whether I may really come and stay in the same town—and whether you will be there a fairly long time. Then—if it indeed be well—I shall put Spain behind me and sail as near Oct 1 as may be, always making sure of arriving before the 10th.
I am glad you are reassured by the Soul’s Awakening.Royall Tyler’s photograph. See letter of February 20, 1906. Apart from its photographical nature it fills me with loathing, alas, when you have seen the original.
How delightful that you are so pleased with Burgos.Burgos Cathedral, a Gothic structure begun in 1221 and completed in 1567. See also letters of December 5, 1903, and January 12, 1906. To tell the truth, it is a cathedral which I have seen much and loved much, but I cannot remember a thing about it except that I shall love it again the next time I see it—on n’en revient pas.“One can’t get over it.” But there is much more in other towns in Spain. The Cathedral of LeonLeón Cathedral, a mid-thirteenth-century Gothic cathedral in León, Spain. is still more beautiful—Gothic—and then there are the Romanesque churches at Salamanca,Old Cathedral (Catedral Vieja de Santa María), Salamanca, dedicated to Santa María de la Sede (Saint Mary of the See), a Romanesque-Gothic cathedral begun in the twelfth century and completed in the fourteenth century. ZamoraCathedral of Zamora, dedicated to El Salvador (Holy Savior), a Romanesque church built between 1151 and 1174. (heavenly spot, more beautiful than anything in France), and Toro.The collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor (Church of Saint Mary the Great), a transitional Romanesque church inspired by the Cathedral of Zamora, was begun around 1170 and completed in the mid-thirteenth century.
The bishopMauricio, the English-born bishop of Burgos. who began the Cathedral of Burgos was an Englishman, and the architects mostly Burgundian at first, and later German. However, the building is only conceivable as Spanish.
I have just returned from Chartres, where I spent four days with the CathedralCathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres (Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres), an early Gothic church, mostly constructed between 1193 and 1250, in Chartres, France. and a certain church of St. Pierre.The abbey church of Saint Pierre at Chartres, a thirteenth-century, High Gothic church. The Cathedral is early Gothic, and marvelous—two towers (but you probably know it) one very early ogival, other flamboyant—good flamboyant—of unequal height, but all right. The interior, which is of course unbroken by the ever present Spanish choir, is lofty and strong beyond compare. The much praised glass is early 13th and pleases me much less than 15th glass.
The church of St. Pierre is fine middle Gothic, very light, and lots of amusing but rude 15th cent. glass. It is only visited for the sake of 12 apostles in enamel by Léonard Limousin,Léonard Limousin (or Limosin) (ca. 1505–ca. 1577), a French enamel painter who worked for the French kings Francis I and Henry II. 1547, which I loathe—great bull necked, thick ankled, full lipped riotous eaters of flesh—with blood running out of their noses. The woman who unlocked them for me insisted upon my adoring the blue colour of St. Peter’s dress which, “pour les artistes”“For artists.” was a thing never to be forgotten.
You say you want to hear about French politics. The elections are half over. The Bloc,Bloc des gauches (Coalition of the Left), also known as the Bloc républicain (Republican Block), a coalition of Republican political forces established during the legislative elections of 1902. The Left also won the legislative elections of 1906. which people hoped would be broken, has so far won 24 seats, and it seems to me there is no reason to suppose that it will not win another 24 on the 20th. That means the present Government, the most radical France has had, will not be radical enough for the Chamber, and more men of Clémenceau’sGeorges Benjamin Clemenceau (1841–1929), a French statesman who served as the prime minister of France from 1906–1909 and 1917–1920. He was minister of the Interior in the Cabinet of the 1906 Bloc des gauches. and Briand’sAristide Briand (1862–1932), the minister of Public Instruction, Fine Arts, and Worship in the Cabinet of the 1906 Bloc des gauches. type will come in. The radicals either have the thorough support of the country, or the returns have been tampered with, or as I suspect, a little of both. The old people in France are selling out their property and transferring it to England. I am inclined to think that it is not a bad thing that the radicals should come in solid for a time. It will perhaps teach the workmen that it is easy to talk big when one is in opposition, but when one is in office things take on a different aspect. I have yet hope of seeing the Church united with the people against the middle class. As for Clémenceau’s plot,Royall Tyler’s reference to this plot is unclear. it was a mere electioneering dodge, which was taken very seriously abroad and to a certain extent in the provinces. But oh! to see the day when working people will see that Socialism, as the Spaniards say, is cosas de señoritos,“Things for little boys.” and will not do what they want of it. It staggers the intellect to think of what might come then.
I must tell you a little story. The King of the Belgians was known to be very gracious to the Curé of Ostend, and the Belgian clergy thought they might be able to signify their respectful but firm disapproval of H. M.’s conduct through the Curé. So the bishop sent for him, and entrusted him with the mission. The King’s yacht was at Ostend at the time, and one day H. M. was accosted in the street by the Curé, who begged for an interview. The King asked him to lunch for a few days later. The poor Curé, frightened to death, opened the delicate subject, and gathering strength and courage as he went on, got into his stride and preached H. M. a sermon. H. M. listened, with the indulgent smile of him “qui sait tout, et tout comprend”“Who knows everything and understands everything.” and when the Curé had finished said “eh bien, et vous avez cru toutes ces histoires de moi? Comme vous êtes peu confiant dans [sic] votre vieil ami! Pensez qu’on m’a raconté des histoires tout-à-fait pareilles de vous, mais moi je ne les ai pas croire! [sic]”“Well, and you believed all these stories about me? Why, you are little confident in your old friend! Just think that in fact I have been told very similar stories about you, but I have not believed them!”
In Germany the Socialists, who were frightening people very much not long ago, have lost a good deal of ground of late. My poetTudor Castle. and I think that present forms of Socialism are moribund.
The poor poetTudor Castle. would like so much to see America. He does not love Americans more than I do, but he recognizes that the wise man should ignore nothing, even Americans and Motor Cars are to be counted. But he literally hasn’t a farthing, and can’t come.
Lyulph Howard has devilled his family until they see the wisdom of his going to the Beaux-Arts,École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. and he is probably coming to live with me next Spring. I am satisfied with Paris, but I am continually being worried by Americans who take up my time and who bore me hideously, and have to be asked to tea, and who don’t at all fit in with my Spanish things. I fear I must go to live in Spain as soon as the lease of this flat is up. But I don’t think that 3 years of Paris will be a bad experience for me, even if it be only to disgust me with it for ever.
I have your MussetAlfred Louis Charles de Musset-Pathay (1810–1857), a French dramatist, poet, and novelist. for a long time. What shall I do with it—shall I bring it to America. There is no first edition of SchwobMarcel Schwob (1867–1905), a French writer. See also letters of September 1, 1905; October 10, 1905; November 1, 1905; and September 1, 1906. Mildred Barnes Bliss began to collect rare books and first editions early in her life; see Walter Muir Whitehill, Dumbarton Oaks: The History of a Georgetown House and Garden, 1800–1966 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967), 60. properly speaking as most of the things appeared in periodicals, but GougesGouges has not been identified. is looking out for such as there are. Please don’t say anything about my coming to America, and write as soon as possible. If I can’t stay with you at least two weeks I haven’t the faintest intention of coming. RT