Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, November 12, 1906
55, Rue de Verneuil.
Nov. 12th 1906
No—it is scandalous. I seem to be unable to split a hair without writing you a long description of the process. The tome came this morning, and you are really a nice person, your phraseology is so delightful. I was so pleased about the satirical spleen that was only an object for pity. And your saying that you had got your (underlined) knock on the head.Although this reference is unclear, it may refer to Robert Woods Bliss’s professed love for Mildred Barnes. See The Early Letters (1902–1908). I see the terrible fact that this letter is going to be a monstrously long one, but I won’t post it yet, so you may count on many peaceful days before it comes. I tremble lest these endless epistles may not amuse you as much as they do me.
That letter from Seville must have been a pretty thing.See letter of September 1, 1906. Remember that I had been living in a climate of the vapour room at the Turkish bath for three weeks, and that combined with the triennial disturbancesRoyall Tyler’s “interior crises.” See letters of November 8, 1903, and September 1, 1906. See also The Early Letters (1902–1908). made it what it was. But I am glad it went. I was very wretched for about six weeks, and now the thing is over I can scarcely remember anything that happened in the whole time. I journeyed with de Unamuno and alone, saw very much of interest—and not a thing can I recall but the general feeling of horrible misery with streaks of lightning running through it. Very like the experience when I left Oxford—that was the first big and fully realized one I ever had, and I have had none of importance since—till Seville. But I think you understand it, so we will pass on to what it has given place to.
I can’t say anything about the part of your letter that is written in black ink—at Sharon. It can’t be done till we meet, but then we are going to have a long and painful explication of what we mean by certain terms which you use in the black ink part as of unchanging value. What is essentially worthy and unworthy?—I know not—and what is moral?—you see it can’t be attempted in a letter.
The blue ink part contains nothing that isn’t treatable on paper—we are in agreement on the values of the cards that are used there, and it is a very nice letter, the blue ink part and I am in a very good temper—exulting in fact.
If I had got the letter a week ago, it would have made me very miserable, but now—. I also came to the conclusion that I must work—have something to do which demanded a great deal of attention and put myself under someone’s orders. For a long time I could not think of anything. Journalism no. It is inconceivable to me that anyone who can do anything else should enter journalism—that is, if they are really interested in anything. By this I don’t mean writing occasionally in papers, but writing habitually in them, being obliged to write in them simply means that everything becomes copy to one. If one is not passionately interested in anything this is all very pleasant. If one is, it is impossible. The Royal Geo. Soc.Royal Geographical Society, a British learned society founded in 1830 for the advancement of geographical sciences. had not entered my head but it doesn’t attract me in the least. The more I travel the more I see that the great interest and beauty one finds in strange lands and tongues is the interest and beauty the land bound peasant finds in a city. Real interest and beauty are everywhere. If one can’t find them at home one certainly never will anywhere else. It is true that strange lands rouse and stimulate one, but the best one can learn from them is to interest oneself passionately in the part of the world one knows best. But I think I anticipated all this in my last letter.
The ServiceEnglish diplomatic service. doesn’t attract me in the least. I like Society very much—now and then and I find it interesting as a spectacle, but I would loathe living in it. I can’t be anything like intimate with a lot of people. I tried once, at Oxford, and it made me sicker than any other external circumstances ever have. I have always been so—from childhood, and good fellowship is hideous to me. I thank God I am not in the Service.
I am much impressed with the unsatisfactory quality of all that is being written now in the critical field. It seems to me to be largely due to ignorance, the amateurish way it is set about. The people only know by hearsay, and that from others as ignorant as themselves. Your very happily put paragraph about everything—art—or anything else being of value only so far as it throws light upon the great central problem expresses my (revised) opinion. But it seems to me that an accurate knowledge of some province is necessary—it at once takes one out of the amateurish position. If one knows one field in a thorough way, that in itself will prevent one from being fooled by amateur tricks in any other. So, like the great St. Ignatius,Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), the principal founder and the first superior general of the Society of Jesus, whose members are called Jesuits. I saw that the only thing for me to do before setting out was to go back to school.Ignatius studied theology and Latin in Spain and France between 1524 and 1537. What School? SorbonneCollège de Sorbonne,a college of the University of Paris founded in 1257 by Robert de Sorbon.—no—too dilettantish. Architecture—no, painting—no. Do you know of the "École des Sciences Politiques”? It is a semi-official institution, through which all the candidates for the higher branches of the Gov’t offices pass—Foreign Office.After receiving this letter, Mildred Barnes wrote her stepbrother, Robert Woods Bliss, in Saint Petersburg to inquire whether he had heard of the École des Sciences Politiques. He responded emphatically: “No!” Robert Woods Bliss to Mildred Barnes Bliss, December 29, 1906, Bliss Papers, HUGFP 76.8, box 2. Out of 79 entries in last ten years 78 went through the School and so with the Conseil d’ÉtatConseil d'État (Council of State), a body of the French national government that provides the executive branch with legal advice and that acts as the administrative court of last resort. (where every single one went through). The course is two years, but as it is not easy, many people spread it over three. There is an examination at the end of each year, and if one is successful in each one gets a degree. A few enterprising foreigners have been at the School, but very few have taken the degree—(Austen ChamberlainSir Joseph Austen Chamberlain (1863–1937), a British statesman who served as chancellor of the Exchequer from 1903 to 1905.). I have entered this institution—on the two years plan—and I intend to take the degree. My subjects are,—and professors—
Histoire Constitutionelle de l’Europe continentale (Charles Benoist)The Constitutional History of Continental Europe (Charles Augustin Benoist [1861–1936]).
Hist. Const. de la France, de l’Angleterre et des Etats-Unis (Caudel)The Constitutional History of France, England, and the United States (Maurice Caudel [1871–1950]).
Hist. parlementaire et legislative de la France depuis 1789 (Esmein)The Parliamentary and Legislative History of France since 1789 (Adhémar Esmein [1848–1913]).
Hist. diplomatique de 1789 à 1878 (Vaudal)Diplomatic History from 1789 to 1878 (Albert Count Vandal (1853–1910]).
Tableau de l’Europe Contemporaire (A. Leroi Beaulieu [sic])Contemporary Europe (Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu [1842–1912]).
Hist. des idées politiques et de l’esprit public en Allemagne et en Angleterre au XIXème siècle (Lévy Bruhl; E. Halévy)The History of Political Ideas and of the Public Mentality in Germany and in England in the Nineteenth Century (Lucien Lévy-Brühl [1857–1939] and Élie Halévy [1870–1937]).
L’Amerique Contemporaire (Etas-Unis, dominion du Canada, Amerique Latin) (A. Viallate)Contemporary America (United States, Canada, Latin America) (Achille Viallate [1866–1943]).
Economie politique (de Foville)Political Economy (Alfred de Foville [1842–1913]).
Economie sociale (Cheysson)Social Economy (Jean Jacques Émile Cheysson [1836–1910]).
La socialisme en Europe au XIXème siècle (Halévy)Socialism in Europe in the Nineteenth Century (Élie Halévy [1870–1937]).
It is a large dose, don’t you think? I hope you will agree with me that whether I am to do journalism of a sort afterwards or not, this training will be good for me if I follow it sternly and work hard. Remember that I was educated at Harrow and Oxford, consequently know nothing except a little classics which I have not taught myself—and with little enough method, you may believe.
We often—my poetTudor Castle. and I—keep up the custom of our youth of singing hymns on Sunday night much to the scandal of the neighborhood, which is more than ever confirmed in its opinion of “l’Angleterre hypocritement religieuse et alcoolique.”“England hypocritically religious and alcoholic”
One such evening a German was dining with us, and the hymn for the evening chanced to be:
“O’er heathen lands afar
“Thick darkness broodeth yet.
“Arise Oh Heavenly Star!
“Arise and never set!”From the hymn “The Kingdom Come O God.”
The German expressed the opinion that the thick darkness was being gradually dissipated and told the following tale as an illustration.
Two missionaries, stationed at a small post in German East Africa, went out one evening for a little walk. The evening was fine, and the missionaries strayed farther into the forest than was prudent. It grew dark, and they discovered with horror that they had lost their way. Suddenly they came out on a little clearing. where they saw a number of savages kindling a fire under a large pot. Shaking with terror, they dropped into the undergrowth, not daring to stir for fear of betraying their presence. They remained there breathless for some moments when one of the savages starting to his feet said
“Kreuz, Himmelsacrament, Blutskruzifix, brennt’s denn mit das [sic] Teufelzeug?”“Cross, Holy sacrament, blood-crucifix, is the witch’s brew cooking?”
The missionaries fell into each other’s arms sobbing
“Bruder, wir sind gerettet, es sind Christen.”“Brother, we are saved, there are Christians.”
Last night your post scriptum arrived, and I was enormously pleased with the preparation for Benj. B. Moore.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 letters of April 11, 1906, and October 29, 1906. As I think I said in my last letter, he wrote to me before I came back, and asked me to lunch before seeing me, using your name. I was very nice to him indeed. I did not tell him I had never heard anything about him from you, and received him with open arms, thinking that he must be something special. It is amusing that you got an account of him such as that in my last before I had had any hint as to how you take him. What do you think?
I must say for him, that on the 2 occasions when I have seen him, he has dressed gaily, but not in the least degree Quartierish.Probably a reference to the Latin Quarter (Quartier Latin) in Paris, thus implying a “bohemian” lifestyle. His ties, though attuned to his socks, do not flap any more. The cut of his clothes is English. I would cut off a few centimeters of moustache which now flap as once the ties, and then pass him. He is fond of interlarding his conversations with foreign words, which is a little infirmity which most people are subject to at one time or another of their lives. They usually do it in direct inverse proportion to their knowledge of the foreign tongue. I may say that when I came from Spain this year everyone took me for a foreigner, and that I never, never use a foreign word while speaking English, for being unable to speak English with a pure accent is probably a visitation of my sins in former years.
To say that I am pleased at being selected as Mentor for a person who I think is at least as well balanced as myself—no,—that is humility. I don’t think so,—but who has played with fire much longer than I have, at any rate, hardly expresses my feelings. He is worth talking to, and not a very common type, but I don’t think the sort of appreciation of art he has is as rare among Americans as you think. As American vitality wears itself out, the overcultured American with his Devil worship of vulgarity—Moloch“Moloch” refers derivatively to a person or belief that requires costly sacrifices. Derived from various Hebrew and Arabic words related to kings, the term is either the name of a god or the name of sacrifice associated with fire. upon which he sacrifices his children, is becoming the predominant type. In fact, America is unripe or rotten, never ripe. I wrote a book about this last year,See letter of April 11, 1906. which was good—very in parts—but utterly ruined by fits of temper. I must control my temper. It is fatal to me in examining subjects which touch me dearly. I burnt the book, as it deserved, for really if one can’t keep one’s temper one should keep one’s mouth shut. You have been privileged with some fine Indian-Colonel outbursts in letters, have you not? I am ashamed of myself, and will try to make no such exhibitions of spleen in future.
I am at present almost utterly indifferent to anyone. I feel that I would like to regulate my friendships as a wise country regulates its relations with foreign powers—never make an alliance if it can possibly be avoided, but be on courteous terms with them all. I remember your advising me to be fond of someone I was not interested by. I would apply this reversed—not to be too fond of people who interest me, incidental perhaps to be more tolerant to the beings who don’t.
As a matter of truth, to say that I am indifferent to everyone is an empty boast. I am very fond indeed of a few people, but I think this needs seeing to. Don’t be alarmed—when I rebuild the house—each time—there shall always be a cypress hallThe obscure reference to “cypress halls,” which was used several times in Royall Tyler’s correspondence to Mildred Barnes Bliss, may have had a meaning shared only by them. It is also possible that the reference resulted from reading Mesopotamian inscription references to halls of cypress as published, for example, in C. Boutflower, “On a Not Uncommon Rendering of the Word Íkallu,” The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 17, no. 4 (July 1901): 244–49. See letters of November 1, 1904, and January 12, 1906. for you.