Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, June 23, 1906
55, Rue de Verneuil.
June 23rd 1906
Your encouraging little note came safely. I am sorry I could not be at St. Germain de-PrésThe 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. on June 18thIt is unclear why Royall Tyler would be at Saint-Germain-des-Prés on June 18, 1906. but I was upon a journey, and at that moment at Senlis, a very beautiful town of which I will tell you later. My plans are to go to Salamanca in about two weeks, and make the pilgrimage of SantiagoPilgrimage of Santiago (or Way of Saint James), the pilgrimage route in France and Spain to the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, where the remains of Saint James are said to be located. for the feast of the apostles [sic] on July 25thThe feast day of Saint James the Apostle is July 25. with the Padre of Lecanda. Then wander about Castile with Heaven knows whom until I hear from you. If it is well I sail this end of September. Write to me what sort of clothes to bring (summer or not). If it is not well I stay in Spain. But I rather think it will come off. Heaven seems to keep appointments with us with some accuracy, and once in two years is not so lavish as to give it cause to be obdurate.
I am in rather an uncomfortable stage now. I am full of undigested things. This would be well were it not that the kakoethes scribendi (penman’s itch) is continually assailing me and gives me no peace. I try to concentrate my attention upon something. It rarely succeeds. I cannot keep my mind off some matter that I myself am laboring to put into form. Physically it leaves me a wreck. A noise in the street makes me leap a foot out of my chair. And when I take the bull by the horns and get the stuff onto paper, it is no good. It is not what I want. Alas, I cannot force myself to leave the pen alone for a year, though I think it would be wise. I have gone and written half a novel,The manuscript, if preserved, has not been located. which is madness, believing as I do that the form is incapable of expressing that which I try to make it express. In fine, whatever I write comes to this. A young man—praise God he is still young at any rate—who is looking for something, what, he scarcely knows himself, and can’t find it. Are you not sorry for me? I hate the form of the novel. That is except when it is used by someone who, like Meredith,George Meredith (1828–1909), an English novelist and poet. finds adequate matter in people without having recourse to second causes. With me, the people are thin to an alarming degree, and in reality nothing lies between the eye and the second causes, which at the bottom are what interests me. If I do not take care, it may turn out a roman à thèse."Thesis novel." What horror! Yes, I must do something to prevent it. I believe I am utterly immature . . .
Before I forget I must give you a little poem which appeared in “Simplicissimus”Simplicissimus, a satirical German magazine (published between 1896 and 1967) that took its name from the protagonist of Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen's novel Der Abenteuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch (1668). at the time of the 50th anniversary of Heine’sChristian Johann Heinrich Heine (1797–1856), a German writer. death. There are two drawings, 1st a gathering of two or three Spiessbürger,“Bourgeoisie.” their wives and a student and his affianced bride sit round a table in a beer garden. Afternoon, they talk literature, underneath:
“Von Heinrich Heine dem Dichter
“Sie fühlen sich grob verletzt.
“Laut schwören alle Philister:
“Kein Denkmal wird ihm gesetzt.“They feel greatly insulted by Heinrich Heine the poet. All the Philistines swear loudly: ‘No monument will be erected to him!’”
2nd. twilight, same company, the affianced’s head rests on the manly heart of the Herr Predigtamtkandidat:“Mr. Ministry-candidate.”
“Sie sassen beisammen und tranken,
“Der Mond ging am Himmel bleich,
“Da ward von dem vielen Biere
“Das Herz den Philistern weich.
“Bald fangen sie an zu singen,
“Es fielen auch Thränen dabei,
“Sie sangen mit süssen Stimmen
“Das Lied von der Lorelei.”“They sat together and drank. The moon grew pale in the sky. The hearts of the Philistines, thanks to the quantities of beer, were softened. They soon began to sing, while weeping impiously. They sang with sweet voices the Song of the Lorelei.”
I have been horribly worried by Americans in the last months. I fear I have made a few enemies, but that is always better than making a lot of suffocating friends, which is the fate of every American I know who lives here. They see no one but other Americans and an occasional foreigner who wants meals, and they occupy themselves with—art. The horrible stagnation of it! They have their people they admire, their modern and ancient painters, and they all conform. And at the bottom they are still in the grip of the American conscience, which gives them little rest especially when they are making frantic efforts to get away from it. The Bohemians are at the bottom the sincere professors of the oldest and stalest codes of Pharisaeic morality. Me they hate for not wishing to know them and further, for being strongly disinclined to “get into line.” I have never taken the trouble to find out what they are pleased to think of me, but I am met in the streets by black looks where invitations to tea might bloom like flowers on my path were I only a reasonable American and not a conceited monster. The American temperament seems to conduce to a hideous mental promiscuity whenever half a dozen of them are gathered together. In my case it is too late to mend—I am an outcast, a sans patrie“Stateless person.”—and as little or as much at home here or anywhere else as in London. It is a bad business, but something odd may come of it yet.
I am starting for Spain in a few days, and go first to Salamanca I think, meeting the Padre de Lecanda there.
I will try to follow your advice as nearly as possible, but I cannot promise to beware of Baroque. Oysters I will forego.See letter of April 11, 1906. In fact, I intend to look mostly for baroque. I rather think it is the most individual of the Spanish styles. A rather large church robbery has recently taken place at Santiago.The Spanish newspaper account of the theft (which occurred on May 7, 1906) is translated in Leonard Williams, The Arts and Crafts of Older Spain, vol. 1, Gold, Silver, and Jewel Work (London: T. N. Foulis, 1907), 57: “This morning, when the canon in charge of the Chapel of the Relics unlocked the door, he was surprised to observe that some of these were lying in confusion on the floor. Fearing that a theft had been committed, he sent for the dean and others of the clergy, who had examination made, and found the following objects to be missing: A gold cross, presented by King Alfonso the Great, when he attended the consecration of this temple in the year 874. Another cross, of silver, dating from the fifteenth century—a present from Archbishop Spinola. An aureole of the fifteenth century, studded with precious stones belonging to a statuette of the apostle Santiago. The authorities were summoned and at once began their search.” If I were not sure that Lyulph Howard was in London at the time, I’d denounce him to the police. He is probably coming to live here—Beaux-ArtsÉcole des Beaux-Arts, Paris.—next year. What a pretty family we shall make.
I am longing to leave Paris, but I think I shall be glad to return in the autumn. It is not nice now. Myriads of Americans in the streets and horrid cold—I am perishing for want of sun.
I hear that my friend Dick CanfieldRichard Albert Canfield (1855–1914), a prominent American businessman and art collector who was involved in illegal gambling throughout the northeastern United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. has got into very serious troubleIn May 1906, Richard Canfield was brought to trial by his lawyer, John Delahunty, who wanted to recover $59,000 for services rendered after a raid on Canfield’s gambling house. See “Delahunty Must Wait; The Court Not Ready to Say Whether Canfield Must Pay Interest,” New York Times, June 7, 1906.—do you know about it? Please when you write telling me whether to come or not write if you would like me to bring you Mussets,Alfred Louis Charles de Musset-Pathay (1810–1857), a French dramatist, poet, and novelist. See also letter of April 11, 1906. and if there are any German books you would like. I hope we shall read German together. There are many things in it which I long to go over with you. I have not read a French book for Heaven knows how long—German, Spanish and an unexpected English Renaissance have fed me for the last year. It is rather curious that my French enthusiasm should have coincided with residence in Germany, and vice-versa.