Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, September 24, 1907
(Pra. De Gerona)
Sept. 24th 1907.
As you attain Sharon this day, it is a good time to give you some account of my proceedings since you last heard from me.
I went to Munich, where I heard MottlFelix Josef von Mottl (1856–1911), an Austrian conductor and composer. direct Mozart, to my very great joy. I also heard TristanTristan und Isolde, an opera composed by Richard Wagner between 1857 and 1859. (Wittich & Preusen-Matzenkammer) Marie Wittich (1868–1931), a German soprano, and Margarete Preuse-Matzenauer (1881–1963), a German contralto. and the Rheingold,Das Rheingold, an opera by Richard Wagner. The first of the four operas in Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) by Richard Wagner. also Mottl. The presentation of these was so good and the orchestra so splendid that I was carried off my feet several times, particularly in the Rheingold. Tristan, I loathe. I did not stay for the rest of the ring,Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), a cycle of four operas by Richard Wagner. because I had promised Castle to walk with him, and did not at all anticipate wanting to stay. I put all the blame on Mottl and the orchestra. And the atmosphere of Munich is so much pleasanter than that of Beyreuth, with its hordes of dirty musicians and insincere Wagnerians. As for the Museums of Munich, I can hardly speak of them without fury. All the pictures restored and the frames brand newly gilded. And such square miles of rubbish in the Bayerischer Museum.Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, a cultural history and art museum in Munich, Germany. And the Glyptothek,Glyptothek, a museum in Munich, Germany, with a collection of sculptures from Greece and Rome. pride of the gebildetes Publikum Münchens!“Educated public of Munich.” unhappy Greek marbles restored by CanovaAntonio Canova (1757–1822), a Venetian sculptor. It is not certain that Canova restored any sculptures in the Glyptothek. and Thorwaldsen.Karl Albert Bertel Thorvaldsen (ca. 1770–1844), a Danish sculptor who spent most of his life in Italy. King Ludwig of Bavaria hired Thorvaldsen to restore the pediments from the Temple of Athena Aphaia on Aegina that he had acquired for the Glyptothek. And the hideous dud gothic and romanesque of all the principal streets, in plaster imitating stone.
Castle and I went to Nuremberg, and it made even a worse impression on me than Munich. Apart from what there is in St. SebaldusSebalduskirche, Nuremberg. Royall Tyler may be referring to the Monument of St. Sebaldus (1508–1519) by Peter Vischer the Elder and his sons. and the Museum,Germanisches Nationalmuseum, a cultural history and art museum in Nuremberg, Germany. and a few corners of the old town, the new is all the worst imitation gothic, with bad materials and such abominable false antiquity.
From Nuremberg we went by train to Erlangen, and walked thence to Bamberg, which is worth while. The Cathedral is a splendid late Romanesque church, better restored than any other I know, and with stone sculptures of same period by the men who did those at Rheims. There are some splendid ivory combs of the period—and enamels—in the treasury. The town is separated into 3 parts by 3 branches of the river. The part in which the cathedral lies is on a very steep hill, and has been entirely abandoned since the 18th century, because of the impossibly steep streets. Result: a quarter full of XVIIe houses or rather palaces, of the time when there was a Prince Bishop of Bamberg, and his canons were as peers of the realm. Nothing has been touched. It is the most wonderful thing of the sort I have seen in any northern land. Great gardens surrounded by huge hoary walls covered with roses and honeysuckle and not a soul in the streets. The new quarters of the town are as unpleasant as any other. From Bamberg we walked to Coburg. Coburg is also delightful—the old part—and is surrounded by forests. As soon as I saw it, I was struck by its suitability for you to spend two months in next summer. Castle says Freiburg is loathsome in comparison, and full of tourists, and the tiresome Black Forest. The surroundings of Coburg are delightful, and never a tourist. If one could get rooms in the old part—some sort of family, I suppose, one could ride in all directions, and the place has the most ravishing air of a tiny capital.
From Coburg we walked through the Thuringian forest to 1) Schleusingen, charming little town, once a capital, 2) Friedrichsrode—loathly place, like Chamonix, nothing but Hotels and tourists, 3) Eisenach. I was very curious to see Eisenach, and particularly the Wartburg,Wartburg, a castle overlooking the town of Eisenach, in the state of Thuringia, Germany. where LutherMartin Luther (1483–1546), a German priest and professor of theology who initiated the Protestant Reformation. and my friend MelanchthonPhilipp Melanchthon (born Philipp Schwartzerd) (1497–1560), a German professor, theologian, and principal leader of the Lutheran Reformation. conversed, and of which I had heard so much from many charming people.
The Wartburg—but perhaps you have been there: no matter, as I don’t think you have—is perched upon a hill, a very high hill, above the town of Eisenach. If they had left it as it was it might have been a fairly interesting ruin of the 13th century. But Lo! (all this should be written in official German) in the 50’s, when the historic movement was at its height, and the voice of the romantic poet was still to be heard, they determined to restore it to its former magnificence. They put brand new capitals in the windows, but the damage they did outside is nothing to what they perpetrated within. They cleared out everything of a later age than that of St. Elisabeth of HungaryElisabeth of Hungary (1207–1231), a princess of the Kingdom of Hungary and a Catholic saint.—that is, everything there was—and furnished the place gorgeously with false romanesque furniture, of the cheapest and ricketiest sort. Then came the great Moritz v. Schwind,Moritz von Schwind (1804–1871), an Austrian painter. and painted false tapestries on some of the stone walls, and on the others scenes in his own peculiar style of the life of St. Elisabeth (by way of scrupulously faithful restoration). There is nothing more to say of the interior. It is all false and excites the admiration of myriads of tourists, who are driven through all day in bands of 20, and grunt with treuherzige Vaterlandsgefühl“Innocent feelings for the fatherland.” when they are told where the Kaiser takes his breakfast when he comes to visit this ignoble side-show.
Eisenach is a wretched town which lives on the pilgrims of the Wartburg. The Thuringian forest is so monotonously varied that it at times has almost the grandeur of Alpine scenery.
From Eisenach we went to Cassel, where I found that they had at last heard the advice of the Emperor, and were building a new theatreStaatstheater Kassel, a theater built on the orders of German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1909. The theater had one of the largest stages in the country, with seating for an audience of over 1,450 people. The building was heavily damaged during the Second World War and was replaced by a new theater in 1959. which will occupy what was once a charming XVIIIth square.Friedrichsplatz Kassel, one of the largest of the city’s squares, was designed in the eighteenth century as part of the expansion of the city of Kassel. The square is named after Landgraf Friedrich II of Hesse-Kassel. The old theatre, be it said, is quite decent, and is never more than three quarters full.
I went to see the old general, and found him very well and also his daughter.See letter of November 1, 1904. They feasted me right royally and we made conversation rather painfully. I spent a very pleasant day in the gallery,Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, an old-master picture gallery in the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel. The gallery was built between 1795 and 1801 for the Elector Wilhelm. which they would spoil as they have at Munich, only they haven’t the money. As it is, it is one of the pleasantest I know, with such splendid Rembrandts.The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister contains several paintings by Rembrandt, including Portrait of a Man, Possibly the Poet Jan Hermansz. Krul; Winter Landscape; Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph; Portrait of Andries de Graeff; Portrait of Saskia van Uylenburgh in Profile, in Costume; and Portrait of Nikolaus Bruyningh.
From Cassel I went to Aachen, leaving the poet to pursue his way to Berlin, where he is with a family, learning the language.
Aachen is a fairly pleasant town, with the most interesting church in Germany—Romanesque or almost Byzantine of the IX and X.Aachen Cathedral, a cathedral built by the order of Charlemagne in 792–805. It had not been touched since the XV when they enlarged it by adding a gothic chancel and apse. Now, since the Kaiser has interested himself in it, they are restoring it—not as it was–but as they think a well regulated church of that period should have been. Interior faced with veneer slabs of marble, and the whole, dome and vaulting brand new Byzantine mosaic.German architect and art historian Josef Buchkremer (1864–1949) restored Aachen Cathedral in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For a criticism of this restoration, see Josef Strzygowski, Der Dom zu Aachen und seine Entstellung: Ein kunstwissenschaftlicher Protest (Leipzig: Hinrich, 1904). Comment is useless.
The considerations upon the shoddiness of modern Germany, with which I was about to favour you have been prevented by an untoward incident, and I shall have no more time till I arrive at Barcelona, when this shall be continued.
The foregoing pages were written at a beautiful place on the sea between here and the French frontier, 20 miles from the railway. I spent two weeks there most blissfully, bathing and sailing as I had not done since my youth at Mattapoisett.In his Autobiography (1:21), Royall Tyler wrote that, during the summers at Mattapoisett, he spent his “waking hours on the water or in it.” Although his son, William Royall Tyler, stated that Royall Tyler and Mildred Barnes met at Mattapoisett as children (Typescript, Introduction, 1), neither the Autobiography nor this letter suggest that Royall Tyler knew Mildred Barnes at Mattapoisett. If you look on your atlas you’ll see the promontory—much nearer to the French frontier than to Barcelona—called Cabo de Creus. Ampurias, which you see nearby, is the ancient Emporium, Greek and Roman colony, and there were Greek settlements all along the coast. Every cove almost has a Greek name to this day, and the people have a Greek type—or at least are quite good-looking enough to excuse this commonplace.
The house in which I am staying stands on a little headland of its own, with its own harbor at its foot. Any description of its inhabitants, some 30 in number, would take me too far—enough to say that they are all one vast family, brothers, brothers in law, sisters in law, and are all musicians, poets or painters. One of them is Maria Gay,Maria Gay (1879–1943), a Catalan mezzo-soprano opera singer. who had such a success in “Carmen” at Covent Garden last season.See “At Last a Carmen!” The Bystander 16, no. 202 (October 16, 1907): 114–115, 481. Fortunately the house is large, and there are other ateliers in separate buildings where they make their noises. One of the painters has married the most desperate of all the Montmartre models, who behaves with the utmost decorum when with the family in Spain, but escapes nightly in Paris, and has to be searched for and removed forcibly from, say, the Moulin de la Galette.Moulin de la Galette, a former windmill in the Montmartre district of Paris that became a famous guinguette (drinking establishment). The whole is presided over by the patriarchess, mother and grandmother of the tribe. She is a huge and supremely benevolent old lady, with dazzlingly bright gold-rimmed spectacles, who says “Jesús, Maria, y todos los santos, ay señor” whenever some odd-looking individual turns up and claims bed and board, but feeds all abundantly.
My particular friend is one Eduardo Marquina,Eduardo Marquina (1879–1946), a Catalan playwright and poet. editor of “España Nueva” and poet. The incident to which I referred and which interrupted my indictment of modern Germany was the following. Marquina was summoned to go to Fieueras to make a declaration concerning an article in a newspaper. He refused to go, and got a doctor staying in the house to give him a letter saying his health prevented it. Nothing was heard for some days, when suddenly a sinister looking man with a twisted foot appeared with a summons. The incident—Marquina and I went immediately to Cadaqués, where the judge and his clerk were waiting. The judge begged us to be seated, and all four of us began proceedings by lighting cigars. The judge then told the secretary to begin the accusation, which he punctuated by spitting emphatically on the floor. An old grey rat appeared in the corner and stroked his whiskers judicially. Two beggars came in and whined for alms until the clerk gave one of them the butt of his cigar. The declaration finished, we returned and Marquina had to leave for Madrid the next day. He is to be tried before a military court for insulting the army, and if he is acquitted they will try to do for him by duel. If the trial goes against him, he will skip the country and await the verdict at Biarritz. The only hope is that he has many relatives in the General Staff, but the militarists are so furious that they are sure to get him a sentence of at least 3 years if he’s not acquitted altogether. This would mean banishment for that time, very inconvenient for him, as Maria Guerrero and MendozaMaria Guerrero (1867–1928), a Spanish actress and impresario, and her husband Fernando Díaz de Mendoza (1862–1930), a Spanish actor. are bringing on a play of his in January.
Oct. 10th Barcelona
You may judge by the different dates and places of this letter that I have had little time to write. This letter, however, is nothing less than the anniversary tome.
This morning I went to Mass, as it could not be at Saint 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. at a chapel of Santa Maria del Pino,Santa Maria del Pi (Santa Maria del Pino, “St. Mary of the Pine Tree”), a fourteenth-century Gothic church in Barcelona. of this city, which is not a bad substitute. The aspect of this land is made doubly precious by the prospect of your coming next spring. If you do come, be sure I will come and meet you, and as many Americans as you have in your train, examinations or no examinations. I flatter myself upon my sense of the relative importance of things. Besides, I get two weeks off at Easter, so do try to be there at that time. I don’t know whether to be sorry or glad to have you enter Spain by Andalucía; it really does not greatly matter. Castile is the serious part of the country, first or last. I suppose you had better see Granada, to have done with it. Cordoba is much better in every way, and hasn’t the air of “The Streets of Cairo” at Earl’s Court,Earl's Court, an inner-city district in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London. which everyone is so glad to find a cultivated—artistic—refined—excuse for revelling in at Granada. Seville is an earthly paradise, but at its very worst at the time you propose to go. In fact, you couldn’t conceivably find a worse time for all the places which have good enough hotels to be possible for this expedition. Do not on any account allow any digressions to any other places in Andalucía than Granada, Seville, Cordova (in this order). Ronda you might stop at on the way from Gibralter to Granada, to see the marvellous gorge, and have the pleasure of being followed by a rabble shouting “Ingleesh, Moneesh, Moneesh.”
The same day I received your letter, I wrote to your sister, giving her the best advice I could think of. I also asked her to let me know when she would be in Madrid. If I can manage it I will be there at the same time and do what I can.
Tomorrow I am starting in a motor for a few days in quite inaccessible—otherwise—parts. After that I start for Madrid, stopping on the way at Alcalá, and perhaps at other places. I am very anxious to get to Madrid, as Marquina’sEduardo Marquina (1879–1946), a Catalan playwright and poet. trial is sure to be very curious. The time passes with such dizzy speed that I find myself with far less time for Castile than I expected, but I have begun Cataluña, and have particular facilities, I don’t intend to leave it until I have understood a good deal which still puzzles me sorely. For instance, a modern town such as I described to you when I was last here, with an ignorant and snobbish rich class, where in summer they play the old Catalan dances to the most curious Slav-sounding music in the park and where boot-blacks, peasants, soldiers, customhouse officers, train conductors, shopkeepers, nursemaids and gorgeously attired young ladies and gents join hands and dance solemnly in a ring for hours, every blessed afternoon. Is it not strange!
I should be very much obliged to you if you could let me know by the middle of December how the prospect of going to Spain is looking. If it is still bright, I shall go to London for Xmas instead of to Castile, and the climate is much pleasanter. The Hoar storyPossibly George Frisbie Hoar (1826–1904), a U.S. senator from Massachusetts and an outspoken opponent to American imperialism after the Spanish-American War (1898). is very beautiful, and translates perfectly into Spanish. Blessings upon you—
As I found I had omitted to write on this side, I will use it to try to excuse my seemingly exaggerated attention to Spain.
I think one must have a thorough knowledge of some one national art and historyRoyall Tyler expressed the same idea in the letter of November 12, 1906. as a base for all operations. I might perhaps have chosen better, but as I have gone so far I am pretty sure it would be a fatal mistake to change ground now.