Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, October 29, 1906
55, Rue de Verneuil.
Oct. 29th 1906
I enclose [the] small notepaper sheet to show you that I did not neglect.Royall Tyler is referring to a visit to Saint-Germain-des-Prés on the Anniversary. I delayed going on with it at the time because in London I had not time to write a letter which demands thought, and also I wished to wait for news of the chest. I think I could probably get you one, with always a margin of about fr. 200 because packing and transport are dear in Spain, that is, if you would like to have it come to Paris. Otherwise one might see if it could be sent to America direct. I saw another in Madrid, also with a fine Imperial escutcheon on it, but not as good as the other. It is so unsatisfactory to bargain by letter, but if you like I will see if I can get it. I hope to be going again in the Spring, so please before then write and tell me if there are any things that you desire especially—stuffs, church ornaments, pictures—about lace I am utterly incompetent.
I also enclose [the] letter from the Padre de Lecanda, poor Padre de Lecanda, he has had a hard time decyphering your Italian light literature. “Italian light literature” may be a reference to Mildred Barnes’s handwriting, which was difficult to decipher, or to her witticisms, or both. Do please try to give him name and address distinctly. Remember that English handwriting at its best is unfamiliar to him. Of the dimensions of the reja,“Screen.” See letter of September 21, 1906. I had an idea that you told me that it was to be about a yard. Try to give it to him in metres, and let him know as soon as possible and I’m sure he’ll get you the things. While you are corresponding with him you might almost let him write to you directly in Spanish. See if you don’t find it quite easy.
I have just returned—about three days, from England—where I paid a few visits in the country and spent a few days in town. Lyulph Howard is probably coming to study at the Beaux-Arts,École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. but his fatherRobert Mowbray Howard (1854–1928). is trying to get him jobbed into a post as Government Architect in Egypt, which is well payed [sic], and as the Duke is behind, I’m afraid there is a chance of his getting it. Of course he knows nothing about it, and once he went to Egypt would lose every chance of ever learning—but the fleshpots are too tempting for the family. By the way, his uncle, also a Howard—father’s younger brother,Esme William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Penrith (1863–1939), a British diplomat. Howard served as counselor at the British embassy in Washington, D.C., between 1906 and 1908 and later as the ambassador to the United States between 1924 and 1930. See “Embassy Councilor Named. Esme William Howard Coming from Crete to Washington,” New York Times, November 10, 1906. has just been made 1st Secretary at Washington. If you met him he would be cheered to know you had inspected his nephew.
By the way, a horrible thought strikes me. When I say the chest is gone,This information must have been communicated in an unpreserved telegram or letter. don’t imagine I have sold it to someone else for fcs 3000! The man at Madrid has made other arrangements about it, though what he got I don’t know. I have heard nothing yet about the “Oráculo” of Gracián,Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia was written by Spanish Baroque writer Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601–1658) in 1647. See letter of September 21, 1906. but I certainly advise you to wait until they find an old edition. The edition of Rivadeneira is horrible, and sure to be mutilated. I hope you were pleased with the Criticón.Baltasar Gracián’s masterpiece, El Criticón, was published in three parts in 1651, 1653, and 1657. See letter of September 21, 1906. It should keep you fairly busy with Spanish for the present. And the dear Autodidactic Philosopher?Abentofaíl (Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Muhammad ibn al-Qaisi Tufail al-Andalusi) (ca. 1105/1110–1185), an Andalusian physician, philosopher, mathematician, and poet. Francisco Pons Boiga first translated El filósofo autodidacto from Arabic to Spanish in 1900. See letter of September 21, 1906. The book of Heroes of GraciánProbably Bathasar Gracián’s El héroe (1637), which was published under the pseudonym of Lorenzo. The work criticizes Niccolò Machiavelli and describes Gracián’s ideal model of courtly conduct in the Christian man. is nice too, and there is an endurable modern edition. I know of a good edition of Céan Bermúdez,Juan Agustín Ceán Bermúdez (1749–1829), a Spanish writer on art. but they want 60 pesetas for it. I think I shall get it though.
Yesterday I had lunch with one Benjamin Burgess [sic] 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 November 12, 1906. He wrote to me before I returned, saying that you had told him to call on me. I didn’t like the handwriting, and if it had not been for your being connected with the thing, would not have bothered him. However he had me alone, excellent beginning. I never quite forgive people who confound me for the first time purposely in a crowd. And he talks very well, and I liked him, and we spent all the afternoon together at Versailles. I am glad I did not meet him as I imagine he was five or six years ago, but I am glad to know him now. He is sure to be very good for me, as he has very different views about everything, and I shall have to manoeuvre mine bravely to break his serried lines. We were very busy all the afternoon making the ring, taking our corners and shaking hands, but he dines with me—alone—on Thursday, and then we will begin with two ounce gloves, or better still, with none at all. I imagine he is a person who keeps his temper. Yesterday afternoon I told him I hated picturesqueness and survivals of national custom songs, dances, artificially kept alive in many cases for the amusement of people who are tired of life. He replied indignantly, and made me a discourse about tendencies of the day, in exactly the same words, as that which I made to you as we sat on my old AquascutumAquascutum, a menswear shop established in London in 1851. Known for its raincoats, this may be what Royall Tyler is referring to. on a knoll on the golf links at Sharon one hazy afternoon, “doubtless the lower depths were being raised, but the mountain tops were being sawn off to do it, ect. ect. [sic]” Even dragging in RodinAuguste Rodin (François-Auguste-René Rodin) (1840–1917), a French sculptor. in the very way I did. It made me so ashamed of myself—but of course I held my tongue. It was but a fit punishment to have my old tirade thrown at me by another human being whom I had never seen before. Of course we are all exactly alike with our ridiculous little individualities and arrive at exactly the same conclusions by our own strictly individual little roads. We are bullrushes [sic] growing round the edge of a pond. An unseen hand throws a stone into the middle, and as the ripple reaches us, we throw our heads in the air and wave our arms and cry one to the other “See how absolutely individual I am. I waggle in quite a different way from all (of) you.”
In truth I am very weary of imagining that I wanted to waggle, and of shutting my eyes against the overwhelming probability of its being all a matter of the wave and breeze and that all equally grown bullrushes [sic] waggle in exactly the same way in the same circumstances.
In many ways I can’t tell you in a letter how I stand. I must trust to your understanding things which I am unable to express. I have no doubt you will do it, but I would like to be able to give you more indications.
Heaven help me! I never thought that the day would come when I would find that speaking the truth is a far more engrossing occupation, and infinitely more difficult and complicated, than weaving outrageous lies. I am still encumbered by the dust, plaster, old beams and lathes of the ramshackle palace which I lived in, and am now trying to tear down, and can’t even see. My poor dear false things, how I loved them! And they perhaps are good as scaffoldings. I am sure they are, only one always forgets and is tempted to drape them gloriously and show them off as real walls, and the grievous fact is that the friend looks and admires, but the enemy breaks through with ease and then one discovers that one should have kept it more in mind that they were not real walls. Also a thousand mishaps attend the successful spinner of lies. The worst is that he gets them believed and is subsequently unable to distinguish them.
I have been striding up and down the room for the last hour trying to find a metaphorical form into which to put what “truth” means to me. But the thing slides from between my hands. Truth with a big T does not exist as far as I know, that is, it exists for a moment only. I think as far as I understand, truth is perfectly harmonious relation between one’s internal consciousness and external activity. The relation must change with every fleeting breath. People would have truth dead and immutable as the Law of Moses, and that first cheerless aspect of the Lovely Goddess drives the hot blooded, hot headed boy to dally with the lowly harlot, who seems to him to be at least alive. But she is not, and lucky the boy who escapes from among the tombs of those she has poisoned.
Art, particularly such as is eager to be styled so rather than as Painting, Writing, etc., is the most powerful lure of the Temptress, or perhaps the Temptress herself. People who are unable to see what is beautiful, or true, in the things which surround them, that is: the relation between the outer world which we see, and the inner world of which we have a half-consciousness and the breaks in which form the great tragedies of life, may well go to the Gorgeous East to find rare and lovely imaginings. Like HugoVictor-Marie Hugo (1802–1885), a French writer. and Descamps,Jean-Baptiste Descamps (1714–1791), a French writer and painter. they will only bring back commonplaces, and strike one as would a counter jumperDerogatory expression for a shop sales assistant. attired as a Moorish Prince. The true artists are Rembrandt,Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–1669), a Dutch painter and etcher. VelazquezDiego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599–1660), a Spanish painter. and . . . Ibsen,Henrik Johan Ibsen (1828–1906), a Norwegian playwright, theater director, and poet. who could find what they needed at their own gates. That does not exclude their joy in new scenes and strange men and customs, but they never made the vulgar and nearly universal error of mistaking the fraction for the whole. Even the little Dutch painters,The “little Dutch masters” were seventeenth-century landscape, still-life, portrait, and genre painters; they included Frans Hals (1580–1666), Jacob van Ruisdael (1628–1682), Willem Kalf (1619–1693), and Johannes (or Jan) Vermeer (d. 1675). how they seized the life of a scene, the moment in which the little interior with its two or three everyday figures lives as long as the canvas or panel will last — and Ibsen’s art is in many ways similar. Rebecca West coming into Johannes’ study in the morning, the plain dresses, and the rather crude daylight from the big window—in RosmersholmRosmersholm, a play written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in 1886. Rebecca West was a principal character in the play.—always recalls some Dutch picture to me.
I imagined I had heard the voice of the Preacher—“Therefore let thy words be few” and now I tell you of Truth in large, closely written pages!—read and forget.
It is next morning, so we will descend to earth for a page, and then post it all. That last page isn’t very successful. I doubt whether you will make head or tail of it, or perhaps you may have read it all somewhere else—in which case my pond and bullrush [sic] parable will be forcibly illustrated.
I am expecting your anniversary letter with much impatience. It seems a very long time since I have had more than a note from you. I, on the other hand, have written enough to you to form a large handsome volume, and I verily believe that those letters are the best stuff I have ever penned.
While I was staying in the country with the Howards,Lyulph Howard’s father, Robert Mowbray Howard (1854–1928), had two country properties in England: Ignors, Compton, Guildford, Surrey; and Hampton Lodge, Farnham, Surrey. I was much impressed by a portrait of a very fine rich old gentleman, with a purple nose and a faunish leer. I asked who it was. It is an ancestor, Charles, Duke of Norfolk,Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk (1746–1815), styled Earl of Surrey from 1777 to 1786, a British peer. of whom many tales are told. He lived at Greystoke CastleGreystoke Castle, residence of Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk, in the village of Greystoke west of Penrith in northern England. The castle, which has been owned by the Howard family since 1571, has been rebuilt several times. and used to drink there with a man called Huddlestone. Charles when drunk could talk but not walk. Huddlestone on the other hand, could walk but not talk. So Huddlestone used to get up and ring the bell and Charles ordered another bottle.The anecdote also exists in a different version: “These two worthies often met over a bottle to discuss the respective pretensions of their pedigrees; and on one of these occasions, when Mr. Huddlestone was dining with the Duke, the discussion was prolonged till the descendant of the Saxon Kings fairly rolled from his chair upon the floor. One of the younger members of the family hastened, by the Duke’s desire, to re-establish him, but he sternly repelled the proffered hand of the cadet. ‘Never,’ he hiccupped out, ‘shall it be said that the head of the house of Huddlestone was lifted from the ground by a younger branch of the house of Howard.’ ‘Well, then, my good old friend,’ said the good-natured Duke, ‘I must try what I can do for you myself. The head of the house of Howard is too drunk to pick up the head of the house of Huddlestone, but he will lie down beside him with all the pleasure in the world”; so saying, the Duke also took his place upon the floor.” John Timbs, A Century of Anecdote from 1760–1860 (London: R. Bentley, 1864), 1:53.
Charles was also very fond of horse racing and proverbially unfortunate. He gambled away all the Howard plate to Lord Lonsdale,Probably William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale (1757–1844), a British Tory politician and nobleman. and it is still to be seen at Lowther Castle. But finally Charles got a glorious steed, which defeated Lonsdale’s horse in a great race at Penrith. Charles nearly drank himself to death with joy, kept the horse in clover for the rest of its life, and when it died, had it stuffed and put in a sort of open shed which he erected on the tower of Greystoke, and whence the towers of Lowther were just visible. There it still remained when Lyulph Howard’s fatherRobert Mowbray Howard (1854–1928) was a boy at Greystoke.
You promised to send me a letter to a priest of whom you spoke to me long ago and whom I have always wanted to meet—Père Dufayet.Father 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. Please do send it if he is in Paris. I suppose you have heard that AntoineAndré Antoine (1858–1943), a French theater director who became the director of the Théâtre de l'Odéon in Paris in 1906. has taken over the Odeon,Théâtre de l'Odéon (now the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe), a French national theater in Paris. renovated it, and started off with a thoroughly unsuccessful play.Arnoul and Simon Gréban’s Le vray mistère de la passion, which opened October 25, 1906. But I am glad—really last year I hardly saw a bearable play, the eternal ménage à trois—really Paris is becoming a sort of indecent side show in the world’s fair.
[Enclosed in this letter was a newspaper clipping: “The new role of Mme. Sarah Bernhardt.Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923), a French stage actress. Paris, Nov. 10.”]