Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, March 5, 1911
8 r. Barouillère (6e)
March 5th 1911Sunday.
First of all I must tell you about your Godson. He is flourishing and increasing visibly, though his vaccination has been rather troublesome—but that is quite over now.
It is very curious how having him has made me come out very strong on matters about which I was quite indifferent before. For instance the notion of baptism. At first I thought not at all about it. Then I caught myself being glad that none of his God-parents were on the spot, so that the ceremony might be postponed—and gradually I arrived at the certain knowledge that I disliked exceedingly the idea of having him baptized by any priest or clergyman. Not that I hate religion, or do not venerate the Christ I find in the Gospels above all other men that ever lived, but I believe in the idea of that Christ as a strong and pure force once it is free of the sects’ and churches’ interpretation of it. I think you understand—and also understand that the idea of your being his Godmother seems to me as right and joyful without a ceremony as it could be with one. Elisina feels rather differently about it—she looks on baptism as merely making a Christian of a child, but she doesn’t want him brought up a Catholic, or indeed in any other church, and as I don’t a bit mind her teaching him his prayers or, if his life were in danger, baptizing him herself, she is agreed with me in practice.See letter of November 1, 1910, for Elisina Grant Richards's view: "I was brought up in the Catholic Church. . . . But the case of William is different, chiefly no doubt because my own feelings on the subject are vastly different from those of my mother before me." She is very well and very happy, and the happier for the wonderful experience of your love and friendship.
I wonder whether you heard that Major Martin Hume died last summer. When I heard that the Record Office was looking for someone to succeed him as Editor of the Spanish Calendar of State Papers I sent in my name without so much as hoping that they would give me the post. A couple of months ago they sent for me, and after an interview with the head of the department I received the appointment. It was a surprise, for I had no backing at all except a letter from Unamuno saying I knew Spanish well, and no references except my book. The work is hard and not well paid, but interesting. It is an official publication of Spanish (or Imperial under Charles VCharles V (1500–1558), ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his abdication in 1556.) diplomatic correspondence which has any reference to English affairs or to the Reform. It was begun about fifty years ago and the reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII and Elizabeth are done. I shall have to do Edward VI and Mary, about 10 years, and then the Calendars will be complete, as before Henry VII there is no correspondence, and after Elizabeth’s death it doesn’t seem to interest the Department. The documents are mostly at ViennaThe Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv (Archives of the City and Province of Vienna). and Simancas (near Valladolid) and Paris. A few perhaps at Brussels.Archives du Royaume de Belgique, Brussels. I am now working hard at mastering the handwriting of the period, which is horribly difficult, much harder than any other time, as every cat and dog had a different hand, and the most hideous abbreviations abound—to say nothing of stubborn cyphers. Also I have to know the important political personages of the English, Spanish, French and Imperial court as if I had been one of their own private secretaries. It is really madly interesting work, and I am given absolute freedom. I select the documents I think important and translate them, only the translation is published—and publish them in volumes of 600 pages, with an introduction—50 pages of my own comments—to each volume. I think my ten years may yield about three or four volumes, and take me as many years to do. After that—I have other schemes at the back of my head. It is really a great chance that thus obliges me to make myself thoroughly competent in Paleography—a thing my guilty conscience has told me I ought to have done these years ago. In the meantime I write occasional articles for the “Saturday”.“Mediaeval Sculpture in France I,” Saturday Review, April 1, 1911; and “Mediaeval Sculpture in France II,” Saturday Review, April 8, 1911. Elisina is working as hard as I am at history and documents, and is going to do the Calendar with me, which will double our rate of production. She is quicker than I, and very keen and also well-grounded. She knows Spanish already, so we are about evenly equipped, except for the woman’s more delicate fingering.
You asked me to send you some Spanish plays, but I am not competent to select any. I have not read any Spanish, except for one or two writers whom I particularly love—CervantesMiguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. and Gracián,Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601–1658), a Spanish Baroque prose writer. for some time past. I am much too busy for random reading, and am deeply engaged in other directions. Until the Calendar seized hold of me I had been studying French mediaeval sculpture and architecture for over a year—there is much that is entirely French in S. Italy and more in Spain—and I hope to go back to it later. Persian pottery and textiles also; you will be delighted and amazed when you see the marvels that have come from Persia quite recently.Tyler had published two articles on Persian ceramics in the Saturday Review: “Primitive Persian Art,” November 19, 1910; and “The Kelekian Collection at South Kensington,” February 25, 1911. See also letters of August 26, 1910; and January 1, 1911.
I do beg of you that you will try to let me know beforehand when you come to Europe; because otherwise we might be very far away at the moment you arrive in Paris. We shall have to go to ViennaThe Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv (Archives of the City and Province of Vienna). and Simancas in the course of this year—for how long it is impossible to say. Fortunately we have JulieJulie Mendiboure, William Royall Tyler’s nanny. who is absolutely trustworthy to look after William, as it would be impossible to feed him on Spanish goat’s milk. Give my love to Robert.