Elisina Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, August 8, 1914
I wish you were coming here!
Château de la BerchèreThe Château de la Berchère is a fifteenth-century castle in Burgundy about two miles from Nuits-Saint-Georges.
August 8th 1914Saturday.
I daresay you won’t be surprised to hear, considering the face I held up before you at lunch a month ago, that I collapsed completely next day. I revived sufficiently to take the train to Brussels where I had a violent attack of gout brought on it seems by worry and Turkish coffee. I have no other crimes to reproach myself with.
The Belgian visit seems a thing of dreams now, so vividly do other realities stand out in my mind. We went to Aix-la-Chapelle, Maestricht and Tongres, where there are the wonderful things you no doubt know. We stayed at Liège, and little thought it could ever become heroic. I supposed then I should remember it merely because of its disappointing official Ingres, and three little Corots, voyage d’Italie,“Travel in Italy.” very beautiful indeed.In the collection of the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain de la Ville de Liège is Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s painting Bonaparte as First Consul (1804), now on deposit at the Musée d’Armes, Liège, and several paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, which were the bequests of Léopold Donnay in 1887 and Eugène Dumont in 1903. The “three little Corots” referred to by Elisina Tyler may be Paysage d’Artois, Rocca di Papa, and Vue de l‘Adriatique.
We stayed a few hours at Namur and saw some wonderful things there. On the 23rd we arrived in Paris, where you were not.
Perhaps Robert told you that I was asked by the Embassy Solicitor to go and see them, as they had something to say on behalf of the King’s Proctor.See letter of July 28, 1914. He is the official who intervenes if there is any suspicion of collusion between the parties in a divorce action, and prevents the sentence of the court becoming absolute, as it does automatically six months after the decree nisi, in the usual course. He is also liable to interfere if the side bringing the action can be proved to have an interest in doing so;—even an interest of a sentimental nature.
I had heard when I was in London that a few stuffy people who have no sympathy with international travelling, and who believe that you ought to want to go to Folkestone, Bournemouth and Margate instead of Ostend, Biarritz or Monte Carlo, had fastened upon the evidence of “Caviare”Grant Richards, Caviare (London: Grant Richards, 1912). to allege unspeakable things against its author. My sister, who is fearless and loyal, charged someone straight out to say what they meant and what they knew. The person thus challenged had to admit that no fact had ever reached their ears." The person thus challenged had to confess that they knew nothing, and had heard no facts, only “rumours”.See letter of July 28, 1914: "I may say that my sister quite recently charged some one who repeated vague gossip on the subject, to say if they knew the slightest fact to substantiate it."
It was a good thing I could give this instance to the Solicitors.
I hope Grant will be prudent enough not to show himself in instructive company for the next few months. Oh, the nonconformist in conscience! and its effects on the sanity and equity of English law!
I went to Robert for advice as to what documents it might be wise to produce or withhold. He was very kind and made my courage seem justified.
We have been here ten days now. The house is quite charming, and in parts beautiful. There are Gothic doorways and window-frames, and a lovely François Ier double gallery. The park is fairly spacious and well wooded with old trees. William arrived on Saturday 1st by the very last train from Dijon before the line became militarised and therefore impassable.Germany had declared war on Belgium and France on August 3, 1914. Fortunately his ManéMadeleine Lavie. See letter of December 8, 1914. has a cool head; she had foreseen every event and had made her plans.
We have laid in stores for several weeks. It seemed necessary a week ago; it seems prudent still. I have anxieties of every nature as you can imagine, on a finely graduated scale. But the outlook seems less black now. It is very sad to hear the trains full of soldiers go by almost unceasingly, and to think that many who go will not return. The recollections of 1870The Franco-Prussian War, or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War (July 19, 1870–May 10, 1871), was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the kingdom of Prussia. are very bitter still in this part of the country. A great battle was fought at Nuits, and a violent encounter took place outside la Berchère. We have a stone cross in the park, marking the place where a number of Germans were buried. La Berchère was turned into a hospital. They had to relay all the wood floors; I say no more.
Fabian is coming to us as soon as he can get a passage on a train, to avoid the possibility of famine prices in Paris. So is little Adrienne Ridon,Adrienne Ridon has not been identified. See letters of September 30, 1914; and November 8, 1914. who works at Poiret’sThe woman’s clothing business of Paul Poiret (1879–1944), a French fashion designer. in times of peace. Her father and her two brothers have gone. She writes: “II faut que Monsieur Tyler écrive aux Anglais de venir!”“Mr. Tyler must write to the English to come!”
Little Dummer is going to trail a pike.In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a pike was a long thrusting spear and “to trail a pike” was to hold the pike just below the head so that the butt trailed on the ground (the usual method of carrying it when not on the march). The phrase later came to signify enlisting in the infantry. Royall said to me with tears in his eyes that were it not for me and William, he would go too.
Dearest Mildred, send me your news. The world’s wrongs seem greater than ever. And over it all is a splendid shining sky, round about us the gold and the green of cornfields and vineyards. So much splendour makes one afraid. There are sounds one fears to meet; “La France éternelle,”“Eternal France.” . . . and the long whistling of those laden trains.
Give Robert my best love, and Royall’s and William’s. I dreamt of you last night; you arrived in a litter embroidered in gold on grey coarse silk. You and Royall and I went to see some sculpture on a Tower in a place rather like Prague.
When shall we meet again?
Bless you, dearest Mildred.