Elisina Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, September 30, 1914
September 30th 1914Wednesday.
September has gone by and all our plans for seeing something of you and Robert have been carried away by the hurricane. It was dear of you to wire to us, and I hope our answering wire reached you safely. I also hope you received a letter I wrote to you some six weeks ago to Bombom,—(or Bonbon?).Bombon is a village in the department of Seine-et-Marne. After the outbreak of war in 1914, Mildred Barnes Bliss and Robert Woods Bliss became founders of the American Distributing Service (Service de distribution américaine), the first American organization for hospital aid in France that supplied hospitals throughout France, including one at Bombon. See also Ida Clyde Clarke, American Women and the World War (New York and London: D. Appleton and Company, 1918), 144, 454, 473, and 484; and the letter of December 26, 1914. In this letter, Elisina Tyler employs a play on words for her misspellings of Bombon: “Bombom” uses the root of bombe, the French word for bomb, and “Bonbon” is French for a sweet or candy. I don’t like reading about bombs thrown over Paris, even though the results seem light. I do not suppose you are afraid, though many people might be for less.
We are very quiet indeed here and at Nuits, but war is in the air at Beaune, whither we went for a few hours last Monday. A train of twenty ammunition motor-vans accompanied us all the way from Nuits to Beaune. They were loaded with German motor-cars, one of which bore the legend “General Staff.” The soldiers who were conveying them carried proudly several Russian helmets, to the delight of the crowd, chiefly composed of women. The famous Hôtel de la PosteThe Hôtel de la Poste in Beaune was built in 1660 as a stable for horses for the French postal system. It was converted into a hotel in the nineteenth century. was full of refugees,—comfortable ones of course. We are spared all sad scenes—the saddest I have witnessed was the passing of a train of poor refugees from the North, forlorn and resigned-looking. The poor old people about here are to be pitied, as in many cases the mainstay of the family is at the front, and the rest are left unprovided-for. But there is an atmosphere of general kindness and goodwill warming to the heart.
Fabian and my little friend at Poiret’sAdrienne Ridon. See letters of August 8, 1914; and November 8, 1914. are here with us, and will remain till we leave ourselves. Our plans are to go to London at the end of October, certainly for 3 weeks, possibly for three months. Royall has been offered a job of cataloguing an important collection of ancient documents lately come to light,These ancient documents were the property of the Marquis Cosimo de’ Medici and the Marquis Averado de’ Medici and included 166 holograph letters of Lorenzo de’ Medici (the Magnificent). They were to be sold at auction by Christie’s London on February 4–7, 1918. The sale did not take place, however, and was referenced in The Outlook on March 6, 1918: “Scores of letters written by Lorenzo the Magnificent were recently advertised to be sold at the famous Christie’s London auction room. With them were hundreds of other autographed letters and historic documents relating to the days of the Medici, of whom this Lorenzo was the greatest. But the Italian Government intervened by injunction. Italy forbids works of art and objects of historical importance to be removed from the country without permission. It seems that ancient documents are included under the law.” See Catalogue of the Medici Archives: Consisting of Rare Autograph Letters, Records, and Documents 1084–1770 (London: Printed by W. Clowes and Sons, 1917); and E. Armstrong, “The Medici Archives,” The English Historical Review 33, no. 129 (January 1918): 10–20: “The catalogue itself with its excellent introduction by Mr. Royall Tyler, its full genealogies and beautiful reproductions of documents, is a book of high permanent value” (p. 20). See also letters of November 16, 1914; November 30, 1914; and December 26, 1914. and if his terms are accepted we should stay in England to do it. In that case our little household would join us. We shall be passing through Paris, then, at the end of October, Royall and I, and I hope very much you won’t be too busy for me to see you.
Our friend Prichard is a prisoner at Baden; he was detained, with other English people, when war broke out. He says he is well-treated. My heart aches for the dear creature. William is enormously tall and heavy. We were talking about you the other day, and he broke out, “Tu sais, moi je l’aime bien, ma marraine”.“You know, I love best my godmother.”
Our days are very calm; our only diversion being making jam for the wounded at the hospital. I applied too late to be allowed to nurse them, though my name is down in case I am needed.
Bless you, dearest Mildred.