Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, October 2, 1925
Finance Ministry, Budapest
My chief reason for writing is that I can’t refrain from telling you about the misfortunes of S. G. the Bishop of Le Mans.Georges-François-Xavier-Marie Grente (1872–1959), bishop of Le Mans (1918–1943).
Since the separation of Church and State deprived the Bishops of their Episcopal Palaces, the Bishop of Le Mans had lived on the outskirts of the town, inconveniently far from the Cathedral.
Anxious to remedy this state of affairs, the pious of Le Mans saved up, and when they had accumulated a sufficient sum looked about for a suitable building in the immediate vicinity of the Cathedral. They found one, in the steep street that runs from the W. end down towards the river, a XVth century house admirably adapted to the purpose, and purchased it. Informed of the gift, the Bishop and his Vicar General went to inspect the house, and were delighted with it in itself, but not so much with the neighborhood. Le Mans forms no exception to the rule of French provincial towns: the Magdalen lives close to Our Lord. Indeed, the neighboring houses to the new episcopal Palace, right and left, were houses of ill-fame.
The Vicar General sought out the pious and explained the difficulty. Qu’ à celà ne tienne,“That’s no problem.” said the pious, we’ll buy both the houses and hand them over to the Bishop, who will then be able to settle in his secretariat and other offices next door to the Palace. No sooner said than done. On the same day on which the purchase was concluded, however, legislation on leases was modified in such a way as to make it impossible for a landlord to turn out a tenant unless he offers other premises. The Vicar General again sought out the pious, who again said qu’ à celà ne tienne; we’ll look for a couple more houses and offer them to the undesirable tenants.
The pious were soon successful. Quite close to the barracks, in a most suitable location, they found two houses which proved acceptable to the proprietors of the two undesirable establishments, bought them and turned over the new Palace, with its Annexes, to the Bishop. The question remained, what was to be done with the ownership of the two houses near the barracks? Reluctant to encourage vice by making a free gift of the houses to their disreputable tenants, the pious decided to hand over the houses to the Bishop, so that the rents might serve some charitable purpose.
Soon afterwards a mal-pensant“Ill-thinking.” journalist—FouchardièreGeorges de la Fouchardière (1874–1946), a French journalist and writer.—published an articleGeorges de la Fouchardière, “D’un bénéfice ecclésiastique,” L’oeuvre, October 25, 1924. stating, and defying contradiction, that the Bishop of Le Mans was the owner of two brothels, and was receiving revenue therefrom.
The Bishop brought an action for libel against Fouchardière. The judge who heard the case laughed so immoderately that he broke his tortoise-shell spectacles, and gave the Bishop 1 franc damages.
Fouchardière had a full compte rendu“Account.” of the case printed on violet tinted paper, with a tirage à part“Off-print.” with gold lettering, a copy of which he presented, à titre d’hommage,“As tribute.” to the Bishop.See also Christian Gury, Le Cardinal Grente, des maisons closes à l’Académie française (Paris: Kimé, 1998).
On my way here from Geneva I had half a day in Vienna with TietzeHans Tietze (1880–1954), an art historian and an authority on Venetian painting. In 1918, he entered the Ministry of Education, from which he resigned in 1925 to accept a professorship at Universität Wien. and BuschbeckErnst H. Buschbeck (1889–1963), an art historian and a curator of the Gemäldegalerie and, later, the director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.—I think I told Robert about the VelazquezDiego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599–1660), a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. The painting Royall Tyler refers to has not been identified. they’ve discovered there. It is a marvel. What a museumGemäldegalerie, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, opened in 1891 by Emperor Franz Joseph I. it is! You must go there sometime. If you could manage it while I’m here I’d run up and meet you there, and we’d see those Breughels.Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525–1569), a Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker known for his landscapes and peasant genre paintings. The winter landscape is perhaps the picture of all others that I feel most intenselyProbably Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hunters in the Snow, oil on wood, 1565, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Inv.-Nr. GG 1838.—the man was an astounding original genius, with a sentiment for nature deeper than words can ever say.
What a pity you didn’t get this Legation instead of Stockholm—though I suppose there’s more in the work at Stockholm than there is here. George GordonProbably Sir George Gordon Vereker (1889–1976), a British diplomat who entered the diplomatic service in 1919. is here alone at present, and seems to manage it single handed and to spare.