Elisina Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, March 5, 1921
21, Quai Bourbon Paris
March 5th 1921Saturday.
I have news of you sometimes from Madame Herbert,May Amboul Herbert was Mildred Barnes Bliss’s personal secretary in Paris. and we have both been made happy on several occasions by hearing that they were constantly good.
I don’t mean that I expected an answer,—no reproaches!—but I should like to know if you had a letter from me written in Vienna, in the midst of the most heartrending horrors, and in which I told you all I knew of Edith Fairchild’s death,Edith Howard Cushing Fairchild (1871–1920) was the wife of the American musician and diplomat Blair Fairchild (1877–1933), a friend of Mildred Barnes Bliss. as you asked me to do. Our news are not very startling. We are both working very hard still, and my Viennese Children’s Relief workSee “Relief for Viennese Children,” New York Times, November 18, 1922. In this letter to the editor, Elisina Tyler solicits American contributions to the Franco-American Committee of the Viennese Children’s Fund and states that in 1921–1922 the fund “assisted 2,764,940 cases of suffering and want.” gives me a great deal to do on top of the rest.
I saw Mr. FrazierArthur Hugh Frazier (1868–1963) had been secretary of the American Embassy in Paris and represented the United States in Austria semiofficially as commissioner. He became chargé d’affaires in November 1921. in Vienna, and he was then and has been since, a perfect brick. He likes and admires the General-Secretary whom I nominated and left in charge out there. I have organized a plan of constructive relief, tending to make the people whom we benefit able to help themselves in the shortest possible time. You know this has been my constant object in any work of this kind I have attempted in the past. It is horrible to see the effects of starvation on a whole people. Former friends of ours who came to see me, had the pinched unhealthy look of physical want. The smell of hunger pursues one everywhere, even in the hallway and stairs of the Grand Opera, that horrible unnatural smell of diminished vitality which human beings give out when the process of physical disintegration has been set up.
We have been holding our breath here over the drama of the London Conference.Two conferences were convened in London in February–March and April 1921, at which representatives of the states of the Entente (Belgium, France, Great Britain, Greece, Japan, and Italy) met with representatives of Germany to discuss Germany’s payment of reparations. This was due to Germany’s refusal to recognize the decisions of the Paris Conference of 1921, which had determined the amount of damages owed by Germany. So far the occupation seems to have gone smoothly. But experts seem to doubt very gravely whether the economic results will justify the decisions taken. Reparations in kind seem really to present the only hope and the only solution. Public opinion here is by no means blind to the fact, but, as usual, the Government doesn’t trust to the common-sense of the action, and the journalists’ shouts are very wide of the mark.
Darling Mildred, I met not long ago a nephewJean de Pierrefeu (1883–1940), journalist and infantry officer who was wounded in 1915 and assigned to French General Headquarters (Grand Quartier Général), where he wrote the “Daily Official Communiqué.” See Marty Cédric, “Pierrefeu, Jean de (1883–1940)” August 3, 2009. of Georges de Manteyer,Georges de Manteyer (1867–1948), historian and archivist. whose bookGeorges de Manteyer, L’offre de paix séparée de l’Autriche, 5 décembre 1916–12 octobre 1917 (Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1920). on the peace negotiations with Austria I am sending you by this mail. The nephew is the author of the “G.Q.G.”Jean de Pierrefeu, G.Q.G SecteurI: Troisansau Grand quartier généralpar le rédacteurde“communiqué,” 2 vols. (Paris: L’Édition française illustrée, 1920). which I am also sending you. He wishes to dispose of the last ordre du jour of the war, which PétainPhilippe Pétain (1856–1951), a French general during the First World War who attained the title of marshal of France. He was considered a hero because of his outstanding military leadership, particularly during the Battle of Verdun. His last “order of the day” (ordre de jour) was on November 11, 1918: “Fermé pour cause de Victoire.” (“Finished because of Victory.”) gave him. I told him that perhaps your mother who boughtAccording to the New York Times review of the auction sale, an autographed manuscript of General Joffre’s Ordre de jour de la Marne of August 18, 1913, was acquired for $575, the highest bid of the auction, by Charles Scribner’s Sons. It is possible, however, that Scribner’s was bidding for Anna Barnes Bliss. See “Find $6,950 War Aid in ‘Homeless Book.’ Pictures and Manuscripts of Famous Contributors Stir Rivalry at Auction. Joffre Manuscript is Sold. Autographed Article Brings $575—Roosevelt’s Introductory Pages Sell for $150,” New York Times, January 26, 1916.—did she not?—the ordre du jour de la MarneGeneral Joseph Joffre’s (1852–1931) Ordre de jour de la Marne of September 6, 1914, gave instructions that lead to the victory of September 8, 1914. at the auction saleThe original manuscripts and art works for Edith Wharton’s Book of the Homeless (Le livre de Sans-Foyer) were auctioned at the the American Art Galleries, 6 West 23rd Street, New York City, on January 25, 1916. The auction raised $6,950 for Wharton’s wartime charities, including $500 for a signed typescript Henry James’s “The Long Wards,” $400 for Monet’s pastel Landscape, and $350 for Wharton’s poem “The Tryst.” See “Find $6,950 War Aid in ‘Homeless Book.’ Pictures and Manuscripts of Famous Contributors Stir Rivalry at Auction. Joffre Manuscript is Sold. Autographed Article Brings $575—Roosevelt’s Introductory Pages Sell for $150,” New York Times, January 26, 1916. for our “Oeuvres”Edith Wharton’s wartime charities, of which Elisina Tyler was vice president, were known generally as the Oeuvres and included the Oeuvre des enfants des Flandres (Children of Flanders Rescue Committee), which operated six large houses, two of which were also lace schools where lace making was taught to older girls according to the methods of the École Normale of Bruges. in New York, would like to have this one, which is in many respects more interesting because it has greater authenticity, being the first draft by Petain, the published one being a copy, and shorn of its last line.
Monsieur de Pierrefeu would accept with pleasure the sum that was paid for the JoffreJoseph Joffre (1852–1931), a French general who was commander-in-chief of the French army between 1914 and 1916. He is best known for regrouping the retreating allied armies and defeating the Germans at the strategically decisive between September 5 and September 12, 1914. ordre du jour. I am sending you his letter of explanation,The whereabouts of this letter are unknown. and perhaps you will let me know what is decided.
I haven’t seen GeoffreyProbably Geoffrey Herbert Grant Richards (1906–1983), Elisina Tyler’s son. for years, and when I telephone they tell me he is still asleep. I sigh “happy Geoffrey,” and add another disappointment to my long record.
Edith has established herself at HyèresOn a vacation in the south of France in late 1918 and early 1919, Edith Wharton discovered in Hyères a house called Sainte-Claire-du-Vieux-Château, which she renamed Sainte-Claire du Château. The house stood on the grounds of a former seventeenth-century convent and was built into the walls of a medieval castle. She rented it on a long-term lease by April 1919 and eventually purchased the property in 1927. Between 1919 and her death in 1937, she spent each winter in Hyères. and has made a charming house there out of a rather desolate-looking prieuré.“Priory.” She doesn’t intend to come back till May.
Elizabeth CameronElizabeth Sherman Cameron (1857–1944) worked with Edith Wharton and Elisina Tyler during the First World War (see Elisina Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, June 9, 1916; and Elisina Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, April 16, 1917). In 1921, she was living in Stapleton, England. came to Paris for five or six days, and I saw her several times. She is very much more normal, and talks quite naturally of leaving Stapleton from time to time, and even of doing relief work somewhere. I cannot tell you what a comfort it was to see her so much better.
Your BourguignonMildred Barnes Bliss’s nickname for William Royall Tyler, her godson and the son of Elisina and Royall Tyler. is trying his very best to do well at school, and I hear he is very popular and quite happy. He is second in Latin in spite of having had a remove which takes him into the first form. He was first last term, and both Royall and I are very much pleased.
My horrid handwriting makes me ashamed of continuing to hold your attention. I have made friends with Mrs. McKay [sic]Helen (“Nellie”) Gansevoort Edwards MacKay (1876–1961), an American author who lived in France during the First World War. (your friend Nellie McKay) and I like her very much. Some of her work is really remarkable—I wept like a child over “Chill hours”.Helen MacKay, Chill Hours (London: Melrose, 1919, and New York: Duffield and Co., 1920). The subject of the book was the First World War.
I hope Robert is well and well-satisfied with the world. It would be delightful to hear from you, still more delightful to see you. Come soon!
Yours ever as ever,