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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, February 8, 1922

Feb. 8, 1922Wednesday.

It was warm and Spring-like the other day, dearest Mildred, and I felt that the time might not be far away when you would return; but now it is bitter cold, the ice on the lake in the Bois bears [sic], and Spring looks so far away that I must write you a letter, to attempt to bridge over the interval.

I have been going on much as ever, very busy, with just a day or so off now and then, which I manage to crowd as much enjoyment into as other people get into a month of Sundays. “The plowman though he labour hard, yet on the holiday” etc. as Izaac Walton’s friend sang.Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler, chapter 5. For more on Izaak Walton, see letter of February 16, 1905 (with additional references). I had a couple of magnificent days at Angers at All Saints,All Saints’ Day, November 1. spent an incredible afternoon with M. de la Fleuriaye (aged 78) at the Roche-aux-MoinesLa Roche aux Moines is a château and a cru (named vineyard area) of the Savennières appellation of the western Loire Valley wine region of France. It is located southwest of the city of Angers in the parish of Savennières. drinking various years of his wine. We got back to 1840 before I lost count.Royall Tyler was recognized as a “gourmet-musketeer” and a wine connoisseur. See Elisina Tyler to Edith Wharton, November 27, 1928, “The Wharton mss., 1836–1975,” William Royall Tyler Files, box 3, Lilly Library Manuscript Collections, Indiana University, Bloomington, and R[ichard] W[arrington] B[aldwin] Lewis, Edith Wharton: A Biography (New York: Harper and Row, 1975), 408. And I had great fun with the Chanoine Urseau,The Canon Charles Urseau (1860–1940) became an ordained priest in 1883, curate of Saint-Jacques and secretary of the Angers diocese in 1890, and canon in 1904. He entered the Academy of Angers where he served as president until 1922. He was named director of the Musée Achéologique Saint-Jean in 1906, and he opened a museum in the old Bishop’s Palace in 1910. He became a chevalier of the French Legion of Honor in 1921. who has succeeded in arranging matters so as to turn the old Evêché“Bishopric.” Royall Tyler is referring to the Bishop’s Palace. into a museum for those of the tapestries that are not hung in the Cathedral. He told me how during the war a department of the Ministry of Finance tried to turn him out. Urseau refused. “Je me fous de vos tapisseries,” said the Chef de Section. “Ah, vous m’étonnez”, said Urseau, “mais puisque vous vous foutez de mes tapisseries, je vous dirai que moi je me fous de vous, et nous allons voir qui, de vous et moi, fout le plus fort.”“I am sick of your tapestries.” “Ah, you amaze me, but since you damn my tapestries, I will tell you that I am sick of you, and we will see who, you or me, is sick the most.” And the Chef de Section had to go elsewhere.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite such perfect All Saints’ weather as those two days. Cloudless sky, not a breath of wind and the vine leaves on the slopes of the Loire valley the most exquisite pale gold—rather like la Fleuriaye’s wine. La F’s house, the Roche-aux-Moines,The Château de la Roche aux Moines is near Savennières in the Loire Valley. is a square Louis XV building, standing back from an old, old effondré“Disintegrated.” and un-mended road, with an avenue of aged ragged horn-beams leading up to it, and a big farm attached, as at Genay;Beginning in 1913, the Tylers rented the Château de Genay in the small village of Genay near Semur-en-Auxois in Burgundy. The house, originally built in the late sixteenth century, was situated on a park that bordered the river Armançon, a tributary of the Yonne. chickens come wandering into the very prim salon with its parallel rows of 3 chairs, where you can picture me trying to present correct hommages to Mme. de la F. after spending the afore-said afternoon with her husband in his cellar. The slates on that roof were almost as purple as the purple vestments in the glass at Gassicourt.A reference to the thirteenth-century stained-glass windows of the Cluniac priory of Gassicourt, now a parish church in a suburb of Mantes. What a difference between the light and general colour in Anjou and in Burgundy! So delicate in Anjou, with the silvery grays of the Loire sands, the pale golds and almost olive greens, and so violent in Burgundy, with the scarlet vines, the full greens of the meadows and the hard blue sky. But Burgundy for me. The greater includes the less. We can now and then have Angevin sweetness there, but the Angevins can never have our full-blooded, rich, bull-necked humour bred of red wine. That is really it: Anjou wine is white, and charming and lady-like (not a reproach), but it lacks something that red Burgundy has in abundance.

In the way of objects, perhaps the thing I saw that gave me most pleasure was the fontIn the Gothic cathedral of Saint-Maurice d’Angers is a Gallo-Roman green marble tub mounted on lions and used as a baptismal font. Now located in the cathedral treasury, it was given to the church by René of Anjou (1409–1480). in the Cathedral, which is a most luscious very late Roman bath tub of verde-antico, with a deep patina on it like a pool in the woods. It was given by the Roi René.

I’ve bought hardly anything, except one very interesting object, which I saw in the window of an Oriental rug-dealer on the morning he opened his shop. It is a Hispano-Moresque vase about 18 in. high, just the shape of the celebrated Alhambra vase (which is some 4 ft. high),The “Alhambra Vase,” also known as the Vase of the Gazelles, is one of a small group attributed to the Nasrid Period, late fourteenth–early fifteenth century, produced in either Málaga or Granada, Spain. The vase is in the Museo de la Alhambra, Granada. Tyler refers to the vase in Spain, a Study of Her Life and Arts (London: G. Richards, 1909), 483 and 525, ill. after p. 504. that is, roughly thus:

reflet métallique“Metallic sheen,” a very thin layer of metal (usually silver or copper) in the form of colloid, which is suspended in the ceramic glaze. of very beautiful quality, arabesques, with an arabic inscription on the band across the paunch. Apart from the Alhambra vase itself I have never seen anything like it, and there is certainly nothing in the Museums of London, Paris or Madrid in the way of Hispano with Arabic inscription. I take it to be XIVth cent. It is badly cracked, but only has one very small piece missing. The dealer had just arrived from Constantinople, whence he brought it. He didn’t know what it was. I think it may give OsmaGuillermo de Osma (1853–1922) and his wife founded in 1916 a collection of arms and armor, miniatures, Flemish tapestries, coins, autograph manuscripts, fabrics, jewelry, paintings (including an El Greco), and pottery of the Spanish/Arab and Mudéjar periods. The collection is now a museum and research institute, the Instituto Valencia de Don Juan in Madrid. rather a jolt, as I’m pretty sure he has no Hispano with an Arabic inscription. It is a real inscription, by the way, not merely decorative; but I haven’t had it read yet.

Gioia was very ill with paratyphoid in London for a long time. She is now here in Paris—at a hotel as her father says he’ll never speak to her again if she crosses our threshold—and is getting on much better. Her heart stood the long illness remarkably well. As soon as she’s had a good rest Elisina is going to take her south—to stay with Edith first, and later perhaps go elsewhere. Unhappily the doctors won’t hear of her going to Italy for the moment. It’s a great mercy that she can be with Elisina quietly in the South, and the thought of it is a constant happiness to me, for I’m sure it will do her all the good in the world, and bring her to miraculously. She’s half dago and needs the sun, which she’s had too little of always, besides being badgered out of her life.In a letter to Violet Markham of June 20, 1923, Tyler wrote: “I am torn and perplexed between distress at seeing Gioia persecuted and bullied and the feeling that I must not intervene in a way likely to estrange her from her brothers.” London School of Economics, Papers of Violet Markham, file 25/84, no. 6, p. 13.

William is flourishing. He and Babie are the fastest friends. He adores her.

Much love from Elisina.

Yours always affectionately
Royall Tyler

 

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