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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, August 1, 1905

Cangas de TineoCangas de Tineo, now known as Cangas del Narcea, the oldest municipality in Asturias, Spain.

August 1st

Dear Mildred.

Please excuse the strangely evil smell of this paper. It is all there is to be had in this town. As you are not at Sharon I don’t know whether you will be able to find a big enough atlas to see where it is. But look at Asturias, about 100 Km W.S.W. of Gijón. There it is.

Our adventures in getting here have been quite thrilling. We started from Salamanca about 12 days ago and went as far as Leon in the train, taking packs on our backs and leaving everything else at Salamanca. Leon is more beautiful than Cologne, a good deal, and beside the CathedralLeón Cathedral, a mid-thirteenth-century Gothic cathedral in León, Spain. there are other churches of note. One contains frescoesTwelfth-century frescoes (featuring New Testament subjects with scenes of contemporary rural life) in the pantheon of the kings of León adjoining the eleventh-century collegiate Church of San Isidoro in León, Spain. (untouched) of the 11th in a perfect state of preservation, hideously ugly and to my mind absolutely innocent of Byzantine or Syrian influence. In the same church there is a Codex Bib.Codex Biblicus Legionensis, 960 CE, Archivo Capitular de la Real Colegiata de San Isidoro, León. See Steven Dodd, trans., Codex biblicus legionensis: Twenty Studies (León: Real Colegiata de San Isidoro, 1999). of the 10th which is profusely illuminated, I think by Byzantine or Syrian hands.The manuscript is considered to be Visigoth-Mozarabic; it was produced at the monastery of Valeránica. But it is useless to enumerate these things.

Ten days ago then we left Leon, and took the train to a place called La Pola de Gordon,La Pola de Gordón, a municipality located in the province of León in northwestern Spain. on the line from Leon to Gijón. There we started to walk across a huge chain of mountains unguided, and after 6 hours very hard work descried a village which we descended upon and found to be the same one from which we set out early that morning—mingled emotions.

We rested for two hours, could get no food beyond a little bread, and then set out again, in defiance of the wise men of the village, who predicted that we were entering upon a Calvary, to use their own words. We walked 25 miles across the mountains, and at last hit the village we had intended to reach, and spent a night of indifferent comfort with some dozen mulateers [sic] who it must be confessed, are every one of them gentlemen. We were so foot sore that we decided to go on with the coach that day, and as we were making our painful way along the village street to where the coach started, a Guardia Civil arrested us as suspicious persons, demanding our documents—(all Spaniards have documents). I said we were English and had no documents.

—No documents! Where are your passports?

—We have no passports.

—But all Englishmen have passports.

—We did not know it was necessary.

—I know what you are—you are fugitives from justice, or have fled from your paternal homes! I must arrest you till the matter be looked into.

We made a piteous procession through the village street. As a last refuge I explored my pockets for papers which might impress the official, and luckily found a letter from de Unamuno, and with much blarneying I finally induced the Guardia to take it as a security for us. Thank Heaven it bore the stamp of the Rector of Salamanca.

Our adventures for the next three days are unworthy of record. The next moving incident took place at a village of the name of Caboalles,Caboalles de Abajo and Caboalles de Arriba, two villages in the municipality of Villablino in the province of León, Spain. in the midst of the Sierra, where we had decided to pass two days, as it is really an earthly paradise, watered by a delicious stream. In this stream we were bathing one afternoon when there came up what the dagoRoyall Tyler's slang for “Spaniard.” calls a tormenta—that is a thunderstorm, and hailstorm and hurracán combined. We had not even time to dress, and stood with our hair standing on end in the water under a tree, stark naked, watching the lightning knock chips off the mountain side, and keeping our clothes from being washed away.

When the thing had abated enough to allow us to see, we dressed, or rather put on as many of our clothes as we could find, and made our way to the farmhouse where we were staying, where we went to bed until our clothes were dry.

The people were and are extremely good, and though very curious, very polite. I had gone out for a walk, and on returning found that Lyulph Howard, who is making good progress with Spanish, had told the people that though he was English, I was a native of Salamanca. This was all very well until the village Guardia Civil came to call on our hostess. He knew Salamanca, and though I had no difficulty in keeping him busy with my conversation, I felt sick at the thought that he might ask me for my document. He did not do so, and all was well.

We have been here a few days. It is very lovely wooded country—in the middle of the Asturias (Basque-Astarock) though no Basques have lived here for a thousand years and more. You are probably aware of my weakness for anniversaries, and this is that of my arrival at Sharon. Wish me as pleasant a time here as I had there.

I saw Unamuno for 5 days at Salamanca. He has now gone to Bilbao with the King,Alfonso XIII (Alfonso León Fernando María Jaime Isidro Pascual Antonio de Borbón y Austria-Lorena) (1886–1941), king of Spain from 1886 to 1931. who keeps him a good deal with him since they first met last October.See Ana Chaguaceda Toledano, ed., Miguel de Unamuno, estudios sobre su obra (Salamanca: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 2005), 279. But we go back to Salamanca and start on another expedition with him in September. He must be one of the most unpopular men in Spain. I love him all the more that he forms one of the noble company “who early in life have rid themselves of the friendship of the many” to whom Whistler dedicated his priceless “Gentle Art.”Dedicatory line “To the rare few who . . . ”, in James Abbott McNeill Whistler, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies: As Pleasingly Exemplified in Many Instances, Wherein the Serious Ones of this Earth, Carefully Exasperated, have been Prettily Spurred on to Unseemliness and Indiscretion, While Overcome by an Undue Sense of Right (New York: John W. Lovell, 1890). The book includes criticisms of Whistler’s art and the court records of Whistler’s unsuccessful libel suit against John Ruskin.

They play the bagpipe here, not unlike the Scotch—dance also like reel. Get Marcel Schwob’s books.Marcel Schwob (1867–1905), a French writer. See also letters of September 1, 1905; October 10, 1905; November 1, 1905; April 11, 1906; and September 1, 1906.

Yrs sincerely,

Royall Tyler.


[On the back of an enclosed drawing:]

This is a scene which was occasioned at Oviedo by an unfortunate incident. Do you blame the Guardia? Lyulph Howard drew it and greets you. RT


Associated People: Lyulph Howard; Miguel de Unamuno