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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, November 1, 1904

181 Wahlershausen


All Saints Day 1904

Dear Mildred.

I am in my family. Have been for twelve days. Its head is an old General,This general has not been identified. who lives alone—with a daughter.The daughter has not been identified. The latter is over 30, I think, and is very kind. Sings in Oratorios, plays the piano well but will not sing while doing it. The General is very nice—a gentleman (which, I gather, is not a quality always accompanying the officer in this land). He studies Italian, and has read the QuijoteDon Quixote, or El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (1605–1615), is the best-known work of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), a Spanish writer from Alcalá de Henares. through in the original, and he speaks French after a fashion. I take two hours of lessons per diem, and do a good deal of work alone but I don’t like it. I don’t like the Germans and don’t believe I ever shall, though it is obvious that they are the best instructed people I have ever been among. They all go to little clubs and read French and English and every conceivable thing, have singing and instrumental clubs, and have an amazing amount of knowledge at their fingers ends.

But they have no grace of mind or body (the dissenterRoyall Tyler probably means Protestants or, more generally, those who disagree in matters of opinion or belief with the majority. variety always excepted). If they happen to be persons of breeding they have enough manners to make intercourse just tolerable, but if they do not, their attitude of mind is so unpleasant that one grows quite desperate. As I said, no grace—(and as for gracia!). I have a teacher who compliments me in the following manner—“You have done this before.” He means well, but what a way of saying it—and it only rubs one the wrong way. It is hideous to look forward to several months with not an atom of hope of ever being adroitly flattered.

Every German assumes that you have less mind, less attainments, less culture, less experience than himself, until you have proved it with a big club that you are not utterly ignorant. Amazement is the only sensation they experience at their neighbour’s successes.

I was delighted with your drawing.This drawing has not been identified. And of course I had also made up my mind to go to a studioRoyall Tyler intended to take painting lessons. See also letters of November 26, 1904; February 16, 1905; and June 4, 1905. this winter. Never mind about the pearls.See letter of October 10, 1904. There wasn’t time to send them, and it doesn’t matter in the least. Cassel has about 100,000 inhabitants of which 10,000 are Catholics and 10,000 Jews. Mass is a martyrdom here—impossible to prevent the unspeakable German, even if Catholic, from singing on every occasion. It is as bad (worse) to adore all and every kind of music at all seasons as they do, than to ignore it altogether. If you will believe it, instead of the choir singing the anthems “Gloria in excelsis” “munda cor meum” “Sanctus” “Agnus Dei” the whole congregation sings hymns, and the anthems are left out. The noise is deafening.

As it was to be expected, this land has been bitten by the “nouvel art”Art Nouveau (“new art”)—or Jugendstil (“youth style”), as it is better known in Germany—an international art movement that influenced the design of architecture and the decorative arts circa 1890–1905. in a manner quite unknown in France. 70% of the houses built in the last 3 years are in a very advanced style of it, and all the latest gimcracks with which they love to bedeck their houses and the postcards which they send to their friends are the same. How they love gimcracks. I can’t help thinking of Diogenes at the fair, saying, “Zeus, how many things there be, of which Diogenes hath no need,” when I look at the shop windows.Royall Tyler is probably quoting from The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton: “Let me tell you, scholar, that Diogenes walked on a day, with his friend, to see a country-fair; where he saw ribbons, and looking-glasses, and nut-crackers, and fiddles, and hobby-horses, and many other gimcracks: and having observed them, and all the other finnimbruns that make a complete country-fair; he said to his friend, ‘Lord! How many things are there in this world, of which Diogenes hath no need!’” On Walton's book, see also letters of August 19, 1903; March 6, 1904; and February 16, 1905.

Fortunately, Cassell has a charming picture gallery,Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, an old-master picture gallery in the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel. with lots of Van Dyck,Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), a Flemish artist who became the leading court painter in England. Rembrandt,Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–1669), a Dutch painter and etcher. and the Dutch school generally. It is said to be the best collection of Dutch pictures in the land. There is the most beautiful portrait of Van Dyck I have ever seen.This painting has not been identified. I shall not rest until you have seen it. It is a man, his wife and a little boy. I can’t attempt to describe it—suffice it to say that there is exactly the right green in the boy’s cloak for the dead leaves. Also there are two very large parks with good trees, and lakes and long avenues and shades of the time when Cassel was the capital of Hessen Cassel, and had royalty.

My amusements are few and simple. I hear music when I feel like it, or rather, I always hear it and sometimes feel like it. In the evening the General and I sit smoking long pipes, drinking hot rum punch, and now and then snort at one another. My chief pleasure is building cypress hallsThe obscure reference to “cypress halls,” which was used several times in Royall Tyler’s correspondence to Mildred Barnes Bliss, may have had a meaning shared only by them. It is also possible that the reference resulted from reading Mesopotamian inscription references to halls of cypress as published, for example, in C. Boutflower, “On a Not Uncommon Rendering of the Word Íkallu,” The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 17, no. 4 (July 1901): 244–49. See also letters of January 12, 1906, and November 12, 1906. at a place called Berja.Berja, a municipality of the Almería province in Andalusia, Spain. It is about 30 kilometres due west of Almería.Almería, a city in Andalusia, Spain, and the capital of the Almería province. Look in your atlas and find it—praise Heaven, the General has one like yours. I have been reading about this place. It appears to be a paradise. An Arab poetAttributed to Abulfadhi-ben-Xafat-Alcairawani. See Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, La Alpujarra (Barcelona, 2007), 190. says of it,

“Cuando llegues á Berja, dispuesto á marchar,

“Detente en ella, y deja el viaje.

“Que todo lugar es en ella un paraiso,

“Y todo camino hacia ella un infierno.

“El mundo procura nuestra sedducción,

“iDios sea loado!“When you come to Berja intending to go on, / stay there and quit the journey, / for the entire place is a paradise, / and every road leading there a hell. / The world seeks to seduce us. / God be praised!”

Are not the last two lines nice? One knows so well what he means.

I hear from the Unamuno that the kingAlfonso XIII (Alfonso León Fernando María Jaime Isidro Pascual Antonio de Borbón y Austria-Lorena) (1886–1941), king of Spain from 1886 to 1931. paid him a three days visit for the opening of the Academic year, and he is as pleased about it as a dog with two tails, though he would rather die than admit it. I have just finished a book of his which I had not before read,Probably Miguel de Unamuno, De mi país: Descripciones, relatos y artículos de costumbres (Madrid: Fernando Fe, 1903). and it is so extraordinarily good in parts, that I am going to ask you to read it with me when ——. It is about Castilla—about what Unamuno calls the “intrahistoria” of the Castillian priest and I think it is the best thing I have ever seen on the subject, and of immense value to any one who intends to travel in and study the country, even if one disagree with the conclusions. It is very involved and he uses lots of local words and not a few of his own.

I am going to begin Russian on the 15th int.This did not occur. See letter of November 26, 1904.

Yrs. sincerely

Royall Tyler.

I have not said the half of what I meant to—among other things, what can one say for a people who, when you thank them, reply “bitte schön”? Also, (this is the last straw) German women going to theatre or concert, wear mantillas. There is a portrait of MelanchthonPhilipp Melanchthon (born Philipp Schwartzerd) (1497–1560), a German professor, theologian, and principal leader of the Lutheran Reformation. here by Lucas Cranach,Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553), a German artist and court painter to the Electors of Saxony. He is known for his portraits of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, whose cause he embraced with enthusiasm. or a pupil of his.Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop, Bildnis Philipp Melanchthons, 1543, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel (no. 1122, GK 18). See Anja Schneckenburger-Broschek, Die altdeutsche Malerei (Kassel: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Kassel, 1982), 63.

Associated People: Miguel de Unamuno
Associated Places: Kassel (Germany)