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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, October 1, 1932

Finance Ministry

Your letter from the Eastern Prince was a great joy, dearest Mildred. It reached me here just after I had returned from 6 weeks (!) at Antigny, spent with Hayford working very hard at Vol. II,L’art byzantin. on which we made a lot of progress. The aperçu,“Outline.” which is 3–4 times as long as that of Vol. I,L’art byzantin. is now ready, and the rest of the Vol. is in draft form, for me to work over as I have time. It will be rather longer than Vol. I, and have some 220 plates. I think it will be more interesting, though fate has so willed it that hardly any big sculpture in the round survives from the VIe cent, (to which Vol. II is limited) and we shall therefore have nothing like Sergeant Mulrooney with which to adorn the cover.See letter of August 15, 1932. But the ivories and silver and especially the silks are going to make an impressive show, and I think we have a lot to offer on all these subjects that is new.

Vol. I isn’t out yet—in the sense that it hasn’t yet been sent to the Trade. The publishers, at the last moment, decided they must increase the price of each individual Vol. (except to original subscribers) from 350 fr. to 400 fr.; hence the delay, to which a change in the staff of the Lib. de France has also contributed. It’s silly to do it just now, and the delay may mean we miss the Xmas trade in England and the US—but I needn’t tell you how little such considerations weigh with Anatole when he is in the mood for being silly. Anyway, we never expected to make money out of the book, and the LDFLibrairie de France. have certainly done well by us where the reproductions are concerned.

A few copies have got into reviewers’ hands, and there have been excellent reviews in the Times Lit. Sup.Alan Francis Clutton-Brock, “Byzantine Art, L’Art Byzantin. Vol I,” The Times Literary Supplement, September 22, 1932. and the Manchester Guardian (latter by Binyon),Robert Laurence Binyon (1869–1943), an English poet, dramatist and art scholar. just these last days.

I am hoping to be able to get away for a few days towards the end of this month, to Paris and perhaps London, and I shall try and get hold of Paul Sachs and talk with him about the Byz. Lib. idea.See letter of May 15, 1932. Of course I don’t know the existing Libraries in the USA sufficiently well to know exactly what form the idea—assuming it holds water at all—should take in order to avoid unnecessary duplication and to offer something valuable that doesn’t exist already. I have thought about it a lot, and talked it over with Hayfordbut he also, though he knows more than I do about the existing libraries, isn’t conversant enough with them to have a definite opinion. As you have already realised, my imagination was kindled with the idea of seeing something created at The Oaks in the development of which I might be of some use. But at this stage I can’t see the end to be pursued clearly enough to be able to plot out a budget, even on the most general lines. Anyway, whatever it is that springs up at The Oaks, you’ll dispose of me to the extent I can collaborate, and that’s the main thing. The vision you call up of boxwood shades looks good to me, and I won’t allow mistrust of the Zeitgeist to spoil it. We don’t know, so what’s the good? Old Weisz,Weisz has not been identified. the canniest banker here, now over 70, told me once that when he first started business the old Yid who was his mentor posted up on the wall opposite his stool a sheet of paper with the words ES KOMMT IMMER ANDERS.“Things always turn out differently.” I wouldn’t dream, if I were you, of deviating from my Oaks plan on account of any spookey pranks of the Zeitgeist.

I sent you photographs of the Bamberg silk tapestry.Gunther Tapestry, Constantinople, tenth century, Bamberg Diocesan Museum. The so-called Gunthertuch was either purchased or received as a gift by Bishop Gunther von Bamberg during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1064–1065. Gunther died on his return journey and was buried with it in the Bamberg Cathedral. The textile was rediscovered in 1830. See Günter Prinzing, “Das Bamberger Gunthertuch in neuer Sicht,” Byzantinoslavica 54 (1993): 218–31; and Paul Stephenson, The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-slayer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 62–65. I hope they arrived all right. No more so far of the German Cath. Treasures Show.See letter of June 3, 1932. I’ll let you know if there is any news. The position with regard to the Czernin VermeerJohannes Vermeer’s The Art of Painting, 1666, was acquired by Count Johann Rudolf Czernin (1757–1845) in 1813, when it was attributed to Pieter De Hooch. The painting became the property of Count Franz Czernin (1857–1932) and, upon his death, of Eugen Czernin (1892–1955) and Jaromir Czernin (1908–1966). When the estate was dissolved in 1933, Jaromir Czernin attempted to sell the painting, despite the fact that a sale contradicted the stipulations of the 1923 Austrian law for the protection of monuments. Andrew W. Mellon reportedly offered one million dollars for the painting in 1935. The later history and subsequent legal activities of the painting prior to its acquisition by the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, in 1955, are discussed in Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., with Mari Griffith, “The Painting’s Afterlife,” in Johannes Vermeer: The Art of Painting (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2000) (exhibition brochure). is likely to remain obscure for a long time to come.See letter of June 10, 1932. The Czernins are Czecho subjects; the picture is in Austria. Under Czecho law it would go to one person, under Austrian law to another. And, I am told, if, when and as the legal point is cleared up, the Austrian State will probably grab the picture anyway, under the law giving it a right of preemption. So I expect that’s that.

Fettich is digging all the time, but nothing sensational has turned up of late. Bit by bit, they are piecing together the evidence for drawing a line between Hun and Avar in the finds dating from the Ve cent. and after; so far it looks as if it were practically all Avar; the specifically Hun apport“Contribution.” being very limited and consisting mostly of coarsish imitations of Sarmatian gold-and-garnet work, without the refinements of the original or of the derivations from the parent stock which flowered under the Gothic invaders of Hungary. Some day some big new find of the order of Szilágy SomlyóThe Szilágy Somlyó (Szilágysomlyó) treasure, consisting of an onyx fibula, ten pairs of fibulas decorated with gold and jewels, a swearing-in ring, and three gold bowls, was found in 1889 at what is now Şimleul Silvaniei, Romania. It is housed in the Hungarian National Museum, Budapest. An earlier discovery, in 1797, of a separate part of the buried Szilágy Somlyó treasure is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. or Nagy St. MiklosThe Nagy Saint Miklos (Nagyszentmiklós) treasure, a collection of twenty-three early medieval gold vessels, variously dated between the sixth and tenth centuries, found in 1799 in Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary, in the Habsburg Empire (modern Sânnicolau Mare, Romania). The treasure was transferred to the Imperial Collection (now Kunsthistorisches Museum), Vienna. will be made. By the way, the Avar character of Nagy St. M. is now pretty solidly established by a mass of evidence from Fettich’s diggings over the last few years. I’ve had the whole series of Archaeologia Hungarica sent to D. Alfonso Reyes.Alfonso Reyes Ochoa (1889–1959), a Mexican writer, philosopher, and diplomat. He was posted to Mexico’s diplomatic service in France in 1913–1914, and he served as Mexico’s ambassador to Argentina in 1927–1930 and 1936–1937.

The Pébrac chapeSo-called Cope of Saint Pierre de Chavanon, eleventh century, embroidered silk, Abbey of Pébac. See Louis Bréhier, “La Chape de Pébrac,” Almanach de Brioude et de son arrondissement 17 (1936): 85–92. is superb, and very well preserved XIe–XIIe and either Spanish or Siculo—it hasn’t really been settled whether that type—of which the S. Sernin peacock-stuffShroud of Saint-Sernin of Toulouse, twelfth century, brocaded silk, Andalusia, Musée National du Moyen Age (Musée de Cluny), Paris, Cl. 12869. is a well known member—comes from Spain or Sicily. I’m inclined to back Spain, Hayford Sicily. Anyway, it’s wonderful to see a whole huge chape of it, well-preserved, with lions tearing onagres, and cockey-olly birds: deep reds, golden rod yellows, pistaccio greens, turquoise blues on a fond tête de nègre.“Dark brown ground.”

I was happy to know that your mother was freed of the phobias. It must have been hard to leave her to go to the ends of the earth, but less so for that release.

Well—I’m longing to hear when you are coming again and I hug the hope that this time it won’t be to spend a few days and rush back. You remember my old mug-wumpMugwumps were a group of Republican activists who supported Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland in the presidential election of 1884. proclivities: I’d have voted for Al SmithAlfred Emanuel Smith Jr. (1873–1944), known as Al Smith, an American politician who served as governor of New York four times and was the Democratic presidential candidate in 1928, losing to Herbert Hoover. four years ago. This time, I really think I might vote Republican (I’m not sure) but if, as every one I see says, F. Roosevelt is sure of election. I shall be consolable.

I’ve just been in Geneva, and got out as speedily as I could. Pessimism, apathy, bad atmosphere generally. I don’t believe the League is doomed, and I think it was bound, given the way the world wags, to go through a nearly-mortal illness, but it’s not a pretty picture—and to my taste not embellished by our Pompeo (Aloisi) being in it in a lecturing mood.Pompeo Aloisi (1875–1949), an Italian diplomat and spy. In 1932, he became Benito Mussolini’s chief of staff when the latter assumed the role of foreign minister. He represented Italy on the Council of the League of Nations (1932–1937) and took part in the League’s Disarmament Conference in Geneva (1932–1933).

The Franco-German position is very bad indeed, and I think most people who follow such things closely look now for war in 5–8–10 years.Because of Germany’s restructuring of its military and its attempts to overturn the Treaty of Versailles, France was unwilling to agree to disarmament and arms parity between France and Germany at the League of Nations World Disarmament Conference, 1932–1934. See F. S. Northedge, The League of Nations: Its Life and Times, 1920–1946 (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1986), 114. However, es kommt immer anders,“Things always turn out differently.” See above. and I haven’t lost hope that the catastrophy will be averted. Certainly, things have changed very fast of late in Germany: the old face of that land is now showing through again plainly. Hitler’s day is past, and I’m not sure that it’s a bad thing that he should have been shown up by events to be the yellow warbler he is. If I hadn’t blackened so much paper already I’d expose some guesses as to the possible effects of a rapid improvement in business in Germany—and elsewhere—which I think may come, but it would only be hot air, and I must tell you a little about the ministerial crisis we’ve just had here.

When I got back from Geneva 3 days ago I found the town echoing with “It was Tyler who turned out the Govt” and several papers embellishing on the theme. The yarn may even have got to your eyes.

It’s entirely untrue. I liked KárolyiGyula Count Károlyi de Nagykároly (1871–1947), a conservative Hungarian politician who served as prime minister from 1931 to 1932. In order to stem Hungary’s protracted agrarian and credit crisis, Károlyi reduced the state expenses by reducing state employees’ salaries, social programs, and pensions. The ultimate failure of these policies forced Károlyi’s resignation in September 1932. immensely and was always in accord with him. He couldn’t stay because he got no loyal support from Parliament, and the position had become ludicrous; a Govt. without support from ParIt., and that Parlt. having lost its hold on the country, to such an extent that it is believed that a gen. election, even with the present ballot, would send in the agrarians as the strongest party—agrarians pledged to a lot of wild measures.

The new Prime Minister, GömbösGyula Gömbös de Jákfa (1886–1936), a Hungarian politician and the conservative prime minister of Hungary from 1932 to 1936. (s is like sch) has a stormy political past as a Jew-baiter, an extreme raciste agitator etc., but as Min. of war for the last 3 years he has been competent and sober, though I don’t suppose he has lost any of his sympathy for extra-parliamentary methods when circumstances seem to him to demand them. I imagine he has a paper in his pocket that he might use if Parlt. is a nuisance. That may suffice to make Parlt. careful—but caution isn’t the Hunk Parlt.’s long suit, and I look for a show down, before very long. The new Cabinet contains no men of title—the first time such a thing has happened, except during Bolshevism. Even the Hunk Republic had to be led by a Count. The Legitimists and other magnates hate Gömbös, and so do the Jews. He is credited with the intention of democratising Hungary from the Right, and unless he is to fall far below expectations he will have to produce a programme with thrills in it. I only know him casually, and I shall keep an entirely open mind, do what I can to help and form my opinion as things take shape. At least, one may look for an end to the deadlock that has been paralysing everything here for nearly 6 months past. G. has an opportunity, and if he understands that the budget must be balanced, and does what is necessary to that end, he’ll deserve well of this country, where few people care to face 2 + 2. By the way, did you see the story in W. d’ Enfances Diplomatiques,Wladimir d’Ormesson, Enfances Diplomatiques (Paris: Hachette, 1932). about ClemenceauGeorges Benjamin Clemenceau (1841–1929), a French statesman, physician, and journalist who served as prime minister in 19061909 and 19171920. visiting a little girls’ school in Crete? Cl. asks a little girl “Combien sont 2 et 2?”“How much is 2 plus 2?” The little girl: “Ça dépend, Monsieur. Si on les pose l’un sur l’autre, ça fait 4. Si on les pose à côté l’un de l’autre, ça fait 22.”That depends, sir. If they are put one above the other, it is 4. If they are put next to each other, it is 22.” A little Greek girl.

I don’t at all know what my relations with the new Govt. will be. For a moment, I thought of taking this opportunity to get out, but I was urged to stay by Geneva, and Károlyi also, when I said good-bye to him yesterday, made a great point of it. We’ll see. The HambrosHambros Bank. See letter of September 6, 1928. are kind enough to want me back, but a national stage, even a small one, has its attractions, especially at such a time as this.

Did you see the hideous thing that happened to Olaf HambroRonald Olaf Hambro (1885–1961), the managing director of Hambros Bank since 1921. His wife, Winifred Emily Hambro, née Ridley-Smith, drowned in a boating accident on Loch Ness on August 25, 1932, when the launch caught fire after an engine explosion. Her body was never recovered. (now head of the firm)? He, his wife, 2 children and a governess were in their motor-boat on Loch Ness, when the motor burst into flame. Mrs. Hambro was a very good swimmer; Olaf told her to swim ashore, and he’d look after the children. He was doing so, when she sank like a stone. The Loch is very deep—the body has never been found. Perhaps the cruellest part of it is that the fire went out by itself and the boat drifted ashore with the Governess in it, unhurt. Olaf saved the 2 children. It’s an abominable thing, for they were the happiest couple imaginable, and Olaf cared for nothing on earth but his home. He’s very heavily hit, and one can’t help being gravely worried about him. I’m very fond of him indeed. Fate has it in for that family, it appears. Only a few months ago Charlie’sSir Charles Jocelyn Hambro (1897–1963), a British banker with Hambros Bank and a director of the Bank of England from 1932 to 1933. His wife, Pamela Hambro, née Cobbold, died on April 15, 1932. wife, under 30, suddenly died of what appeared to be a harmless grippe. Charlie is Sir Eric H’sSir Charles Eric Hambro (1872–1947), a British politician and chairman of Hambros Bank. eldest son, and a member of the firm and also a Director of the Bank of England, and a very good fellow in every way. Eric has sold Milton Abbey,Milton Abbey (the Abbey Church of Saint Mary, Saint Samson, and Saint Branwalader), a Benedictine foundation in Dorset. Only a part of the church now survives and is used as the chapel of the Milton Abbey School. In 1852, the banker Carl Joachim Hambro acquired Milton Abbey and made it his family home after a major restoration. The Hambro family lived at Milton Abbey until 1932. which had been in the Hambro’s hands for 3 generations, and sold it . . . guess! . . to the Benedictines who built it in the XIIIe cent! and who were dispossessed of it by Henry VIII. And Eric’s new wifeEdith Estelle Ermyntrude le Poer Hambro, née Whyte (d. 1975). presented him with a child the other day, which didn’t live.

There are moments when I feel that I am crazy to have undertaken this Byz. book on the present 5 vol. scaleHayford Peirce and Royall Tyler, L’art byzantin, des origins au déclin. Cinq volumes in-4o contenant mille phototypies tirées par Daniel Jacomet. Paris, Librarie de France (as it was titled in a review of volume one by Mme. Chevallier-Vérel in Syria 14, no. 3 [1933]: 327–28) only appeared in two volumes in 1932 and 1934. A third volume was completed but was not published due to the Second World War. at a time when I am quite fully occupied with other things, and when I doubt whether I shall be able to see it through, or doubt whether the quality of the Byz. work won’t be marred by haste. But, on the whole and on balance, I think I can do it. Hayford aiding—and he does his full share—and also that it will be well worth doing. Of course our approach to the subject doesn’t commend itself to a wide public. Especially in England, people are really much more interested in the expression of human sentiment in art than in the aspects which occupy us, and I see signs of their disappointment on finding that we don’t deal much with the origins of yearning and wistfulness. However, I feel pretty confident that no one who cares for the art of the middle ages will fail to find in our work, even if he doesn’t agree with its tendencies, a great deal that will repay his attention. And of course we’ll learn from mistakes made in the first vol. and the following ones should profit therefrom. I should be grateful for any critical suggestions that may occur to you. Or any ideas as to later volumes. We now plan Vol. II to cover the VIe cent.; Vol. Ill the VIIe, VIIIe and IXe; Vol. IV the Xe and XIe; and Vol. V the rest. We shall not deal with much that comes after 1200.

Much love, dearest Mildred.

R. T.

Associated Things: L'art byzantin