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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, March 6, 1904

6 Perdones


March 6th

Dear Mildred.

Forgive this paper, but I can’t get anything in Salamanca fit to write on, and as you ask me so many questions, I have [been] obliged to have recourse to fool’s cap. Foolscap is standard-size paper measuring 13 1/2 x 17 inches. No pun intended. Your letter, which came this morning, was perfectly charming. I was delighted with it, and to know you agree I can’t come to America at present. I am glad you have the rug The identity of this rug is unknown. too. It is very difficult to know where to begin, so I will take things as they occur to me, but not the War, except that I should not be surprised to see an Anglo French rapprochement. This sounds odd, but as Germany is so friendly to Russia at present, and is a more useful ally to the latter than France could be and Russia has borrowed three hundred millions of pounds from France, France may be forced to hedge by some understanding, preferably regarding the North of Africa, with England. On April 8, 1904, Great Britain and France signed the Entente Cordiale (formally titled the Declaration between the United Kingdom and France Respecting Egypt and Morocco, Together with the Secret Articles Signed at the Same Time), an agreement that resolved a number of longstanding colonial disputes but stopped short of binding either to any military undertaking in support of the other. France wanted to build a buffer against possible German aggression, and Britain wanted to encourage an alliance with France in light of Germany's decision to expand her naval strength in competition with Britain. The agreement was extended in 1907 to include Russia, culminating in the alliance that formally took on the Central Powers during the First World War. If Lord Landsdowne Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne (1845–1927), a British politician and Irish peer who was foreign affairs secretary of state and leader of the House of Lords in 1904. isn’t a hopeless idiot he will embrace such an opportunity, which would do much for peace. About the details of the War I care little. I loathe battles and sieges and campaigns, but the other side of it is intensely interesting, especially Russia talking about her “mission civilisatrice.”Mission civilisatrice (“civilisatory mission”) is a rationale for intervention or colonization that proposes to contribute to the spread of civilization.

Salamanca is an interesting place, but how am I to write anything about it in a letter? If I tell you one thing, I falsify my account by leaving out another, whose omission makes the picture incomplete. The Rector is a free thinker, and I would not for worlds tell him I wasn’t a bona fide Romanist. Catholic. We have the most splendid battles about it, he telling me, with more truth than he is aware of, that if I were more religious I wouldn’t be a Catholic. He is charming, and his essays are nice—they are short, and I will show them to you, and if you are at all advanced with the Italian you will be able to follow the translation. What he puts most stress upon is the precious right of each individual to change his mind as often as he pleases—to contradict himself, and to live theories and ideas and thus test them. If I were to do such an inconceivable thing as to adopt any one religion, it would be Romanism. You can have no idea of the difference between Romanism here, and the same in England and America, Germany and even France and Austria. The Rector says that rather than admit the modern liberal spirit of Catholicism, the Spanish church will form a sort of body apart—like the non-jurors.The nonjuring schism was a split in the Anglican Churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, over whether William of Orange and his wife Mary could legally be recognized as king and queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland. He thinks they are going to retain possession of Rome, however, with the Italians, and I think that the new Catholic countries are going to supplant them, and that they’ll have to conform, or go out. But what is the good of all this, while we can’t raise objections to each other’s arguments? I’m going to tell you what I have been doing, and leave what I think of it till we meet. I live in a student’s lodging house, where I have three small rooms, and pay pst.3.50 per diem, which comes to about S 1/8. The food is something which you can hardly ever have even dreampt [sic] of, but it is astounding how quickly one gets used to it.

I think in my last letter I told you a little about my experiences in Carnival, The Catholic festival season that occurs immediately before Lent. so that must wait too. In the morning, I get up at 8, take a cold bath (with ice and snow outside), and spend the morning reading Spanish or Latin, and once a week the Spectator. In the afternoon I go to walk with the Rector, or the other Rector (of whom more later) and in the evening I go to a student’s house, where we adopt the following plan. He reads a paragraph of some essay of Stevenson Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (1850–1894), a Scottish writer. in English. I correct his accent, which is beyond any shadow of hope, and then translate and explain the passage in Spanish. The student is intelligent, and were it not for the system of education here, which is compulsory on those who wish to follow any educated profession, I think he would be considered fairly well read at Oxford or Harvard. The system lays out an obligatory course of studies, which are taught in a very superficial way. But the evil of the matter is this, that they attempt to give an aperçu"A brief survey." of every subject under heaven, and as a result teach nothing in any that anyone except most exceptional boys can remember two months after examination.

What is the New York Independent?The Independent, a weekly magazine published in New York in 1848–1923 and in Boston in 1923–1928. The Rector has written an article on national and clerical education in this country for it.Miguel de Unamuno, “National and Clerical Education in Spain,” The Independent, August 25, 1904. See also Jack Conrad Willers, “Unamuno Centennial,” Educational Theory 15, no. 4 (October 1965): 317–26. Willers writes: “As early as 1904, Unamuno was fighting for improved public education in Spain. He deplored the ‘spirit of the Inquisition’ by which church and state authorities assumed the responsibilities of individuals and hindered free inquiry. He bitterly criticized the ‘lucrative business’ of education aimed at indoctrinating the students in external religious practices and preparing them for standardized examinations. Spain’s ‘national leprosy,’ according to Unamuno, was the loss of individual responsibility to think for one’s self.” (318) The article, translated into English by the Independent’s correspondent at Madrid, a Columbian [sic] with a wife in New York, is to be published soon. The translator is execrable. I corrected the poor sheets, and tried to help it a little, but the man writes such a bastard, Spanish-American-commercial-traveler sort of lingo that it won’t do. Unfortunately the translator is also the correspondent and plenipotentiary agent of the paper, and as he considers himself competent, and de Unamuno is anxious to publish in the paper, there is nothing more to be said about it. Next Sunday I am going with the Rector to Zamora, and we are to make several expeditions in the neighborhood. He is devoted to Ruskin, John Ruskin (1819–1900), an English art critic, social critic, author, and poet. and knows a good deal about the history of art and architecture. For Unamuno’s responses to Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelites, and William Morris as well as his approval of the latter’s campaign to return to folk handicraft, see Lily Litvak, A Dream of Arcadia: Anti-Industrialism in Spanish Literature, 1895–1905 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1975), 15–16, 18, 27–29, 32, and 35. The trait in his character that pleases me best is that he is first and above all things a Basque, and speaks of all Spain outside his Basque provinces as “fuera” abroad. I introduced him to Izaak Walton,Izaak Walton (1593–1683), the English author of The Compleat Angler. For more on this introduction to Walton's book, see letter of February 16, 1905. See also letters of August 19, 1903, and November 1, 1904. he is devoted to it and has written a very graceful essay on the subject, which I will show you. Miguel de Unamuno, “El perfecto pescador de caña (después de leer a Walton),” La lectura, revista de ciencias y de artes 4, no. 2 (1904): 447–58. See also letter of February 16, 1905. You may imagine how pleased I am about that. As to plans—from now until Holy Week I shall be here, with frequent journeyings about the province. For Holy Week I go to Sevilla, and then to Cordova Granada Ronda Malaga Cadix—then if you will look carefully at your map, you will observe that it is but a pebble’s cast from Cadix to Tangier!!! Don’t whisper a syllable of this, but if things are favourable it is extremely possible that before you see me again I shall have rubbed shoulders with the East.

I think I shall leave Spain about the beginning of June, and you may be sure I shall appear in whatever locality you are favouring with your presence. It will be indeed cruel if after all you decide not to come. I haven’t the face to start on another of these sheets, so the Rector of the College of Irish NoblesIn his Autobiography (3:25–26), Royall Tyler wrote of Maguire’s love of good wine and food, which was prepared for him by a chef trained in Madrid. He also wrote: “I did not know [Thomas Love] Peacock’s novels in those days, but I enjoyed the company of a reverend gentleman who might have figured in one of them. I need hardly say that he and Unamuno had no use for one another.” must wait.

Yours sincerely

Royall Tyler

I have been advised to leave the Arabic for the present, and have done it, for the four languages for my Diplomatic examination—French, German, Latin and Spanish—will be quite enough to keep me busy, don’t you think so?

March 8th

Since I wrote the above, quite an amusing episode has taken place, which, if you will excuse the unpardonable length it gives the letter, I will try to describe. Yesterday was the Day of Santo Tomás de Aquino,Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), an Italian Dominican priest, philosopher, and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism. the great Dominican Saint. I had heard there was to be high mass in his honour, and in that of the Academicos de Santo Tomás, a religious organization, sung at the Dominican convent. Convento de San Esteban, Salamanca, a Dominican complex begun in 1525 and finished in 1618. The complex (designed by Juan de Álva) comprises a church and several convent rooms, including a sacristy, capitol hall, three cloisters, and a library. I went there, at 10 A.M. to see the ceremony. About half way through the Mass, I saw one of the Academicos, who sat with chains and medals around their necks, in different tribunals, arise and direct himself towards me. He arrived and told me that I had been elected a member of the institution, and invited me to come up and take my place among my brethren. This I did, and heard the sermon and the rest of the Mass, sung with the accompaniment of a full orchestra, which played the most frantic Bacchanalian fandangos and tangos and boleros.

After Mass I was taken and presented to the prior of the convent. Such a man, walking round the cloisters smoking endless cigarettes, and making spirited remarks on the sermon in Castillian [sic] and Ecclesiastical Latin. I was then bidden over to the Banquet by the Governor of Salamanca, the head of the order—a Canon of the Cathedral, and the prior of the convent. The rest were all members of the order. The Banquet took place in the Refectory of the convent, and was decent. After the coffee had been brought, the Governor and Prior, and the head of the order for Salamanca (the Canon) spoke and then they called for me! I tried to decline, but a company of Spaniards after a solid meal (which is a rarity for them), takes no refusal, and in less time than it takes to tell it, I found myself on my feet gravely saluting the dignitaries present in Spanish, and responding as a representative of English Catholicism to the Reactionaries and intransigents who had made the first speeches.

I abominate speaking in public even in English, and when I rose to my feet before the most distinguished lay and clerical personages in Salamanca you may imagine that it was an effort from which it will take me some time to recover. However, I would not have missed it for much. You will agree that to speak in Spanish as an English member of a Reactionary Spanish brotherhood, expressing hopes as to the immediate reestablishment of the church in all her temporal power in Spain and out of it, isn’t bad for a New Englander brought up a Christian Scientist. Now doesn’t the green eyed monster rise within you? Even our episode See Anniversary. For Tyler’s narrative of this event, see The Early Letters (19021908). at Saint Germain des PrésThe Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, on the Left Bank in Paris, was built between 990 and 1014. This church was the site of the Anniversary. must fade before this.

I am thinking seriously of going to Fez and Morocco, but don’t breathe it, and needless to say, not a syllable about the pseudo-Romanism. You and my stepfather share it. Write when you have time, RT.

Associated People: Bernard Maguire; Miguel de Unamuno
Associated Places: Salamanca (Spain)
Associated Things: Anniversary; Autobiography; The Spectator