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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, November 9, 1911


9 November 1911Thursday.

Dear Mildred.

I was happy to get your letter at Simancas the other day and hear that you are coming after Xmas—but very sad at the news of your sister.The death of her stepsister, Cora Fanny Barnes. She suffered a nervous breakdown and eventually committed suicide. See “Miss Barnes Killed By Fall on Birthday; Suicide the Police Say, but Coroner Feinberg Says 70-Foot Drop Was Accidental; Recently Recovered from a Nervous Breakdown, and Just Returned from an Auto Tour of New England,” New York Times, September 30, 1911.—I am so very sorry for you.

We shall certainly sit tight in Paris all the months of January and February, or until you come at any rate.See letter of November 8, 1911. Pray Heaven you may not have to go home direct. I don’t quite make out from your letter what you are going to do after this journey. Perhaps you don’t know either, unless you are going back again to Buenos Ayres. As a matter of fact I had not heard of Carter’sJohn Ridgely Carter had been appointed U.S. minister to Argentina in 1911 to succeed Charles H. Sherrill (1867–1936), who had resigned for reasons of ill health. But Carter never took up the post, claiming that the $12,000 salary was insufficient to maintain the dignity of the position. Robert Woods Bliss was in charge of the legation until the appointment of John W. Garrett (1872–1942) late in 1911. See “Living too Dear in Buenos Aires; Carter Told Knox He Could Not Accept Mission There Unless Provided with a House,” New York Times, November 12, 1911. going there. I have not seen either of them for a longish time, not that I don’t like them, but I know perfectly well what they would think of Elisina and me.See letter of September 27 (?), 1904. And they shall not be forced by me to make a choice of attitudes any one of which would be bound to be painful to them. I have never been much inclined to discuss my affairs with any one, and am less inclined than ever to do so now, having seen that in a case like this nothing but harm can come of it unless it be with a friend of whom one is as sure as of oneself—and the Carters, very nice people, have never been such friends of mine. I think I shall write to Mrs. Carter,Alice Morgan Carter (1865–1933), formerly of New York. as she was kind enough to write to me when she was in Paris and I at Simancas last Spring, and at the distance of Buenos Aires it will be easier for her to make up her mind. I tell myself sometimes to beware of becoming tough—experience, even hard experience, is not of much value if it only makes one tough, but at the same time I believe there are very few people in the world to whom it is wise to say anything about this business. Whether they know or not—people I meet in general, I mean—it is not my business to care—they can take it or leave it as they like, and I’ll always give them a plain answer to a plain question; but inherited friends are the most difficult of all to deal with. Whether the Carters know anything about us I haven’t an idea.

I am very greatly excited about your 200 canvasses: when shall I see them?See letter of June 26, 1911. It will be a great joy to talk with you about all these things, and so few days seem a very short time—but be sure we shall be in Paris and every moment at your disposal. The years seem so short to me now, and the things I want to learn so long. There is one consolation at any rate: as one learns more oneself, and progresses along the road, the objects that formerly seemed far away—other people’s knowledge—hasten towards one, and one finds that if one doesn’t know much oneself, one at least is within measurable distance of the rest—a difference merely of degree.

When we were here last spring they put an Annunciation, the gift of Sra. de IturbeMaria de la Trinidad Scholtz und Hermensdorff (d. 1937), Duquesa de Parcent and later Marquesa de Belvis de las Navas and Condesa de Contamina, the widow of Manuel Iturbe y del Villar. See Reyes y mecenas: Los reyes católicos, Maximiliano I y los inicios de la casa de Austria en España (Milan: Electa, 1992), 406–7; and Elías Tormo y Monzó, Catálogo de las tablas de primitivos españoles en la colección de Doña Trinidad Scholtz-Hermensdorff, Viuda de Iturbe (Madrid: J. Blass, 1911). and purporting to be of ca. 1410, into the Prado. I thought it was false, and wrote an article saying so in the “Saturday”.Royall Tyler, “The Prado’s New ‘Primitive,’” Saturday Review, July 15, 1911. The big-wigs here have decided unanimously that it is genuine, and only “repainted” here and there, and it is still in the Prado. I am still convinced it is false, and am greatly exercised about the thing. I would give anything to know Primitive painting in and out; it is always the art that most delights me, and seems ever deeper. What I respect in it above all is the Enamel like quality of the paint, that hardens with time into the consistency of precious stones and takes all their brilliancy. Among the painters of the Renaissance only one man knew how to make pigment with these properties, and he was El Greco.El Greco (Doménikos Theotokópoulos) (1541–1614), a Spanish Renaissance painter. His pictures will be as clear as when painted when all but a few TitiansTitian (Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio) (ca. 1488/1490–1576), an Italian Renaissance painter. shall be like mud.

We spent over two months at Vienna,The Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv (Archives of the City and Province of Vienna). where we found more material for the Calendar—and better—than at Simancas. Charles VCharles V (1500–1558), ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his abdication in 1556. always had Franc-ComtoisFranc-Comtois, two separate language dialect groups spoken by people in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France. Ambassadors in London and Paris, and their reports, all written in French, remained in Brussels until the Austrians retired from the Low Countries and then were taken to Vienna. His ambassadors in Roma and Venice were Spaniards, and their letters are at Simancas. Vienna is a most delightful place to work in, and the only drawback is that the Archives and the Galleries and Museums are open (and closed) at the same time. But what glorious pictures they have there! Many painters mean nothing until one has seen them there—the old BreughelPieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525–1569), a Netherlandish Renaissance painter and printmaker. and Gherard Tot St. Jans,Geertgen tot Sint Jans (ca. 1465–ca. 1495), an Early Netherlandish painter. two tremendously great men, gave me my chief surprise.

If you come by Madrid, go for a day at least to Toledo, and stop on your way up at the EscorialThe royal seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, residence of the king of Spain in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.—and at Burgos if you can. If, while you are here, you want to hear real Gypsy music, send for my friend Luis Molina,Luis Molina, one of the founders of flamenco guitar playing, created a playing style that carries his name. who is a magnificent guitar player, and tell him to get Juanillo VargasPossibly Juan Agustin Fernández Vargas (1891–1971), known as Juan Talega, flamenco singer. of Jerez, who is also here and sings well. Mention my name to Luis, and I’ll also tell him about you. Send for Luis to come to your hotel, and tell him what you want. He’ll engage a room at “Los Gabrieles”Los Gabrieles, a flamenco club in Madrid established in the nineteenth century. in the Calle de Echegaray, and see to it that Juanillo also comes. Order a bottle or two of Manzanilla for them, and tell them you want nothing but pure Flamenco. Make Juanillo sing Tarantas, Tientos, Soleares and Seguidillas and also let him dance. Give Luis 10 duros, and Juanillo 5 or 6, as you like. Luis is a real friend of mine and as sound as can be, and both are good Gypsies. Luis lives in the Calle de Esperanza 6, and is also to be found at the Café del Brillante in the Calle del Gato, where he is now employed—but don’t go there as it is a vile place. Also ask Luis whether Juana Vargas la MacarronaJuana Vargas (“Juana la Macarrona”) (1870–1947), a flamenco dancer. Caballero Bonald wrote of her dancing: “Juana Vargas, la Macarrona, filled dance with an ancient emotional force, full of feminine grace, as in the soleares she created. Everything inside her body became a sensual, static cadence. Her expressiveness was her very blood, stirred up in figures of burning, winged frenzy. And her waist, her arms, gave forth the torrent of the dance, pure volcanic, from the unknown deep sediments of the ancient civilizations.” See Royall Tyler, Spain, a Study of her Life and Arts (London: G. Richards, 1909), 23; and letter of June 18, 1912. is in Madrid, and if she is, send for her as well. She is not a professional singer, but she knows “El Cante”“Singing.” through and through, and sings most enchantingly. She is by far the greatest dancer that ever lived, and a little roly-poly person with a great heart. A thorough Gypsy and a dear friend of Elisina’s and mine. If she comes, give her 10 duros, and if you see her, Juanillo and Luis, you’ll have seen and heard what very few Spaniards have done.

I give you such minute directions as this world of Flamenco is something quite apart from the run of Spanish life, and very few people here know how to approach it. Knowing something of your tastes, I am sure you will be deeply interested, and perhaps love it as madly as I do. If la MacarronaJuana Vargas (“Juana la Macarrona”) (1870–1947), a flamenco dancer. is not here don’t attempt to see any woman dancer, as they are a poor lot at present. At some of the Varieties there may be Flamenco singers, and good ones, but the place to hear them is not a theatre, but a quiet room where you have them alone.

Do let me know in plenty of time when you are coming. I enclose a card of mine to D. Pablo Bosch,Pablo Bosch y Barrau (1862–1915), a collector. His collection was bequeathed to the Museo del Prado, Madrid, in 1915. See Catálogo provisional de las obras de arte legadas al Museo del Prado por D. Pablo Bosch (Madrid, 1916). who has the best private collection of painting in Madrid, and who, if you have time, would show you the rest.

Yours sincerely

Royall Tyler.

As all Flamencos go to bed very late, it is merciful to hear them at night or at any rate after 5 P.M.

Associated People: Cora Barnes; John Ridgely Carter