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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, January 12, 1906


12 Jan 1906

Dear Mildred.

It is a dark day, and I don’t know whether the little photographer will consent to a trial, however, he will if I can induce him to. I don’t think I have told you yet of my flat in Paris. It is 55 Rue de Verneuil (VERNEUIL) and I look forward to the day when you will see that it is good. I expect to be there within a week or so, and I am taking a boy with me, so that I may not become too queer living alone. I did not at first intend to do this, but on reflection I think it is better. The flat consists of dining room, big salon, little salon, 3 bedrooms, kitchen, antichamber [sic] (which we hope to have full of starving playwrights and priests) and two servants’ bedrooms upstairs. It is on the 1st floor and looks into court on one side and street on other. The house is Louis XV and I love it.Previous occupants of 55, rue de Verneuil in Paris include the deputy for the Haute-Savoie Anatole Bartholoni (1822–1902) and the pianist and composer Léon Delafosse (1874–1951).

The boy I am taking is named Castle (B. S. Camb). He was with me at Harrow, and we spent 6 weeks together at Ravenna and Venice, and did not come to blows until near the end of the fourth week, when we had a discussion about the relative merits of his comedy in verse and my tale in prose, which ended in a fight in the good old style—furniture moved out of a room—stripped to waist, and hammer-and-tongs until the floor was knee-deep in blood, and we could neither of us see to continue—since that time we have been fast friends.In his Autobiography (4:34), Royall Tyler recounted this event almost exactly as he described it to Mildred Barnes. He also wrote: “In Ravenna, I met an old Harrow friend, T. R Castle, a budding poet (killed in action, 1916) just come from a stay with a cousin who was Resident at one of the Indian courts. . . . After a fortnight at Ravenna, we proceeded to Venice. . . . My friend’s curiosity about the monuments was soon satisfied; we dropped into a routine. I lived in churches and museums. He spent his days reading and writing.” (4:16) He is a poet and very sympathetic. His fatherWilliam Henry Castle (1852–after 1901). is an old fashioned Conservative and has never taken any active interest in his son’s affairs since the boy went to Harrow. When my friends broke the news that he was going to live in Paris to the family his father slapped his knee and said it was an excellent thing for a young man to knock about the world, he thoroughly approved of the idea—it really was a pity to see so many young fellows sitting at home, he only wished he had had a father with as liberal views to send him out to seek his fortune like this!

I spent Christmas with the Stuart-Menteaths.Patrick William Stuart-Menteath and Mrs. Patrick Stuart-Menteath. Patrick is much as ever—he is too delightful. He is now writing a huge work, which I will send you, to prove that Darwin and Huxley were blackguards and that the scientific tyranny of their successors is a worse intellectual bondage than that of the church ever was.Probably part seven (Darwinism) and part 8 (The Convictions of the Monkey Mind) in Patrick William Stuart-Menteath, Pyrenean Geology (London: Dulau, 1907). An unidentified reviewer of this book wrote: “Mr. Stuart Menteath is very angry with the shades of Darwin and Huxley, and apparently with most scientific men, living or deceased, so angry, in fact, that he has no time to give us any coherent contribution to Pyrenean geology.” Review of Pyrenean Geology, by Patrick William Stuart-Menteath, Nature Notes: The Selborne Society's Magazine 18 (1907): 148. He finds that the scientific journals published by the Jesuits are the only ones which will foster the utterance of scientific heresies—dear Jesuits, they are getting their revenge.

Have you read Borrow’s “Bible in Spain”?George Henry Borrow, The Bible in Spain; or, The Journeys, Adventures, and Imprisonments of an Englishman, in an Attempt to Circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula (London: J. Murray, 1842). Royall Tyler is probably referring to the edition published by E. P. Dutton in New York in 1906. English author George Henry Borrow (1803–1881) wrote novels and travelogues based on his experiences in Europe. I was for a long time repelled by the title, but finally read it, and it is the best, the only book which has ever been written by a foreigner about Spain. He had the eye which sees. Such a man. But I can’t help wondering what the Bible Society which sent him thought of the work. He says that he is convinced that the Jesuits “that truly great and magnificent organization, have done vastly more good than evil.” Do read the book. He observes—speaking some 30 languages himself—that it is best to steer clear of the polyglot, that he seldom if ever learns his tongues in the way of honesty. There are few people in the other world whom I desire so much to have speech with.

Poor Spain. They are far too honest and principled to succeed, the Spaniards. They will not conform. But I believe with de Unamuno that exactly that which incapacitates them now for succeeding will make them great in the future. In the meantime the dear creatures are perfectly conscious of their collective worth. I heard them singing last summer

“Los Franceses hasta el Ebro

“Los ingleses hasta el Tajo

“Y los demás de los españoles

“Que se vayan á cavajo.”“The French as far as the Ebro, / The English as far as the Tajo, / And the rest of the Spaniards, / Let them go to blazes.”

“Hasta” means “as far as", “los demás” means “the rest” and “á cavajo” is a very coarse term signifying “to blazes” and “que se vayan” means “let them go.” I only wish I could give you an idea of the tune this is sung to. It is even more to the point than the words.

As to their idea of their individual worth, doesn’t this compare favourably with Anglo-Saxon modesty? I ask a torero, who is the best bullfighter in Spain? He replies: “El mejor torero de Espana—soy yo! despues (after) de mi nadie (no one), y despues de nadie, el Montes.”“The best bullfighter in Spain—I am! After me no one, and after no one, Montes.” All these things I sacrifice to you upon paper. You know how hard it is for me to spoil such jems [sic] by writing them.

De Unamuno is writing another book “Del Amor de Dios.”Tratado del amor de Dios, written in 1905–1908 but never published. I love his work. He has turned all the progressive people in Spain against him by his last thing—on the “Quijote”Miguel de Unamuno, Vida de d. Quijote y Sancho (Madrid: Fernando Fe, 1905). in which he insisted that Spaniards had better stop trying to civilize themselves upon the European plan as they were obviously unable to do so. They had far better invent something more suited to their nature.

The General Election was going on when I was there last summer. Near Salamanca, a Lieutenant of the “Guardia Civil” caught a candidate buying votes unashamed in the village square, and put him into the lock-up. The candidate telegraphed to his friends in the Government who telegraphed back to the Lieutenant ordering him to release the candidate and reprimanding him severely for his excess of zeal. The Lieutenant has spoiled his career.

You will be glad to hear that my finances are once more in perfect order. By strict practice of economy this autumn was the feat done. Not only have I a balance to my credit, but I have bought some things. In the Pyrenees I got a piece of silk embroidered tapestry, late XVI cent. coming from a palace at Zaragoza.Aljafería Palace, a fortified medieval Islamic palace built during the second half of the eleventh century in Zaragoza, Spain. It is of several colours, mostly greens, yellows, browns, with a red flower here and there, upon satin stitch of a deep claret—so faded—and the whole backed by a huge green piece of unspun silk. It measures roughly 5-1/2 ft. x 8 ft. It will be nice on a wall. They have a smaller piece at the South KensingtonPossibly an embroidered crimson silk satin textile fragment in the Victoria and Albert Museum (119–1880), now considered to be from Spain circa 1540. The fragment was purchased from the J. C. Robinson Collection in 1879, as one item in three lots for which the museum paid in total £6,800. exactly like it which they payed [sic] £16 for 20 years ago and called Venetian. I exchanged mine for a pearl brooch—two pearls, one of which is dead and the other a blister pearl, value five or six pounds. I also had to cut down a great dead tulip tree for it, which blistered my hands horribly as I am unused to cutting down trees, but it was worth it. Unfortunately I have no cypress wood hallThe obscure reference to “cypress halls,” which was used several times in Royall Tyler’s correspondence to Mildred Barnes, 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 letters of November 1, 1904, and November 12, 1906. to hang it in, though that is clearly what it was intended for.

I hope to go upon a journey next summer with the Padre de Lecanda who tells me that a cousin of his—a raging collector—lay in agony. When they presented a crucifix to his dying lips, he opened his eyes and said “latter half of XVIIth cent., inferior execution.”In his Autobiography (3:30), Royall Tyler told this anecdote somewhat differently: “Don Juan-José dearly loved old works of art. In jest, he predicted for himself the end of that impenitent collector who, when a priest held a crucifix before his eyes, gasped: ‘Late XVIth century; inferior execution,’ and fell back dead.”

Lyulph Howard wishes to go to America when he comes of age next autumn. I don’t know exactly why, but I shall consider it my duty to accompany him if he does. He has been much impressed by two or three selected specimens I have presented to him, and has of course formed an enormous erroneous opinion of the people as a whole. He is now working from 9 in the morning to 9.30 at night, with short breaks for food, and appears to be happy. de Unamuno writes and warns him to beware of work, which is one of the subtlest forms in which temptation to reconcile ourselves to life is offered to us!

de Unamuno was invited by the Spanish Yacht Club—a very smart club—to come to Bilbao for the King’s visit and form part of the jury to judge the races. de Unamuno went and improved the occasion to make several speeches to the other members of the jury, in terms which it seems to me the gentlemen could scarce be expected to understand.

I spent last week end at a country house where one of the guests was a most delightful Irish Cannon, with a very musical brogue. He told me that the attempted renascence of Irish was purely political “and when you come to the literature it’s founded upon—what do you find?—a lot of silly legends, many of them indecent!” He also told me that his benefice was ridiculously insufficient, but that he eked it out by buying ponies out of carts, making them into polo ponies, and selling them at Dublin horse show.

Frankly I fear that Miss PerkinsElizabeth Perkins (1869–1952). and I are not congenial, and I must also confess that when I went to see her I had a fiendish temper—having had an idiot cabdriver wipe his muddy wheel on my new coat—and permitted myself to speak to her and her motherMrs. Newton (Mary Sowles) Perkins (1845–1929). in parables. It was not nice of me, and I am sorry, but it was balm to my soul at the moment to see them casting covert questioning glances to one another—and wondering whether I was sane.

A Jewish friend of mine in Paris, who proudly claims Heine’s Marchese di GumpelinoDie Bäde von Lucca, from Heinrich Heine, Reisebilder; Dritter Teil: Italien (1830). The character was possibly modeled on the Hamburg banker Lazarus Gumpel. See Siegbert Saloman Prawer, Heine’s Jewish Comedy: A Study of Portraits of Jews and Judaism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), 136. as a relative (historical fact) does not like Americans, and is trying to have an Act passed in the French Chamber to provide that,

1° All Americans shall be seized on entering Paris, and placed in a large board enclosure which is to be erected on the Champ de Mars.

2° They are only to be allowed out on Sundays and Holydays—under supervision—and must then walk two by two through certain streets. Their itinerary, different on each occasion, shall comprise certain galleries and museums, and shall be published the day before in the newspapers.

3° They shall wear their national costume on occasions, under penalty of instant expulsion.

4° Visitors may enter the compound at stated times on payment of 50 centimes, and may purchase specimens of the American national industries, the manufacture of which is to occupy the time not spent in their walks.

The same Hebrew and I were one day chaffering for rubbish in a little shop on the left bank. After two hours the Hebrew decided not to buy anything. The dealer, much aggrieved, said he believed the gentleman refused to buy because he knew him (the dealer) to be an Israelite,

‘Erreur, mon ami,’ said the Hebrew, ‘c’est parceque moi-même je le suis.’“You are wrong, my friend, it is because I myself am one.”

I am now going forth to see the little photographer.

I have made an appointment for tomorrow for my photograph. Please do not tell my stepfather if you chance to see him, or anyone I know that I have taken it. I shall have the plate destroyed and you may have the whole edition.

I have also been to the Jewish Synagogue in Great Portland St.Great Synagogue of Portland Street, the first Ashkenazi synagogue built in London, after the Jews returned to England in the late 1600s. Between 1788 and 1790, the third and final synagogue was built on this site. Although there were minor renovations in the 1800s, the building stood until it was destroyed by German bombs on May 10, 1941. The chief service in the week is Friday evening. The singing is vaguely reminiscent of the Greek Church. But a lot of very devout old men make such a horrid noise that the rest is almost drowned. They bark and snarl and whoop as the spirit moves them, quite regardless of what the others are singing. But some of them are good types and the Rabbi was the saddest and wisest looking man I have seen for many a day.

The Xmas midnight Mass at CiboureCiboure, France, near Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the Pyrenees, the home of Patrick William Stuart-Menteath. was very remarkable for some Basque canticles sung by a choir of virgins, and very lovely. I resolved on the spot to learn Basque, and was told the next day by an old Basque woman that I had better not try, as the devil had once hidden seven years behind a door trying to learn it, and at the end of the time all he had learned was ‘yes’ and ‘no.’See also “The Devil Wanted to Learn Basque,” France Monthly, November 2005. Hence the well-known virtue of the race. So I let myself be dissuaded. It would be bad manners to succeed where my master had failed.

They say here now, “There is only one ShawGeorge Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), an Irish playwright. and Bernard his prophet.” His new piece “Major Barbara”Major Barbara was written by George Bernard Shaw in 1905. is splendid, and remarkably well acted for London. The man is too bad for words. He has grasped the idea that the Salvation Army draws the teeth of the poor, and plays with it in this piece to the utter bewilderment of the British public, who laughs at broad jests which G. B. S. cynically puts well within their reach.

What a tome I have written. I hope it will be acceptable, and if you want more at any time you have only to ask for it. Tomorrow I will make my way to the photographers, “puesto (dressed) á lo de Dios es Cristo”Essentially “dressed to the nines”; the quotation is from the novel El licenciado Vidriera (1613) by Miguel de Cervantes. and pray for a merciful result.

If you want more photographs of buildings or pictures, let me know. I hope you got the one of Burgos cathedral.Burgos Cathedral, a Gothic structure begun in 1221 and completed in 1567. See also letters of December 5, 1903, and April 11, 1906.

Robert did heroically.On November 27, 1905, Robert Woods Bliss was set upon and beaten as he walked in Saint Petersburg. See “Russian Thugs Beat American Secretary; Robert Woods Bliss Attacked in St. Petersburg Street,” New York Times, November 28, 1905. I didn’t see the illustrations, but he beat off ruffians in a better cause than I have done. Please do not omit in your tome to tell me what I might do with profit—moral if not pecuniary. Momentarily I feel lost without my debts.

Yours sincerely

Royall Tyler.

Associated Things: Autobiography