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Elisina Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, August 13, 1929

par Arnay-le-Duc
(Côte d’Or)
August 13th 1929Tuesday.

Dearest Mildred,

We are here, Bill and I, awaiting our errant complement, who seems to be caught in interminable delays in London. I believe he enjoys acquiring the secrets of the City, and this task is made easier and pleasanter for him by John Hugh Smith’sArnold John Hugh Smith (1881–1964), an American expatriate banker, art collector, Francophile, and friend of Henry James and Edith Wharton. He was the director of Hambros Bank in London. His collecting interests were similar to those of Royall Tyler. He gave a fragment of a French Gothic sandstone Crucifixion (M.10-1955) to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, in 1955 and Bronze Age and eighteenth-century weapons in 1956. After his death, the Fitzwilliam Museum received the Hugh Smith Bequest, which included ancient Egyptian carved stone vessels (E.1-5.1964), fourteenth-century pottery and alabaster Persian bowls and sculptures, two French Romanesque limestone capitals (M.1 and 2-1964), a late twelfth-century marble sculpture of a man’s head (ascribed to the Master of Cabestany; M.3-1964), a head of the Bodhisattva Avolkitesvara, and paintings and sculptures by Rubens, Gericault, Hogarth, Pissarro, Renoir, and Matisse. company. I forget if you know him. He is a delightful person, and full of zest and interest in everything.

Your Bourguignon has caused us a good deal of anxiety, now happily past—or nearly past.See letters of June 17, 1929, and August 11, 1929.

He caught scarlet fever in May, and was afflicted at the same time with pleurisy. I had a wire telling me he was in Sanatorium with high temperature, and I hurried to London, doing the journey in one day from here. I found him looking very much reduced, but with temperature at 99 Fahrenheit, with occasional rise to 100. The doctor assured me it was tonsillitis, and that the very heavy cough was a bad cold in the chest. After ten days or so he allowed Bill to go to the Isle of Sheppey to recoup. On returning to Harrow he suddenly noticed his hands and feet were peeling. He was sent back to the Sanatorium and let out after ten days, on July 3rd. The doctor continued to assure me that the cough was nothing at all, and would wear off. Well, Bill felt a pain in his lung where he had had pain earlier in the history of his illness, and instead of going to Biarritz with John Acheson as it was arranged, he asked to come here. I had him thoroughly overhauled and Xrayed and radioscoped and analysed by the chief of the Taverny Sanatorium,Dr. Léon Smolizanski (1882–1944), author of L'albumine dans les crachats des tuberculeux (Paris: Jouve, 1911). In 1920, the prefecture of the Seine acquired the Château de la Tuyolle (1860) at Taverny and created a sanatorium with seventy-five beds for female tuberculosis patients. The sanitorium was run by the Oeuvre des maisons américaines de convalescence, administered by Elisina Tyler and Edith Wharton. in whom I have every confidence, and whom I appointed myself to his post ten years ago. He discovered a patch the size of a silver dollar piece, on his left lung. He said there was no doubt at all he had been suffering from neglected pleurisy. The patch was ‘veiled’ and only showed one very small centre of infection. The analysis confirmed the diagnosis. I brought him down here where he can follow Sanatorium rules. He is so good about obeying the doctors’ orders, and I am happy to be able to tell you that his temperature chart is quite normal, that his appetite and his sleep are very good, and I think that the next analysis will be reassuring.

He lies out all day in this lovely pure air, and reads books which he has to prepare for Oxford and which interest him very much. When the cure is over we take an easy stroll round the place, or on the road that encircles the mound.

It is a perfect delight to be with Bill, he is so intelligent so thoughtful, and he cares so much already for all the things we care for most, music, art, history and literature. He is also very much interested in the questions of the day, and he is wise and well grounded, for his years. How wonderful it would be if we five could be here together now! Or at any time! The air is wonderfully pure, the sun shines as it does in Italy in its kinder moods, penetratingly but not heavily. And most of the books we would want are here at hand. There are also such lovely places to see within easy reach, and most charming company: three lots of Vogue’s, Grancey, Ivry, Villers Lafarge and Barbrat, Costa de Beauregard, Ligne, Montalembert; nobody jars at all, and everything one finds to talk about is handled in a way that makes meetings a joy. I think it would be a real rest for you if you could relax here and forget the pressure of a million preoccupations which you meet so triumphantly and so gallantly, but at what cost to your dear selves!

The news of Gioia are very good, thank God. She stayed a month in London with the LindsaysElizabeth and Ronald Lindsay. Sir Ronald Charles Lindsay (1877–1945) was a British civil servant and diplomat who was appointed minister to Turkey in 1925. He married his second wife, Elizabeth (1885–1954) (née Elizabeth Sherman Hoyt), in 1924. and Elizabeth Lindsay’s doctor did her more good in that short time than Dr. Gayer had done in two years. English medical men are very uncertain, and unhappily 7/8 of them are ignoramuses with great assurance to cap it.

My sister is marrying a very brilliant young Theologian early in October,Linetta (“Pitzy”) Palamidessi de Castelvecchio married Robert Douglas Richardson (born 1892) on October 1, 1929. and her galaxy of Bishops is going to celebrate the marriage (Durham, Birmingham, Canterbury and the Dean of St. Paul’s). I feel a slight shudder as if I were committing vicariously sacrilege when I think of these happenings in my family. It reminds me of the French milliner’s soothing words to the Bishop’s daughter who was trying to find a hat that her father would approve: ‘Oui, Mademoiselle, nous avons la même chose en France, seulement on dit toujours ‘mon oncle.’“Yes, Miss, we have the same thing in France, only one always says ‘my uncle.’”

It appears that Mme. Peretti della RoccaProbably the wife of Emmanuel de Peretti della Rocca (1870–1958), a diplomat who served as French ambassador to Spain and Belgium. at a tea-party at the Embassy was praising her mother’s taste for beautiful underlinen: ‘Ah,’ she said, ‘mon trousseau était une merveille, et la chemise de nuit pour ma nuit de noces était si fine que j’ai pensé quand je l’ai vue, celle-là je la garderai pour ma fille. C’était mal connaître l’ambassadeur. Il n’en est resté que les loques. C’est à peine si ma femme de chambre a pu en tirer un devant d’autel.’“Ah, my trousseau was a marvel, and the nightgown for my wedding night was so fine that I thought when I saw it, I’ll keep this one for my daughter. This was not known to the ambassador. There remained only rags—barely enough for my chamber maid to pull together an altar frontal.”

Forgive such light subjects! The effect is enhanced when you can picture the terrible ambassadeur and the victim, and I am sure you will appreciate it to the full.

I have sent you a catalogue of an exhibition of Magnasco paintings held at Sambon this summer,Arthur Sambon, Alessandro Magnasco: Catalogue des oeuvres de ce maître exposées à la Galerie Sambon (Paris, 1929). Arthur Sambon (1867–1951) was a major Parisian dealer of works by Alessandro Magnasco (1667–1749). and also a photograph of a big Magnasco which is for sale in this region. It was in a house which was sold this Spring, near Dole, and the antiquity dealer who bought it wants 80000 francs for it. It needs cleaning, and our friend BoutreuxBoutreux, who Royall Tyler suggests worked for Jacques Seligmann et Cie in Paris in the letter of January 26, 1930, has not been identified. who looks after all the French Government pictures in the various European Embassies could be trusted to do it well.

I asked Sambon prices: his ‘Temptation of Our Lord’ (a very beautiful picture, but about 1 m 10 x 80 wide) is 150000; the landscape which resembles the one of which I have sent you a photograph, and is about 130 x 0,80 or 0,90 is 180000; and the smaller pictures are 90000.

I see the Metropolitan has just bought a Magnasco.The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired a landscape by Magnasco in 1929. See Harry B. Wehle, “Some Italian Baroque Paintings,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 24, no. 7 (July 1929): 187. When I asked Brummer if he had seen any good Magnascos, he said not recently, and his eyes glistened when he heard I had seen a good one. But I didn’t tell him anything about it.

I thought that perhaps if you have a big wall space to fill in your dining room or library this picture would do. I haven’t bargained at all with the owner, I was merely taken to see it by Grancey,Possibly Guillaume de Mandat-Grancey (1864–1948). who admires it very much. Royall hasn’t seen it yet.

If you would care to have it, would you cable yes, and your price. If you do not want it, will you cable no. On the chance of your wanting it, I am telling vender to keep it for three or four weeks.

I have also sent you a page illustrating a piece of tapestry sold at Christie’s last July for 7,400 guineas. It was about the size of the piece we saw at Stora’s. It has been restored, and looked a little . . . . stubborn,—as restored pieces do. I thought the price very high, but it went up to that figure in no time. I believe one is lost when good objects once get to the Paris or London market, and the only chance left of getting things at a reasonable figure is to tap the stream in the provinces.

Edith has been spending a month in England, and I believe she is quite well. How I admire her splendid vitality. Bill and I have been reading some of her short stories out loud. What a delight she is, with her unerring touch and her clear-cut expression for the most sensitive degrees of feeling.

I was in Paris longer than I meant to be, as I had an unquiet feeling about Bill all the time in spite of the English doctor, and I couldn’t bear to come further away from him. Antigny is very peaceful. There is a charming calf, browned to a turn, waiting till the naughty butcher comes for him. Its mother and its aunt are browsing in the large meadow, and the ‘clos’ is full of roots and carrots for their winter provender. We have harvested 103 full Burgundian sheaves of wheat, and the vegetables in the garden are a comforting sight. The strongest emotion was roused by the fermenting—inexplicably—of three pots of strawberry jam, out of the 40 that were made this spring. We have got ready the small barrel into which all the spare plums are put, which are to be distilled eventually and turned into excellent eau-de-vie. We have gathered 40 kilos of honey for your breakfast. I could promise you some good ‘golden bantam’ American corn in a week—if you would only come and eat it! And our treille of grapes is heavy with golden bunches of grapes.

I feel all these poor things are doing their best in vain, unless you can justify their efforts, if not this year then next year.

I hope Mrs. McLeanMrs. Frederick Forrest (Kathleen Burke) Peabody, who married John Reginald McLean on March 2, 1929. He died in an automobile accident on March 11, 1929, on their honeymoon in Montecito, California. is coming to see us in September. She says she will bring a young and gifted friend, and her nurse and her companion, who will—the last two—be pigeon-holed at Arnay le Duc. Mrs. McLean had some friends from California to see her in July and they went to the front together. She dined with me one evening, with Elizabeth LindsayElizabeth Lindsay (1885–1954) (née Elizabeth Sherman Hoyt), the second wife of Sir Ronald Charles Lindsay (1877–1945), a British civil servant and diplomat, whom she married in 1924.—and I thought she looked rather excited, poor thing. However, she said she felt very much better for her trip. She seemed very happy indeed at the prospect of going out to you in September. I envy her very much.

Dearest Mildred and Robert, my long gossip must come to an end. I feel I haven’t said anything interesting or of value. I hope I haven’t wasted your precious time with my selfish way of talking about small things near us here. The truth is I can’t let my mind travel very far from where Bill is at present. You seem so near, in spite of the thousands of mere earthly miles between us.

Hayford is expected early in September, and then the work on the book can go ahead. That will be a comfort to Royall.

Bill says he wrote to you a little while ago. In spite of the risks he ran I am so happy that his last Term at Harrow was not decapitated, and that he ended his career there with glory and with honour.

My very best love to you both. Give me your news soon, please.

Yours ever devotedly