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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes, June 14, 1904

Normandy Hotel

7, rue de l’Échelle


June 14th

Dear Mildred.

I have just arrived from Biarritz and found your letter, and am in a frantic state of excitement to hear about the Dominican Father Dufayet, a Dominican priest of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul in New York City. See Thérèse Vianzone, Impressions d’une française en Amérique (États-Unis et Canada) (Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1906), 218. Vianzone mentions her friend Mildred Barnes on pages 346 and 352. and yourself. Almost you persuade me to come to America, especially with Sharon in view. The only drawback is that there are a great many people I must see if I go, and whom I would walk miles any day to avoid. I am quite decided that I want to come to America (don’t think I learnt this at Salamanca).

My present plans are to spend 6 weeks or so in London, and then to go to America sailing about Aug. 1st for 2 months or less, or straight to Germany. If you come to VeniceRobert Woods Bliss served as a U.S. consul in Venice in 1903–1904. Mildred Barnes visited Venice in September–November 1904. I will come there, cost what it may. I don’t think I shall go to Paris for some time. I have been already taken for a Parisian by Parisians several times, but am not satisfied myself, as some days I speak much better than others. So I intend to spend a few months here and try to speak really well. At last it seems that whether at Sharon or Venice, we are really to meet within a measurable time. I am looking forward to it immensely. I am much pleased to note that both you and my stepfather (and others) conclude that I have been Spanishized. But I haven’t. I am no more Spanishized now than I was Bookmakerized at Harrow when I paraded the streets disguised as one. I don’t think I am anything in particular, which is an evil. Acting to a real audience has the most fatal charm for me, and will end beyond a doubt by getting me into serious trouble—like the verses in Omar (Indeed the idols I have loved so long). Omar al-Khayyám, Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (translated by Edward FitzGerald), verse 69: “Indeed the Idols I have loved so long / Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much wrong: / Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup, / And sold my Reputation for a Song.”

I don’t think I told you, but I have been studying painting and jewelry and architecture and religious sculpture a good deal, and almost feel moved to write. I have acquired a lovely Flemish picture of the Holy Family, In the 1970s, this painting was in the possession of the Tyler family according to Royall Tyler’s son William Royall Tyler. Tyler Papers, HUGFP 38.6, box 7, page 13. which Bonnat Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat (1833–1922), a French painter who lived in Madrid between 1846 and 1853. saw and admired greatly. It is of the early 16th, and I am looking forward to scouring the Louvre and other galleries to find the painter or the exact school. I have two pairs of Virgin’s earrings, Brazilian rose diamond Spanish Louis XVI. At Alcalá de Henares I stayed with a delightful man who is Superior Juan José de Lecanda (1853–1939). In his Autobiography (3:30), Royall Tyler described how he became fast friends with Lecanda: “that sweet monastic house soon became to me what Aita-Beita was . . . a place of shelter where I was always welcome.” of the Oratory of Saint Phillip Neri, Oratorio de San Felipe Neri, Alcalá de Henares (Madrid), an oratory founded in 1698 and completed in 1704. and it is a great compliment to you as well as to him to say that I would advise you to learn Spanish if only to be able to speak with him. He was living the life of an aristocratic priest in Madrid, collecting objects d’art, when he suddenly left it all and went to Alcalá where he has been now for 6 or more years. He stopped collecting and redoubled his studies and now can speak with more certitude upon art (all art) than anyone I know.

He follows modern art as well as ancient, and is intensely interested in its every development. He believes in and admires America greatly, and is much exercised about the new R. C. Cathedral or church in New York, It is not entirely clear which New York church had attracted the interest of Lecanda. The Roman Catholic cathedral of New York is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, which was designed and built in a Gothic Revival style between 1858 and 1878. But the more likely candidate is the Episcopal cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Construction on the cathedral began in 1892 and employed a Byzantine–Romanesque design by the New York architectural firm Heins and Lafarge. The cathedral was given a strongly Gothic character when Ralph Adams Cram was placed in charge of the project in 1911. In his early letters, Royall Tyler occasionally equates the terms Byzantine and Romanesque (see also letters of December 5, 1903, and March 13, 1907). This usage was not unique to him, however, as the two terms were not always understood as they are today and many nineteenth-century authors used them interchangeably. which is by the way of being Byzantine, but he fears faithlessly conceived. He has only seen some plans, and you would do me a great favour could you buy some photographs of the thing (I’m nearly certain it’s the cathedral—anyway any thing R. C., new and Byzantine) and send them to 

Rev. P. D. Juan José de Lecanda

Oratorio de San Felipe Neri

Alcalá de Henares


I spent four blissful days at his Oratory. We examined the monuments of the town all the mornings 8–1, and the afternoons we sat on the banks of the Henares—a perfect paradise—and talked while the nightingales sang. When I went away he pressed upon me a lovely Byzantine Virgin and Child Now in the Église fortifié Saint-Laurent, Manlay, in Burgundy. This sculpture is now identified as the Virgin and Saint Anne (Spanish, sixteenth century). and a Miniature, The identity of this miniature is unknown. almost the last of his collection. I refused as one must in Spain, and he sent them to me at Madrid. The Virgin is in wood of the 12th or 13th, 2 ½ or 3 ft. high, and I don’t know anything about miniatures.

Add to all this that the man is an ascetic, who though he adores old things, refuses to own them, and gives all his own money to the poor, making use of the cheapest editions of books for his own use, while old bindings give him infinite joy. He told me that he was delighted when he heard of some famous Spanish work of art going to America, for the Americans appreciated them more than the Spaniards, and this constituted a right to possess.

You must excuse the flow about this man, for I love him. I never heard him criticize a soul, except the barbarians who put gingerbread Christs and saints on the altars of churches, and destroyed beautiful retablos"Altar panels." to put up “santi boniti barati” in their place. All the vendors of religious jimcracks [sic] in Spain are Italians, and they put their terminations on Spanish words. Or course it should be “santos bonitos baratos.” “Cheap holy figures.”

I shall spare you any mention of my rector of the university of Salamanca, although I am almost if not quite as enthusiastic about him. He has insisted upon sending me to London what he considers the 12 most interesting books in Spanish, and I do wish you could learn enough to read something of them when we meet. I think you are right when you say that you suspect [my] interest in Spain & Spanish [is] far ahead of France and Italy, though I wouldn’t say stirring, it sounds too like a novel, and Spaniards are not really merely a superficial spectacular people.

I have loads to unburden myself of that I can’t even touch upon in reams of paper.

Yours sincerely

Royall Tyler

I can also recommend a book written from an anti-Catholic view—“The Spanish People” by Martin David Hume [sic]. Martin Andrew Sharp Hume, The Spanish People: Their Origin, Growth, And Influence (London: W. Heinemann, 1901). See also letters of October 10, 1904, and July 14, 1905. Excellent to begin on especially as it whets one’s curiosity. RT

P. S. I have just come back from the sale of Prince Sapieha’s León Kazimierz Sapieha-Pac, Prince Sapieha (1851–1904). collection at the hotel Drouot.Hôtel Drouot, a large auction house established in Paris in 1852. See Paul Guillaumin, Drouot, hier et aujourd'hui (Paris: Editions de l’Amateur, 1986); and Catalogue des tableaux anciens des écoles allemande, espagnole, flamande, française, hollandaise et italienne . . . composant la collection de M. le Prince Sapieha et dont la vente aura lieu; Hôtel Drouot, salle no 6, le mercredi 15 juin 1904 (Paris, 1904). The queerest prices—600 francs for a cockatoo picture This painting, which sold for £240, was identified as Le cacatois by Weenix in Auction Sale Prices 5, no. 32 (June 30, 1904): 66. by WeenixJan Weenix (1640s–1719), a Dutch painter who worked in Amsterdam. and only 4000 for Henry VIIIHenry VIII (1491–1547), king of England from 1509 until 1547. by HolbeinHans Holbein the Younger (ca. 1497–1543), a German Renaissance artist. This painting, which sold for £160, was identified as King Henry VIII of England by Holbein (attributed) in Auction Sale Prices 5, no. 32 (June 30, 1904): 65. and 3,000 for a lovely portrait This painting, which sold for £144, was identified as El Greco’s Constant Desballes in Auction Sale Prices 5, no. 32 (June 30, 1904): 66. by el GrecoEl Greco (Doménikos Theotokópoulos) (1541–1614), a Greek-born artist of the Spanish Renaissance.—which I thought the most beautiful thing there—a splendid Witt [sic]Probably Jacob de Wit (1695–1754), a Dutch artist. for 360. My mouth watered.

Associated Things: Autobiography