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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, November 18, 1938


What a lovely long letter,If preserved, the whereabouts of this letter are unknown. dearest Mildred. I can see you at it, in train and car, and I’m grateful.

I think you’ll have gathered from stray remarks in a recent one from me that I agree entirely that Chamberlain was right—and that Daladier had to follow suit.The Munich Agreement, a settlement that permitted Nazi Germany to annex a part of Czechoslovakia mainly inhabited by German speakers, for which a new territorial designation, Sudentenland, was coined. The agreement was negotiated by British prime minister Neville Chamberlain (1869–1940) and French prime minister Édouard Daladier (1884–1970) with German chancellor Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) and Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) at a conference held in Munich and signed on September 30, 1938 (although dated September 29, 1938). For a combination of reasons, I never believed there would be war, and I suspect that if, instead of sending RuncimanWalter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford (1870–1949), a British Liberal and National Liberal politician. outIn 1938, British prime minister Neville Chamberlain sent Walter Runciman toCzechoslovakia to work out a settlement between the Czechoslovakian government and theGerman-speaking area of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudentenland. and courting the risk that it would leak out to FritzTyler’s slang for “Germans.” that R.Walter Runciman. and his advisers were for secession, Gt. B. and France had followed up May 21 by telling Fritz where he got off, in the plainest terms, Cz. Sl. would still be on the map, and no war, but with the threat of war still looming ahead. Once Fritz had realised that Gt. B. had accepted the idea of secession, he of course went ahead.

But, inglorious to Gt. B. and Fr. as the dénouement was, I personally feel that it is a gain all round to have got rid of the Cz. SI. problem. Once Austria had been allowed to go, Cz. SI. was bound to fall to Fritz, economically and politically. Indeed, if there had been a real will to stop Fritz, he should have been stopped short of Austria.

Now, I think that Fritz’s Eastern and S. Eastern neighbours will gradually assume a defensive attitude towards Fritz—not openly, in the military field, of course, but economically and culturally. They want to do all the trade they can with sound currency countries, and only transact the balance with Fritz. Eng. and Fr., if they don’t play the fool as they did for 20 years undar Benes’sEdvard Beneš (1884–1948), a leader of the Czechoslovak independence movement, minister of foreign affairs, and the second president of Czechoslovakia (1935–1938). guidance, may find all sorts of compensations. The sub-Carpathic Ruthenian questionCarpathian Ruthenia, the historical region in Eastern Europe that today is mostly located in the Zakarpattia Oblast area of western Ukraine. In November 1938, as a result of the Munich Agreement, Czechoslovakia ceded the southern Carpathian Rus to Hungary. The remainder of the Carpathian Rus received autonomy. is far from being settled yet, Hungary and Poland mean to get a common frontier and bar Fritz’s road to the Ukraine. And see how all the S. Eastern states’ heads go piling to London.

Mal de muchos, consuelo de tontos,“The sorrow of many is a fool’s consolation.” however, and I don’t mean to say the future is rosy, but only to say that it doesn’t seem to me that the war danger is as imminent now as it was all the earlier part of the year. And a lot of unexpected things may, very probably will happen, and perhaps not so much in favour of HitlerAdolf Hitler (1889–1945), a German politician and the leader of the Nazi Party. He was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and dictator of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. and Muss,Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini (1883–1945). as in the past—tho’ poor Muss., in reality, has got nothing, and has been played most successfully by Adolf. And now Muss, seems to think England is going to give him money, which he desperately needs for imports of raw materials. And I think he’s likely to be heavily disappointed, and we may again hear complaints of Albion’s perfidyAlbion’s perfidy is a pejorative phrase used in the context of international trade and diplomacy to refer to acts of duplicity and treachery. Albion is derived from the ancient Greek name for Great Britain.—for the WopPejoritive for Italian. can never get it into his head that when a Brit. Govt. says “We won’t make any difficulties for you in the city. Go and talk to your Bankers,” he actually means it, and that whan the bankers ask for security, they also mean it. I don’t mean that Muss, may not get some self-liquidating import credits, but that he won’t get support on a sufficient scale to extricate him from his terrible and growing economic difficulties—perhaps a respite for a bit, at best. And he’s also going to be disappointed at delay in giving FrancoFrancisco Franco y Bahamonde (1892–1975), a Spanish military leader who ruled as the dictator of Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. belligerent rights. In fact, individual Wops are already saying that Eng., after having maneuvered It. into the Abyssinian folly,The Italian invasion of Ethiopia (known as Abyssinia) on October 3, 1935. is now maneuvering her into continuing the Span. folly, and that if and when Franco wins,Franco was victorious in the Spanish Civil War on April 1, 1939. the British have already fixed it up to buy him, and Franco, not Musso, will get the credits.

There are certainly people in the cabinet in Eng. who don’t want to see Franco win, but even they don’t want to take any major risks by opposing him, and if he does win they’ll be for acquiring him.

I’m sorry to hear of B.S.’s bereavement.Barbara Sessions’s mother, Inez Foster (1871–1938), died on October 10, 1938. I hope she is well and that life smiles again for her.

Now, for the LandauNicolas Landau (1887–1979), an antiquities dealer known as “Le prince des antiquaires.” Born in Varsovia, he studied law in Paris before becoming an antiquities dealer in New York and then in Paris, where he had a business on the rue de Duras. ivory.BZ.1939.8. I’ll mention to no one that R. and his lamp have seen it. I had no doubts as to its being “old”, but it’s good to have the Lamp’s confirmation.

I cabled to you about it, yesterday morn., before getting your letter. I’m very much interested to know who thinks what about it, and particularly to know Weitzmann’sKurt Weitzmann (1904–1993), a German-born, naturalized American art historian who specialized in Byzantine and medieval art. He became a permanent member of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study in 1935. In 1938, Weitzmann began a long informal association with Dumbarton Oaks, where he presented a paper, “Principles of Byzantine Book Illumination,” two years before the inauguration of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. According to the dossier files in the Byzantine Collection, Mildred Barnes Bliss showed Weitzmann this ivory. He later recalled: “When I showed my enthusiasm for this entirely unknown ivory, I was courteously reprimanded for having made my judgment too quickly—‘It would have taken Dr. Goldschmidt a little longer to make up his mind.’” Weitzmann and Adolf Goldschmidt published their corpus of Byzantine ivories, Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X.–XIII. Jahrhunderts, in 1930 and 1934. views, for he is the man whose opinion I think means most where Byz. ivories are concerned.

Brummer’s opinion doesn’t impress me. The technique, the cutting are not only Byz., but Byz. of a very sharply defined school. I’ve never seen anything Russian even remotely resembling it. Can Brummer produce anything? Moreover, I know JojoTylers nickname for Joseph Brummer. pretty well, and am aware that the strongest feeling the antiquaire’s breast harbours—jealousy—also dwells in his. He even may not be aware of it, above the threshold, but the idea of your landing such a prize as that ivory, and in such a way, releases in his subconscious, a violent struggle. If he can’t help the fact that you’ve got it there, the only release for his is to conclude that it is not what it is. This is not the first time I’ve known Jojo to react in this manner. If you had already bought it, before showing it to Jojo, Jojo might have accepted it. But while the cup is still on its way to the lips…..

Now, those Kelek things. Not only would I far rather have the ivoryBZ.1939.8. than the Kelek glassThis molded blue glass ewer has not been identified. and mugBZ.1939.31. together, but I believe that in any well attended sale, in London or Paris, conditions of publicity being equal, the ivory would fetch much more than glass plus mug. Kelek is not only, or not so much, an old rascal. He is something much more dangerous, because instinctive and not calculated: a mesmeriser, who manages to invest his wares with a power of attraction and a suggestion of price-beyond-rubies which is well nigh irresistible. The glass is rare, and intact, and graceful, and I think $1500 or $2000 would be a very big price for it. For the mug, perhaps that and a bit more, but $5000 for the two would be well paid. I’m exaggerating, no doubt. My feeling for the ivory blinds me a bit. But I believe I’m right that the ivory is “worth” more than glass plus mug, and that $10,000 would be a generous price for glass plus mug.

I grieve that you should be lured by the old Egypt. thingProbably an Egyptian faience vase (BZ.1939.31).—but I know what it feels like, and who am I… Only I’ll go into decline if you don’t get that ivory.BZ.1939.8. Especially as doubt has been cast on it. I suggested in my wire, to Robert, that he use (without mentioning names, of course) the lack of agreement on it in bargaining. He can truthfully say that some important judges in US don’t think it is Byz.—and LandauNicolas Landau (1887–1979), an antiquities dealer known as “Le prince des antiquaires.” Born in Varsovia, he studied law in Paris before becoming an antiquities dealer in New York and then in Paris, where he had a business on the rue de Duras. knows of Marquet’s rejection. It’s really a god-given piece of luck to have had it doubted, and puts you in a wonderful bargaining position. !Que lo aproveches!“Take advantage of it!” I hope Robert may be able to get it for a fraction of what was asked—but get it he must. And, if you’ll forgive this imperative tone, born of my feeling for D.O., I’ll add that he must get the ivoryWing of a triptych with the Archangel Gabriel and the bust of Saint Paul, tenth century, ivory, Benaki Museum, Athens, inv. no. 10399. The ivory was donated to the Benaki Museum in 1939 by Stephanos and Penelope Delta. Reportedly, it was acquired from someone named Tozakoglu. See Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections (Athens: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Benaki Museum, 2013), 158–59, no. 76. I sent a photo of a few days ago, assuming it is what I think it is, when I’ve seen it, and that BenakiAntonis Benakis (1873–1954), a Greek collector and founder of the Benaki Museum in Athens in 1930. doesn’t gobble it up. At £250 it wd. be a gift. It’s also of superlative quality.

I was touched deeply by what Robert has done for DoroIn the summer of 1938, Doro Levi and his Greek wife Anna (1895–1981) visited their friends Mary and Bernard Berenson at their rented summer villa, Casa al Dono, outside of Florence. There, Levi received a telegram from the Italian Fascist government cancelling Levi’s participation in an archaeological expedition to Greece. This action was the result of Italy’s recently adopted anti-Jewish laws; within days, Levi was also dismissed from his professorship at the University of Cagliari. Learning of this, Royall Tyler was gravely concerned for his friend and feared that Levi, as a Jew, would be deprived of his Italian citizenship and passport and possibly sent to Ethiopia. He speculated that this could happen as early as October 1, when the Gran Consiglio was scheduled to deliberate on the Jewish question. Tyler implored the Blisses to find an American university posting for Levi and to obtain a letter of invitation, without which Levi would be unable to obtain a visa and leave Italy. Robert Woods Bliss wrote to Harvard University, his alma mater, and to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Both institutions agreed to sponsor Levi, and Harvard proposed naming Levi university professor of classical archaeology at Harvard University and consultant to Dumbarton Oaks. But the requirement that Bliss contribute a substantial amount to Levi’s salary for a five-year period made the offer untenable. Bliss, however, along with other friends, including Berenson, was willing to provide sufficient funding that the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton could appoint Levi as a Member for the second half of the 1938–1939 academic year. Unfortunately, by the time the affidavits of appointment were issued in December, the Greek citizen immigration quota had been filled, which meant that Anna Levi could not accompany her husband to America. Doro Levi arrived in America on January 5, 1939, and went immediately to Princeton.—I’m planning to run down there tomorrow, for no other means of communication are safe. Marvellously, this came just at the time when it became clear that D. was going to be turned out of everything. And as he has his old mother to support . . . By a refinement of cruelty, his war volunteer status earns him the privilege of military service and of paying taxes: nothing else (unless one counts his passport).

As to getting him out of the country, we’ll have to see. He has devoted friends, who can’t do anything to get him kept on in his off. position, but who may help to secure that his leaving won’t hurt his relatives. I’ll of course report at once, by cable. I’ll only say now that I’m sure the University will have acquired a very fine scholar and a human being having the most rare and loveable qualities, and completely devoted to his work and indifferent to lucre.

What may come to the Jews in Italy may be guessed by what is going on in Germany. A friend of mine is trying to get a relative (arrested after the v. Rath murder:Ernst Eduard vom Rath (1909–1938), a German diplomat who was assassinated in 1938 by a Jewish youth, Herschel Grynszpan; the assassination provided the pretext for the Kristallnacht, a series of coordinated attacks against Jews in Germany and Austria on November 9–10, 1938. “Schutzhaft”In Nazi Germany, the German term “Schutzhaft” (“protective custody”) was used as a euphemism for the extra- or paralegal rounding-up of political opponents and especially Jews.) out, and was triumphant today at having secured the visa—only to learn that all the Jews under arrest are being held as jointly responsible for the payment of the 1,000,000,000 RM needed to make good the damage done by the Nazi hooligans who destroyed German Jews’ and other Jews’ property the other day.Probably a reference to the atrocities of “Kristallnacht,” which occurred on the night of November 9, 1938. Named for the sounds of breaking glass heard in cities throughout Germany and parts of Austria, the night saw the destruction of 7,000 Jewish businesses and the burning of over 900 synagogues by Nazi storm troopers. No individual to be released until the sum has been completed. Just seen someone fr. Roumania (a Roumanian, living mostly abroad, and a keen observer) who says the KingCarol II (1893–1953), reigned as king of Romania from 1930 until 1940. is loathed because of his Jewish mistressElena (“Magda”) Lupescu (1895?–1977), the Roman Catholic daughter of a Jewish pharmacist and his Roman Catholic wife. and friends, and who predicts that the Iron GuardTheIron Guard, the far-right movement and political party in Romania between 1927 and the Second World War. will sweep the board there before long. And then what will happen to those one million and more Jews there? Hideous, it is.

I can’t tell you about the Palestine situationThe Arab revolt in Palestine of 1936–1939 was a nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs against British colonial rule that was motivated in part by opposition to mass Jewish immigration. Following the Arab capture of the Old City of Jerusalem in October 1938, the British army took over Jerusalem and then all of Palestine.—I don’t know anything about it. As for views about N. Chamberlain,Arthur Neville Chamberlain (1869–1940), a British Conservative politician who served as prime minister of the United Kingdom between 1937 and 1940. here, I think the people whose heads are screwed on the right way all feel more or less as you and I do. Of course, there are others who feel differently, and who hoped for war. It was said, at the height of the crisis, that the Jewish National anthem was: “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

I hope the Front Popu.The Front populaire (“Popular Front”), an alliance of left-wing movements that included the French Communist Party, the French Section of the Workers International, and the Radical and Socialist Party during the interwar period. It won the May 1936 legislative elections, which led to the formation of a government headed by Léon Blum (1872–1950) and composed of Radical-Socialist and Workers International ministers. is on the skids in France, but I’m not sure. If the ReynaudPaul Reynaud (1878–1966), a French politician and lawyer during the interwar period. Reynaud was noted for his economic liberalism and militant opposition to Germany. In 1940, he became the prime minister of France.-DaladierÉdouard Daladier (1884–1970), a French Radical politician who became the prime minister of France 1938. experimentIn 1938, Paul Reynaud was minister of finance under Prime Minister Daladier. doesn’t work, it looks as if there were only a choice between dictatorship and re-Blum.Léon Blum (1872–1950), the prime minister of France in 1936–1938. God knows which is the less attractive. But I still don’t despair of France—morally, the air there is far healthier than it has been for a long time past. Reynaud has great qualities, and may get away with it.

Baldwin,Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley (1867–1947), a British Conservative politician who was prime minister of the United Kingdom in 1923–1924, 1924–1927, and 1935–1937. I think, is out of it. Even among his best friends, there is a feeling that if he had been P.M. in Sept., he’d have foozled into a war, just out of incapacity to act.

Yes, I agree that to begin the series of D.O. papers, the oneHayford Peirce and Royall Tyler, “Elephant Tamer Silk, VIIIth Century,” in Three Byzantine Works of Art, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 2 (1941): 19–26. on the Elephant Tamer silkBZ.1927.1. is slim. Quite a good idea to pair it off with one on the Boar huntBZ.1938.74.a&c. This mosaic and others were objects secured by the Blisses’ participation in the Work of the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and Vicinity during the 1930s. (by Miss TownsendGertrude Townsend, curator of textiles at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.). Or, if you don’t mind waiting till the time limit is up, we’d do round Emp.BZ.1937.23. and Mad.BZ.1938.62.

What a brouillon“Muddle head.” poor Volbach is! Just like him to start such a hare, giving no details;Prince Friedrich Leopold of Prussia, the seller of BZ.1937.23 and BZ.1938.62, had requested that they not be given any publicity for a period of time. See letter of October 11, 1937. I have of course entrusted (or even shown) photos of the Pr. L. things to no one at all, except Hayford. If they have been published, it’s not through our agency. The story that they have been published is news to me. I’ll see Fiedler again as soon as possible and dispel any doubts he may have.

Oh—to return to D.O. papers, I can understand that you should want dear old GogoAdolph Goldschmidt (1863–1944), a Jewish German art historian. Tyler's nickname for him was Gogo. to do one on ivory, for sentimental reasons, rather. WeitzmannKurt Weitzmann (1904–1993), a German-born, naturalized American art historian who specialized in Byzantine and medieval art. would do a better paper. And, separated from Weitzmann, what sort of a paper Gogo would do, I don’t venture to say. He’s old beyond his years. I’ve not seen him since 1931, and he struck me as senile then.

How amusing, the aged lady who described herself and Byz. abodeThe meaning of this reference is unknown. for the Census.The Census of Byzantine and Early Christian Objects in North American Collections (also known as the Census of Early Christian, Byzantine and Related Arts in the United States and Canada, the Census of Late Antique and Early Mediaeval Objects in American Collections, and the Census of Objects of Early Christian and Byzantine Art in the United States and Canada), the project begun by the Blisses in late 1938 to document, catalog, and illustrate Early Christian and Byzantine objects in museums and private collections in North America for research access at Dumbarton Oaks.

I’m glad you like the Buccaneers.Edith Wharton, The Buccaneers (New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1938). I do too. Much in it is in Edith’s very best vein, and has a directness and freshness that might not have remained had she been able to finish it.

Yes, Elisina is improving,Elisina Tyler had suffered “apolplexy,” probably a stroke, in May 1938. See also letters of June 18, 1938; June 28, 1938; July 2, 1938; July 10, 1938; July 13, 1938; and July 29, 1938. not quite steadily, but persistently. She was with me here for ten days end Oct. beginning of this month, and she went out mildly and enjoyed it without ill consequences. And, I’m happy to say, I think those distressing signs are passing away. Certainly the voice and the articulation are better. It will be a long business still, but the lines of resistance are being firmly held, and progress is being realised in certain sectors.

Bill’s letters are a joy. He is as happy as can be, likes Forbes and Sachs very much indeed, likes John ThacherJohn Seymour Thacher (1904–1982), an American administrator. Thacher received an AB from Yale in 1927 and a PhD from the University of London in 1936. In 1936, he became assistant to Edward Forbes and Paul Sachs, the directors of the Fogg Museum of Art at Harvard University. He was appointed assistant director of the Fogg in 1940 and acting director of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in 1945 and director in 1946, a position he held until his retirement in 1969. thoroughly. J.T. has been extremely kind and helpful. You’ll have heard all this, of course, but I can’t forbear to mention it. Your encouragement to go into Museum work has been a God-sent influence in his life. Betsy seems very happy too, and the bratRoyall Tyler (b. 1936), the first child of Bettine Tyler and William Royall Tyler, was born in London. earning a BA in Far Eastern Languages from Harvard University and a PhD in Japanese literature from Columbia University, he became a scholar and translator of Japanese literature. He presently lives in Australia in New South Wales. and the dog also.

I’ve got a lot on my hands here, some of it interesting, and happily I like the people I work with.

It’s a bad moment for this place, I needn’t tell you—but life has it’s bad moments (one realises, now, with what disarming candour one assumed, in 1918, that there was something inherent in one that put one on the winning side, and FritzRoyall Tyler’s slang for “Germans.” on the other) and they at any rate serve to reveal who are the real people.

I certainly think you and Robert could go to Vienna this winter without any sort of risk—but I don’t think you’ll find anything there you want to acquire. There are the Museums, of course, and the Byz. MSS, which are superb. I hope you do come, for then I shall claim my share.

Blessings on you both and my fondest love to you

R. T.

I’m very happy about the signature of the Anglo-Am. and Am.-Canad. commercial treaties.On November 17, 1938, the British, Canadian, and American governments signed a major trade agreement, which the three countries had negotiated for a considerable period of time. Each state agreed to considerable trade concessions, a position which marked growing cooperation between the English-speaking countries.