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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, February 19, 1944

From Royall Tyler

Hôtel Richemond


19 Feb. ‘44

I was so happy to get your cable, dearest Mildred. Though you said nothing about yourself and Robert, I inferred that you were both alive, which is much these days. Perhaps, as I’m told Benedetto CroceBenedetto Croce (1866–1952), an Italian philosopher and occasional politician. remarked recently, you can say as I do “Godiamo in pace questi ultimi di guerra.”“We enjoy in peace these last [days] of the war.”

It’s not for lack of thinking about you that I’ve not written, but because of the sort of psychosis induced by the thought of all the things one mustn’t say lest one’s letter never reach its destination, and the feeling that the taking of all these precautions can’t help distorting one’s little message into something far removed from what one meant to convey. So I beg you to bear all this in mind, and tell yourself resolutely that I haven’t necessarily gone soft in the head because nothing I write seems to make much sense.

I suppose I may say I’m well, and indeed have been well these last year and a half (observe signs of softening), and have plenty to do. By the way, see Nancy Harrison,Anne (Nancy) Coleman Harrison (b. 1896), wife of Leland B. Harrison (1883–1951), an American diplomat who was U.S. minister to Sweden between 1927 and 1929, and U.S. minister to Switzerland between 1937 and 1947. Arthur Salter and Elliott FelkinArthur Elliott Felkin (1892–1968), a British diplomat who had worked for Arthur Salter after the First World War and was secretary to the League of Nations’ Permanent Central Opium Board in the 1930s. for details. Elisina has had a baddish time, but she’s decidedly better now. At present she’s at Lugano, where it’s sunny, and wisely avoiding the tardy but rigorous winter we are experiencing here, with snow blizzards, bise noire“Black wind,” a winter wind that is often accompanied by cold and rain. and all the trimmings of ‘flu—the kind that is apt to come along towards the end of a war.

Not very much opportunity for seeing works of art. The Museum here is closed, except for a few rooms, not including any pictures. There have been some good exhibitions at Zurich and Berne, which I was able to enjoy last summer—and here too, on a more modest scale. It’s quite amazing what these quiet Swiss possess, in the way of painting, without making any fuss about it. The Rheinhardt [sic] Coll. at WinterthurThe art collection of Oskar Reinhart (1885–1965), now in the Museum Oskar Reinhart and in his former home, Am Römerholz, in Winterthur, Switzerland. is perhaps the best-chosen collection of XIX Cent. French painting I know. And that loan show “aus Züricher Privatbesitz”“From Zurich private ownership.” last summer was an eye-opener.

Yesterday, here, I had the altogether unexpected and astonishing, dream-like experience of walking into a place where there were a superb big Vermeer, two real and very remarkable Rembrandts and a most lovely Scottish Landscape by Ruysdael—among other things. So you see, it does go on happening, in spite of all. The antiquity dealers here, and in general in this country, have nothing much in our line, and no Byzantine, and the Church treasures are all put away, and also the few (but grand) private collections of that sort of thing. Here, I see a good deal of a numismatistLucien Jacques Naville (1881–1956), a Swiss businessman and numismatist. See Nicolas Dürr, Catalogue de la Collection Lucien Naville au Cabinet de Numismatique du Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Genève (Geneva: Musée d’art et d’histoire, 1964). whose speciality is the Greek coins of Cyrene, but who also has a prodigious (and I believe unequalled) knowledge of Byzantine weights, and a collection of the actual weights, his familiarity with which involves Byzantine coins, as well. He’s an illustration of the general truth that the more a man knows the more modest about it he’s apt to be; this particular person has only written a very few articles in numismatic reviews, and no general work on his Byz. weights, always saying that he must clear up a couple more obscure points, first. I’m terribly afraid he’ll never undertake the general work, although he has masses of priceless material for it. I should add that he’s a busy and very successful business man, as well.

I haven’t heard from Doro for a long time. Give him my love, please, and my news. Happily, his wifeAnna Cosadino (Kosadinou) Levi (1895–1981), wife of the art historian and archaeologist Teodoro (“Doro”) Davide Levi (1899–1991). She was born in the Greek section of Istanbul and married Levi in 1928. See Giovanna Bandini, Lettere dall’egeo: Archeologhe italiane tra 1900 e 1950 (Florence: Giunti, 2003), 92n29 and 122n3. is in safety.

Please tell Betsy that I’ll write to her shortly. I’ve had news of her through Elliott Felkin.Arthur Elliott Felkin (1892–1968), a British diplomat who had worked for Arthur Salter after the First World War and was secretary to the League of Nations’ Permanent Central Opium Board in the 1930s.

Would you wire to me if and when this reaches you?The letter was annotated as received on May 23, 1944. Like that, I shall be encouraged to write soon again.

Much love to you and Robert dearest Mildred


Associated People: Arthur Salter; Doro Levi
Associated Places: Geneva [Genève] (Switzerland)