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Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, September 19, 1938


Dear Robert,

You have no doubt seen that in Italy all Jews having University posts are deprived of them. I am greatly concerned about Doro Levi, whose salary (like the rest’s) stops on 16 Oct. (next month) and who will probably get no pension or indemnity, and who has no private means. This after having risked his neck by going to Italy (from his native Trieste) during the war, and enlisted as a volunteer in the Ital. army, and whose record in Italy ever since has been a brilliant one, a credit to Italian scholarship. Only a couple of years ago, when FrobeniusLeo Viktor Frobenius (1873–1938), a German ethologist and archaeologist. asked to have Doro sent to him to dig, the chief of the Govt. replied that Doro was one of his best men, and could not be spared.

Now, in order to earn a living for himself & his wife (they have no children) he will have to leave Italy, and he wants to try the USA. The urgency is great. It is expected that one of the next steps will be to deprive Jews of their Ital citizenship and to take away their passports. This may come on 1 Oct. when the Gran ConsiglioThe Grand Council of Fascism (Gran Consiglio del Fascismo), the main body of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government in Italy beginning in 1923. is to “deliberate” on the ensemble of the Jewish question. Then perhaps deportation to Abyssinia. The Ital. authorities are going to it more drastically than the Germans did.

I want to help Doro because of his merit as a scholar—if it were possible to increase my desire to help him, his own attitude now would do it—not a trace of bitterness. Just serenity and calm.

You know how high is his standing as an archaeologist. But it is perhaps as a practical digger that he is at his best. Good diggers are rare, and esp. among those who are authorities on the art history side, Doro’s experience in Greece, Crete, Etruria, Sardinia, Mesopotamia, Syria has him exceptionally wide, and he has struck oil every time. Moreover, he is a marvel at museum arrangement.

Also, wherever he goes, he is adored by his associates, by the people working under him, by all with whom he has to do. He is the most universally beloved person in that field I have ever come across. He is unworldly & never self-seeking. He does not care at all for money beyond his own very modest personal wants.

I know that Doro would be a most precious acquisition for any Am. University, esp. for one that does work in the field: e.g. Princeton or Pennsylvania. And he ought to be kept working in the Mediterranean area, which is his own.

All the classicist people, the world over, know him—Gisella Richter,Gisela Marie Augusta Richter (1882–1972), a classical archaeologist and art historian. Richter joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as an assistant in 1906, becoming assistant curator in 1910, associate curator in 1922, and curator of Greek and Roman art in 1925, a position she held until 1948, when she became honorary curator until her death in 1972. Leslie ShearTheodore Leslie Shear (1880–1945), an American archaeologist who was director of excavations of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. (Am. School Athens), StillwellRichard Stillwell (1899–1982), an American archaeologist who excavated for the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and taught architectural history at Princeton University. (late Am. Sch. Ath). Also Laskey (Boston),Laskey has not been identified. R. B. Perry,Probably Ralph Barton Perry (1876–1957), an American philosopher. R. Pfeiffer,Rudolf Carl Franz Otto Pfeiffer (1889–1979), a German classical philologist. Chandler Post (Harvard).Chandler Rathfon Post (1881–1939), an American Spanish and Italian Renaissance art historian and an art history professor at Harvard University.

I am sending you some notes on his career and publications. I should be very grateful to you if you would help to get him given a chance—even for a limited time, on trial. I am sure that if you are able to help him, his performance will be such that you will be proud to have done so.

As I understand it, he can’t get a visa for the US without being able to produce an invitation, in writing, to take up some work (which might be temporary) in the USA. The most urgent thing is to get him this invitation.

I will be in touch with you, and any communication for him had better go through me. If you can tell me that an invitation such as he needs to get the visa will be forthcoming, then I beg you to let me know by cable, so that no time may be lost.

If, on reading this, anything occurs to you in the way of advice how to proceed to help him, I beg you to give it to me at once.

There is one favourable point. Doro is the only Ital. archaeologist who is a Jew, so there’ll be no competition from that quarter.

Forgive me for all this: I hate bothering you, who have so much on your mind already. I do so because I feel compelled to leave no stone unturned to help that poor person—such a decent, honourable chap in every way, besides being a first-rate archaeologist.

It’s good to think of the Betbills,The Bliss abbreviation for Bettine Tyler and William Royall Tyler. with brat,Royall Tyler (b. 1936), the first child of Bettine Tyler and William Royall Tyler, was born in London. After 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. sailing towards your shores.

Fondest love to both of you.

R. T.

P.S. What gives me a passionate desire to help Doro is that even now, with all this, the man’s love for Italy is completely unaffected. They might put him up against a wall and shoot him, and to his last breath he’d feel about Italy as he did when he crossed the Austrian lines to volunteer in the Ital. army.

I begin to suspect that Christ may not have been a German, after all.