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Mildred Barnes Bliss to Royall Tyler, March 25, 1933 [1]

March 25th, 1933Saturday.

You will never know, dearest Royall, what your letter saying you would go to the United States meant to us.See letter of February 11, 1933. We celebrated intimamente, as they say here, and cabled you at once.

The pressure is intense and the daily and local demands are so great that correspondence is impossible, hence this dictated note, which please forgive. I want to tell you without further delay just what our somewhat vague plans are:—sailing from here April 29th, no change being permissible as the next Boat leaves too late for Robert’s obligations in the United States; arriving there May 16th, I assume I shall find Mother in New York with also the lawyer, the business man and the dentist, so that four days will probably be spent in anything but a care-free manner! Then Washington, where the first step will be not into the house but into the garden and the second probably to the State Department and the third to the White House. If President RooseveltFranklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945), the thirty-second president of the United States (1933–1945). has not accepted Robert’s resignationIn his oral history interview for the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit, David C. Acheson recalled Bliss’s resignation on page 7: “I will divert for just a minute to an interesting story about Dumbarton Oaks. It was owned by the Bliss Family. . . . In any event, they made a will, leaving it to the United States for the residence of the Vice President, reflecting the history of Calhoun’s residence there. Bliss became an Ambassador to Argentina, under President Hoover. In 1932 when Roosevelt, who was a friend of Bliss, became President, Bliss wrote him a sort of jocose note saying, ‘Congratulations Franklin! In due course, you will, of course, be receiving my pro forma letter of resignation.’ Roosevelt did receive it, but contrary to the confidence that Bliss had, Roosevelt accepted his resignation, which infuriated Bliss. He and his wife, on their way home, stopped in New York to visit their lawyers and changed their will and left it to Harvard University, which now owns it.” by the time we leave here, we shall only know on reaching Washington what his wishes are. From various sources we hear that he means to retain Career Ambassadors, and Robert has been mentioned in the Press as remaining here, but we know nothing from any authoritative source, and we both feel that the end of the road has come and that it is very necessary for us not only to possess our souls for a time but also to regain vitality and to mend a number of metaphorical fences. According to Mother’s plans our own shall be made. If she travels, it will be without me. If she goes back to California, or shall be there when we arrive, I shall make her a mouth’s visit. On every count I am anxious for her to see Dumbarton OaksIn 1933, Mildred Barnes Bliss and Robert Woods Bliss began calling their Washington, D.C., estate “Dumbarton Oaks” rather than “The Oaks.” and hope she may be in the East when we come. We also mean to do a little camping trip and hope to go to Europe and Bayreuth in August. The Wagner Fêste with Toscanini should not be missed, if possible to hear what will certainly be some very great performances.In fact, Arturo Toscanini (1867–1957), who in 1931 had been the first non-German conductor to appear at the Wagner Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, refused to return in 1933 in protest of the Nazi’s treatment of Jewish musicians. See Chris Woodstra, Gerald Brennan, and Allen Schrott, All Music Guide to Classical Music: The Definitive Guide to Classical Music (San Francisco: Backbeat, 2005), 1414. The Paris flat4, rue Henri Moissan. will be emptied of the objects destined for Washington, and I fancy we will have to do considerable liquidating at that end of the line.

All of this merely that you may know we shall be on the high seas April 29th and in Washington, eagerly awaiting you, at the end of May, and I hope it may be that, and not June, when you come, because Robert has to leave for Missouri June 5th,Robert Woods Bliss received the honorary degree of doctor of laws from the University of Missouri on June 6, 1933. See “Degrees Granted to 712 Students in 91st Annual Commencement at M.U. Four Missourians, Including Two Former University Heads Awarded Honorary Degrees; Judge O’Neal Ryan Delivers Commencement Address,” Jefferson City Post Tribune, June 7, 1933. as I mentioned in my cable. Of course you understand that with the packing cases the house will be in an uproar and you won’t get much idea of that, but at least you can sense the feel of the place and see the space and disposition of rooms as planned for its eventual purpose.

To have you come, and so soon after our arrival, is so much of a God-send that it hardly seems credible that anything so entirely happy should occur during this apocalyptic year.

All of the above obviously may go over the board if the speed of our fall down hill should make us reach the bottom before June. We feel curiously isolated from the European conditions here and can only surmise that the German situation may easily lead to civil war, and God knows what may not happen in the United States.

Even here, heretofor contented peones hang torn sheep skins on estancia doors as a warning, and an army of unemployed and hungry malcontents from the “Camp” may march into the Capital at any time. It would be a small thing as compared with the unemployed demonstrations in London and Washington, but quite enough to tax the ability of the City to handle well.

It seems to us that Roosevelt has had the supreme good fortune to take over the Government at the particular moment which made it possible for him to obtain exceptional powers to enforce necessary reforms. Even the attempt on his lifeIn February 1933, Roosevelt escaped an assassination attempt by Giuseppe Zangara, whose shots killed Chicago mayor Anton Cermak. is a psychological asset, but what may come of the cut in the bonus one doesn’t know. Personally, I have for three years felt convinced that the United States was in for a period of drastic transformation and I believe the race and the reforms will be improved and benefited, but it may take some time. The suppression of small private Banks, the constitutional changes, the real estate readjustment and tariff reduction will be slow, but we take great satisfaction in Secretary Hull’sCordell Hull (1871–1955), an American politician best-known as the longest-serving secretary of state (1933–1944) in the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. statements and all we hear of him leads us to assume that he is a hard thinking and economically well-informed worker, without political ambitions and incorruptible. As for Japan, the mandated islands, Hitler, Mussolini, and the economic situation of France me vuelvo loca andando.“I go crazy.”

Needless to say the tapestries have gone west for the time being; let us hope it is only that. Robert still feels that despite the splendour of the Zamora onesThe History of Thebes tapestries, southern Netherlands, after 1475. The tapestries depict Tydeus in Thebes demanding his throne (which has been usurped by Eteocles), for Polynices and the duel between Eteocles and Polynices, the sons of Oedipus. The History of Thebes tapestries were formerly at Zamora and are now in the City Hall, Madrid. See Jozef Duverger and Erik Duverger, Tapisseries flamandes d’Espagne: Musée des Beaux-Arts, 19 juillet–20 septembre, 1959 (Ghent: Le Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1959), 23–25. that the Trémoïlle pairProbably two of the three “mille fleur” tapestries made in the southern Netherlands or northern France ca. 1500 that were acquired by the Musée du Louvre, Paris, in 1945. They were in the collection of the Duc de La Trémoille, Château de Serrant (Maine-et-Loire), and then in the collection of Édouard Larcade, who gave them to the Louvre in 1945. One tapestry (OA 9408), known as the Noble Pastorale, has figures processing wool from sheep against a background carpeted with sprays of flowers. The tapestries also have the coats of arms of Thomas Bohier (died 1524), administrator of the royal finances under Charles VIII, Louis XI, and François I, and his wife Catherine Briçonnet (died 1526), which were added to the tapestries. are more in keeping with the Oaks. Whether LarcadeÉdouard Larcade (1871–1945), a French art dealer and collector famous for his sale of the Unicorn Tapestries (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 37.80.1-6) in 1922 for a reported one million dollars to John D. Rockefeller Jr., who gave them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1937. See “Six Rare Tapestries Sold for $1,000,000; "Hunt of the Unicorn" Series, Brought From France, Bought by American. May Remain in New York. Historic Pieces Were Woven by Order of Jean 1. de la Rochefoucauld in Fifteenth Century,” New York Times, November 21, 1922. will not be willing to dispose of the latter, and whether we, ourselves, shall be able to purchase anything, remains to be studied. At all events, it behooves us to get our stuff out of France and into the United States with the least possible delay, and the consolidation, centralisation, weeding out and arranging our own little affairs before we do anything else and then, when the storm blows over, to get two tapestries and a big rug. I suppose that you have worked out a fairly comprehensive plan with Sachs regarding the Byzantine librarySee letter of May 15, 1932. which we can discuss sur place.

Your letters, dearest Royall, have kept us alive and Elisina’s glowing account of her Greecian trip has been read, map in hand, with gratitude, envy and delight that she should have had it. Give her our love and thanks and for heaven’s sake let us know the minute your dates are definitely settled and give us as many days as you can possibly spare to picnic with us at Dumbarton Oaks. It is good to think Bill will be in New York next winter where we can keep more or less in touch with him and, whatever discouragements he may encounter in the Banking world, will be offset by the opportunity of hearing surprisingly fine symphonic music.

We have enjoyed NiemeyerSir Otto Ernst Niemeyer (1883–1971), a British economist and a financial controller at the Treasury and a director at the Bank of England. He was in Buenos Aires in an unofficial capacity in January 1933 to consult with the Argentine Ministry of Finance. whom I found interestingly oriental and broad of view, and I have taken a great liking to Henry ClaySir Henry Clay (1883–1954), an English economist who worked for the Bank of England as senior adviser to Montagu Norman (1871–1950) between 1930 and 1939. who has a most excellent mind and delightful humour. Niemeyer endeared himself to me on our first meeting by the tribute he paid Charlie Howland,Charles Prentice Howland (1869–1932), an American lawyer. He served as chairman of the Greek Refugee Settlement Commission of the League of Nations from 1925 to 1926 and, from 1927 until his death, studied and wrote on foreign relations as a research associate in government at Yale University and as the director of research of the Council on Foreign Relations. He died from injuries that he received when he was struck by an automobile. At a meeting of the Yale Corporation in December 1932, it was decided that the Yale University Press would send to each embassy and legation of the United States and to the departments of political science and government in one hundred leading American and British universities copies of Yale's important publications during the last three years in the fields of government and international relations, as a gift in memory of Howland. whose death and the manner of it, are intolerable. He speaks very flatteringly of you.

“Sergeant Mulrooney”That is, Hayford Peirce and Royall Tyler, L'art byzantin, vol. 1 (Paris: Librairie de France, 1932); see letter of August 15, 1932. accompanies us on the steamer and shall be completely reread from beginning to end. We were vastly entertained by your description of MarangoniLuigi Marangoni (1872–1950), an Italian architect and the proto or custodian of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice. See Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice: History, Architecture, Sculpture (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1960), 198. and Corrado RicciCorrado Ricci (1858–1934), an Italian archaeologist and art historian. See letter of February 10, 1933. and the unpleasant awaking the latter is going to have upon reading Volume 2.L’art byzantin.

As for San Marco, we can’t do it now but it appeals to us and, if nobody shall have done it by the time we have caught our breaths, talk to us about it again.See letter of February 11, 1933. You and Hayford are courageous to undertake a Catalogue Raisonné of the Treasure.See letter of February 13, 1933. The catalogue raisonné was not undertaken. You will be blessed—and hated—by scholars.

This is the dullest and least satisfactory letter I have ever written but you would not wonder if you knew the state of my mind. It is like a scrap basket, and a full one, smouldering, and I feel that one thing more will make me ignite. I can hardly bear to realize the strain you have been under, and feel that the only solid base I have in the world is you and curse the distance between us. In your next letter—and there is just time for one by air mail—tell us what is really going on in France and, whatever beside, don’t you disappoint us of your visit. You would be most unhealthily flattered if you knew our greedy expectation.

Bless you!

Thanks for the Sachs report & when you go to London will you get our bit of Opus Anglicanum fr the V & A & bring it to us in Wash. I think Sir Eric will give it without waiting a signed release!

My secretary has been operated and absent a month: hence my decrepitude & the mistakes of this temporary Steno.

Best messages to NickNicholas Roosevelt (1893–1982), an American diplomat, journalist, and friend of the Blisses. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Affairs, a writer for its journal Foreign Affairs, and a foreign correspondent for the New York Times and New York Herald Tribune between 1921 and 1946.—when does he go to the U.S. or does he continue in office?

Associated Things: L'art byzantin
Associated Artworks: HC.T.X.xxxx.21.(E)