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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, August 26, 1910

8 rue de la Barouillère (6ème)


August 26th 1910Friday.

Dear Mildred.

The other day Elisina wrote to you,See letter of August 20, 1910. telling you that in spite of your advice about not having a child, she is expecting one in October. It is with her approval and by her wish that I ask you if you will be its Godmother?Mildred responded affirmatively by letter to both Elisina and Royall; see letters of September 17, 1910, and September 25, 1910. In the letter to Elisina (September 17, 1910), Mildred stated, "Robert and I want you both to know that it shall have our united interest and willingness to help (double guardianship) whenever it may need us." I know it will give you pain that we should be unable to marry before its arrival, but Grant Richards is absolutely firm in his refusal to divorce,—though he knows that Elisina is going to have a child. However, I have found out that I have only to recognise it at the mairie“Town hall.” of my arrondissement“Administrative district.” to make it my legitimate issue, so that is not as serious as it might be.

While Elisina was in England she saw several of her friends who all tried their poor best to induce her to give me up. The arguments they used were sadly indicative of the rusty moral condition people are apt to sink into who are fairly happy and comfortable—in the last resort it was always that she would have far less money and wouldn’t be asked out to tea. Not fit to enter the Park, in short. I do thank Heaven for your friendship, Mildred—you have said nothing that shows any petty standard and I am proud of it. The world is apt to show badly when something is demanded of it—and to talk the most feeble unworthy nonsense.

Since I wrote to you I have travelled a good deal in South-Western France, have been to London, and to Munich to see the Mohammedan Art showMeisterwerke muhammedanischer Kunst, held in Munich in 1910, was one of the first comprehensive exhibitions on Islamic Art in Europe. which is very interesting—the most complete ever yet got together—and to write an article on it for the “Saturday”.Royall Tyler, “Mohammedan Art in Munich,” Saturday Review, July 23, 1910. Tyler also published two other articles on Persian art in the Saturday Review: “Primitive Persian Art,” November 19, 1910; and “The Kelekian Collection at South Kensington,” February 25, 1911. In Paris I saw how the world of dealers was progressing—and I assure you that the Metropolitan Museum of New York is a nest of grafters such as the municipality of San Francisco itself can not rival.See letter of April 12, 1910: "I should like to see the recent acquisitions at the Metropolitan—but believe me as one who has mixed much with dealers in London and Paris, that there is more grafting at that place than in any 12 European museums, and that they buy numbers of wholly or partially faked things." They buy for a million and a half francs of wretched Rouen potteryJ. P. Morgan, chairman of the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, acquired for the museum the Rouen pottery collection of Gaston le Breton (1845–1920), formerly director general of the Musées de Rouen. “Pottery for Metropolitan; Rouen Collection with Priceless Specimens Said to be Bought by Mr. Morgan,” New York Sun, June 9, 1910. while they let the finest French Gothic things and the finest Persian plates go—because there is not a good enough pot-de-vin attached.In “Primitive Persian Art,” Tyler wrote: “The great museums have bought little, hanging off, as great museums do, while prices go up and a few private collectors seize the finest things.” Saturday Review, November 19, 1910. They buy for $50,000 of very ordinary Polish carpetsSo-called Polonaise or Polish carpets were imperial Persian carpets of the seventeenth century. When, in 1878 at the Universal Exhibition held in the Trocadero Palace in Paris, a “Polish carpet” was exhibited, it was assumed that the coat of arms of the Polish prince Wladyslaw Czartoryski (1828–1894) woven into the rug meant that the rug had been made in Poland. Later, it was recognized that such rugs, distinguished by a silk pile and metallic threads, were Persian and made during and after the reign of Shah Abbas I (1571–1629). The name persisted and continues to be used. Tyler is possibly referring to a rug that is apparently no longer in the Metropolitan’s collection. See Joseph Breck, “A Polish Carpet,” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 5, no. 7 (1910): 170–71. from Clark [sic]Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke became director in 1905 and resigned in 1910. See “Sir C. Purdon Clarke to Head Museum Here; British Knight Chosen Director of the Metropolitan; Was J.P. Morgan’s Choice; Leaves Directorship of Arts Department of South Kensington Museum to Accept American Post,” New York Times, January 22, 1905. because he has succeeded Laffour [sic]William M. Laffan (1848–1909), a newspaper publisher, art collector, critic, and adviser and trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As a trustee, he had been an influential member of the committee on acquisitions. as the boss in art matters, while they refuse to pay half the sum for far finer pieces from other people. They never buy because the pieces are interesting, but because the sellers are. The best French sculpture of the XII and XIII centuries which it is possible to buy now because of the upheaval and scattering caused by the separation and evacuation of the episcopal palaces and other buildings by the clergy,The French May 1902 elections brought to power an anticlerical Radical-Socialist government, and by late 1903, Prime Minister Émile Combes submitted a bill to the Chamber of Deputies to close all Catholic schools and forbid teaching by the Catholic Orders. See A. G. B., “The Religious Situation in Paris. (July–August, 1903),” The American Journal of Theology 8, no. 1 (January 1904): 1–8. is going into private collections in France—and some into private hands in America—but the Metropolitan goes buying cartloads of Rouen pottery which was never more than an industrial sort with about as much spirit as the design of postage stamps. Believe me it is not prejudice on my part, but I know the dealers and what they have to sell pretty well, and it is simply outrageous. Men are taken on at the Metropolitan who have been honest as the day at Berlin or the S. Kensington, and when they arrive at New York the sight of so much gold drives them out of their senses. I believe it is as hard for a man to be honest there today as it was in a Government post under Sir Robert WalpoleRobert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, (1676–1745), a British statesman who was, de facto, the first prime minister of Great Britain. in England. It may change sometime, but the glorious things which are still in the market now will be gone, and the English and German Museums will have them.

I am writing in the forest near a little place called BourronBourron-Marlotte, a commune in the Seine-et-Marne department in the Île-de-France region in north-central France. where we are staying, and a fierce storm that intervened at the end of the last paragraph accounts for this rather bedraggled paper. The address I gave you is our new flat in Paris, where we shall soon be. If you will be our child’s godmother I shall be very happy indeed. You will have to be so at a distance I suppose—as you say nothing of coming to Europe. Our affair is not secret exactly now—a good many people in London know about it, and I have told my Godmother Mrs. Sears,Sarah Choate Sears (née Sarah Carlisle Choate) (1858–1935). She married Joshua Montgomery Sears (1854–1905) in 1877 and was a friend of the painters John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) and Mary Cassatt (1844–1926) and of the collector Gertrude Stein (1874–1946). She studied art under Edmund Tarbell (1862–1938) at the art school of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where she became a skilled watercolorist and, later, photographer. She was also a noted art collector. but I would rather it were not mentioned.

Yours sincerely

Royall Tyler.

Associated Things: Saturday Review