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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, October 26, 1908

Grand Hotel de Roma en Madrid

Oct. 26th 1908

Dear Mildred.

I arrived here from a long journey in darkest Castile and was glad to find your letter, and sorry that I was not in Paris on the 10th. You are right about the 10th, 1902,Anniversary. the church is wise and good and I believe that she will surprise friends and foes many a time again. It is hard to remember all this in Spain—easy in medieval Spain, but hard at Barcelona, Madrid and Bilbao, for those places are priest-ridden to an extent that one has to know the place inside out to appreciate. The fact is that the church gets all the best elements in the country and, as opposition, has nothing but ruffians like my friend Don Rodrigo Soriano,Rodrigo Soriano (1868–1944), a Spanish politician and journalist. See also letter of January 12, 1908. who fell upon the Minister of Justicia y Gracia in the Parliament here the other day, and had to be removed by force. Seriously minded people can’t do with such associates and prefer to go about their business as best they can and keep out of the way when there is trouble. They are coming to see that if they don’t watch it, the clergy won’t even let them go about their business in peace and they must fight some day. It is easy to persuade the book-writing foreigners who come here that the clergy is poor, hardworking and oppressed—for any amount of restrictive legislation has been passed and is in force; but in this matter as in all others the letter of the law means less in Spain than in any other European country. The parish priests rarely get more than 1000 francs yearly and work like niggers. The clergy which does the riding and the congregations which swarm in every city, particularly in the most modern—nowhere as much as in Bilbao and Barcelona, and hold all the women, and through them most fathers of families in the palm of their hands.

They are enormously rich and keep themselves and their money as much out of the way as possible to avoid making too much impression on the people, which only believes what it can see.

Spain hasn’t changed really—only outward modifications. In the cathedral of Zamora and in many a church which has always been served by secular clergy, there are carvings representing monks and nuns doing highly reprehensible things, and foxes dressed as monks preaching to hens, while other foxes, also dressed as monks, wring the necks of the congregation and pack them away in their hoods.

I am working hard and have got a good part of the book ready. For the last two weeks Hugh Lane, one of the Governors of the Irish National GalleryNational Gallery of Ireland, an art museum that opened in Dublin in 1864. and Director of the new Dublin Gallery,Municipal Gallery of Modern Art (now the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane), an art museum in Dublin founded by Hugh Lane in 1908. has been with me. He knows more about painting than anyone I have ever come across, and I am learning what I can from him.Correspondence from Royall Tyler to Hugh Lane is preserved in the Sir Hugh Lane and Ruth Shine Papers, ca. 1880–ca. 1970 in the National Library of Ireland, Dublin.

Madrid has been getting poorer as a market for works of art for several years, and it is now as poor as any Italian town. There is hardly anything except forgeries and rubbish, which it is easy and profitable to sell to English and Americans who know nothing of prices or merchandise. Spanish works of art of all kinds are infinitely cheaper, more plentiful and better in London or even Paris than anywhere in Spain. Of course, in travelling about one finds something now and then, but more and more rarely. The great thing would be to ship out loads of goods from London; for it is apparently impossible to convince the tourist that Spain isn’t the one place to buy.

I shall be in Paris for a bit in December, but until this book is in press-proofs, corrected and all, I shall not have a spare moment. I like to think of Bog WanRoyall Tyler’s references to “Bog Wan” (sometimes “Bogwan”) are unclear, but it would appear to be an object—possibly an Asian sculpture—that he displayed hanging against a piece of brocade, that received a “house” from Mildred Barnes Bliss, and that was given to the Blisses by Royall Tyler as a wedding gift. See also letters of February 16, 1905; June 4, 1905; April 11, 1906; and May 19, 1908. in your hands.

Yours sincerely

Royall Tyler

Associated People: Hugh Percy Lane
Associated Places: Madrid (Spain)
Associated Things: Anniversary