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Elisina Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, March 27, 1935

Finance Ministry


March 27th 1935

Dearest Mildred,

I was so grieved for your sake to learn that you had had to bear the pain of the final wrench from some one you loved and who was so close to you, that in this loss, every tender memory of your life must have ached again.Mildred Barnes Bliss’s mother, Anna Barnes Bliss, died on February 22, 1935. We only heard indirectly, and through Bill, and Edith, who had heard the news through Mrs. Jones.Mary (Minnie) Cadwalader Rawle Jones (1850–1935), the sister-in-law of Edith Wharton. In an undated letter, Beatrix Farrand wrote Edith Wharton: “On my way home I stopped to see Mildred at Santa Barbara, where she has been for the last three weeks at her mother’s house, awaiting the end of that extraordinary old lady. Before this letter reaches you, you will have seen the telegram telling of her mother’s death. It is very touching to me to see how deeply attached Mildred is to her mother, who has been a perfect vampire to her for the last few years. We spent the afternoon together at Santa Barbara, and it wrung my heart to see how deeply she feels the illness of the person to whom she has given the unchanging affection of her childhood years. With the utmost unselfishness and courage she sent Robert off a fortnight ago, during a temporary rally in her mother’s illness, and he is now making an interesting archaeological journey on horseback in the Central American highlands. So Mildred is quite alone with her mother’s numerous retainer surroundings. Her mother’s death will be a deep sorrow to Mildred, although there has been no real relation between them for years, as Mrs. Bliss has been often flighty and very difficult, and an exceedingly exhausting companion for our friend.” The letter concluded: “Mildred and I have been together as much as has been possible during the last few weeks. She is greatly saddened by the loss of her mother and it has been desperately hard for her to carry on without the good sense and balance of her Robert, who has been Aztec-ruining in Central America.” Wharton mss., Elisina Tyler files, box 11, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington.

I realise now that I take my pen in hand how terribly long it is since I heard from you and since I last wrote to you. Your names come up constantly between Royall and me,—you are just a loving part of the texture of our thoughts—so that I do not notice the passage of time, or even distance, as a separation from you. Only when I suddenly think of you in pain and perplexity, and I guess the glistening of tears, does this wide stretch seem cruelly forbidding. Do, when you have time, let me hear from you. Our Christmas too, passed sadly without news of you. I hope at least that you and dear Robert had our cable of greetings and love?

I had hoped to go to America for a brief visit in May, but I have to give up the idea. Both GeoffreyGeoffrey Herbert Grant Richards (1906–1983), Elisina Tyler’s son by her first husband, Grant Richards. and CharlieCharles Geoffrey Grant Richards (1902–1959), Elisina Tyler’s son by her first husband, Grant Richards. have been very ill, Geoffrey with a terrible motor-accident—a cracked spine and severed artery—so that his life was saved by a miracle. And Charlie with double pneumonia and pleurisy, so that he has to spend a long convalescence in Switzerland. Gioia, thank God, is as well as she can be, and very hard at work on her second novel.Under the pseudonym Anne Stretton, Gioia Grant Richards Owtram would publish the novel Proposal in 1936.

Even if it had not been for the troubles I have just mentioned, the present time would not have been a very favourable one for leaving Royall. You can imagine how anxious he feels. The little flame of hope that he has been nursing here so tenderly is flickering in the rude breath that has blown suddenly over Europe.

I dare not trust to my own instinct in an attempt to form a judgment. But if one tries to see the course of the past 17 years, and the good they may have brought, it is fair to remember that circumstances have been favourable to France in this that she has had time to flank her eastern frontier with a formidable line of forts, and that the men who are now in power are more suited to the task of threading their course through troubled waters than those who belonged to an earlier political generation, and had lived beyond the apex of their own career.

I feel convinced that if the economic troubles of the world could be solved, other sources of animosity would quietly disappear. Even here, where the hardships endured by the 2 1/2 million Hungarians living outside the present political frontiers, are a constant source of anger and disquiet, patience and fortitude would seen attainable virtues if the immediate future were not in jeopardy, more or less, for everyone. The disappearance of King Alexander,Alexander I, king of Yugoslavia, who was murdered in Marseilles, Frances, on October 9, 1934. who was a grim soldier, and of Mons. BarthouJean Louis Barthou (1862–1934), a French politician who served as prime minister of France in 1913 and who was killed in the assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia in Marseilles on October 9, 1934. who had reached the stage of inconsequence, so dangerous when allied to power,—are really two beneficial misfortunes! Prince PaulPrince Paul of Greece (1901–1964), who reigned asking of Greece from 1947 until his death. is a European, and Leotich,Leotich has not been identified. they say, is a very reasonable and able statesman. The rather wild attacks against Hungary have recoiled on their authors. In France, the general feeling—outside the newspapers,—was beautifully expressed to me by a witty friend who can be trusted to take the temperature of the hour correctly, “Je ne sais pas pourquoi on veut punir—la Hongrie parce que le Roi Alexandre j’est fait tuer par un Serbe, à Marseilles”“I do not know why they want to punish Hungary because King Alexander was killed by a Serb in Marseilles.”

The death of Philippe BerthelotPhilippe Berthelot (1866–1934), a French diplomat. too, has deprived BenesEdvard Beneš (1884–1948), a leader of the Czechoslovak independence movement, minister of foreign affairs, and the second president of Czechoslovakia (1935–1938). of his strongest ally in France. All these circumstances are just the wheels of God; the carrying of the logic of facts to their inevitable goal.

It is hard for us who remember the exaltation of victory, to have to admit that many wrongs were committed then and will have to be righted, or paid for heavily.

It may interest you to hear what the papers no doubt will not say, that at the root of the bitter feeling against France, in German hearts, lies the memory that for 6 whole months after the Armistice, France opposed the sending of foodstuffs into Germany. There is barely a family that didn’t lose an aged relative, or an ailing member, or a child, through the continued effects of starvation. For my part, when I remember what suffering I saw in Vienna in 1920, 21, 22, and 23, I can only wonder at the present light-heartedness of the good Austrians.

The condition of Lille, where I went 3 days before the Armistice, was nothing grievous, compared to Vienna 2, 3, and 4 years later.

Two or three new school generations have grown up in Germany, and they want to wipe out the memory and the stain of so much humiliation. They had no share in the original aggression, and in any case they have not been taught to accept the blame—and the human wrongs inflicted after the suspension of arms, are no doubt the fuel which in all sorts of homely humble daily incidents is heaped again and again on the smouldering fire.

A man like HitlerAdolf Hitler (1889–1945), a German politician and the leader of the Nazi Party. He was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and dictator of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. cannot understand anything loftier than partisan leadership. How far he is still, or will be, the real head of affairs, is something I cannot tell, and no one has been able to tell me. They say that since the murders in JuneThe Night of the Long Knives (Nacht der langen Messer), sometimes called Operation Hummingbird, a purge that took place in Nazi Germany between June 30 and July 2, 1934, when the Nazi regime carried out a series of political murders.—not 77 people, but over 700 were coldly done in then, the military staff, with v. BlombergWerner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg (1878–1946), a German general field marshall, minister of war, and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces until January 1938. at their head, have taken charge in effect. Hitler is a figurehead. But it seems that the brains are in other heads. It is certain that a considerable Pan-German propaganda is being carried on in all the countries in Eastern Europe where German-speaking people,—(ancient colonists, or comparatively new immigrants) are to be found. Here, in Roumania, in Tcheko-Slovakia, the subterranean work is carried on through the ordinary official channels. I am sure Robert will be shocked to hear this!

Edith asks me for news of you, dearest Mildred. She asked me to ask you please not to abandon our “oeuvre”Oeuvre des maisons americaines des convalescence. In 1920, the prefecture of the Seine acquired the Château de la Toyelle and converted it unto a seventy-five bed sanatorium for women with pulmonary tuberculosis to be administered by the oeuvre chaired by Edith Wharton and Elisina Tyler.—the one continued in view of Edith’s bequest, that will make it a permanent memory of her, and which you have so generously supported.See Bliss Papers, HUGFP 76.8, box 42.

I had hoped so keenly to come and see you and Robert and Dumbarton Oaks—and all the lovely things you have brought together! Perhaps, before another year goes by I shall be able to have this great joy. We have had a catalogue of “Show of Edmund Quincy”, in Paris.Edmund Quincy exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in 1935–1936. I should so much like to see something of him. But there is a wall somewhere, hidden in a mist, that we haven’t vaulted yet. Royall has given a letter to Sicilianos,Demetrios Sicilianos (b. 1880), Greek minister to Hungary (1933–1935) and to the United States (1935–1940). the new Greek Minister in Washington, for you and Robert. He is a very “fin”Old French for “fine” and “exact.” and agreeable person, cultivated, and very pleasant. And a great gourmet.

Dearest Mildred, when are you coming to Europe? I long to see you again,—both.

We get happy letters from Bill and Betsy. She is one of the sweetest creatures, and I am very fond of her. They wrote to us that you had been good enough to offer them a magnificent tapestry,—too fine for them,—but that Bill’s heart was set on going quietly into Brummer’s shop one day, and picking up a small thing out of that treasure house—so they had preferred the alternative you so kindly offered them.

I pray we may not have to hear our hearts thump again to the echo of guns. And I must add, I don’t believe it.

Forgive this dreadfully long letter. Let me give you a very close and very fond hug. And please think that my love and understanding have gone out to you more especially of late.

My very best love to that dear Robert.

Yours ever,