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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, January 29, 1932


Things have let up a bit, dearest Mildred, and I am answering, from Venice, your letter of Nov. 11, before returning to HunkeydomRoyall Tyler’s term for Hungary. after a meeting at Geneva which was, in the circumstances, quite satisfactory. I got the Fin. Ctte.On October 25, 1920, the League of Nations had appointed an Advisory Economic and Financial Committee composed of two sections of ten members each and tasked with “the working out of measures of an economic and financial nature which have been submitted for adoption by Members of the League in accordance with the Covenant of the League.” to make a report to the Council which is fair to the Hunks, and may even be of considerable use to them. As you know, a partial transfer suspension was declared there on Dec. 23, and only the LeagueThe League of Nations, an international organization in Geneva whose principal missions were to maintain world peace, settle international disputes through negotiation and arbitration, and create stability within financial markets. Loan and a few other payments are continuing to be made.In The League of Nations Reconstruction Schemes in the Inter-War Period (Geneva: League of Nations, 1945), 63, Royall Tyler writes: “[T]he National Bank owed more gold and exchange than it had in hand, and available exchange amounted to less than one million dollars, with maturities for the next fortnight running to four times as much when, on December 23rd, 1931, a partial suspension of transfer for twelve months was announced. It was subsequently renewed year by year. Efforts were made, by previous consultation, to explain the circumstances abroad, and to offer such assurances as could be given of Hungary’s intention to behave as befitted an honest debtor. . . .  When the Financial Committee next met, in January 1932, it reported to the Council that, ‘in the circumstances, and in the absence of any improvement of the general world position’, it recognized ‘the difficulty of any alternative to the step taken’.” The protocol providing for the suspension of certain payments by Hungary required by the Treaty of Versailles became effective on January 21, 1932. I hope we may not default on the League Loan, but the progressive drying up of international trade makes it exceedingly difficult for Hungary to obtain the foreign currency with which to make foreign debt payments. Austria and Czechoslovakia have always been her chief customers, and now she can’t utilise the currency she gets for her exports to those markets. The opening up new markets, today, is a long and costly business, however hard Hungary may try, her success will depend mainly on what happens outside, on the price of wheat and other agricultural produce. This the Fin. Ctee. have now fully recognized. I think they ought to have countenanced Hungary’s declaring a partial transfer suspension 2 months before they did: if they had, we might have started in on the new régime with a little water under our keel, instead of being —.0 as we are at present—but it’s no good repining, and what the Fin. Ctee have now given us will be of real use in dealing with the infuriated bankers (donc HambrosHambros Bank, a British bank based in London. The Hambros Bank specialized in Anglo-Scandinavian business, with expertise in trade finance and investment banking, and was the sole banker to the Scandinavian kingdoms for many years. The bank was sold in 1998.). In May (next Fin. Ctee. meeting) I hope to get more (hush!) in the shape of mediatory offices, indirect perhaps: the Fin. Ctee. might find 2 or 3 men of established international reputation who, at the request of the Hung. Govt., would make proposals for the consideration of that Govt. and of the creditors (for funding the long-term debts). I had a passage to this effect in my draft for the Fin. Ctee’s report to the Council, and it nearly went through, but not quite. Perhaps better to wait till May.A supplementary protocol to the protocol providing suspension of certain payments by Hungary was signed at Lausanne on July 7, 1932.

Poor Hunkiesl One is reminded of the Hunk officer who went home with a lady of the profession and, when all was over and the lady tactfully dropped a hint about a present, said “Ich bitte, Ungarischer offizier nimmt keine Bezahlung!”“Please, [a] Hungarian officer takes no payment.”

In the meantime, the transfer suspension doesn’t mean that the Hunks aren’t paying. They pay in their own currency into a blocked ac/ at the Nat. Bk., and, in principle at any rate, their debt will only be extinguished when it is possible to convert the Pengö into the various for. currencies.

For the present, my main concern is the budget, which was hopelessly unbalanced when I took over, and which is still much too high for the country’s capacity, conditions being what they are today. In fairness to the Hunk, it must be remembered that when he did most of his borrowing, wheat was worth 3 to 4 times what it is worth today, which means that in actual labour he has to produce 3 to 4 times as much, to pay the service on his debt, as he had reckoned with when he contracted the debt. Still, that is the situation, and in order to face it the budget has got to be reduced still further: a very difficult and thankless task but interesting. I think I wrote to you when KorányiFrigyes Korányi (1869–1935), a Hungarian politician and writer who served as minister of finance in 1919–1920, 1924, and 1931–1932. took the Finance Ministry that it was an immense relief to me to have him here. Think of it, during all the worst time there was no Finance Minister—the Prime/Minister, titular Fin. Min., knew nothing about the matter, and I had to deal with the heads of departments who are hard-mouthed old official hacks, and I learned the meaning of the phrase which used to puzzle me in the papers, to the effect that the Minister was full of good intentions mais il est perdu par les Bureaux.“But it is wasted on the Bureaus.”

Enough for Hunkeydom. I’m returning three days after tomorrow with a heavy programme of work for the next 3 months. I can’t leave till we see how this budget year ends (30 June) and what we can do towards a balanced budget for next year. Much depends on the crop, much on prices. If wheat were to recover 20 or 30%, we’d breathe again; if it recovered 50% we’d be out of the wood.

I won’t embark on the huge question of the creation of a large customs unit in the Danube Valley, for I fear the time hasn’t yet come: political obstacles are still too stiff. The question is, can we last till it does come? Things are bad this winter in Hungary; there’s much suffering and naturally discontentment. But on the whole I think we’ll get through the winter without serious disorder. After that, it’s no good speculating now—too much depends on what happens outside. All one can do is to try to order affairs in the country in such a way that, if tolerable conditions are again created, Hungary may be able to turn them to advantage.Hungary had a good harvest in 1931 and an excellent harvest in 1932, but the drop in the price of wheat reduced the benefit to the farmer, who had borrowed heavily, usually on mortgage, when the prices were high. The government’s attempt to support prices had little effect, and the average farmer suffered heavy losses. Royall Tyler described the methods by which the Hungarian State attempted to support wheat prices in his first report (p.7) to the League of Nations for the fourth quarter 1931 (Financial Position of Hungary in the Last Quarter of 1931 [Geneva: League of Nations, 1931] and his third report (p. 8) for the second quarter 1932.

Now for your letter.

Vol. IL’art byzantin. is entirely finished as far as I’m concerned, and a first set of proofs have been corrected. It should be out before very long now.

Elisina is very well indeed. She is with me now, and sends you much love. She stayed in Italy when I was in Geneva; then I joined her, at Bologna; we went to spend a few days with the Gallos at Osimo, (Aldrovandi’sLuigi Aldrovandi Marescotti, Count of Viano (1876–1945), an Italian diplomat and ambassador to Germany between 1926 and 1929. niece, Gioconda Perozzi married Piero Gallo), and then on here, where we’re having glorious, cloudless weather, and greatly enjoying ourselves.

Bill came out to Bpest for Xmas. His feelings for Betsy seem to be unaltered: I don’t quite understand how they can both be so philosophical about waiting for years and years—but they both seem very sincere, and very sensible, so there’s no good worrying for them.

I’m delighted to hear that the Byz. Show photos. made good slides, and that people liked the subject when you presented it to them.See letter of November 11, 1931. I hope to have a little time when I get back to Bpest to get out of Fettich some photos of Scyth-Hun-Avar-Germanic stuff which, with the help of some of Fettich’s own stuff, you might work up for a conference.

I’ll also try and get photos. of the Stora silver bowl.

The more I think of the Nereid tapestry the more it appeals to me. If you are buying anything at all, I beg to commend it very warmly to you. You have seen the beauty of it’s [sic] composition from the photos.—its colour I can’t attempt to describe, but on the whole I think it the most desirable tapestry I know, of any date, and at $20,000 (or perhaps less) I think it’s absurdly cheap.

I’ve been too busy with my obscure Hunkeys to have followed affairs in England closely, or to have given them much thought. The age-long mercantile tradition, amounting now to instinct, of the British, has continued to serve them, and they have managed to keep a surprising amount of banking business going, given present conditions, but I fear that the Govt. is unwise in the speed with which it has launched its protectionist policyIn 1931, due to the severe world financial crisis, the three main political parties of Britain united in a non-party National Government, and Britain abandoned both the gold standard and free trade and embarked upon Imperial protectionism. See Robert F. Holland, Britain and the Commonwealth Alliance, 1918–1939 (London: Macmillan Press, 1981), 138; and Robert Boyce, “The Significance of 1931 for British Imperial and International History,” Histoire@Politique: Politique, culture, société 11 (May–August 2010): 2.—a greasy incline on which there’s no stopping once you’ve fairly started.

Salter is in London, and a member of the semi-secret economic council (with Keynes, Layton, BeveridgeJohn Maynard Keynes (1883–1946), Walter Thomas Layton (1884–1966; editor of The Economist in 1922–1938), and William Henry Beveridge (1879–1963) were British economists and members of the Liberal Summer School, an annual week-long residential school devoted to the development of innovative domestic and international Liberal policies. In the 1930s, they were members (with Arthur Salter) of a “small and secret committee” of economists that advised the prime minister and continued to do so up to the outbreak of the Second World War. See Arthur Salter, The Slave of the Lamp: A Public Servant’s Notebook (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967), 85. and one or two others) which did, I believe, extraordinarily valuable work during the period that followed the abandonment of the gold-standard. I hear, indirectly, that the Cabinet are getting increasingly jealous of that semi-secret body, and are taking things out of its hands—however, that is rumour. Apart from these duties, Salter is writing a book on Reconstruction,Probably Arthur Salter, Recovery: The Second Effort (London: Bell and Sons, 1932). which will be interesting.

I was sorely tempted by London and the French Art ShowExhibition of French Art, 1200–1900. The exhibition was held January 4–March 5, 1932, at the galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, London. after Geneva, but I was so tired that I thought it would be much wiser to spend my few days of freedom in Italy having a real rest and right away from affairs—and, apart from AldrovandiLuigi Aldrovandi Marescotti, Count of Viano (1876–1945), an Italian diplomat and ambassador to Germany between 1926 and 1929. who is just starting on the Manchurian commission,In December 1931, the League of Nations attempted to determine the causes which led to Japan’s seizure of Manchuria. A commission headed by V. A. G. R. Bulwer-Lytton (Great Britain) and with Frank Ross McCoy (United States), Heinrich Schnee (Germany), Luigi Aldrovandi-Marescotti (Italy), and Henri Claudel (France) spent six weeks in Manchuria in the spring of 1932. I haven’t seen any one with whom I could talk affairs, thank God. Osimo was charming. The Gallos are the patrons of Loreto, which is close by. The Cathedral which contains the Santa CasaAccording to tradition, the Holy House (Santa Casa) of Loreto is the house in which Mary was born in Nazareth and in which she received the annunciation that she would bear the child Jesus. is covered with cockerels, the Gallo arms. Very appropriately, the patron Saint of Osimo is S. Giuseppe di Copertino,Giuseppe da Copertino, a Franciscan priest, born Giuseppe Maria Desa (1603–1663). He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement XIII in 1767. who flew on occasion (to get some figs, it appears), and Piero Gallo, my host, was an aviator during the war. He is a dear creature, full of fun, and I liked him very much indeed, and he and Gioconda have produced 3 delightful children, one of whom will doubtless have to take the name Aldrovandi, as our friend is the last of his line and shows no inclination to marry, over 50 as he is.

I don’t know who Werner HegemannWerner Hegemann (1881–1936), a German architect, city planner, and author who wrote criticisms about German culture (Das steinerne Berlin, 1930) and warned against the Nationalsocialists. is, nor do I know Livingstone’s “The Greek Genius—its Meaning”Richard Winn Livingstone, The Greek Genius and Its Meaning to Us (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912). (and I don’t want to).

Nic. Roosevelt.Nicholas 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. I see a lot of him in Budapest, and like him. I’ve known him off and on for years, and I think he’s doing very well in his present post: better than I should have expected. Of course it is a pretty easy job, really. Plenty of work if one is interested and wants to study the position in Hungary, but very little responsibility of any sort, and no colony. The Hunks, respect him and realise that he is well informed; the chers collègues“Dear colleagues.” are a little catty about him, because he doesn’t take any very great pains to pretend to enjoy their parties, and hasn’t yet given himself much trouble about any lady. He has with him Schoenfeld,Hans Frederick Arthur Schoenfeld (1889–1952), an American diplomat who had been U.S. consular agent in Caracas (1910–1912). whom you’ll remember in BA,Buenos Aires. an intelligent fellow.

On the whole, the corps is quite pleasant at Bpest: Bill went so far as to say it was the best corps he had come across. There are always some rejoicing incidents: my poor dear Paco Garcia RealPaco Garcia Real has not been identified. was succeeded by one Acilú,Acilú has not been identified. who arrived a complete valetudinarian, hadn’t eaten flesh for many years, and in such a state that the doctors agreed he must be operated—but before that it was absolutely necessary to strengthen him by means of a meat diet. Acilú protested; but they told him they wouldn’t answer for his life otherwise. Well, by the time he had been eating meat for a month, not only was he in such health that there was no question of an operation, but—a lady committed suicide on his account, and poor Acilú was transferred to Finland, where it was hoped the climate would cool him off.

Shortly before the fatal event, he was playing golf with a friend of mine, spied a graceful girl, snorted, and stared at his hands and explained Je regarde mes mains pour voir si elles sont bien des mains, ou des sabots de satyre?“I look at my hands to see if they are only hands or satyr hooves.”

And le petit Jésus,“The little Jésus.” JesusilloJesuillo has not been identified.—but I won’t waste your time with his activities.

Venice is perfectly heavenly. Hardly a foreigner here. I’ve made friends with Marangoni,Luigi 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. the architect in charge of S. Marco,The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco), the cathedral church, begun in 1071, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. who is carrying out the delicate job of removing the mosaic, rebuilding the church bit by bit (the brick is as rotten as punk) and putting the mosaic back. He is doing it with great skill and scrupulousness. He is now leaving for Constantinople, to make experiment (for WhittemoreThomas Whittemore began work on the preservation of the mosaics of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul in December 1931. In April 1932, Marangoni brought Venetian mosaicists to work on the restoration. Royall Tyler’s letter suggests that the Venetian proto also made an earlier trip to Istanbul to consult with Whittemore. See Robert S. Nelson, Hagia Sophia, 1850–1950: Holy Wisdom Modern Monument (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 176–77.) on removing the white-wash from the mosaics of S. Sophia.Hagia Sophia (Sancta Sophia), a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, built in the sixth century, in Istanbul (Constantinople). When the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II ordered the building converted into a mosque and the figural mosaics plastered over. I think he’s the best possible man for the job.

Bless you, dearest Mildred.

R. T.

Associated Artworks: BZ.1932.1; BZ.1951.20