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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, May 11, 1932


Having spent a very strenuous five weeks in Hunkeydom,Hunkeydom was Royall Tyler’s term for Hungary. dearest Mildred, and feeling that if I stayed one day more, and saw one more Hunkey, I should scream, I came here to put Elisina on her boat—she sailed yesterday for Athens, and she is going on from there to Saloniki and CP!

Though I enjoy posing as if I were entirely disregarding my duties and the Fin. Ctee.,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.” it had been arranged that I was to go to Geneva straight from here. At the last moment—6 hours before I was due to leave Bpest, the Fin. Ctee. informed me that their meeting was put off by a week or 10 days. That was a bit too much—I had my reservations etc, so I came just the same. I didn’t want to miss giving Elisina her last instructions for the trip which at last she is taking to the heart of the Byzantine domain. It has long been a grief to me that she should not know St. Luke in PhocisHosios Loukas, a Middle Byzantine monastery founded in Phocis in the tenth century and now near the town of Distomo in Boetia, Greece. The monastery is famous for its mosaics. and Dephi, the Saloniki Churches—and Santa 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. And there was a very practical reason for doing it now. I’m a director of a Greek bank, which the other day placed to my credit my director’s fees for 1931. Now, as you doubtless know, Greece is in serious financial difficulties, and the transfer of sums from the Greek into foreign currency is illegal. Therefore I can’t do anything with my director’s fees but spend them inside the country—and the value of the drachma is depreciating. Therefore, eat it while it’s hot!

Elisina and I spent two happy days here, eating bouillabaisse and aioli and rejoicing in the ways of the Marseillais.

Tonight I leave on an expedition I’ve long wanted to make—to see the Chape de Pébrac,So-called Cope of Saint Pierre de Chavanon, eleventh century, embroidered silk, Abbey of Pébac. See Louis Bréhier, “La Chape de Pébrac,” Almanach de Brioude et de son arrondissement 17 (1936): 85–92. a celebrated vestment of which no adequate photo. exists.

Pébrac is a remote spot: I get a train at 10 tonight which deposits me at 6.30 at Langeac, some 10 k. from Pébrac, and there I hope to find a motor of sorts: otherwise I shall walk. The curé is expecting me.

The wireSee telegram of May 7, 1932. telling us of Robert’s father’s death reached us here—and I cabled to you. I don’t suppose you’ll either of you go north. How glad you must be that you did go just when you did, though!

From Pébrac I go to Le Puy, and then to Lyons for a couple of days at the Textile Museum, and then Pontifical Mass on Whitsunday, at the Eglise Primatiale des Gaules. How I wish you were going to be there! Then London for a couple of days, Paris, Geneva for the Fin. Ctee., and back to Crim Tartary.The Crim Tartary (Crimean Khanate), a Tatar feudal state in the Crimea between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries located north of the Black Sea.

You’ll perhaps forgive me if I tell you a grievous incident that happened recently in that nunca bien ponderada“Never properly valued.” capital, Bpest:

There is a distinguished doctor called Baron, who has a public consultation twice a week, gratuitous, greatly frequented, though Baron is rough. One day a little Jew turns up and waits with the other sufferers. The door opens, Baron flanked by two or three aids comes in, glances at the crowd, and roars “Hæmorroïden!”“Hemorrhoids.”

The Jew, understanding “Her mit die Jüden!”“Bring on the Jews.” (excuse grammatical errors, current in Hungary), lines up at the head of the file of those who answer.

Baron strides up: “RRunter mit die Hosen!”“Down with the trousers.”

The Jew: “Aber, Herr Prof. . . .”

Baron “RRRunter mit die Hosen, und Mahl [sic] halten!”“Down with the trousers and shut up!”

The Jew lets down his trousers, Baron puts on a rubber finger and starts exploring. The Jew laughs.

Baron “Was! Du lachst! Wirst mal sehen!”“What! You laugh! You’ll see!” and beckons to one of his aids, a giant with huge hands, to prosecute the examination.

The Jew laughs still louder, and explodes “Herr Professor werden Assistenten mit noch längerem Finger aussuchen müssen. Mir tut der Hals weh.”“The Professor will have to pick assistants who have long fingers. I have neck problems.”

The result of the French electionsThe French legislative elections were held on May 1 and 8, 1932. The workers’ and socialist parties (Cartel des Gauches) received about half of the popular vote and the right and center parties received about half. is very interesting, and the most encouraging thing, to me, that has happened for a long time. After the gains scored by the Hitlerites in the Prussian Landtag elections it was generally supposed that there would be an answer here in the shape of a confirmation of the TardieuAndré Pierre Gabriel Amédée Tardieu (1876–1945) was three times the prime minister of France and served in various ministerial roles between 1929 and 1932. majority and the MarinLouis Marin (1871–1960), a French academic and politician who was president of the Fédération républicaine party. In 1932, he and his followers were hostile to the workers’ and socialist parties (Cartel des Gauches). group’s power. The first tour de scrutin“Ballot.” on May 1st dispelled that fear—and then came Pres. Doumer’s murder,Joseph Athanase Paul Doumer (1857–1932), the president of France beginning in 1931 until his assassination on May 7, 1932. which many people thought would help the Right Parties at the second tour. The outcome shows that the mass of opinion in France is for a more conciliatory (and, I think, a more sincere) foreign policy than that that has been followed recently, and it is a very great indication of sound sense and judgement. I can’t tell you how, coming from pretty close contact with a system which is anything but democratic, in a country where there is nobody of enlightened, critical opinion, I am impressed by the advantages, in this modern world, of having the checks and controls which are provided by opinion here. It may not be very enlightened, speaking absolutely, this French opinion, but it has a pretty good hunch for danger resulting from a cynical and contemptuous attitude—and that’s infinitely precious. What sort of a show the new Govt.—whether cartel or “concentration large”—will make is, of course, another question, and it may well be that its inexperience, lack of cohesion and actual ability to govern, may condemn it to a short tenure, and send power back nearer the middle of the Chambre. Evan so, the lesson of the elections probably won’t be lost, and even Tardieu himself may learn something from them, though he is the sort of brilliant fort-en-thème“Egghead.” that sees himself teaching others, but not learning himself.

I spent today at Aix, and revelled again in those exquisite Don Quichotte Beauvais tapestries at the ArchevéchéThe nine tapestries ca. 1735–1745 from Compiègne on the life of Don Quixote are in the Palais de l’Archevêché (Archbishop’s Palace) in Aix-en-Provence.—they are the big series, not the one that has little subjects set in garlands—which I like much less well. Also the portrait of Granet and the Houdon and Puget busts in the MuseumMusée Granet in Aix-en-Provence. The 1807 portrait of François Marius Granet (1777–1849) is by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867). The bust by Jean Antoine Houdon (1741–1828) may be the 1786 one of Giuseppe Balsamo (Comte Alessandro Cagliostro). The bust of Pierre Puget (1620–1694) may be the ca. 1685 terracotta by Christophe Veyrier (1637–1689).—and the whole town is charming. I can stand quite a lot of Hunkeydom,Hunkeydom was Royall Tyler’s term for Hungary. provided I can now and then escape on such a jaunt as this.

Stora sent me rather unattractive reproductions of the Rob. de R. glasses.Baron Robert de Rothschild (1880–1946), a French banker, vintner, and partner in the banking firm Rothschild Frères, Paris. Islamic glass bottles from the Robert de Rothschild Collection were acquired in the 1930s by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. See M. S. Dimand, “A Syrian Enameled Glass Bottle of the XIV Century,” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 31, no. 5 (May 1936): 105–6. They are superb, of course. I expect he needs money badly. As I told you, I’d rather have his big Byz. cameoThe fourth-century cameo of Honorius and Maria (15 cm in diameter). It was then in the collection of Baron Robert de Rothschild and had been lent to the 1931 Byzantine art exhibition; see Charles Diehl, Jean Ebersolt, and Royall Tyler, Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931), 61, no. 15. than all the Mossoul glasses in the world—but perhaps he hasn’t soaked long enough yet to be ready to have that prised off him.

Love to you, dearest Mildred, and to Robert.

R. T.

Anyway, you needn’t think of me this summer sweltering at the Hot. Hungaria. I am now definitely living with Nick RooseveltNicholas Roosevelt (1893–1982), an American diplomat and 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. in his house up in Buda, with a big garden full of trees, and absolutely quiet. Thank God!

Associated Concepts: League of Nations