This is a great country and I want to ask all the natives if they know "Stenie" Bonsal. They are all his friends and so are the "Balkans," and all the little Balkans. Nobody wears European clothes here. They are all as foreign and native and picturesque as they can be, the women with big silver plates over their stomachs and the men in sheepskin and tights and the soldiers are grand. We have been passing all day between snow covered mountains and between herds of cattle and red roofed, mud villages and long lakes of ice and snow-- It is a beautiful day and I am very happy. (Second day out) 15th---We are now in Hungary and just outside of Buda Pesth "the wickedest city in the world," still in spite of that fact I am going on. I am very glad I came this way-- The peasants and soldiers are most amusing and like German picture-papers with black letter type-- I shall stop a day in Paris now that I have four extra days.
In sight of Paris--April 16--1893. DEAREST MOTHER:
has been the most beautiful day since February 4th. It is the first day in which I have been warm. All through I have had a varnish of warmth every now and again but no real actual internal warmth--I am now in sight of Paris and it is the 16th of April, in the eleven weeks which have elapsed since the 4th of February I have been in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Egypt and Morocco. I have sat on the Rock of Gibraltar, sailed on the Nile and the Suez Canal and crossed through the Dardanelles, over the Balkans, the steppes of Hungary and the Danube and Rhine. I have seen the sphinx by moonlight, the Parthenon and the Eiffel Tower and in two days more I shall have seen St. Paul's. What do you think I should like to see best now? YOU. I have been worrying of late as to whether or not I should not come home now and leave Paris for another time because it seems so rough on you to leave you without either of your younger sons for so long. But I have thought it over a great deal and I think it better that I should do Paris now and leave myself clear for the rest of the year. I promise you one thing however that I shall not undertake to stay away so long again; it is too long and one grows out of things. But nothing I feel, will be so easy or so amusing as Paris and I intend to get through with it soon and trot home to you by the middle of August AT THE VERY LATEST. So, please write me a deceitful letter and say you do not miss me at all and that my being so near as Paris makes a great difference and that I am better out of the way and if Chas goes to London I shall be near him in case he forgets to put on his overshoes or involves us in a war with G. B. Now, mother dear, do write me a cheerful letter and say that you do not mind waiting until the middle of August for me and when I come back this time I shall make a long stay with you at Marion and tell you lots of things I have not written you and I shall not go away again for ever so long and if I do go I shall only stay a little while. You have no idea how interesting this rush across the continent has been. I started in snow and through marshes covered with ice and long horned cattle and now we are in such a beautiful clean green land with green fields and green trees and flowering bushes which you can smell as the train goes by. I now think that instead of being a cafe-chantant singer I should rather be an Austrian baron and own a castle on a hill with a red roofed village around it. I have spent almost all of the trip sitting on the platform and enjoying the sight of the queer peasants and the soldiers and old villages. Tonight I shall be in "Paris, France" as Morton used to say and I shall get clean and put on my dress clothes but whether I shall go see Yvette Guilbert or Rusticana again I do not know. Perhaps I shall just paddle around the fountain in the Place de la Concorde and make myself thoroughly at home. With a great deal of love to Dad and Nora and Chas and all.
At the time that Richard's first travel articles appeared some of his critics took umbrage at the fact that he was evidently under the delusion that he had discovered London, Gibraltar, Athens, Paris, and the other cities he had visited, and that no one else had ever written about them. As a matter of fact no one could have been more keenly conscious of what an oft-told tale were the places that he had chosen to describe. If Richard took it for granted that the reader was totally unacquainted with the peoples of these cities and their ways, it was because he believed that that was the best way to write a descriptive article, always had believed it, and believed it so long as he wrote. And whatever difference of opinion may have existed among the critics and the public as to Richard's fiction, I think it is safe to say that as a reporter his work of nearly thirty years stood at least as high as that of any of his contemporaries or perhaps as that of the reporters of all time. As an editor, when he gave out an assignment to a reporter to write an article on some well-worn subject and the reporter protested, Richard's answer was the same: "You must always remember that that story hasn't been written until YOU write it." And when he suggested to an editor that he would like to write an article on Broadway, or the Panama Canal, or the ruins of Rome and the editor disapproved, Richard's argument was: "It hasn't been done until _I_ do it." And it was not because he believed for a moment that he could do it better or as well as it had been done. It was simply because he knew the old story was always a good story, that is, if it was seen with new eyes and from a new standpoint. At twenty-eight he had written a book about England and her people, and the book had met with much success both in America and England. At twenty-nine, equally unafraid, he had "covered" the ancient cities that border the Mediterranean, and now Paris lay before him! This thought--indeed few thoughts--troubled Richard very much in those days of his early successes. He had youth, friends, a marvellous spirit of adventure, and besides there are many worse fates than being consigned to spending a few months in Paris, having a thoroughly joyous time, taking a few mental notes, and a little later on transferring them to paper in the quiet of a peaceful summer home at Marion.
Chief among his friends in Paris at this time was Charles Dana Gibson, who was living in a charming old house in the Latin Quarter, and where the artist did some of his best work and made himself extremely popular with both the Parisians and the American colony. In addition to Gibson there were Kenneth Frazier, the portrait-painter, and Tina, Newton, and James Eustis, the daughter and sons of James B. Eustis, who at that time was our ambassador to France, a most genial and kindly host, who made much of Richard and his young friends.
PARIS, May 5, 1893. DEAR MOTHER:
It is a narrow street with apartment houses of gray stone and iron balconies along either side of it. The sun sets at one end of the street at different times during the day and we all lean out on the balconies to look. On the house, one below mine, on the other side of our street, is a square sign that says:
A great many beautiful ladies with the fashionable red shade of hair still call there, as they used to do when the proper color was black and it was worn in a chignon and the Second Empire had but just begun. While they wait they stretch out in their carriages and gaze up at the balconies until they see me, and as I wear a gold and pink silk wrapper and not much else, they concentrate all their attention on the wrapper and forget to drop a sigh for the poet. There are two young people on the sixth floor opposite, who come out on the balcony after dinner and hold on to each other and he tells her all about the work of the day. Below there is a woman who sews nothing but black dresses, and who does that all day and all night by the light of a lamp. And below the concierge stands all day in a lace cap and black gown and blue, and looks up the street and down the street like the woman in front of Hockley's. BUT on the floor opposite mine there is a beautiful lady in a pink and white wrapper with long black hair and sleepy black eyes. She does not take any interest in my pink wrapper, but contents herself with passing cabs and stray dogs and women with loaves of bread and bottles in their hands who occasionally stray into our street. At six she appears in another gown and little slippers and a butterfly for a hat and says "Good-by" to the old concierge and trips off to dinner. Lots of love to all. DICK.