Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Blind City - Queen's start up idea in 1905. A pitch letter from Queen Elisabeth of Romania to President Roosevelt

found on


Scribner’s Magazine
Vol. LXVII, No. 4
April 1920
pp 408-410

A letter of unusual interest came to President Roosevelt in 1905 from Queen Elizabeth (Carmen Sylva) of Romania. In that year the United States sent J. W. Riddle as its first Minister to Romania, and the President gave him a personal letter to hand to the Queen, in which he spoke of her literary works and of the pleasure he had experienced in reading certain of them. In reply the Queen wrote the following letter on a typewriter:

SINAIA, Oct. 12th, 1905.


I thank you with all my heart for the kind letter you sent me through your most amiable messenger! We are so glad to have an American representative to ourselves at last, and I am sure you will never regret it, as there are so many increasing interests that could not be thoroughly understood by someone who did not know our country at all. I felt a great deal of compunction in venturing to recommend to your notice the once great tragedian Gertrud Giers. I know how very annoying it is to have stage poor artists thrust upon one. But I could not refuse, as she always was a protégée of my mother and a most honest woman whose struggle for life was so much harder on account of her being so honest. I hope she hasn't bored you too much! You know the world and its wonderful snobbishness, only when the Great of the earth seem to pay attention the poor things can rise into notice, else they are left utterly in the cold!

That the Bard of the Dimbovitza gives you such real pleasure is to me a very great satisfaction. You must like the chain of pearls and the murderer and the bereaved husband and the women after miscarriage. All those things are powerful! To me the book seemed a literary event and I felt very proud that such a light should shine from my poor little unnoticed country! We are always wondering where the origins of these songs may be, they must come from the far east, as there is not a word in them that seems to allude to Christianity. They are simply grand and natural and true as only Shakespeare has ever been.

I am told you read German and so I venture to send you a true story I have put into somewhat poetic prose and also a tiny volume of poems I wrote in English, and in which you may like my joyful address to old age! It is true that I don't feel any older than at twenty-five and therefore I am no real judge, but I see that my feelings are about what you say and you may like them, even if my English verse should not be quite perfect!

We have had a hard fight for existence all these last years and are not beyond much care still. It was nearly famine, only we didn't allow it to grow into that, by making unheard of sacrifices to keep our peasants alive! This year is far from good again, but we hope to get on without buying in other countries the Indian corn that wasn't nearly as good as ours! Your Minister will tell you all about our dire struggle and the unheard of difficulties we had to contend with! though thank God he hasn't seen the worst! Many have been the sleepless nights I worked night and day to bring our silk industry on the market, as I saw that when everything failed the mulberry tree gave us enough leaves to keep our silkworms alive! I do so hope we shall be able to do a great deal in that line!

Another burning interest to me is the question of the blind, as the terrible Egyptian disease has made ravages here. It seems there are about fifteen thousand blind people here, mostly strong young men having been soldiers, and a blind typesetter has found a new machine for printing for the blind and my valet de chambre, a very clever man who has been working for the blind for seven years, has taken up the blind man's idea and worked it out through long and patient months! The first machine was ready to start, when a jealous workman destroyed it in order to prevent his patron from earning money. In a few days it will be ready again. We have the patent for five countries also America, and the inventors don't want to earn a penny, but wish to found what I call my blind city with the result of this machine. A blind man will henceforth be able to print five thousand pages a day. It will be a new life for the blind in the whole world! I have orders from everywhere already and I have also begun my blind city with two or three married people, an engineer and a monk and a sculptor and so on. I begin with fathers first, and let the children follow. A school would be utterly useless, it must come out of the city, but it would cost far too much to begin with it. I want to build something on a socialistic basis. If it interests you at all I shall send our plan of organization. I hope it may answer. I am afraid I am asking too much of your patience already and am beginning to make mistakes as I always do when I begin to get the least bit tired. The typewriter is an enormous help to overworked hands, but the noise is still much too fatiguing to the brain. If I write more than three or four hours at a time I make mistakes in every word at last. And I can't dictate.

Once more kind thanks for your most amiable letter!



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