Letter to Helen Clay Frick [translation]

Clotilde Brière1945-12-02

Frick Art Reference Library

Frick Art Reference Library
New York, United States

Translation of letter from Clotilde Brière describing the hardships of living in wartime France.


  • Title: Letter to Helen Clay Frick [translation]
  • Creator: Clotilde Brière
  • Date Created: 1945-12-02
  • Transcript:
    Brissac, the 2 of December I945 Dear ••••• On Nov. 27, I found in Paris where I had gone for five days your card of Oct. 12 and your cable, I sent you at once, a cable, which would not have been possible from Brissac, where the telegraph and telephone wires are not yet repaired. Your messages welcomed me in our neglected apartment that I had not entered since last January, after two days of traveling between Brissac and Paris (325 K) of which seventeen hours were spent on the train and one night in Angers in a hotel that no longer has glass in a window and where the courants d'air blow through cracks in the walls. It was the first time that I was seeing your writing for four years, the first time in two since my friends in the liberated zone had transcribed your letters and that I had some details about you and the Library. I cried reading your lines so full of affection! Do not make too light of this. It has been necessary to pull ourselves together so constantly in order to face hardships both large and small, that emotions of joy overtake and upset us. I think that on the day that I see you, I will turn into a fountain •••• I stopped at the Guaranty on Nov. 29. It was being re-installed in the Hotel Crillon, the interior of which had been partially burned during the days of the liberation. Your orders had not yet been received. But I can easily manage without money, thanks to the funds you sent me in 1939-40. They were providential aid to us and even permitted me for the past year and a half to defray the expenses of the Frick Library, as owing to conditions, expenses were very small. As one cannot tell what will happen to money if the current loan does not come up to the hopeful expectations of the government, it will be better to wait before sending funds. Our big expenses were caused by the necessity of repairing our furniture in Paris from which we receive revenue. This entailed a great cost while the taxes tripled and our rents lowered. Two buildings have been damaged. As for the family residence of my husband, at Fontenay in Paris, it never loses the opportunity to get hit: in August, the walls and garden grills were demolished by German troops, then French, and now American! We must nevertheless remedy the destruction and with the mending difficult of obtaining materials and the uncertain hope of a national indemnity. On the other hand, our existence has not been expensive. No car; the ordinary transport so defective that we were confined to Brissac, a femme menagere prepared our meals, replacing our servants whom we would have had diffi­culty to feed and for whom we could not have provided the necessary linen. Food has been better here than in Paris. Finally, in the country, we could do without gloves, stockings and hats and we could use old clothes, old shoes, luckily! For an overcoat costs, it seems, 20,000 francs, and dress­es such as one used to buy , must attain the same price. A femme de menage in Paris receives 15 francs an hour instead of 3 francs as in 1939, and everything is mounting. Thus, thanks to your aid and to Brissac, we have managed well up to now from a financial point of view, but the future seems dark for those who after a life-time of work, must exist on a pension and on rentals as of pre-war times. Everything has become a problem in four years. One struggles to find solutions, one after another, and then one ends up an impasses. Here is a characteristic example: Our doctor makes calls in a radius of 12 kil, and is overburdened with sick patients, At first, he went about in a car run by gas. He did not receive enough of it, so took to a motorcycle. Then gas was completely lacking and he bought a horse. Grain gave out completely. He sold it to a farmer and bought an electric automobile. At the end of a year and a half, he could no longer find parts with which to repair it. He decided...
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  • Rights: The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives, Reference: FARLSB000016c; Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series II: Correspondence

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