Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Harriet Cohen

Letter No.: 
[Late February 1933]

The White Gates,
Westcott Road,

Dearest Harriet

Thank you so much for your sweet letter & I’m so sorry you’ve not been well. - & that I shan’t see you for so long.1
I’m so sorry N.Y. doesn’t want the concerto - but no one ever does like my stuff the first time - so we must put up with that - also I can’t push my own stuff - I’m not made that way - & I’m sure I warned you of that when you so sweetly & nobly undertook to play my stuff - so don’t worry about my old thing & play them what will give you honour & glory - which is the sincerest wish of your devoted R.V.W.2
By the way before you play it again (if you do) let me have good notice as I want to make some alterations - the fugue wants lengthening & the cadenzas want altering.
Good luck to Vienna & I do I still claim my 1065½ or am I in disgrace for writing you a bad concerto?3
Love from


P.S. After all you & I like it & that’s all that matters in the long run.

1. Harriet Cohen went to Vienna on 3rd March 1933 (ex inf Helen Fry). She was then going on an extended tour of the USA.
2. Harriet Cohen had wanted to give the Concerto with the New York Philharmonic under Bruno Walter, but he had turned down the idea. See Harriet Cohen, A bundle of music, London 1969, p.260 where the letter is printed. She did give it in the Carnegie Hall in January 1934.
3. Part of the long-running joke between them about kisses owed by Cohen to VW.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1642, ff. 57-58
General notes: 

Partially quoted in Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.236.
The only visit to Vienna at this time is mentioned out of sequence in Harriet Cohen, A bundle of music, p.174 as taking place in ‘spring 1934’.

Cobbe 225; Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.236
Original database number: