Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Charles Myers

Letter No.: 
VWL1061
[July 1933]

The White Gates,
Westcott Road,
Dorking.

Dear Dr Myers1

Thank you very much for your interesting pamphlet2 - I did not want to acknowledge it until I had read it twice.
I wonder if we pay too much attention to peoples descriptions of their reactions to music. After all I suppose musical appreciation is inexplicable in words, and some people take refuge in analogies when they try to express describe their sensations & others try & hide them in technical criticism.
I am glad you think that song (at all events) came through excited speech.
I once heard a Gaelic preacher - this is of course a common experience - & when he got excited he recited on a fixed succession of notes

  (I am not sure of the pitch)

Now this & the allied formula

is the starting point of many British Folksongs.

E.G.

Bushes and briars 


Down in yon forest 

This is the fruit 
& Searching for Lambs 

Holy well 

etc.

Forgive this garrulity - but I am lying in bed with a cracked ankle.
Yours sincerely

R Vaughan Williams


1. Charles Samuel Myers, Cambridge psychologist and anthropologist with a special interest in ethnic music.
2. The pamphlet was possibly The absurdity of any mind-body relation, etc., a lecture which had been published by Oxford University Press in 1932.

Location of original letter:

General notes: 

This date is inferred from the reference by VW to his cracked ankle.
The general point made in this letter was set out at greater length by VW in his second Mary Flexner Lecture at Bryn Mawr College in 1932. See National Music, 1987, p.17 ff.

Format: 
Letter
Citation: 
Cobbe 234
Original database number: 
3307xa