Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Frederic Wilkinson

Letter No.: 
August 11th 1937

From R. Vaughan Williams,
The White Gates,
Westcott Road,

Dear Mr Wilkinson

I find I have been a year & a half answering your letter!1  Now at last I am reconsidering the ballet.2
My suggestion is to cut out Scrooge altogether  - call the Ballet “Xmas Eve” or some such title - keep all the first part up to the end of the procession of the 3 Kings (cutting the few bars which apply to Scrooge) then devise a new scheme to incorporate as much of the present music as we can.
As regards your detailed criticism
(1)  Entrance of characters - I dont feel we want more here - we don’t want their identity grasped too much - they simply flit across the stage - after all they all appear again in the ball scene & we can ‘identify’ them then.
(2)  Personally I like the idea of the children dancing Hunsdon house - something prim to “show how nicely the children can dance” (of course it did not get a fair chance with those lumpy children) - I don’t believe we need always represent children as being rowdy - & they have a chance of being rowdy immediately before & after.  Perhaps H. House is too long - it cd easily be shortened and/or a quick dance added (they introduced “Black Nag” in America) - but I am liable to persuasion on this point.
(3) The prayer scene I still like - I know it is sentimental - but very Dickensy & after all the whole thing is sentimental - again I am open to persuasion.
(4) I like all the characters appearing in the Apotheosis - like the “donore” in Italian ‘Santa Famiglia’.
(5)  I think the “Bacca pipes” jig in the Ball scene is too long - but this can easily be put right by optional cuts.
(6)  If we keep Scrooge we must certainly introduce Cratchit & I dont think I feel up to that - besides a scene like that wd become drama & cease to be ballet (also I don’t think I cd  stomach Tiny Tim).
I suggest for title Xmas Eve (suggested by scenes from Dickens’ ‘Xmas Carol’).
I return your letter as you may want it to identify my points
Yrs sincerely

R. Vaughan Williams3

1.  See 360115. For VW’s holding response see VWL866.
2.  On Christmas Night, CW 1926/2.
6.  This letter, without the final sentence, is printed in CW pp.122-123 together with a note by Michael Kennedy on the end result of the discussion.


Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/9, ff.178-182
CW pp.122-123
Original database number: