Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Ursula Wood

Letter No.: 
Sunday [30th July 1939]

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

My Dear

I got your express last night. The boy came twice - because the 1st time he’d forgotten it.
I thought the only thing to do when I got Douglas’ letter was definitely to cry off for that date, so I wrote [to] all my people & told them so. I cd not keep them shilly-shallying any longer. So Oct. 24th is off any how. It rather goes against my grain to let Amy1 do it later, but if Douglas made the suggestion we might consider it.
My dear, I feel so sorry about it - not so much for my music, which if it is good can wait its time & if it is bad had better not be heard, but for you and the whole thing. You know I think I wrote it because I’m fond of you (though appearances were against that theory!) & because I like the idea of you, me and Douglas all working together. If that cannot be achieved I do not feel inclined to push it. You know, my dear, I can never and will never push my work - if people want my stuff they must ask for it & that applies to other people pushing for me. We might get pushed into the wrong box. If Ninette2 ever did it, your share wd go - my share (except the music) wd go & probably my music wd be played all at the wrong tempo. That may be its fate, but we won’t ask for that. I know I suffer from inertia in these matters, but I can’t do otherwise. I was willing to work like billy-o for our original scheme - but now!
It will be lovely to see you at Hereford.3
I like the sonnet. But I suppose you wd not consider transposing the last two lines to make more climax. Shall I challenge Noyes for betraying a lovely woman?
The local farmer has just said he will take our derelict hay - so I am sweating at piling it up.
Love from


P.S. What we must face is that Douglas does not want to do it - his mood is full of America. He wishes he could say so openly - I gave him a chance saying “Do you want to be out of this? I shall understand”

1. Amy Stoddart. Douglas Kennedy, director of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, had pulled out of a supporting a planned performance of Epithalamion. See footnote to VWL1593.
2. Ninette de Valois
3. At the Three Choirs Festival due to take place on 3 September. The outbreak of war intervened.


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/12, ff.25-30
General notes: 

This seems the most likely date, since it the letter clearly follows closely Kennedy's letter to UW of 25 July, quoted in footnote to VWL1593.

Cobbe 317
Original database number: