Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Hubert Foss (OUP)

Letter No.: 
March 25 [1938]

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

Dear Foss,

In answer to your 3 letters.
Nos 1 & 3 re Housman.1 You may print anything you like. If the biographer2 comments I think I ought to be allowed my say which is that the composer has a perfect right artistically to set any portion of a poem he chooses provided he does not actually alter the sense: that makers of anthologies headed by the late Poet Laureate3 have done the same thing. I also feel that a poet should be grateful to anyone who fails to perpetuate such lines as: -
 “The goal stands up, the Keeper
 Stands up to keep the goal.”

In answer to your letter about P.K.4 I have had a long talk with Stanford Robinson some time ago and we came to a rough agreement about cuts and omissions in the music. He also told me that he proposed to ask Dunn5 to revise the libretto for broadcasting. Stanford Robinson distinctly said 75 minutes not 60.
As regards fees we must not kill the goose with golden eggs as we did in the case of my Symphony at Boston.6 The BBC were very generous over “Hugh the Drover”!7
Lastly - You will perhaps remember that I made an arrangement of my Magnificat8 for a Dutch Society. With your leave I sent the score & parts direct to them last November - I had no acknowlegement & no word of any kind from them - I wrote again a few weeks ago and again have had no answer. Would you like to do something about it since indeed the material belongs to you - the address is -
C. Engelbrecht
 Het Nederlandsch Kamer Orkest
 Smidswater 19A
 Den Haag - Holland


R. Vaughan Williams

1. A.E. Housman, poet and author of A Shropshire Lad. VW used these texts in his song-cycle On Wenlock Edge (Catalogue of Works 1909/1). Housman was extremely annoyed at VW’s omission of two verses in his setting of “Is my team ploughing?”
2. F. Grant Richards, Housman’s biographer.
3. Robert Bridges had edited an anthology aimed at soldiers in the trenches, The Spirit of Man: An Anthology of English and French from the Philosophers and Poets, Made by the Poet Laureate in 1915 (London, 1916), of which VW had a copy (see R.V.W.: a biography, p.231).
4. About a proposal to prepare a version of The Poisoned Kiss (Catalogue of Works 1936/4) for broadcasting.
5. Geoffrey Dunn, librettist and translator.
6. See VWL5121
7. Catalogue of Works 1924/2.
8. Catalogue of Works 1932/2.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
File 119
General notes: 

Year taken from context. In the hand of AVW, signed by VW.
Richards’s book was published in 1941; VW’s comments were most probably solicited in 1938 or 1939 - postal traffic with Holland would have no longer been easy/possible in 1940.

Cobbe 290
Original database number: