Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Ernest Newman

Letter No.: 
Nov 13 [1938]

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

Dear Mr Newman1

I hope you will forgive my troubling such a busy man as you.
I have received a letter from Mr Hutchings,2 enclosing a letter to the press about Bloch which he tells me you are willing to sign and asking me, and others, to sign as well.
I cannot help feeling the letter would be unwise:
(1) It refers to another letter published in a magazine which nobody except professional musicians has ever heard of.3
(2) The real case seems to be the supposed refusal of the B.B.C. to perform Bloch on political grounds - this obviously cannot be referred to in the letter - therefore the argument falls to the ground.
(3) I am a great admirer of Bloch’s music - but I cannot find that he is unduly neglected in this country in comparison with other composers - one could, I believe, make out a similar case for every contemporary composer (except Sibelius) - and even include Elgar in the list if it were not for the three choirs festival.
(4) I always feel, when I see a public declaration that a composer is “unduly neglected” that there is something suspect about him.  Such a declaration, I believe, creates
distrust, e.g. the strong prejudice created against Van Dieren by the unwise propaganda of some youthful enthusiasts.4
(5) I believe much more can be done by private work than by letters to the press.
Therefore, in spite of the authority given to the letter by your signature, I feel that I cannot subscribe it.
I am sending a copy of this letter off to Mr Hutchings.
Yours sincerely

R. Vaughan Williams

1.  Ernest Newman was a writer on music (largely on opera) and one of the most eminent English music critics of his time.  For most of his career he was attached to the Sunday Times.
2.  Arthur Hutchings, composer and writer on music.
3.  The letter in question has not been identified.
4.  A reference to Philip Heseltine (Peter Warlock) and Cecil Gray who both crusaded strenuously for recognition of Bernard Van Dieren's music.


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
Add. MS 69816, ff.13-17

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus 1714/2/6, ff. 125-129
Cobbe 306
Original database number: