Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Ursula Wood

Letter No.: 
[13th May, 1939]

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

My Dear

I should consult
 (a) Chappell popular music of the olden time (preferably the old edition)
 (b) Naylor Shakespeare & music1
But I thought your job was words of folk-songs2 - I would tell them that Shakespeare is not folk-song and has nothing to do with it (except when he quotes, as in Ophelia or “King Stephen was a noble Lord”3) so curse them for ignorant fools which they probably are.
The Autolycus songs are so obviously not folk-songs
Nor is there any folk tune which wd fit them
Hope to see you tonight.4
Love from


P.S. Do give me your full address. I only have “7½ Thayer Street”4 and have to invent the rest!

1. Edward Naylor, Shakespeare and Music (London: Dent, 1896)
2. This probably refers to a broadcast.
3. VW probably has in mind Hamlet Act 4 sc5 where Ophelia quotes a number of songs; For ‘King Stephen ...’ see Othello Act II sc 2.
4. At the performance of Job and Hugh the Drover at Sadler's Wells Theatre; see VWL1564.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/12, ff.15-16
Original database number: