Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Herbert Howells

Letter No.: 
[17 December 1942]

The White Gates

Dear Herbert

Ruth Dyson & her 4tet played your pfte 4tet here today.  -  I heard it, I am ashamed to say for the first time.
- It is most beautiful - Gerald1 & others had often told me about it & said how good it was but I had fought shy of it - I don’t like pfte 4tets usually & thought this wd be the same - But I feel this is all that I should have liked to have done & have never succeeded in doing. - When you people who know your job do get the right sow by the ear - by Jove you do get it - but some how I believe your very competence somehow prevents you often perceiving which the right sow is and leaves it to us bunglers to get hold of it by accident.  But when you do get hold of it you get it by the right ear all right while we so often get it by the wrong ear.2
I daresay you are annoyed at having the “sins of your youth” praised - I feel the same when people single out the “Sea Symphony” - or rather I feel that perhaps all the rest of my life has been wasted - perhaps it is true of both of us & we have never got back the “first careless rapture” of our early works - but you have this advantage that you already knew your job in 19183


1.  Gerald Finzi.
2.  All based on the expression ‘Getting the wrong sow by the ear’.
3.  Herbert Howells' Piano Quartet was written in 1916.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS 7832/376 o
General notes: 

Date provided on a transcript in the hand of UVW.

Cobbe 406
Original database number: