Letter from A.H. Fox-Strangways to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
Xmas 1943

The Hut,
Bovey Tracey.

Dear V.W.

Among 47 friends, I’ve made a Xmas list to write to, you come early, and as the biggest swell among ‘em, first. Forty seven: the larger rest are dead, except to memory. Of course I shan’t finish my list, but it’s nice to pass it through one’s mind - though the pictures are usually lop-sided - a general impression and a few never-to-be-forgotten details. In your case, e.g., - general, when I hear something new of yours I am apt to feel it first and afterwards perhaps understand it, but its the first that matters; and particular - you’ve probably forgotten - 29 years ago we came out from music in Sheppard’s church - what is it? - oh, St Martins - and leaning over the parapet looking down at the lions of Trafalgar Sq. discussed whether you ought to go to the war. And you went; but I never heard whether you were glad or sorry you did.
And now we’re in the thick of the second round and all the old questions spring up: must there be war? what kind of peace would preclude it? Is war morally right, or seldom, or never? The best I know on the subject is in the Testament of Beauty (ii.531 - 1001, and esp. 869 - 881) - in effect, `war is not virtue, but like virtue’. But much wisdom has been poured out on both sides, and like so much else we have not to think or talk but do - like your firewatching (which looks as if it might ease off now or soon). Insoluble as the question is, we’re prob. right to go on asking it.
My translations (Brahms, Wolf, Liszt, Strauss complete1) are being and going to be wirelessed; not that it matters, since nobody hears more than a word here or there; but I pretend to myself it’s some use, as it may be `when things is diff’runt’ (our gardener’s phrase for `after the war’).
I wish you health and happiness, in yourself & your work, wh. are perhaps one thing, not two.
Yours always


1. Fox Strangways made translations of all the lieder texts of these composers.


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