Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Ralph Wedgwood

Letter No.: 
[February 1898]

Eichhorn Strasse 6.II
Berlin IV

Dear Randolph

Do write and tell me some news of Felix.1 I only heard about it all in a letter from home this morning - You must have thought me so brutal to write to him just ordinary when he was so ill - but then I hadn't heard anything about it. Tell me when he will be able to care for receiving letters and I will write him another - if he likes getting letters - I don't think we ever sent the promised packet of Knorrs suppe - I think we had now better defer it till we get back - which will be soon. You must manage to be in London then and we will all go to Ozners2 or Gatti's and I think to Gatti's3 music hall afterwards. I am sure it would amuse and instruct Adeline very much.
You will be glad to hear that Max Bruch considers I am a “guter musiker und ein Talentvoller Componist”4  and that I have “ve-ry o-riginaal ideeas” but my harmonies are “rather too originell”[;] in fact I meet with much more encouragement - this is of course only for your ears who know that I write things and not for Moore for instance - who would think it ridiculous - You may tell him however that all the living germans I have heard in Berlin are most feeble folk - it seems to me that the future of music lies between England and Russia but first the Russians must try to give up being original and the English being imitators - I very much believe in the folk tune theory - by which I don't mean that modern composing is done by sandwiching an occasional national tune - not your own invention - between lumps of “2d the pound” stuff - which seems to be Dvoraks latest method. But that to get the spirit of his national tunes into his work must be good for a composer if it comes natural to him, in which case it doesn't matter if what he writes occasionally corresponds with some real “folk-tune” - All this because in the last thing I wrote for Bruch I used a bit of Welsh tune as my “Haupt Thema” - unacknowledged of course - but then “I made it my own”.
I never answered you about the Wagners. I think in acts is best - but I would much rather you settled - because I should like the idea that every detail in it came entirely from you [-] that makes the beauty of a present.5
We went to a most wonderful dinner party the other day - all professors - the two “hauptsaches” were
(a) The food and drink which kept on going after dinner in this order 9.30 - 11.30:
Cigars, coffee, liqueurs*[see note], belegte brod, caviar, sweets, beer, tea.

(b) The subjects which I discussed with the most brilliant professors of the Berlin university in this order 9.30 - 11.0:
α. In German: Bach, Wagner, classical, romantic, Shelley, Keats, the Puritans, the influence of religion on art, Browning, Rossetti, Swinburne, lodgings.
ß. In English: The Riviera, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Oxford, Prigs, German art galleries, Fra Angelico.

Adeline sends you her love,
Yours affecately

Ralph Vaughan Williams

*Note. Have you ever made a practice of liqueurs? If not you have neglected your opportunities like I have. This must be rectified at our next festlichkeit together.

1. Arthur Felix Wedgwood, youngest brother of Ralph Wedgwood. He was a civil engineer specialising in the purchase and recovery of wrecks; he wrote amongst other works The Shadow of a Titan (London 1910). See also Gwen Raverat, Period Piece, pp 233-235 where there is an account of the brothers' visits to the Darwins while undergraduates at Cambridge. (Inf. from Sir Martin Wedgwood 6/2/91 via UVW).
2. A restaurant.
3. Gatti's was a well-known restaurant near Covent Garden. Gatti also owned more than one music hall.
4. See VWL202
5. As a wedding present Wedgwood had given VW a series of scores of Wagner operas. VW is referring to the question as to how they should be bound up.


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/1, ff. 109-112
Cobbe 12
Original database number: