Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Rutland Boughton

Letter No.: 
20th December, 1950.

The White Gates,
Dorking, Surrey.

Dear Rutland

Please forgive a typewritten letter, as otherwise I am rather illegible, and thank you for your letter.1
My memory of our conversation is not quite the same as yours.  As I remember it – just when we were going into a meeting of the Composers’ Guild (I think) you met me and asked me in the most innocent manner, whether I was in favour of peace, to which I naturally replied “Yes”.  Then you asked me to sign a manifesto, but did not explain what the manifesto was.  Luckily I had already been approached on the same subject and forewarned was forearmed.  When I refused to sign you again said, “But surely you are in favour of peace”.  Then the conversation had to stop.
I cannot help feeling that your approach to me in this matter was, to say the least of it, disingenuous, as I was almost tricked into signing something which you felt sure I should disapprove of if I knew all the facts.
As I say, luckily I did know the facts, because I had already been approached with a request to sign this bogus Russian “peace” manifesto, which we most of us guessed at the time and now know through Russia’s own newspapers, was simply a means to sow dissension and want of will among the Western countries.
As I say, the Russians have by now admitted that this so-called “peace” manifesto was designed to weaken the resistance to their nefarious designs of tyrrany2 and imperialistic aggression.
I suppose that those who tried to get others to sign the manifesto adopted their method of technique from the Russians, who have shown at Lake Success that they have no regard for truth or justice but only for expediency in their own favour, with the result that they behave like selfish, dishonest and petulant children – e.g: when they refused to attend a meeting and then declared that the decision made there was invalid because they were not present.  Or again, after talking all this hot air about “peace”, refused to sign a request to the forces in Korea to cease fire.
Their whole conduct would be comic if it were not so tragic.
If we have to negotiate with the Chinese it will indeed be a triumph of might over right.
As regards my Opera, might I ask you, at all events to read the libretto before you criticise it or me for writing it, and as to what you accuse me of – i.e. “redressing an old theology”, it seems to me that some of your ideas are a good deal more moribund than Bunyan’s theology: - the old fashioned republicism3 and Marxism which led direct to the appalling dictatorships of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini, or your Rationalism, which dates from about 1880 and has entirely failed to solve any problems of the Universe.
You know how much I admire your energy, your honesty of purpose and your wish to give up everything for what you believe to be a good cause, but please do think whether it is not time, even now to enlist under the banner of democracy and freedom rather than the dictatorship of Moscow.

R Vaughan Williams
(R. Vaughan Williams).

Rutland Boughton, Esq.,

1.  For a draft of Boughton’s letter to which this is a reply see VWL2122.  The letter is printed in full in R.V.W.: a biography, pp.303-304. For Boughton's reply to this letter, see VWL2160.
2. sic.
3. sic.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
Add MS 52366, f. 108

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/18, ff. 197-198
General notes: 

Typewritten, signed.

Cobbe 546; R.V.W.: a biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams, p.303-304.
Original database number: