Letter from Rutland Boughton to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
8 Jan 1951

Dear Ralph,

Disingenuous is, I believe, a word used by polite people when it is wished to suggest that someone has been guilty of deceit or dishonesty.  That word entangled my typing fingers and hindered a reply to your letter of Dec 20.
But bearing in mind the general tone of that letter, recalling how little concerned I have been to conceal my principles when to have done so would have advanced my professional career, and bearing in mind that you are probably both ingenuous and deceived, I approach you again
On the point of correct memory, it was not before a meeting of the Composers’ Guild, but just before the first performance of Gundry’s Avon,1 that I asked you to sign the Peace petition
You say that you were forewarned and therefore forearmed against it.  Does one arm against Peace?
You regard the growing peace-movement as an attempt to divide The United States and The United Kingdom.  Is that common sense?  If you were engaged in a controversy with Alan Bush and myself and you employed an argument with which one of us might be in greater sympathy than the other, would it in any way help the cause of truth to say that you were trying to divide us?  What in fact is beginning to divide the US and the UK is no Russian argument but the opposed interests of American and British finance; while for honest people to be warned against the peace movement is like a warning given to an innocent householder against the police by the intending housebreaker.  Fortunately the ordinary people of the world are gradually realising where lie the true facts.
May I suggest that you read Professor Blackett’s Military and Political Consequences of Atomic Energy, for a start.  He is a Nobel Prize winner.  Then you might read Basil Davidson’s Germany What Now?  and then, if like myself you make a point of studying both sides, you might be interested in the Penguin History of the USSR, written by Andrew Rothstein, son of an English mother and Russian father exiled in Czarist times.2
I think you misunderstand my reference to your Pilgrim’s Progress.  Of course, it will be good music.  Your 4th and 6th symphonies, and in fact your whole career, have shown how sensitive you are to the moods of your time.  What I am asking of you is to do what Bunyan himself would have done and take a public stand against Mr Worldly Wiseman and Apollyon, by the side of Mr Valiant for Truth.  To do that you must carefully ascertain where truth lies; and that is not done by being forewarned by Mr Wordly Wiseman himself.
I wish I lived nearer to you, so that we could thresh out this matter in greater detail; for remembering the high moral stand you took at the inaugural meeting of the Composers Guild, I am sure you must finally be on the right side.3


1.  An opera by Inglis Gundry, written in 1949.
2. Patrick S.M. Blackett, Military and Political Consequences of Atomic Energy (London: Turnstile Press, 1948); Basil Davidson, Germany What Now? (Muller, 1950); Andrew Rothstein, History of the USSR (Penguin, 1950).
3. Check minutes of inaugural meeting of Composers' Guild.
4. This is Boughton’s reply to VWL2133.

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Add MS 52366, f. 110
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