Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Hubert Foss

Letter No.: 
17th May, 1951

The White Gates,

[Dear Hubert]

I have never answered your long and most interesting letter. I was on the whole very much pleased with the production, and I think I ought to tell you so.
There are one or two things I disagreed with. I still believe that the Apollyon fight could be done on my lines. Of course the fight as it appeared on the first night was a patched up affair at the last minute, which was a pity.
I still feel it is essentially a stage piece and not for a Cathedral. To start with it would have to be about twice as long for a Cathedral. It probably takes about six bars of moderate time for a procession to cross the stage at Covent Garden, but it would take about 100 bars for a procession to walk down the nave of (say) Salisbury Cathedral, and the whole thing would have to be on a much larger scale.
I am lengthening “Vanity Fair”. I am sure it is too short at present. I am making one or two slight alterations. The end of the Arming scene, Act II Scene I wants altering. This also was a last minute affair. In my original version, as you will see the Pilgrim goes off singing and his voice is gradually lost in the distance, but we found that on the big stage at Covent Garden he was quite inaudible directly he got off the stage, and so we had to alter it; but I am altering it again now. They did not seem to realise it was not a “Curtain” in the ordinary sense of the word.
What I wanted was a gradual black-out and then an Act Drop Curtain to prepare for the next scene, instead of which they dropped the House Curtain, which to my mind was a mistake.
I may begin to think of more to say to you later on, in which case I shall worry you again.
Thank you so much for writing.1


(R. Vaughan Williams).

1. It is curious that VW does not mention Adeline's death a few days earlier on May 10. Perhaps this line, added in manuscript, is an acknowledgement of sympathy received.

Location of original letter:

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/2/2/1, ff. 138-139
General notes: 

Typewritten, signed.

Cobbe 560
Original database number: