Letter from Hubert Foss to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
VWL2255
20th June, 1951

My dear Ralph,

I have a number of things to write to you about.  I hope you will excuse me if I fill a page or two, numbering my subjects for your ease.
1)  I do so hope that you approve of the piece I wrote about your Pilgrim1 in the “Musical Times”.  I find that a number of people did agree with me very warmly.  You may be interested to hear that immediately after the production Herbert Murrill was moved to write an essay on the work as it struck him, which is to be published in the Autumn issue of “Music and Letters”.  After he had sent in the typescript he read my appreciation of the Opera in the “Musical Times” and found that he and I had said almost the same thing though in different words, and I have found that was so on reading his very warmly worded essay.  Since writing the “Musical Times” notice I have had the pleasure and honour of writing a long practical and analytical essay on the Morality for Penguin in 1952 (now to be edited by Alec Robertson) and there I have said at some length what I really felt about it as a stage work, but my charter, thank goodness, excluded me from having to refer to the actual production at the Garden.  I have been putting together some thoughts about a possible production of the work and have written to a certain party by this same post to see if I could get something going.  If from that quarter there is a glimmer of light I will get into touch with you again.  I get more and more impressed with it as a work of art the better I get to know it.
2)  I think you might be interested to read a review of my book about you written by that very able Indian musician and litterateur Narayana Menon, who was a colleague of mine on the Indian Service of the B.B.C. and is now a high official in All-India Radio out there.  I am taking the liberty of sending you under separate cover my copy, which I should be grateful if you would return to me sometime.
3)  I am told that Arthur Crammer has an interesting reminiscence about the first performance of your Five Mystical Songs - that Kreisler owing to a broken string and wishing to play his new one in, took one of the fiddler’s places in the orchestra!  Is this true?  If so, I should like to get it in somehow in any new edition of my book.
4) Do you remember doing a Talk for a film production for the Crown Film Unit by the ill-fated Humphrey Jennings called “Dim Little Island”?  The film was never actually shown, but I think I can see my way to get a private roll-out of it for friends to see, and it occurred to me that sometime you might be in London and might care to come; I could no doubt arrange a performance to suit you.
5) The task has fallen to me to edit a volume giving the history of the London Symphony Orchestra. and I and my colleagues thereon are very anxious to get certain people to write short pieces of memories or associations with or appreciation of the L.S.O. and its nearly 50 years of continuous work. Nothing of course would please us more than if I could persuade you to send me something to include in this book, but I am not of course going to press you.
6) The University Extension Department of London University has a keen centre in Epsom, the principal being a Mr Duncan, and the Chairman or some such thing, being Kathleen Riddick. This Epsom Centre has desiderated a series of 10 University Extension Lectures this Winter on Wednesday evenings at 7.30 dealing entirely with your music.  I have been invited to give the Course and have accepted.  The first Lecture is on Wednesday October 10th.  It is the particular wish of the Epsom Centre, the University, and naturally myself that you would honour the first Lecture with your presence.  I can of course see that there are arguments against as well as for this proposal, but I should like to make suggestions now which might perhaps ease the situation.  It would be my intention to devote this first lecture to showing what a great deal of variety there is in your works, contrary to what so many conventional critics like to assert; secondly, I should of course come over to Dorking to fetch you in a car and take you back again; thirdly, I would like to suggest that before the lecture I and my wife should give a little supper party with ourselves, Mr Duncan and James and Jean McKay Martin. I am not in a position either to press or to advise on this matter, and merely leave it with the words that I will accept gladly whatever your decision is.
7) [and last!]  Charles Kennedy Scott attains his 75th birthday at the end of this year.  Now Scott is principally a performer and not a composer, although his editorial work will undoubtedly last, and so I think something should be done in his celebration.  One or two of us like Ronald Peck of the Oriana, Frederic Jackson of the London Philharmonic Choir, Frank Thistleton and I are suggesting what we can do, including a public dinner and various other things. The points I want to refer to you are: we would all like to see Charles’ name in the New Year Honours List. I spoke to Arnold Bax about it and found him sympathetic, but says he will do nothing on his own without further support, and so I have been hoping that you will write a line to Arnold supporting (if you agree with the idea) the action of putting forward this name. Secondly, I am trying to get one or two short pieces written for the Oriana Choir to sing to him.  I have so far approached Edmund Rubbra and Herbert Howells.  Do you feel that you could write something yourself?
With apologies for the length of this letter.2
My warmest regards and affection,
Yours sincerely,


1. i.e. Pilgrim’s Progress.
2. See VWL2258 and VWL2260 for VW's responses.

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Location of copy:

General notes: 

Typewritten.

Format: 
Letter
Original database number: 
510620