Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Michael and Eslyn Kennedy

Letter No.: 
[May 26th 1953]

The White Gates,
Westcott Road

Dear Eslyn & Michael,

Thank you so much for you letter, which I will try and answer. I also have not heard the final record of my Pastoral Symphony and Mass.1 I am so glad you like Sancta, it is, on the whole, the one o[f] of my own choral works that I like best.
Fancy Antartica getting into a popular concert!2  I must try and come up for the recording, and we must get the wind machine right. The only satisfactory version at present of that is the record of the original film.
Here is the history of “The Bridal Day”3; about fifteen years ago a lady called Ursula Wood, then unknown to me, wrote suggesting a ballet or Masque on Spenser’s Epithalamion.  We had an interview and the result was we made this Masque together.  It was originally intended for the E.F.D.S…4.  Indeed rehearsals had started then the war intervened and it had to be dropped.  Now, with certain additions and alterations, it is going to be televised on June 5th.   I do hope you will be able to listen or look or what ever it is you do with a television.  Of course the scenario has had to be much altered from the original stage version.
I am sending you a copy of the Oxford Elegy.5  I agree that E.N.6 probably really wanted to show how much he knew about the poem.
I never saw the controversy about the Old Hundredth7 in the Telegraph.  I am rather proud of having persuaded the Archbishop to put it in, but I am afraid that the Viscounts will only know the equal note version, and with British Doggedness will stick to it through thick and thin.
I fear I cannot sympathise with “Dorabella’s” effusions.  She seems to think that hers is the only variation, and to my mind it is the worst and the weakest of the lot.8
I’m afraid we shall not be at Cheltenham… I suppose you will not be passing here on your way there or back?
As regards Elgar and the 5 T. Ps9…. the story is as follows: I was talking to Elgar and a great friend of his, Colonel Isaac, and Isaac suggested a very fine poem, rather more like Donne than Skelton, which I have since set.10 But Elgar said: “No, don’t do that, you make an oratorio out of Elinor Rumming”. 
My love to you both.  I do hope that you, Eslyn, are getting better.



Love from the typist.11

1. The recordings were by Decca - the symphony conducted by Boult and the Mass sung by the Fleet Street Choir.
2. The symphony had been included in the Hallé Sunday Series of concerts.
3. Catalogue of Works, 1938/6.
4. English Folk Dance Society
5. Catalogue of Works, 1949/2.
6. Ernest Newman had written about the Oxford Elegy in his weekly piece in the Sunday Times.
7. Catalogue of Works, 1953/2.  In the event VW's fears about the congregation using the equal note version were apparently confirmed; see VWL3516.
8. A reference to the book by Dora Powell (the “Dorabella” of Elgar’s ‘Enigma’ Variations): Edward Elgar: memories of a variation (London, 1937), of which a second edition has been issued in 1947.
9. i.e. Five Tudor Portraits (Catalogue of Works, 1935/5).
10. Prayer to the Father of Heaven, Catalogue of Works, 1948/1, a setting of words by Skelton.
11.  i.e. UVW.


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 159, ff.17-18
General notes: 

Date taken from postmark, no longer extant.
Typewritten, signed.
This letter printed in part in Michael Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.383.

Cobbe 611; Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.383
Original database number: