Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to René Gatty

Letter No.: 
[late 1899]

Dear R.A.G.

This is not a letter but a hasty attempt to teach my grand mother to suck eggs. Could not the title be something like this

Mirror of the ‘Tafpein’1
(the famous dutch café in Berlin)

I should like the word ‘famous’ or ‘well-known’ to come in to give more point to the poem (it doesn’t matter a bit if it is not well-known.).  I don’t like (2nd verse) ‘her muslin white and gauzy every where’ it seems an anticlimax, the most striking article of dress should come at the end of the 4 lines.
3rd verse should not ‘pip-e’ be ‘pfeife’ or is this a pedantic misunderstanding
4th verse ‘black little tables’ I don’t like ‘that the sq: old clock is reckoning up no doubt’ seems to me rather jaw-breaking.
We heard a military band play ‘Komm’ Karlinchen’ the other day2


The Dvorak3 was very good and characteristic all the time he was with the village scenes, but when he got down to Hell he lost himself and became a bad imitation of ‘Nibelheim’ in the Rheingold. I don’t think they are the coming Volk.  Smetana & Dvorak were the result of a natural movement, but I think they will probably now become cosmopolitan.4

1.  Unidentified.
2.  A popular march.  The words are: ‘Komm’ Karlinchen, komm, wir wolln nach Pankow gehn, da ist es wunderschön’ [‘Come, Charlie, some, we’ll go to Pankow [a district of Berlin] - its very beautiful there’].
3.  VW includes the hacek on the ‘r’.
4.  VW is referring to the performance of Dvorak's The Devil and Kate, first performed on 23 November 1899, which they had heard in Prague.  He also gave an account of the opera in similar terms to Ralph Wedgwood (see VWL276).

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS 135

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/2, ff.14-15
General notes: 

The contents of the postscript indicate that the letter was written soon after their visit to Prague in early 1899 (see VWL276).  The letter may have been written while they were abroad.

Original database number: