Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Ralph Wedgwood

Letter No.: 
[late 1899]

Hotel Victoria

Dear Randolph,

My natural pedantry nearly led me to call this place ‘Praha’ which the Bohemians call it. I don’t suppose that you knew we were out of England. But firstly Mother gave us £50 to go abroad with, secondly I was out of employment,1 thirdly there seemed no chance of your ever coming to London, fourthly we have just taken a house,2 so that we decided now was the time for action. We first went to Berlin to keep up with the influential people there and incidentally heard some music; then we spent a night in Dresden and now we are in this most delightful place, where everybody talks Czeckish and Dvorak’s operas are performed at the national Bohemian theatre - we are going to one tonight which is called ‘Cert a Kaca’ which the waiter tells us means ‘the Devil and the Kitty’.3
I feel awfully national just now - though I have just written an article against ‘national’ music which no magazine has thought fit to accept.


We went to the opera - all the part of it which dealt with Bohemian village life was tremendously good. But when we got down to Hell and there were people being put into cauldrons by devils it got very dull - and much of the music was bagged from the ‘Niebelheim’ in Wagner’s ‘Rheingold’. When we get home I am going to make a really strenuous effort to get work to do without returning to organism4 which I do not want to do even if any parson would have me which I doubt. I hear from Felix5 that you have had a rise6 - but this I am afraid means that you won’t stalk York Station in a top hat with a gold band . We are trying to learn Czeckish out of a ‘Polyglot Sprachlehrer’ which we bought for 25 Kreuzers - tonight we are going to a ‘Theatre de Varietés’ to hear a bohemian band we hope.7
Yours affecntely


* Nothing fishy is insinuated.

1.  VW had just resigned as organist at St Barnabas, South Lambeth.
2.  Ralph and Adeline signed a lease on 10 Barton Street in late December 1898 (see VWL278) and moved in in April 1899 (see Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.44).
3.  i.e. The Devil and Kate, first performed on 23 November 1899.
4.  i.e. work as an organist
5.  Felix Wedgwood, youngest brother of Ralph Wedgwood.  See VWL201.
6.  i.e. as Stationmaster. Wedgwood had joined the North Eastern Railway.  He subsequently became General manager of it and its successor, the London and North Eastern Railway.
7.  Printed in Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.396 assigned to April 1898.  However this cannot be correct since this trip took place after they had taken the lease on the house in Barton Street.


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/2, ff.36-38
Cobbe 23; Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.396
Original database number: