Letter from Ursula Vaughan Williams to Michael and Eslyn Kennedy

Letter No.: 
April 26th 1957.

From R. Vaughan Williams,
10, Hanover Terrace,
Regents Park,
London, N.W.1.

My dear Michael and Eslyn,

Forgive type, but I’ve got writers cramp, or what I imagine that to be – and can write better and faster like this.
It was lovely to get your letter, and we both like the reviews very much.1 I think, myself, as I probably told you, that the quotation in front of Sancta Civitas2 is the key to much in Ralph’s mind: she does see him in a much more specifically holy light of the Christian persuasion than I think he is.  But she has said a lot of very good things very well.
We had four days at Brighton to get rid of my cough, and enjoyed it enormously.  We went over to Ralph’s old school,3 and up to the Downs, sat on the beach, saw a delicious production of Lysistrata,4 and went over the Pavilion: all most enjoyable.
The garden has taken up a lot of time, too, and I hope your ears have been burning?  Its a lovely spray and much used.
Ralph works as usual, and I am much occupied with two librettos, one, one act, for Elizabeth Maconchie,5 and one, 3 act, I want to do.  But I am a slow worker and get diverted by friends to stay, laundry lists and other frailties! 
We went to Zuleika this week: its enjoyable, but no really good tunes, and the heroine was not up to it, no radience.[sic]  It could have been done by Jessie Matthews, or June, or Dorothy Dickson, or many others of that generation, but now anyone with voice, and real personality gets sucked into films I suppose.  Noakes was good, and the Macquern was perfect, and the Duke looked it all, but had no voice.  But it was great fun for us all.6
So glad about the Hallé history: that should be fun to do.7 We haven’t been to any concerts for ages, but we did go to Petrouchka, and liked that too, thin music, and not enough vitality in the crowd scenes, but its a good ballet, and real ballet.  Job8 was lovely, but not well enough done – production lapses mostly.  A fine Satan.  Next week is Dorking Festival.  and then the summer is really begun.  We go to Bath for Sancta on June 1st, and to Austria on the 5th for 3 weeks or so.  Did you hear the Byzantine monastry [sic] broadcast?  - was fascinated the chanting went so fully with the architecture and the mosaics, all aspects of one frame of mind.  I loved it.
Ralph is very well, Gil9 is off to Copenhagen for the weekend in his cosmopolitan manner, and the cats flourish.  No news as such.
We are so glad to think Eslyn has such a perfectly understanding doctor to proscribe Hallé Concerts, I suppose she will be terrifically fully-read after this, and I do hope will soon spring us like the rose revived.
Much love from us both to you both,

1. Michael Kennedy had reviewed Simona Pakenham’s Vaughan Williams: a Discovery of his Music (London, 1957) for St. Martin’s Review (Dorking parish magazine) and The Musical Times.
2. Catalogue of Works 1925/6. Benjamin Jowett’s translation of the quotation reads: “A man of sense ought not to say, nor will I be very confident, that the description which I have given of the soul and her mansions is exactly true. But I do say that, inasmuch as the soul is shown to be immortal, he may venture to think, not improperly or unworthily, that something of the kind is true. The venture is a glorious one, and he ought to comfort himself with words like these.”
3. Field House, Rottingdean. See R.V.W.: a biography, p.379.
4. The play by Aristophanes.
5. Recte Maconchy. The opera was The Sofa.
6. A musical by Peter Tanchell based on the novel Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (with whom VW had been at Charterhouse). It premiered at the Saville Theatre on 11 April 1957.
7. Michael Kennedy at this time was writing his first book, a history of the Hallé Orchestra, published as The Hallé Tradition in 1960.
8. Job: a Masque for Dancing (Catalogue of Works 1930/5).had been given at Covent Garden.
9. Sir Gilmour Jenkins.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 159, f.163
General notes: 

Typewritten, signed.

Original database number: