Letter from Ursula Vaughan Williams to Michael and Eslyn Kennedy

Letter No.: 
July 2nd 1957

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

My dears,

Your letter was very nice to get.  Of course myself I’d out Tennyson  (though I like some of him) for Chaucer, every time, & Elgar – with whom I cannot do, for Dickens who I adore.  But what a difficult game to play.  I feel Wordsworth should have a place too – he is so magnificent but Chaucer, like Dickens, has that enormous scope & warmth, & tears, as well as romance.  For another poet, I’d cheat, I think, & ask for the works of Anon.  If another musician is obligatory, please may it be Dowland?  Constable or Turner?  I think I side with you on Turner.1 I do agree about Tess2 – its a glorious book.  I’ve just been reading a very mixed bag.  Moll Flanders – because I love it – I like Defoe’s intense matter of factness in improbability - & The White Peacock3 – which is a marvellous picture of this young group of people growing up rather lyrically, ending in prosey lives or tragedy, & has immense feeling - & a book by Patrick Leigh Fermor about monasterys.4 We’ve been watering like mad, too, the garden is fairly good.  We have old blush, smaller maiden’s blush, Blanc double de Coubert; Mme Hardy, & Cardinal Richelieu5 – but they only flower very briefly, except the small maiden, who goes on & on charmingly.
Austria was lovely, but we’ve done our duty by mountains now, we both feel.
P.K.6 is going well – we so look forward to taking you to it: we don’t dress - & the Academy  theatre is small, so if its hot its very hot – so bring your gauziest suit!
It will be fun to see you both & to talk. Ralph is very well, & slightly brown - & we are just off to The Trojans7 – so there’ll be lots to tell.  Please forgive me for being a heretic about Elgar.8
Lots of love


1. Michael Kennedy had apparently written about a parlour game in which the participants had to determine within strict limits which authors, composers and painters merited preservation.
2. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.
3. D. H. Lawrence’s first novel.
4. Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time to Keep Silence.
5. All names of roses.
6. The Poisoned Kiss (Catalogue of Works 1936/4) was in rehearsal at the Royal Academy of Music.
7. The opera by Berlioz.
8. Michael Kennedy loved Elgar’s music while UVW disliked it greatly. Kennedy was eventually to write A Portrait of Elgar (1968).


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 159, ff.172-173
Original database number: