Letter from Ursula Vaughan Williams to Michael Kennedy

Letter No.: 
VWL3538
August 11th 1957.

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

My dear Michael,

I’m the one who fell upon your nice fat novel, & took it away with me last week as a solace for having to be with my mother!1
I enjoyed it, but – to whom do we compare the writer?  Galsworthy – Arnold Bennett–?  I think he has aims to be in Dickens’s class, but that he isn’t.  I found the opening excellent, & had high hopes, but lost them all one by one.  Firstly, I felt he’d read it all up like anything & very fully & well, but that he never felt any of it – except that little episode of the two old women reading Dickens together, when the tiresome hero broke in a[nd] fetched his mother away.  That was first rate.  There were the fireworky ‘set pieces’ old Lostwithiel was all pure melodrama – and the greatest weakness of all was the great break, when Hamer goes away, & comes back quite different: one loses interest because he has not grown before one’s eyes in his most vital developments.

No, I enjoyed it – but NOT a great book for me.  Have you read The Wall by John Hersey?  I think that is a great book, because each person in it grows & develops in relation both to each other, & to circumstance.  I admired Hiroshima most passionately, & everything he has written has the stamp of true emotional experience.  Did you read A Single Pebble – by him too – a lovely book.  All this is odd from an American, for so much that comes from there is really superficial, & the intellectual glossy, or pseudo-passionate is the most insidious of all, & the most trumpery, & they take it so seriously.
Twice to Glyndebourne – Magic Flute & Seraglio – neither perfect.  O dear, the Emperors New Clothes is indeed the parable of the time.  But Ralph was satisfied with the Hock!2
Our dahlias & geraniums & allysum keep the garden very gay, and its still the best on the Terrace.

Ralph is well, & cosy on his iron pills3 & John is pleased with the flourish4 - & we are going on to Spain after Worcester - & shall see you in October … Season of mists & mellow fruitfulness & birthday cake.  Please don’t let there be any cake in Manchester.  Ale if you like.5
Lots of  love from us both.  It is nice that all that music was a tonic for Eslyn – of course she was the beauty of the festival.
Ursula.

This is a rush of a letter, but Ive been typing ‘have to’ letters all day, & its fun to gallop with a pen over things I want to write about.


1. The book UVW has been reading is Fame is the Spur by Howard Spring - see VWL3546.
2. The German white wine.
3. For anaemia.
4. VW’s Flourish for Glorious John (Catalogue of Works 1957/3), written for the occasion of the opening of the Hallé Orchestra’s 100th season.
5. VW would be celebrating his 85th birthday the following October. UVW is making allusion to Keats’s Ode to Autumn and the phrase in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night ‘Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?’ (Act 2, scene 3).

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 159, ff.177-178
Format: 
Letter
Original database number: 
570811a