Letter from Ursula Vaughan Williams to Michael Kennedy

Letter No.: 
November 26th [1957].

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

Dearest Michael,

Ralph is doing well – though he’s getting progressively furiouser and furiouser – but the doctor is being frightfully careful of him, & making him stay in bed & Ralph is fighting with the last movement of his symphony1 under all the difficulties of 28 stave paper on a tip up bed table – fine for letters but rather small for a full score.
I am so full of sorrow for you both – nature is never at all fair, I think – and it is very sad that so much has to be lost: I feel it sometimes, with all the things Ralph & I can never do together – I’ve never had a long long walk with him, nor going to the theatre when he could hear it all, nor talking parties, for the same reason.  And though we have so much, its hard not to say – if only we had been together twenty five years ago – but there again – it must not be said, & so many lovely things have been done separately, which I feel sad about.  It is too, a truth that we are all under sentence, only we don’t know how long our sentence is – but one realises it more when one knows it must be measureable.  I always feel sick with fright when the least thing is wrong, but try not to, because with all the rest of me I know that nothing worthwhile is necessarily measured by duration.  To all of which one must accommodate ones way of life – and I suppose live in the present.
I went to Henry VI part 1 & 2 at the Vic last night.  I hadn't realised what a terrific action play it is.  Shakespeare gets more & more topical – the Cade rebellion is horrifying – and the whole thing, a maze of ambitions at war, is only unlike us in that fewer people were involved.  For Maine & Anjou – one reads oil claims - & O dear – there we are.
Barbara Jefford was a lovely Margaret, shy, unhappy, then outraged, then heartbroken, & then wild – a fine & understanding performance – so that one says yes, yes indeed, it must have been like that.
To go back to other things – the truly important one is that one should feel.  Joy said to me, soon after Gerald2 died – after all anguish is as truly part of life as joy – and of course one has to remember that.
A lot of good books- Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell.  A reed shaken by the wind, by Gavin Maxwell.  Last Tales by Isak Dinesen, Languages of Love, & Good night Pelican3 – two well done novels (by women), with sharp edges & unusual settings3 - & Martin Chuzzlewit as well.
Gil’s off to America next week, and we are hoping R will be well enough for Sadlers Wells on Friday.  I’ll keep you in touch.  He says Yes about biography.4
I feel very badly; stuck with my libretto, and not able to write R’s autobiography for all sorts of reasons – it’s horrid not to have anything going along, & a barreness for verse too.  I wish the sun would come out – it looks so lovely on our seagulls.
Let us hear from you often
All love


1.  VW was in the process of revising the Ninth Symphony (CW 1957/4) following the recent play-through.
2.  Joy and Gerald Finzi.
3.  The Languages of Love by Christine Brooke-Rose and Goodnight Pelican by Diana Marr Johnson both published in 1957.
4. UVW had asked VW whom he would like to write his biography; VW had said that UVW should do it and added, when she said she wouldn’t cope with the music, that ‘Michael will look after that all right’. MK then asked UVW to ask him if he really meant that and this was the reply. This was the genesis of the book that became WVW.


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 159, ff.203-204
General notes: 

Date year taken from postmark.

Original database number: