Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to James McKay Martin

Letter No.: 
October 5th 1957.

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

Dear Martin,

Thank you for your letter and for your programme notes. I am sorry the full text could not be printed, though I quite understand that. On the other hand it is more important that Spenser was spelt wrong. You say that your notes were entirely factual, but the music of Bridal Day was written in 1938, though two of the songs were added for the television performance later. This led one of the critics to say that I was quoting from works of my own, which had not then been written.1
With kind regards,

R. Vaughan Williams

1. See Catalogue of Works, pp.174-5. Martin took the implied criticism badly as the following correspondence shows:

Reply from Martin dated 9th October:

Dear Dr Vaughan Williams

Thank you for your note of October 5th. May I reply to your criticisms.
I entirely agree that a full reprinting of the words would have been better than a shortened version. But I do not control either the spacing or the lay-out of the programme and I had been recently asked to shorten my notes.
I have the typescript of my note by me. In this I have spelt the poet's name SpenSer. Possibly someone improved upon my spelling. Only this morning have I received a printed copy of the programme.
From what source could I have got the information that the music of Bridal Day was written in 1938, except from you? I wrote to you asking you what you would like me to say. Here is the answer I received from Mrs Vaughan Williams.
In writing about a contemporary work I always approach the composer. I never step outside the factual information he provides or make use of any other source. The results hitherto have always been entirely satisfactory.
Yours sincerely

J. McKay Martin

Reply from Ursula Vaughan Williams dated October 10th:

Dear Mr Mackay Martin,

I'm afraid I must apologise for having given too few facts about Epithalamion, but I took for granted, I suppose, that you would remember that it was by no means a new work, but a pre-war one, when we heard it at the Foss's. I should have reminded you - I think it belongs to the 1938-9 period - the fifth symphony time.
Yours sincerely

Ursula Vaughan Williams


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/26, ff. 175-177
General notes: 

Typewritten, signed.

Original database number: