Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Michael Mullinar

Letter No.: 
[21 October 1929]

The White Gates,
Westcott Road,

Dear Michael1

I’ve just been playing through your song – which I like very much – indeed I think it is too good for the words – which are rather of the “Mamble” order.2 
I’m not sure that I like your ‘extraneous 9th’ at the end – but that’s a bug bear of mine as you know
Alas! I fear I can’t manage the concert – please thank Mrs Warden very much for her kind invitation – I shd have liked to see you all again so much.

R Vaughan Williams

1. Michael Mullinar, a young music teacher, composer and pianist, had been a pupil and became  a close friend of VW. VW called upon him regularly in later years to play through the first drafts of compositions in front of a group of friends.
2. The song was, according to the recipient’s son Keith, a setting of ‘Tavern,’ a poem by the American poet Edna St Vincent Millay. The song was published by Augener in 1929. ‘Mamble’ is an allusion to a poem by John Drinkwater of which the first verse is: ‘I never went to Mamble, That lies above the Teme, so I wonder who’s in Mamble, and whether people seem who breed and brew along there as lazy as the name, and whether any song there sets alehouse wits aflame.’ The first verse of the Millay poem runs: ‘I’ll keep a little tavern below the high hills’ crest, wherein all grey-eyed people may sit them down and rest. There shall be plates a-plenty, and mugs to melt the chill of all the grey-eyed people who happen up the hill.’

Location of original letter:

General notes: 

Note in the hand of the recipient ‘21/10/29’. This is confirmed by the date of publication of the song to which VW refers.

Cobbe 181
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