Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Grace Williams

Letter No.: 
VWL3860
[early 1940s]

Dear Grace
You had much better call it O.G.1
after S. Henry IV pt 1 scenes X Y & Z.2
Then there is no doubt you are illustrating Shakespeare & not the Welsh History books
Or call it "The Welsh Wizard" & add your quotations - the feeble can attach it to O.G. or L.G. as they please3
I rather think S. wanted to portray O.G. as he appeared to Hotspur4
- He was always laughing at the Philistinism of Hotspur
e.g.
(I quote from memory)
"You shall hear a lowly song in Welsh"
"I'd much rather hear my loud howl in Irish"
Or call it what Shakespeare near the beginning of the play calls him "The Great magician"
- Tho as it might refer not to O.G. but to L.G.
You must not call the last movement anything funerary - but just call it "epilogue" and put back Shakespeare's "is" (you have changed to "was")
That is the best I can suggest - I hope you will make something lovely out of your movement5
Love from Uncle Ralph


1. Owen Glendower, the last Welsh Prince of Wales. This letter refers to Williams' Symphony No. 1, in the form of Symphonic Impressions of the Glendower Scene in "Henry IV Part 1" (1943).
2. Shakespeare's play Henry IV, part 1.
3. 'L.G.' not identified
4. 'Hotspur' is Henry Percy, who fought against Owen Glendower.
5. Its full title, on one of the surviving manuscripts at least, is Symphony no.1 in the form of Symphonic Impressions of the Glendower Scene in 'Henry IV Part 1': the composer usually referred to it simply as Symphonic Impressions. The first three of its four movements are musical portrayals of the character Owen Glendower in Act III scene 1 of Shakespeare's play, each one illustrating a different facet of his character. The first [shows] Glendower as a mighty warrior [, ... the] second movement depicts Glendower the dreamer [, ...the] third movement, entitled 'Scherzo barbaro e segreto', is an impression of Glendower the magician [and] the work ends with an epilogue. Here the composer puts aside Shakespeare's characterization and attempts, in her own words, 'a retrospective impression of Owain Glendwr, great figure of Welsh history'.(Malcolm Boyd, Grace Williams (University of Wales Press, 1980)).

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