Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Grace Williams

Letter No.: 
VWL3864
Whit Sunday [1952?]

From R. Vaughan Williams,
The White Gates,
Westcott Road,
Dorking.

Dear Grace
I am afraid I know little about librettists - I know they usually get very little - in my operas "Sir John" and "Pils Prog" I wrote (or arranged rather) my own librettos1 - I have just paid £100 for a German translation of Pils Prog on the advice of the Authors Society (Do you belong - why not ask them, or Composers Guild?) In "Hugh" & "P.K."2 I went 50-50 with my librettists - all wrong because (a) 50-50 is commercially too much & on the other hand I never gave any sum down which is usual.
- Other wise I can only tell you the story of A.P. Graves and "Father O'Flynn". Graves discovered the tune in an old fiddlers book, wrote the words which after all make the popularity of the song - shewed it to Stanford who took about 1/2 an hour over an accompaniment - They sold it to Boosey who personally made thousands out of it, which Stanford made presumably hundreds while Graves got £1-1-0.
I don't feel happy about your libretto - it sounds too tendentiously political for my taste - The fate of such things is that when the particular brand of politics which they portray gets out of date the play or opera dies (e.g."the Englishmans home" and "Kathleen ni Houlihan")3
All the same good luck to it & you
All love
RVW


1. Sir John in Love and  Pilgrim's Progress.
2. Hugh the Drover and Poisoned Kiss.
3. An Englishman's Home is a threat-of-invasion play by Guy du Maurier, first produced in 1909. Cathleen ni Houlihan is a one-act play by William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory, written and first performed in 1902, which centres on the 1798 Rebellion.

Location of original letter:

Location of copy:

General notes: 

Year from reference to Pilgrim's Progress (1951) and headed paper which changed when VW moved in 1953.

Format: 
Letter