Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Martin Shaw

Letter No.: 
[Spring 1916]

Camp 14
Sandhill Camp
Longbridge Deverill

Dear Martin
Thank you very much for writing to me.  I had better put the difficulties first (I always get to work that way).
First personal.
a) You know I have an intense (doubtless unreasonable) prejudice against all societies, leagues, guilds or labels.  I don't mind calling other people names, but I don't lie calling myself names.  It seems to me the wrong way about for an author to label himself - he should do his work as best he cam according to his gifts & leave the labelling & grouping to others - if we are essentially English composers it will become apparent in our work, if we are not we shall not rate ourselves so by labelling ourselves as such.  However perhaps the idea is more for the study of English music old & new, not so much the question of our own work, is that case the composers shd withdraw and leave the matter to the teachers, critics (real critics) and performers.
b)  I am now a soldier (whether a grateful country is ever sorry to make use of me is doubtful - but there it is) and I find it takes all my time & thought to keep up with my job & cannot face other problems.
Now as to the general question
(a)  You don't quite explain what you want us to achieve - but what I imagine it to be seems to me will be much better achieved by quiet slogging away than by a newspaper 'reclame' (By the way I saw Geoffrey's article not his correspondence)
(b)  What is the exact intention of the 'restoration' - what are we going to restore?
(c)  Don't you think the 5 names you mention (you, me, H.I.1, J.N.I.2, and F.A.3) are rather a small body to start any 'movement' - it ought to include certainly P. Grainger (whose work has done more to take the stigma away from English music), B. Gardiner, Kennedy Scott, Bax, as well as less known people such as Butterworth, Morris, Alfred Hale.  Also singers and instrumentalists who are in sympathy.

Then how about the composers whose work is distinctively English - E. German for example - & how about Holbrooke a lot of whose stuff (the 5tet & Queen Mab) cd have been written by nobody but an Englishman - & if it comes to that we must recognize that such thngs as Elgar P. & C. no2 - much as I dislike it is recognizably English - also a good deal of Parry & Stanford.

Also we have to recognize that it is not English music that is neglected but the particular kind of English music which we admire.  The music of P. Robens, Ivor Novello etc is essentially English music of a kind and only appreciated by the English - & how about the music-hall songs?

I fear this letter is of the nature of a wet blanket - I am much touched at your wanting me to join - & this makes it the more incumbent on me to say exactly what I feel about it.

How are you? & how do you get on with your new Parson - what are you writing now

1.  Unidentified
2.  John Ireland.
3.  Frederic Austin.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1767/3/1/1/12 (1)
General notes: 

Date estimated; The Royal Army Medical Corps, London Field Ambulance 2/4th, where VW was serving, moved to Warminster in Wiltshire in early 1916; see Tales of a Field Ambulance, p. 22 ("The next move was to Warminster, or rather Sutton Veny Camp, which move was made in the early part of 1916"). R.V.W.: a biography also mentions the move in early 1916. The regiment shipped out to France on 22 June 1916, giving a terminus ante quem for the date of this letter.