Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Eva Hubback

Letter No.: 
VWL4627
[November 1935]

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

Dear Mrs Hubback1
I hope this is the sort of thing you want - You had better read it through & see if there is anything you disapprove of.2
Yrs sincerely
R Vaughan Williams

[Enclosure in the hand of AVW:]
It has been said that if Gustav Holst had not been a great composer he might have become a great actor. His brother (Ernest Cossart) is well known in America by those with understanding as a distinguished actor. My only personal knowledge of Holst's dramatic capabilities was in the realm of farce.
About 35 years ago he decided, like Wagner, that the only hope for an operatic libretto was for the composer to write it himself. But, unlike Wagner, that some preliminary study was necessary so by way of preliminary study he wrote two plays, - One was a serious drama on a Nordic subject (this was in the William Morris days) and the other a farce.
The serious play was, as far as I know, never performed, partly, I imagine because I was engaged to play one of the two principal parts.  After two rehearsals I was "fired" and this was the begninning and end of my career on the boards. The farce was performed at least once at the Kelmscott Club.3 Holst himself played the hero, a Curate, and Mrs Holst took the part of the Curate's wife. There was, I think, only one other character, an Italian who at a critical moment in the play had to sing the Intermezzo from Cavalleria, at that time a comparative novelty.
The plot turned on the complications that ensued on an intercepted letter - After so many years my memory of the details has rather faded, but so far as I can remember the Curate had been having a surreptitious flutter on the turf and had received form a sporting friend a letter describing the physical charms of a racehorse with considerable anatomical detail. Unfortunately the wife gets hold of the letter and takes it for granted that the 'She' referred to is lady of the chorus.
Hence these tears.
But being a farce of course all ends happily.
Those who knew Holst will realize how he must have revelled in the part of the Curate and how perfectly he caught the sanctimonious mannerisms of the Stage Parson - I have also a vivid recollection of Mrs Holst in the part of the self-important and suspicious wife. Her "chatelaine" with its jingling bunch of keys being much in evidence.
Altogether it was a memorable evening. I wonder if the "script" still exists? and whether if it does the Morley Dramatic Society could not give a performance of it in aid of the fund.


1. Eva Hubback was Principal of Morley College.
2. VW had been asked to write a piece about Holst for Morley College Magazine.
3. The Kelmscott Club was a group of artists and intellectuals who gathered around William Morris, the poet, socialist and artist.

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General notes: 

The article was written for the Morley Magazine, known as "College Pie", published in November 1935.

Format: 
Letter