Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Harold Child

Letter No.: 
[inter 7-20 August 1911]

Samatt House,

Dear Child
Thank you very much for your letter.  I am sorry to hear that Mrs. Child has been so ill.  It was too good of you to pay any attention to my stuff.  I've finished all you sent me and want more.  The worst of it is I'm inventing for 2nd act, which is awkward as I don't know what the 2nd act is to be about.  I've been scheming out a duet for Hugh and Mary of rather a gayer character than in Act I.  The scheme is as follows.  They sing it as dawn begins slowly to get going (perhaps).
1st  Hugh sings a verse of the 'Linnet' song but rather extended and without the chirpy ending.
Mary answers with a parallel verse - then a sort of musical working out comes, and perhaps, the words to be a dialogue with occasional bits of duets - fairly slow and 'open airy'; ending soft.
- then Hugh says something about the dawn coming or 'let's get away to the open country' (supposing the dawn is not coming) or anything else you like.
Something of this kind, a sort of call.

Never mind about these notes exactly unless you happen to find it fitting anything; for I can make something different in the same character.
Mary answers parallel
4 bars of passion (slow)
Hugh's call and Mary's answer again, and a little more passion leading to a very quick and tremendously exciting short movement (but very 'open airy' with long vistas and distant hills) leading again to the 'linnet' tune, very big and loud, (but this need not affect you as the voices do not sing it, but sing something else together in great excitement).  It dies down soft, the voices end, but the dawn does not goes on coming (birds singing etc.).  Finally the whole ends up on a very high single note on the violins, held a long time - then (while the note is still held) is heard, in the far distance, the May day song be slow & mysterious.
Now please pay no attention to this unless it suggests anything you wd like to to, or fits in with your scheme - if not we can
(a) scrap it
(b) use it elsewhere
(c) make it mean something different (music can always be made to 'mean' whatever you like)

By the way, I've written rather good stuff for the entry of the crowd and the fighting 'round', so don't alter the situation hurriedly or unadvisedly - on the other hand if you come to the conclusion that it had better be altered I don't think it will spoil my music much.  I come bach to 13 Cheyne Walk tomorrow Friday, I shd like to have a long talk with you soon.


Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/2/4, ff.47-52
General notes: 

Ralph and Adeline were at Freshwater during this time.

R.V.W.: a biography, pp.410-411