Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to the Editor of The Times

Letter No.: 
Dec. 4, 1930

The White Gates

It has for many years been the complaint of English musicians, both amateur and professional, that while the other fine arts and sciences are considered worthy of State aid, music is left in the cold.  Music is an intangible subject.  A picture is "a good investment," the sciences are "educational," but music is an "amusement."  No Chancellor of the Exchequer, we are told, would dare to do anything so un-English as to give a helping hand to music; we are a "land without music" and apparently proud of it.
Now at last, the unexpected has happened and a subsidy for music is proposed.  I suppose it is only to be expected that those professional journalists and orators whos business it is to oppose the present Government should take the opportunity to abuse the subsidizing of a "luxury."  Those, however, who are not obliged by their calling to be "bat-eyed" and materialistic" know well that, though music may be a luxury for the rich, it is a necessity for the poor, as any visitor to a cheerless Welsh colliery village may see for himslf.
But what have the accredited leaders of musical opinion to say on the matter in the public Press?  Do we find encouragement of the principle, tempered by long-sighted criticism and advice?  No; these writers seem to be entirely occupied with captious discussions about who at the present moment is to undertake the artistic direction and who is to pay the comparatively small sum at present involved.
It is not for me to express an opinion on the merits or demerits of the actual scheme proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; the moment may be inopportune, the money may be wrongly allocated, and the scheme may have other faults; but by this gesture of the Chancellor a great principle has been established, that music as well as the other arts is not a luxury, but a necessiyy of life, and is as vital to the well-being of the community as our motor roads, our street lighting, and our sanitation, on which public money is at present being unhesitatingly spent.
Yours faithfully,
Ralph Vaughan Williams

General notes: 

Printed in The Times newspaper, Saturday, 6 December 1930, headed "Grand opera in England: composers on the subsidy".

The Times (no.45689), Saturday, December 6, 1930, p.8.