Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Humphrey Proctor-Gregg

Letter No.: 
[June 1924]

Dear Proctor Gregg1

I can’t stomach our Mike being made drunk & put in the stocks. - He seems to me a poetical character & it wd leave a decided nasty taste in the mouth to have him made drunk & made a fool of - he ought to be outside the action.  It will to my mind entirely spoil the memory of his entry in Act I.2
On the other hand I am willing to give up Aunt Jane - So shall we compromise on the Turnkey
- he could either (1) come out very drunk with the other roysterers & fall asleep by the stocks (or any where else)
or (2) we could have a modified version of the present interruption when the constable looks out of the window - Aunt Jane cd come out then & see Mary & be silenced by her by a few words
A.J (softly) Mary here?
Mary (whispers) don’t give me away
A.J aloud to constable (who has remained up stairs) “All’s well”
Constable.  “Hullo where’s that damned turnkey - come along sir & watch the spy - Jane come in & give me my night-posset” (exit Aunt Jane) 
Enter Turnkey very drunk from the pub sits down & sings a ridiculous song

“Watching a spy
 makes me feel dry” etc

- He falls asleep
Hugh “Now, now my love ’tis time” -  they are about to start when they are confronted by Aunt Jane - “Now you people what’s all this about” 
Then your ensemble (with modifications)3

R. Vaughan Williams

1. Head of the Opera Department at the Royal College of Music and Stage Manager and designer of their first productions of The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains and Hugh the Drover and producer of Sir John in Love.
2. Mike is the ballad seller in Hugh the Drover. The action in question takes place  in Act II of the opera.
3. In the final version of the opera Mike appears neither drunk nor is put in the stocks.


Location of original letter:

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/6, ff.181-183
General notes: 

This letter seems to deal with a scene and a character (Mike) which does not appear in the fnal version of the opera. It was given to Charterhouse School by Ian Wallace with a note:
'I'm pretty sure that the enclosed was written in the days before the first night of 'Hugh the Drover' at the Royal College of Music in l924, where Proctor Gregg directed the opera department.  That was the first public performance ever of the opera. I was sent it by a friend of Proctor-Gregg.  It might be appropriate for it to be displayed somehow in Music School and I am delighted Charterhouse should have it.'

Cobbe 143
Original database number: