Letter from Harold Child to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
9 June l926

Flat 17a,
38, Buckingham Gate,

Dear Ralph

Bruce took me to night to hear Sancta Civitas, & I’ve just got back.1 Of course, I couldn’t pretend at one hearing to have understood a fraction of its beauty, but what I did understand just knocked me out.  When I saw what the words were I was rather nervous.  If anyone took those words & made a mess of them, one would want his blood, but over & over again you showed new heights & depths & mysteries & niceties in them.  At the end I knew I’d heard one of the finest things in all music.  I mean that quite seriously. I’m still drunk with the thing, but also hopelessly sobered by it.  I know I’m no critic of music, I’d fancy the newspapers will have lots of clever things to say today.  But if you’ve spent all your life, as I have, in trying to understand beauty of all sorts, you can’t fail to know a great thing when you hear it; & I know for certain this is one of the great things.  It just catches one, brain, feeling, spirit & all, & hoicks one up into heaven.
Forgive all this burbling. I simply can’t help it.  I always knew you were rather a big boy; but now I know you’re one of the very biggest.

Harold Child2

1. Sancta Civitas, Catalogue of Works 1925/6, had received its first performance in London that evening in the Central Hall, Westminster, conducted by VW.
2. Leader writer on The Times, and librettist of Hugh the Drover.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/7, ff.14-15
Original database number: