Letter from Lucy Broadwood to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
[About 1st November 1928]

41 Drayton Court,

Dear Ralph,

I am so sorry abt your lost letter, which has not reappeared, & for the trouble given to Adeline to transcribe its contents. Please tell her so with many thanks.
In the spring I wrote to you that I was sending Dr Dearmer a list of “errors” that cld be easily corrected by the printers & I told you that there was so much more to say that I could not then trouble you (you being very busy and anxious at the time). My allusions must necessarily remain “vague” for you, as unless I was to annotate the Carol-book page by page & send you the copy you wld not see what my reasons are based on. But if Dr Dearmer shld have kept the letter & fairly long notes which I sent him also, bearing on certain points in his essay and on “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day”, you cld read them & wld see that I was not otherwise than definite, tho’ I merely touched on two or three of the points which need attention “en passant”: The annunciation verse is in Sussex Songs. The mummers who came yearly to Lyne always sang it, & I have two copies of the text given to me by two of the mummers separately in which it figures. Years later, I received the other versions. In a few of those the 1st verse was lacking, and other verses had been forgotten.
“Tomorrow shall be my Dancing Day” is, I believe, the most remarkable and important carol that we have (I have shown reasons in my note on it, sent to Dr Dearmer). I connect it with the long-lost “Acts of John”. The footnote in the carol seems wholly misleading & inadequate.
I can’t undertake to write more than a few words abt other points. But, taking one at random: “Welcome Summer” (p.256) where Chaucer’s words are wedded to what is called “an old Irish Carol tune slightly altered”. Would it not have been more accurate to say that this is the famous tune “stolen” (as he himself puts it) “from an old ballad air ‘Death & the Lady’” by Carey; and that it is also used in England for a variety of carol-texts, including “Have you not heard”, “Xmas now is drawing etc.” (see Folk S. Journal, no.7 , pp.134 to 139, but especially pp.135 and 137). The Oxford Carol Book version, with its idiosyncrasies, is note for note that on p.137 of Journal and must surely have been copied from the Journal. It was given to me in 1892 by Mrs Kennedy who had noted it from her Antrim aunt. But the aunt did not sing it to a “carol” but to “Death & the Lady”.
I cannot think it right to class “Blow, blow” with its 2 tunes amongst “carols”.
By the bye, Dr Grattan Flood’s Irish carol-tune No.6 is widely known for the children’s ring-game “Hullabaloo balee! Hullabaloo balay”, & I have noted it to that myself. The Czech carol “The Birds” on p.212 is an interesting variant of the hackneyed German song, beloved of students, “Es ritten drei Reiter zum Thore hinaus, a-de!” (thought by the editor of the Neues Wunderhorn to be a tune of the 13th century1).
Taking it as a purely “popular” publication I - whom you have known as a pernickety fogey - should say nothing abt the methods of the Carol Book. It was the fact of my having expected something quite different as coming from the Oxford University Press: an authoritative book consisting of meticulously-sifted selection of British Carols only, each carol having its complete original text, historical notes, bibliography (partial references are worse than none, often) etc. That shocked me!

1. Set by Mahler in Lieder aus der Jugendzeit, no.12.


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For further correspondence on this subject see VWL637 amd VWL640.

Cobbe 172
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