Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Hermann Fiedler

Letter No.: 
[July 1937]

I have never yet accepted a money prize though indeed I have never yet been offered one! And my first inclination is to refuse in spite of the great honour which this offer implies.
But I feel that the honour is offered, not so much to me personally, as to the whole of English musical art.  Therefore I must put personal questions on one side.
Indeed this honour to English music is so unprecedented that I want to make sure that it is made only from a desire to recognise art and learning in this country.
Now - though I wish to avoid the personal side of the question I feel bound to explain that I am strongly opposed to the present system of government in Germany, especially with regard to its treatment of artists and scholars.
I belong to more than one English Society whose object is to combat all that the present German régime stands for.
Therefore am I the kind of person to whom a German University would wish to offer a prize?
I cannot accept this great honour without satisfying my own conscience that I shall not feel in any way hampered in the free expression of my opinions in accepting it.1

1. This is the draft of a reply to VWL642. The addressee was Professor of German and Fellow of The Queen's College at Oxford and had been instrumental in obtaining the nomination of VW for the Shakespeare Prize.  See R.V.W.: a biography, p.217-218. On the complicated background and implications of the whole matter see Alain Frogley, 'Vaughan Williams and Nazi Germany: the 1937 Hamburg Shakespeare Prize' in Guido Heldt and Christa Brüstle (eds.), Music as a Bridge: Musikalische Beziehungen zwischen England und Deutschland 1920-1950 (Hildesheim, 2005), 113-32.


Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/10, ff.81-83
Cobbe 279; R.V.W.: a biography, p.217.
Original database number: