Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Gwen Raverat

Letter No.: 
July 12 [1931]

The White Gates,
Westcott Road,

Dear Gwen

You have reason to be very proud of yourself for your beautiful realization of Blake - and I was pleased to find that my music seemed to fit in with your scenery and dresses. I hope you felt so too.1
I enclose the ‘Spectator’ in case you have not seen it.2
As regards the order of the scenes I am entirely unrepentant. I know that according to the Bible and Blake, following the Bible, that the culminating cause of Job’s misery was not the destruction of his flocks in herds - not the burning of his homesteads - not the death of his sons & daughters, but the “universal and distressing” complaint of boils. This would hardly make a dramatic climax and I am sure we are justified in altering it. And though Job’s bad dreams do not actually come in the history but are referred to in Job’s lamentation surely we can use them as one of his trials.
Though scientifically perhaps a bad dream is reminiscent practically speaking it is usually prophetic and my idea was that Job’s terrible visions in his dreams were realized when he woke by the entry of the Messengers.
Of course if my stage directions could have been faithfully carried out this would have been all much clearer. For the bad dream I wanted a much wilder more macabre dance with the stage full of characters dancing at Job instead of the merely grotesque dance we were given. Also during the middle part of my messenger scene there should have been a procession across the back of the stage culminating in the bodies of Job’s sons & daughters carried on the shoulders of bearers. (This would I think have given you a great opportunity.)
Of course those 3 young men jumping about & catching flies looked ludicrous during that long spell of music. If we cannot have the procession I am cutting a good deal of the music there.
The alteration of the order of the scenes would involve entire re-writing of the music as we could not have the two grotesque dances (bad dream & Comforters) following one on the other - And though I should be quite prepared to alter my music if I felt I was dramatically wrong you perceive I am not so convinced.
One more point - Are the Blake pictures in any particular order? It is true that the messenger picture comes before the boils picture - but in between them comes the picture representing “And Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord” wh in the story should of course come much earlier.

R Vaughan Williams

1. The Camargo Society had put on the first performance of the stage version of Job on Sunday, 5th July at the Cambridge Theatre.
2. Richard Jennings wrote a laudatory review of Job in The Spectator, 11 July 1931, p.47.  On the design he says 'Mme. Raverat who has designed the scenery and costumes is entirely faithful to [Blake's] surface simplicity. It is a miracle that she has not disappointed or shocked those who know Blake's illustrations.'

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
Koch Collection, GEN MSS 601, Box 57, Folder 1296 FRKF27

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
Mus RP 2308 (with RP 2309)
General notes: 

In the hand of AVW signed by VW.
This letter was sold at Sotheby's in the sale on 14-15 April 1982, lot 85.

Cobbe 197
Original database number: