Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Gwen Raverat

Letter No.: 
[c 20 July 1931]

The White Gates,
Westcott Road,

Dear Gwen

I’ve been carefully thinking over the `Job’1 situation & I don’t mind trying the alteration of the order of the scenes (say at the Old Vic2) as an experiment - It will only involve (again if we consider it experimentally) a little alteration in the opening and closing bars of the music.
But in this case (indeed in any case) the dancing must be radically changed - It must be danced at Job & not at the Audience & it must be terrifying & not comic & I think should have a fuller stage & Satan should not I think dance in it. But he should start it with a realization of the `Satan with his torch’* illustration which was absolutely not realized at all by Ninette.
But this does not solve the difficulty of the messenger scene - It is quite impossible for these 3 dancers to fill out all that music - so either it must be drastically cut or my procession idea must come off. I can’t see why it should be absurd if kept vague enough - figures carrying burdens across the back of the stage (after all you see the countryside all in flames & all the refugees must have been hurrying away from the “devastated area”). I’ve seen such processions on the stage & I know they “come off”.
Another problem will be this: The scenes at present are Job asleep - Boils - Job wakes up - Messenger. Shall we start with Job asleep & woken up by the messenger? But then before the `Boils’ he must also be asleep (or at all events lying down) (see illustration) & he can’t go to sleep twice. Perhaps the opening music might be taken to suggest just calm & not sleep - but it all requires some thought. Would you mind sending this letter (or the substance of it) to Geoffrey Keynes who has written me a kind but reproving letter on the subject (more in sorrow than in anger I think)

R. Vaughan Williams

*I agree that this illustration is probably the finest - but it doesn’t follow that it makes a good stage climax - Also I don’t feel inclined necessarily to read into it all that Wicksteed & others say that it means. I am only interested in the picture itself & the texts with which Blake surrounds it.3

1. Job: A masque for dancing founded on Blake's illustrations for the Book of Job. Scenario by Geoffrey Keynes and Gwendolen Raverat. Catalogue of Works 1930/5.
2. The first performance by Sadlers Wells was to be at the Old Vic theatre in London on 22 September
3. i.e. Joseph Wicksteed, author of Blake's vision of the Book of Job (London: J.M. Dent, 1910).

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS 5-1987, f. 8

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/8, ff.1-3
General notes: 

This letter follows VWL923. Handwritten copy at British Library.

Cobbe 200
Original database number: