Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Cecil Sharp

Letter No.: 
Wed [November 1906]

13 Cheyne Walk

Dear Sharp

I'm most fearfully sorry about the report  (I have lost my copy but I suppose you refer to the sentence about the Board of Education).1
I'm afraid it was largely my fault - what happened was as follows - I first suggested that the clause be omitted - but was overruled - then I think we modified it a little and finally having got it into shape Fuller Maitland turned to me and said “Do you think Mr Sharp will approve of it as it now stands?” and I having carefully considered it said “Yes I think he wd”.  Because I honestly think that it does as worded say exactly what you think i.e. that the idea as expressed in the recommendations is good but that it is only so if it is “consistently carried out”.
Does this not represent exactly what you think?  Do you think it worth while making a protest - every body knows what your views are, and before protesting do consider very carefully whether it does not put your view?
After all the FSS general meeting is such a hole & corner affair that it seems hardly worth disturbing them in their slumbers - you have the ear now of all the important people & will be able to do what you want in the teeth of the FSS. people.2
If you move anything move for deletion not alteration - in the former I cd vote with you[;] in the latter - as I helped to pass it - I obviously cdnt.3

R. Vaughan Williams

1. This letter arose from the Folk Song Society’s response to a report from the Board of Education (Suggestions for the consideration of teachers urging the use of national and folk songs as the basis for teaching singing in schools) which had been formulated in Sharp’s absence at a meeting in July 1906. Cecil Sharp wrote to Lucy Broadwood on 20th November 1906 saying he had only just read the report and was considering action. He attacked the report on the grounds that it made no distinction between genuinely traditional folksongs and songs which were merely national and popular, but not traditional. However the Folk Song Society (FSS) continued to support the report and this led to the publication of Sharp’s own English Folk-Song: Some Conclusions in 1907 and his breaking away from the FSS to form the English Folk Dance Society in 1911, which eventually merged with the Folk Song Society in 1932. VW described the episode in his article on Cecil Sharp in the Dictionary of National Biography, 1922-1930, London 1937, p.762. On the whole episode see Fox-Strangways and M. Karpeles Cecil Sharp (London 1933, 2nd edition by Maud Karpeles, London 1955), pp.58-62.
2. Cecil Sharp had written on the subject to The News Chronicle, as had VW (check text for letters - in June 1906).
3. Sharp accepted VW’s proposal for deletion rather than amendment and sent his motion to Lucy Broadwood on 25th November. A copy of a speech apparently made by VW at the ensuing meeting is at VWL149. The correspondence relating to this matter is at Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Cecil Sharp Correspondence Box 4 Folder J.


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1717/1/3, ff.119-120
Cobbe 45
Original database number: