Letter from Jean Stewart to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 

7½ Thayer Street:

My beloved Uncle Ralph,

I am still going about in a state bordering between tears and laughter, with an inane expression on my face which must be most trying for those who come into contact with me. I have just shown it1 to Jimmy and Isolde2 who are more than enchanted. We are going to try it through to-morrow.
Never did anybody have a more wonderful birthday present. I was informed by Ursula that something pretty catastrophic awaited me on (& not before) my birthday, & that it was livestock. How true!! In spite of persistent enquiries I could get no information beyond that, or whom it was from, except that it might be a couple of penguins that the Zoological Society had to spare. Consequently it came as a complete surprise & such a knock-out blow that had we been in the good old days of the Czars I would have passed out backwards with arms & legs stiff: (like this):- [sketch of figure falling backwards].
But alas my generation is too rudely healthy to perform these graceful exhibitions. When I come to I will try to thank you a little more adequately. This is just to tell you how happy you've made me & how much I love you.

1. String Quartet no. 2 in A minor dedicated "For Jean on her birthday" - Catalogue of Works 1944/2. At this point VW had only completed the first two movements. The remainder was composed during 1943-4 and the whole first performed on 12th October 1944. See Catalogue of Works p.186.
2. Ivor James and Isolde Menges, Cellist and 1st violin in the Menges String Quartet in which Jean Stewart was the viola player.

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