Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Ralph Wedgwood

Letter No.: 
Jan 6th 1907

On Board S.S. Wakool

Dear Randolph

You will be surprized to see this address - unless Adeline has already written to you as she said she was going to do.  The fact is that I am on my way to Canary to see my sister in law - we all felt that someone ought to go - and none of her brothers could - I was free and wanted a holiday -  so I started off.1  Adeline ½ settled to come with me - but was frightened at what might happen if she left home for so long.  I expect I shall enjoy it very much.  Its certainly, a most lazy life being on a steamer.  There is a certain bit of the deck 80 turns up and down which means a mile so we can tell exactly how much exercize we are getting also I’m getting a good deal of reading done.  Tom Jones (for the 2nd time) and a book about hypnotism and Shakespeare’s historical plays & a vol of Browning.  Yesterday we passed about 6 miles from C. Finisterre & the mountains in the N.W. of Spain - I thought of you & wondered what mountains they were.  Fine arid looking mountains.
It is a small boat going eventually to Australia - we have only 16 salooners on board - a very dull & shoddy crew - I wish you were here to get something out of them - I can’t - I can’t even flirt with the ladies - There’s only one who is possible from this point of view - and she is fearfully dull - also she much prefers the chief engineer who tells long stories about the various idiosyncracies of various passengers.  But its very jolly and extraordinary getting gradually into summer - today the sun was actually too hot & we sat out on deck under umbrellas.
I had a dream about you last night that you and I were staying in a house together & we were out for a walk & I heard a folk-song being sung by some school children - we went on for our walk (it was somewhere in the north of England among hills) & on our return I enquired at the school & found that the children had learnt it from an old man in the village (he had some funny name but I can’t remember it) - and that the old man knew some more - “some of them beauties” - so then I said “You go home and start off in your motor & I will wait here” - but then I suddenly found, what I hadn’t realized before, that I might come with you - so I gave up my folk-singing - then somehow suddenly Adeline was with us and she & you & the chauffeur got in & made a trial trip - then you came back for me and I & the chauffeur got in behind and you drove - & I woke up.
I believe there are wonderful volcanic mountains at Grand Canary which I intend to climb up - I shall have about 13 or 14 days there - I am supposed to be back on the 30th to conduct an amateur orchestra at Cardiff through my Bucolic suite - but I’ve told them perhaps I shall not be there.2
Give my love to Iris - when shall we see you in London
Yours affectionately


The whole company discussed Marie Corelli last night - & [I] realised for the 1st time what it meant to be really out of it.  The young man who is going out to be governor at Fort Jameson started it by saying she was his favourite author - his brother objected that she was too far fetched - but he said all good plays and novels were far fetched.  Then the chief engineer chimed in.  He said that M.C’s work had lasted when that of other chief women novelists (Sarah Grand3  & ‘Iota’4) had not.  The general opinion seemed to be that “Sorrows of Satan” and “Mighty Atom” were not quite nice - (Indeed the dressy young lady who is going to the Cape to be married and is very high church went so far as to say that they were “profane” casting down her eyes) - But the general opinion was “Thelma” & “Romance of two worlds” were “very interesting” - indeed the parson said that one of them had made him think! which, if true, is indeed a very high testimonial.5


1. VW was travelling to Grand Canary, where Adeline's brother-in-law, Frederic Maitland, had died while on holiday for his health. VW was to help his sister-in-law pack up and escort her and the two daughters home. See R.V.W.: a biography, p.78.
2. This performance of the Bucolic Suite, Catalogue of Works 1900/1, is mentioned by Michael Kennedy and dated to 30th January 1907.
3. ‘Sarah Grand’ was the nom de plume of Frances Elizabeth McFall (1862-1963).
4. ‘Iota’ was the nom de plume of Kathleen Manningham Caffyn (whose novels were published between 1894 and 1916).
5.  The novels by Marie Corelli (1864-1924) which are mentioned by Kennedy were published as follows: Thelma in 1887, A romance of two worlds in 1886, The sorrows of Satan; or the strange experiences of one Geoffrey Tempest, millionaire in 1895 and Mighty Atom in 1896.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/3, ff.19-22
General notes: 


Cobbe 47; Works of Vaughan Williams, p.398-399.
Original database number: