Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Edward J. Dent

Letter No.: 
[January 1910]

13 Cheyne Walk

Dear Dent

I have delayed answering your last letter because I was thinking things over.
Now (a) would you very much like to have Carey1  - I hardly know his singing but cd easily arrange a programme with him and the Schwiller 4tet - and I trust your judgement entirely or (b) are you keen on having my new “Shropshire Lad”2  cycle - which I consider my best recent work. This however necessitates Gervase Elwes.3  However if you thought of this I should like to guarantee the expense of him myself - partly because he was very kind in doing a concert with me (which practically meant singing at my concert for nothing) and I feel I owe him something.
Of course the difficulty about him is that he is very busy and wd have to be engaged some time before hand.
Now, there is another point. I had a queer letter from Schwiller the other day saying that the C.U.M.S.4  were perhaps going to ask his 4tet down! This doesn't seem likely - but I mention it for what it is worth as in case it is true you might not care to have them also.
If you settle on the pfte 5tet wdyou play the pfte part?
I think (apart from the singer) we ought to manage the 4tet and 5tet for 30 guineas. The Schwiller 4tet wd (I hope) be £4-4-0 & the C. Bass another £4-4-0.
I am sending you herewith two great works!5 

(1) Sea Symph. is I hope my magnum opus - it has taken me about 6 years to do.6

(2) W. Wood7 was started also years ago but was finally revised this year.



1. Clive Carey, singer and composer.
2. i.e. On Wenlock Edge.
3. Gervase Elwes (1866-1921) English tenor who started singing professionally in 1903 following a period in the diplomatic service.  He had given the first performance of VW’s On Wenlock Edge in the Aeolian Hall on 15th November 1909.
4. Cambridge University Music Society
5. The vocal scores of both works had been published by Breitkopf (London) in 1909.
6. The Sea Symphony was undoubtedly VW's largest and most ambitious work to date, and has remained one of his best-known works ever since. It was first performed at Leeds on 12 October 1910, some months after the probable date of this letter.
6. Willow Wood was a much neglected work after its early performances and was not seriously revived until it was recorded in 2005.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
Dent Archive 1910.8
Cobbe 58
Original database number: