Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Michael Kennedy

Letter No.: 
Oct 15 [1955]

From R. Vaughan Williams,
10, Hanover Terrace,
Regents Park,
London, N.W.1.

Dear Michael

When I got your letter it made me unhappy for a bit because I thought of the sort of man that all that wonderful praise of yours would really fit & this made me wish I could start life all over again and really become, approximately at all events, the sort of person you describe.1
Nevertheless I loved having your letter because the affection of a good man is worth having any how
As regards the new symphony2  – I hope it is going to be all right – but I feel rather nervous – at all events it is simple and sets no problems – but at my age (“I speak as a fool”)3  I cannot afford to let out anything 2nd rate – which is not really straight from the fountain-head
I think May 24 is the date in Manchester – but I believe John is going to allow me a private run through in Feb which will settle its fate4
We went to B’ham on Tuesday & had fine performances of my F Minor & Serenade5  (the former with Schwarz6  who also did a fine performance of Beethoven No 7)
Who is Wallenstein7
All our love to Eslyn


1. Michael Kennedy had written for his 83rd birthday.
2. No. 8 (Catalogue of Works, 1955/3), which was approaching completion.
3. A phrase VW used to qualify apparently boastful statements, taken from the Bible: 2 Corinthians chapter 11 verse 23.
4. John Barbirolli and the Hallé Orchestra in the event gave the first performance of the Eighth Symphony on 2nd May 1956. There was indeed a run-through on 7th February, which Kennedy  attended.
5. i.e. Symphony no. 4 (Catalogue of Works, 1934/13) and the Serenade to Music (Catalogue of Works, 1938/2).
6. Rudolf Schwarz, Musical Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
7. Alfred Wallenstein, American conductor and cellist, who had either recorded or conducted a piece of VW’s.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 159, ff.89-91
General notes: 

Year taken from postmark. Michael Kennedy noted “wonderful letter” on the envelope.
This letter printed in part in Michael Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.384.

Cobbe 661; Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.384
Original database number: