Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Cecil Sharp

Letter No.: 
[July 1913]

Gasthof Ampezzo
Toblach Tirol

Dear Sharp

I’ve had it on my mind some time to write to you on the general policy of the E.F.D.S.1 - & this Paris business has made me think of it more - I don’t know any of the ins and outs of it - & I quite imagine that the putting off of the 1st performance was quite unavoidable & was no ones fault - about that as I say I can say nothing as I know nothing - but it has brought home to me what I have felt for some time - that we are rather too prone to a policy of hurry & I can’t help feeling that a more hum-drum method - though it might lose us a certain amount - wd in the long run be the better for us - I feel so strongly that truth is great and will prevail - & that the “hurry” policy - which I believe is largely due to the fear that the false will get in first is unnecessary - because even if people do see the wrong first it won’t prevent those who are capable of it seeing the right afterwards.2 
I’ve seen three instances of it

(1)  The extra show we gave at the Kingsway theatre (which I believe you were against)
(2)  The Paris performance - which anyhow would have been better for some more preparation.

(3)  The question of dancing in the Parks - I had a talk with Helen Karpeles3 the other night - she told me how M. Neal had been approached and was going to organize dancing - & seemed to think we ought to step in now inspite of having refused before - But I pointed out to her that we had decided in committee it was not a good thing to do - and if that was so it still remained not a good thing to do in spite of Mary Neal.4

I know the value of impetuosity as a driving force - but I feel that in this society we’ve got enough impetuosity to drive us any distance - what we want is a touch of the north-midland, lower-middle-class, unitarian, Wedgwood prudence which I imagine I was put on the ctee to represent.
I wish I was going to see you all at Stratford this time - we shall be back in the beginning of August - and I might manage to run down for a night.5


P.S.  I have no particular address for the next three weeks - but shall probably be at Cortina in rather less than a week
Poste Restante
Cortina d’Ampezzo

P.P.S.  I never thanked you for, I believe, recommending me to Barker6  - to write music for the Millionaire in Park Lane7 - I liked Barker v.much - & it gave me a lot of good experience - also helped to pay for all this!  

1. The English Folk Dance Society, founded in 1911.
2. The Society had arranged a series of demonstrations of English folk dances in Paris on 13th and 14th June 1913. See VW’s letter to Michael Calvocoressi VWL341.
3. Sister of Maud Karpeles, first Secretary of the English Folk Dance Society and wife of Douglas Kennedy, Sharp’s successor as director.
4. Mary Neal, founder of the Espérance Society, which laid less emphasis than Sharp’s EFDS on authenticity of performance and purity of tradition in folk dance. She had advocated the teaching of Morris dancing en masse to crowds in the London parks. For further on this see the Margaret Dean-Smith manuscripts in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library).
5. An August vacation school of Folk Song and Dance was held at Stratford and supervised by the English Folk Dance Society. See R.V.W.: a biography, pp.150-1.
6. Harley Granville Barker, the theatrical producer.
7. The ‘millionaire in Park Lane’ was Philip Sassoon who mounted a private performance in 1913 of Maeterlinck’s Death of Tintagiles, produced by Granville Barker with incidental music by VW (Catalogue of Works, 1913/6). See R.V.W.: a biography, p.108. Barker and Sharp were both members of the Fabian Society and had been in correspondence about Barker’s 1912 production of A Winter’s Tale (ex inf. Malcolm Taylor, Vaughan Williams Memorial Library).


Location of original letter:

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/26, ff. 111-113
Cobbe 79
Original database number: