Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Simona Pakenham

Letter No.: 
April 17th 1956

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

Dear Simona Pakenham,

Thank you very much for sending me your book.1 At first I intended not to read it as that would involve approval or requests for alteration,2 but I changed my mind and was fascinated. Of course there is a lot I disagree with, but you put your own point of view most forcibly, and with an intimate knowledge of my music. In fact you often know it better than I do myself! For example I had to verify your example from my fourth symphony!
Officially, then, I have not read the book, and I send you no criticism. But I have made a list of facts which should be corrected, and which you may find useful.
Perhaps we can meet one day?
Yours sincerely

R Vaughan Williams

I wonder if you could come to tea with us on Saturday, Sunday or Monday? (21, 22, 23rd). About 4. We should love it if you could.

Ursula V.W.


Page 18. Gwen Raverat was granddaughter of Charles Darwin, and daughter of George Darwin by his marriage with Maud Dupuis of the U.S.A. Her husband was a French artist who died many years ago.
Page 20. too, not to.
Page 21. Brynmawr College, Pennsylvania. Not a university.
Page 25. Who wants the English composer
Page 33. Toward, not towards, (and elsewhere, also p.34)
Page 42. Tallis Fantasia, first performed Gloucester Festival, 1910, but not published till some years later.
Page 48. Principal, not principle.
Page 49. Soloist, not soloists.
Page 64. Liturgy I think, not anthology.
Page 72. Note, not chord. (unless you call an octave a chord)
Page 103. Discord, not dischord. (and elsewhere.)
Page 131. Scherzo, not slow movement.
Page 153. I admire Uranus very much, it is Mercury that I do not care for.
Page 154. -and elsewhere. Second repetition, not third.
Page 164. After Cecil Day Lewis, add “who became”. He was not Oxford Professor of Poetry at that time.3
Page 164. “far as the eye can pass...”
Page 165. Matthew Arnold, not Meredith.

1. Ralph Vaughan Williams: a discovery of his music (Macmillan, 1957). Pakenham had been introduced to the VWs by their friend Jill Balcon, wife of Cecil Day-Lewis, because she was writing about VW.
2. VW clearly felt that if he were to suggest alterations it would imply that he approved of everything else in the book. He had taken the same line with Percy Young in VWL
3. In the book, p.155, Pakenham refers to VW's eightieth birthday concert at Dorking in October 1952, and describes Day-Lewis, the speaker in the performance of An Oxford Elegy, as being Professor of Poetry at Oxford. VW is wrong here since she was correct in doing so: Day-Lewis was elected to the Chair in 1951 for a five-year term.


Cobbe 675
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