Letter from Joy Finzi to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: 
September 28th [1956]


Dearest Uncle Ralph,

I wish I could bear this news gently to you.
Two years ago Gerald had a small growth in his neck diagnosed as a fatal deasease1 - the least drastic of a series of reticulosis - because of the vigour of his constitution the authorities said he might live ten years.  It was unpredictable.  This was a nightmare to him & only endurable if no-one knew.  Two years ago owing to the dangerous condition of his blood (x-ray treatment on the glands which checks them produces aenemia2  they decided to remove his spleen to check the production of white blood cells. This was removed (we found appendix an appropriate alternative)  The operation was entirely successful & after a long treatment of x-ray the glands subsided.  We have had two wonderful years & his blood condition had actually improved.  On Chosen Hill we went into the Sextons cottage - we naturally igonored the recent chicken-pox.  Gd developed acute shingles 12 days later - a week later acute chicken-pox appeared all over.  Three days ago he became mentally disconnected & quickly sank into oblivion.  The day before yesterday after having experts from Oxford (where fortunately for us a very distinguished man runs the finest research department for this in England)  I took him in an ambulance to Oxford - he just knew this & was contented - oblivious when I left him.  I returned yesterday & was comforted exceedingly by knowing he was out of pain.  Shortly after I left his bedside he had a sudden convulsion - died.  The spleen being removed he had not sufficient forces to fight the chicken-pox virus which had attacked his brain. We who knew of what might possibly be his end can only be relieved to know it came without any sense of its coming & without him impaired.  He just knew of your happy letters from Majorca, but this correspondence with the London Philharmonic I withheld from him. 
I am returning them to you - as under the circumstances I think you would prefer to deal with it yourself - and on your return - We heard this morning from the L.P.O

Dear Mrs Finzi

                       December 10 Concert (Holst)

All the answers I wanted have arrived from R.V.W.  I believe he has sent you a copy of his reply.
Thank you very much for your help
Yours sincerely

Alan Gregory..


I hope this reaches you before the wireless & papers.  Gill3 wanted to wire, but I preferred to be able to now tell you the whole story  We are having a private cremation tomorrow after the post mortem - We felt that if his many friends wished to gather together - he wd  prefer it in some musical way. Tomorrow we are cancelling the string rehearsal (Kiffer took it very well last week) & next week we shall continue to work for the next 3 concerts we have undertaken.  This was one of G’s most urgent wishes.
Christopher Bunting & the Hallé under Georges Tzipaine gave a very fine performance of G’s cello concerto on Wednesday.4  Gerald wasn’t able to listen in - but we ordered several tapes -
Our love to you both


Forgive pencil.

1. sic. In fact Finzi had been diagnosed in 1951.
2. sic
3. Gilmour Jenkins.
4. Georges Tzipine had conducted a studio broadcast of the work.


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/22, ff. 90-92
Cobbe 693
Original database number: