Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to George Frederick McCleary

Letter No.: 
29th January, 1948.

The White Gates,

Dear McCleary

I return your typescript. There are one or two doubtful points:

(1). I cannot believe that I ever said I did not like "Tristan". In those early days I remember not being able to sleep after a performance.

(2). I do not think I was ever on the Committee of a Cambridge Musical Club. Certainly not in my first year.

(3). I take it for granted that I did say that about the Brahms Sonata, but I have quite forgotten saying so.

(4). What I really enjoyed was your singing of those old comic songs.1

Anyway, it is very nice to hear from you again and I wish we met more often.
R Vaughan Williams

(R. Vaughan Williams).

Dr. G.F. McCleary,
80, Corringham Road,
London, N.W.11.

1. McCleary had been a student with VW and was preparing an essay on "Cambridge in the early Nineties", which was published in his volume On detective fiction and other things, published in 1960. See further letters on this: VWL3946 and VWL3947. The typescript enclosure (now British Library MS Mus. 1737, f.123) was returned by VW with his corrections marked as follows:
"Vaughan Williams as a Cambridge undergraduate.
When I first met Vaughan Williams he was nineteen years old and a student at the Royal College of Music. We were not, however, contemporaries there, for he did not enter the College until after I had left, in January 1890, to go up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge. The occasion of our meeting was the performance of Tristan and Isolde at Covent Garden on June 15, 1892, the first given in England for many years. I made a special journey from Cambridge to be present, and went wth a former fellow-student at the Royal College, H.B. Collins, who later became organist of the Birmingham Oratory. It was a fine performance, according to my recollection; Gustav Mahler was the conductor, and the title roles were played by Max Alvary and Rosa Sucher. After it was over, Collins and I were waiting for a train at the Charing Cross station of the underground railway when we saw a young man on the platform with what looked like the Tristan score under his arm. He nodded to Collins, who said to me: "That is one of the College composition students. Let's go and talk to him. His name is Vaughan Williams." We did so and found that he too had been to Covent Garden and was not enthusiastic either about the work seemed profoundly impressed by what we had heard, or the way in which it had been performed. and we discussed the performance.1
In the following October Vaughan Williams went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, and was soon elected to the committee of the University Musical Club, which was then housed on the top floor of a tall building near the south-western corner of the Market Place. At that time committee club members included Hugh Allen, who had come up as organ scholar of Christ's College; Hugh Bell, now, and for many years, musical critic of the Montreal Star; C.H. Dolby, afterwards..." [incomplete]

The phrases crossed through are followed by VW's suggestion of alternative texts, i.e. 'seemed profoundly impressed by what', 'and we discussed the performance', and 'club members'.


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1737, f.92
General notes: 

Typewritten, signed.