Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to the Editor of the Morning Post

Letter No.: 
August 28, 1906

I am glad to see in your issue of this morning that Miss Keeton did not intend to impugn Mr. Sharp's probity when she referred to his collections of folk songs as being "well worked up," as this was the impression conveyed to my mind as well as that of other readers by her words.  I notice also that she does not attempt to defend any of her inaccuracies against Mr. Sharp's convincing reply; but instead of this she has fallen back on that last refuge of dilletantism when confronted by thoroughness, and suggests that Mr. Sharp is "academic" and "antiquarian".
Miss Keeton writes: "The creativeness of Haydn, Schubert, Glinka, and others was scarcely inspired by collections of tunes 'edited with pianoforte accompaniments' by academics and antiquarians."  I have noticed that other of of your correspondents besides Miss Keeton have imagined that folk song collectors are merely "antiquarians."  The folk song doubtless has an antiquarian value, but I believe that if this was its only value Mr. Sharp and his fellow-collectors would not be making such great efforts to preserve them.  The folk song is neither old nor new, but exists, as has been well said, “for all time,” and it is worth preserving because of its vitality and of its beauty.  The influence of the folk song on the composer is not an artificial one.  Those who find in these tunes something which fills a blank in their musical horizon will delight in studying them in addition to the works of great composers, not instead of such study.  I cannot make out why the value of these tunes to the composer should be vitiated because they happen to be published with pianoforte accompaniments.  Those who wish to study the tunes alone can do so by examining the voice part only.  On the other hand, those who study Mr. Sharp's accompaniments will realise how rich in suggestion the folk song may be to a well-equipped and sympathetic musician.
Yours, &c.,

Ralph Vaughan Williams


General notes: 

Printed in The Morning Times newspaper, 30 August, 1906, headed "English Folk Songs".

The Morning Post (no.41, 891), 30 August, 1906, p.6.