Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Gustav Holst

Letter No.: 
Dec 31.[1923]

N.B. This is not a new years letter tho’ it sounds like it.

Dear Gustav

I won’t have you talking about ‘bother’ - there is no necessity for you & me to talk about such things - but in this case I am going to say what a wonderful experience it was for me & all of us learning your wonderful music - which got better & better as we went on.  It was a tussle I admit - but from the 1st they loved it - & I know of no other work which I shd have dared to make a choir slog so at - There - you must bear with me so far.1
Now as to the awful news about Keats - I hoped I shd  have seen Isobel & Imogen2 at the EFDS3 yesterday & hear it was found - do send me a card if it is.4 As to my scoring it must go to the copyist today - as the show is Jan: 21 - so it must take its chance5 - I think if I go away at all I shall go by the sea for a day or two to try & get rid of my cold - Today I go to Middlesboro’ for an Eisteddfoddd(dd)


1. VW had conducted the London Bach Choir in the first performance of the Ode to Death op.38, H.144 (played twice) and also the Short Festival Te Deum, H.145, at the Queen’s Hall on 19th December 1923. Holst had written (Heirs and Rebels Letter XXIII, p.60) thanking him and suggesting a contract to conduct every first performance he got for the next ten years.
2. Holst’s wife and daughter.
3. English Folk Dance Society.
4. A reference perhaps to the manuscript draft of Holst’s Choral Symphony, settings of poems by Keats and referred to by Holst sometimes as the ‘Keats Symphony’, which had been completed during the autumn of 1923. See Michael Short, Gustav Holst: The Man and his Music, Oxford 1990, p.218.
5. Though it is not certain, VW may be referring to the orchestral version of On Wenlock Edge, Catalogue of Works 1909/1, which was prepared around this time.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 158, ff.72-73

Location of copy:

Shelfmark of copy: 
MS Mus. 158, f.74
General notes: 

Printed in part as Letter XXIV in Heirs and Rebels.

Cobbe 140
Original database number: