Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Evelyn Sharp

Letter No.: 
[18th August 1927]

Dear Miss Sharp1

Many thanks for Act II
I think it looks v. good - but have not digested it yet.
Of course after that light satirical 1st Act we mustn’t get too serious
Another practical point we mustn’t have too many principal characters - it looks from yr Act II as if the 3 Hobs and the 3 mediums wd have to be principals & not merely superior chorus - this wd make 11 principals & presumably with the Empress in Act III = 12!
If you happen to be stuck up for metres I have been studying “Polly” & he gets some v. good metres from fitting words to tunes.2
So if you happened to be stuck up for metres it might be worthwhile looking at the country dances some of the more musical rhythms (“Mr Isaacs Maggot” occurs to me) - but this is only one suggestion - I don’t want you to be fettered in any way - I believe the best method is for me to make hay of your words after you have written them (you’ll have a fit when you see all the alterations I want to make in Act I) 
By the way if you happen to want a song (or duet or trio) of a light rather folk songy character you might consider this metre - as I have at the moment a tune in my head in that metre
… [missing page]
We’ve really got to make up our minds whether this is to be a musical comedy or real comic opera. In musical comedy (or ballad opera) the music is purely incidental i.e. the music cd be left out and the drama wd remain intact. In comic opera at certain points (usually the finale) the drama is carried on through the music - the only difference this makes to the librettist is that in certain places the drama goes on in verse & not in prose - & usually in short sentences not long songs
In our 1st Act the music is more or less incidental & we may have to strengthen the ensemble [in] places.
- on the other hand I see you have a long musical finale to Act II
- on the other hand I feel that the actual end of Act III ought to be a sort of choral set song. 
What a rigmarole
Yrs very sincerely

R  Vaughan Williams 

P.S.  I am back in London on Sept 1st & we might meet then

1. Sharp was writing the libretto for The Poisoned Kiss.
2. The ballad opera arranged by Johann Christoph Pepusch, with libretto by John Gay written in 1728 but banned by the Lord Chamberlain and not performed until 1777. It was a sequel to The Beggars Opera.
3. i.e. Volte subito or P.T.O. However the page with the metre is missing.


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 161, ff.37-41
General notes: 

Date from postmark(no longer present).
Printed in part in Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.199

Cobbe 160; Kennedy, Works of Vaughan Williams, p.199
Original database number: