from Irving, Ernest, 1878-1953 to Vaughan Williams, Ralph, 1872-1958

Letter No. VWL2379

Letter from Ernest Irving to Ralph Vaughan Williams

Letter No.: VWL2379

Ernest Irving
4, The Lawn,
Ealing Green, W.5.

March 14th., 1952

Dear R.V.W.

If I were only twenty years younger and of the other sex I should join the ladies and call you “Uncle Ralph”!
I am returning the score of “Sinfonia Antarctica” to you at Dorking on Monday as you request. Dock Mathieson1 will bring it down in his car, as registered parcels have a nasty habit of taking two or three days in transit.
I have been trying hard to get my nose away from the shop window so as to take what old Jack Levien2 calls a “conspectus”. There is no doubt that this work is a little more objective than your later work has been and its necessarily narrative and descriptive style places it nearer the class of work vulgarly known as “symphonic poems”. There is also no doubt that because of this certain of the critics, who after all are guessing most of the time, bless them, will see in it only film music dignified by the shadow of a mighty name. But so far as I can ever be an impartial judge I do not think the Symphony is in the slightest degree cheap or facile. It cannot injure your rock-founded reputation, and it will bring you into affectionate contact with millions of youngsters who adore Scott and have been educated by the B.B.C. into regard for your lighter work. I am bound to agree with the critic – Frank Howes, I think – who says that children are surprisingly eclectic in their appreciation of music and admit examples of every kind of orchestral sound from Palestrina to Berg without any trouble about the modernity or antiquity of its style.
If you think of it, please give my love to John Barbirolli, who is a very old friends of mine, as is his wife Evelyn.
With all kind thoughts,
Yours ever,


1. i.e. Muir Mathieson.
2. Presumably the film-maker Jack LeVien.