from Vaughan Williams, Ralph, 1872-1958 to Dent, Edward J. (Edward Joseph), 1876-1957

Letter No. VWL307

Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Edward J. Dent

Letter No.: VWL307

13 Cheyne Walk

[?January 1910]

Dear Dent

Your letter fills me with intense pleasure – coupled with considerable alarm – it is nice of you all to think of and consider – and it quite overwhelms me – but the idea of a one-man show (except of course when the ‘one man’ gives it himself when there is a kind of “Don’t shoot the composer, he’s doing his best” feeling about1) does alarm me. However after your letter and such an invitation it is not for me to say no.
Now as regards programme – you say ‘Of course the quartet’2 – but I must confess that hardly anyone but me likes it – and I don’t want to put off people who were so nice about the ‘Wasps’ and all you who are arranging this by producing something you will most people (apparently) loathe. Don’t you think you had better consult someone whose judgement you value & who was at my concert before you put it in. – In a way I should like to have it in, as I still like it myself – or perhaps have the two middle movements – but that wd not do –  as it wd mean bringing down the Schwiller 4tet  3 especially for that which is absurd – otherwise I wd suggest my 5tet  with Pfte & C. Bass4 – but that wd mean an extra player & therefore more expense.
As for songs Francis Harford sings the H. of Life5 – but we oughtn’t to make the programme too depressing – I shd think a good musician like Carey cd get up anything – and you might prefer to have him. The Schwiller 4tet were £21-0-0 for my concert but that was special as they had 15 rehearsals or more – now they know it they ought to be less. Marmaduke Barton plays the pfte part of my 5tetbetter than anyone else.
Once again I can’t say anything to tell you how touched I feel by all this.
On re-reading this letter I find I have discussed this matter as if it was settled – but I fully realize that it is only in the air and that prudent counsels may still prevail – But whatever the upshot is, it won’t make any difference to my pleasure in the fact that the idea was ever even thought of.
Yours very sincerely

R. Vaughan Williams

P.S. I find I’ve said nothing about dates – anything suits me – perhaps I am actually in Cambridge towards the end of Feb: lecturing on Folk-songs can it be on the same date.

1. An adapted quotation from Oscar Wilde’s Impressions of America: “Don’t shoot the pianist!”
2. String Quartet in G minor (Catalogue of Works, 1908/9).
3. The quartet led by the violinist Isidore Schwiller, which had taken part in the first performance of On Wenlock Edge, Catalogue of Works, 1909/1. He led the Leith Hill Musical Festival orchestra for many years.
4. Quintet in C minor for pianoforte, violin, viola, violoncello, and double-bass, (Catalogue of Works, 1903/13). Unpublished and later withdrawn.
5. House of Life (Catalogue of Works, 1904/9).