from Vaughan Williams, Ralph, 1872-1958 to Henderson, Philip, 1906-1977

Letter No. VWL3321

Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Philip Henderson

Letter No.: VWL3321

From R. Vaughan Williams,
The White Gates,
Westcott Road,

January 31 [1937]

Dear Mr Henderson
Your very kind and appreciative letter makes me feel guilty of discourtesy in not having sent you a copy of my musical setting – my reasons were two (1) I had no idea you would be interested (2) I thought and still think that you may be horrified at all I have done. As perhaps you know we composers are an unconscientious crowd and are much too apt to use the great poets as mere pegs on which to hand our silly little tunes – So I expect you will think I have made horrible hay of Skelton – My only excuses are the ones which I have given in my preface. It may interest you to know that I was first introduced to Skelton by Elgar. Previously I had only known the one or two lyrics which appear in the anthologies and a scrap out of Jane Scroop from the Week-End book.
Elgar said to me ‘I think I must make an Oratorio out of Elinor Rumming’ – Alas, he never did so – He also said that Skelton metres were ‘pure jazz’.
Having now read your preface I imagine he got that idea from you.
I am asking my publisher to send you a copy of my ‘Five Tudor Portraits’.
Yours sincerely

R Vaughan Williams

P.S. I am interested to know that you and Fritz Hart are friends.

1. Henderson had edited the complete poems of John Skelton.