Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Ralph Wedgwood

Letter No.: 
[May or June 1898]


Dear Randolph

Just as I was seriously contemplating letting my full juiced Collins waxing over mellow drop in a silent Autumn night1 – those candles arrived and now I am seriously in doubt whether I am writing a Collins or writing to thank you again for them which their ‘real presence’ impels me to do; I am also flabbergasted with the effort of compressing into my limited range of experience both how awfully jolly (and amusing and instructive) it was being with you at W Hartlepool and how beautiful the candlesticks are and how good it was of you to have them packed up and how unkind it was of us to refuse to take them with us one in each hand. They make such a blaze in our room that we decided on the spot to spend the sum of £1-0-0 (one pound) on dark blue linen hangings – as we can’t repaper.2
I feel this is very inadequate expression of all I want to say – but I know you’ll understand and not only read between the lines but also in the little blank space marked X at the beginning of this letter as it seems a pity to leave that unoccupied.3
We have not done much exciting since we came back but a certain amount of work – I have thoughts of going in for my Mus: Doc: in January – but this must be a secret in case I fail; it makes me feel very young still going in for examinations when you have probably forgotten what an examination is; it makes me feel as if I was still on a toy bicycle while you were on in safety.
When are you coming to London? Do leave those shear-legs4 for 48 hours sometime (Sunday is unreckoned in this computation as it is not a working day) and we will go and have Asti Spumante & Crème de Menthe at Odones or Gatti’s or the Café Royal. I suppose you won’t be in Leeds on the 7th or 8th of Oct: as we are going there for 2 days of the festival – rather sporting nicht wahr – which is the best line  to go by M.R. or G.N.R.?5
I have just had a letter from Amos6 in which he announces himself as being on the crest of a wave of contentment and expounded a theory of life which was very pretty but I didn’t know what it meant. He also has got himself much disliked by his slighting references to the successes of Our Brave Soldiers in Avenging the Hero Gordon – also by saying that he prefers the grave barbarian to the Christian cad.7

1. VW is parodying lines from the third stanza of the Choric Song in Tennyson's The Lotos-Eaters: 'The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow, / Drops in a silent autumn night'. VW once told Michael Kennedy he thought those lines the most beautiful in English poetry. A 'Collins' is a letter of thanks for hospitality.
2. The candlesticks were Ralph Wedgwood’s wedding present to Ralph and Adeline. They had been visiting Wedgwood at West Hartlepool where he was working for the North Eastern Railway, in order to collect them.
3. Presumably a reference to the fact that the VWs were on the move - they took up residence in Cowley Street on 30 May.
4. For loading and unloading goods wagons.
5. Midland Railway and Great Northern Railway both provided services from London to Leeds, one from St Pancras and the other from King's Cross.
6. Maurice Amos, a friend from Cambridge who became a judge and practised in Egypt.
7. A reference to the recent victory at Atbara in the Sudan in which the Mahdi’s forces were defeated by an Anglo-Egyptian force under Herbert Kitchener – it was seen as revenge for the murder of General Gordon at Khartoum in 1884.

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 1714/1/1, ff.113-116
Cobbe 16
Original database number: