Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Gustav Holst

Letter No.: 
[Late June 1916]

Dear V.

I should v. much like to have news of you - I wish I cd write you an interesting letter - but one is hardly allowed to say anything.1 However I am very well & enjoy my work - all parades & such things cease. I am “Wagon orderly” and go up the line every night to bring back wounded & sick on a motor ambulance - this all takes place at night - except an occasional day journey for urgent cases.
Write & let me know all the news - I hear from my wife that all Thaxted is still singing Bach.2
Did you see that Rutland Boughton applied for exemption on the grounds that he was doing work of national importance at Glastonbury!3
I suppose I shall make you very angry with what I am going to say and I can’t put it just as I mean - but I feel strongly that what you are doing at Thaxted is the real thing of which Boughton’s vapourings at Glastonbury are the sham imitation - you know the slosh that Buckley talked in his book about an “artistic community”4 - well like all rotten ideas it is the sham of something real - and this is what I believe you’ve got - amen.


1. VW was in France serving as a medical orderly in the war.
2. Holst had taken a group of his pupils from St Paul Girls’ School and Morley College to Thaxted for the Whitsuntide weekend on 10-12 June for a weekend of music, formal and informal. This included Bach’s Mass in A. For a full account see Short, Gustav Holst: the man and his music pp.138-9.
3. Boughton, with Reginald Buckley and Christine Walshe, had founded the Glastonbury Festival in 1914 with the idea of creating a commune of artists around the performance of ‘choral drama’ written by him. The best-known was The Immortal Hour. The Festival lasted until 1927, but Boughton did not escape military service.
4. VW is referring to Buckley's The Shakespeare Revival (1911), chapters 5 and 8.


Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 158, ff.55-57
General notes: 

Partially printed, omitting references to Boughton, in R.V.W.: a biography, p.120-21; not included in Heirs and Rebels.

Cobbe 97; R.V.W.: a biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams, p.61
Original database number: