Scope and Content

With Ursula Vaughan Williams, second wife and widow of RVW, and author of the companion volume to MK's work, R.V.W: a biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams (London: Oxford University Press, 1964). The two writers were good friends and worked closely together whilst researching and writing their respective books. This bundle consists primarily of letters, notes and postcards from Ursula, although there are a number of copy letters sent to her by MK. Their general contents include: progress reports; comments on each other's work in draft and proof form; research and detective work relating to RVW works, performances, dates, events, and individuals who figured in RVW's life; Ursula's feelings about biography and the past; family news and mutual visits. Works by RVW mentioned in sufficient detail to note include: [Hymn for] St Margaret (nos. 1 & 98); Menelaus [on the Beach at Pharos] (nos. 1 & 85); Cello Concerto [Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes for cello and orchestra] (nos. 5 & 76); Partita (nos. 5 & 75); Sancta [Civitas] (no. 15); A Choral Flourish (no. 21); Passacaglia on B.G.C. (no. 22); music for the film Coastal Command (no. 22); Three Shakespeare Songs (no. 25); Flos Campi (no. 29); incidental music to The Bacchae (no. 44); incidental music to Maeterlinck's The Death of Tintagiles (no. 49, which is a typescript copy extract from a letter to Adrian Boult from Basil Ashmore, forwarded to MK by Ursula; see also KEN/3/1/113); The Bridal Day (no. 70); Along the Field (nos. 72 & 73); Double Trio (no. 74); String Quartet (No.2) in A Minor. For Jean on her birthday (no. 74); music for the film The England of Elizabeth (no. 106); The Poisoned Kiss (no. 112).

Other notable topics covered include: the organ music RVW composed to follow the film Scott of the Antarctic (no. 3; see also KEN/3/1/42 & 46); Ursula's opinions on RVW's hymn tunes, hymns in general and the Church (no. 10); a poem Ursula has written which was inspired by her work on the biography (no. 13); RVW's non-attendance at a performance of his Mass in G Minor in Leipzig in 1923 (nos. 17 & 55); a Musicians' Union rule involving broadcast fees (nos. 24 & 88); a letter Ursula has received from the composer Armstrong Gibbs [who studied at the Royal College of Music with RVW] (no. 25); various acquaintances of RVW, including composers [Julius] Röntgen and Joseph Holbrooke (no. 29); a quote from a letter to Imogen [Holst] from RVW (no. 30); some letters from RVW to [the music critic, Michel-Dimitri] Calvocoressi about Ravel which she has been transcribing (no. 47); the composer and folk-song collector, George Butterworth (no. 68); 80 RVW letters Ursula has obtained from H[arriet] C[ohen] (no. 99).

No. 34 consists of extracts from Maggs Brothers sales catalogues relating to RVW-related material on sale at auction; no. 113 is from Ursula to Eslyn Kennedy; no. 80 was sent by Ursula but written by Mary Bennett [probably a librarian at the Fitzwilliam Library, Cambridge] and gives the dates of poet Fredegond Shove [some of whose poems were set to music by RVW]; no. 118 consists of typescript corrections and comments on Ursula's book by MK; no. 64 consists of 2 typescript sheets by MK outlining the Bush and Tippett affairs [Alan Bush had his works banned by the BBC on account of his communism and Michael Tippett was imprisoned in 1943 for pacifism; RVW supported both men].

A number of the letters are from other correspondents to Ursula and were presumably passed on by her to MK both to help him in his research and for general interest. These consist of: no. 35, from Dr. Ray S. Rowntree [RVW's doctor] informing her of RVW's exact cause of death; no. 71, from Alan Frank of Oxford University Press regarding a broadcast and passed on to Eslyn Kennedy; no. 54, from Gloucester City Librarian relating to a research visit; no. 119, from the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society Ltd, relating to RVW's Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (Village Service); no. 77, 3 letters (1 from Sir Steuart Wilson and 2 from T.W. Southam of Jupiter Recordings), relating to the composer [William Charles] Denis Browne [who died in action at the age of 27 in 1915] and a new recording of his song, Gratiana [Dancing and Singing].


Many of Ursula's letters are undated or omit the year of writing. Most of these had been bundled together at the top of the pile of RVW correspondence, and have been left in their original order, although some should possibly come later in the sequence. Nos. 1-49 therefore are undated and no. 50 (dated 1 Apr 1962) marks the beginning of the chronological sequence. No. 119 had become separated from the sequence, and despite being dated, has not been integrated as its place in the undated bundle was unclear. Many of Ursula's notes are very brief, often simply noting dates of compositions and performances, or being sent to accompany a section of her typescript or items which might be of interest to MK. None of the enclosures remain with the letters.