Volume II

1. Tribute to Elizabeth Poston

Sylvia Watkins

I first met Elizabeth Poston in 1973 when I took up a post at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage. She had written some music for my harpist cousin, David Watkins, who suggested that I should contact her when I arrived in Stevenage.

Elizabeth was, of course, most hospitable, and immediately suggested that I should live with her until I found a house. So, unexpectedly, I found myself for three months part of that extraordinary household: there was the deaf old housekeeper who was an old family retainer, the dogs, the donkeys Fairy and Nonny (‘hey Nonny, no’); and Elizabeth herself, quietly and efficiently running this unusual ménage. She was calm, intelligent, enigmatic, generous to a fault, so perceptive and such enormous fun; she was other-worldly, and unbelievably hard working at her music, in the garden, and giving a helping hand to anyone in need. And yes, she was beautiful, tall, slim, elegant, and statuesque: she was one of those rare people who could wear any old gardening rags (which is what she wore most of the time) and still look a million dollars.

At that first meeting 34 years ago, I never dreamt that in 2006, to celebrate her centenary, I would play with the Hertfordshire Chamber Orchestra in London in only the third performance of her Harlow Concertante for string quartet and string orchestra, which was written and originally performed in 1969 (and made available by Simon Campion for the centenary celebrations). And cousin, David Watkins played some of her harp music, again as part of those celebrations, at a concert at the church of St. Andrew and St. George, Stevenage on 30 September 2006.

Elizabeth was a carer: she cared deeply about people, about her family and friends, about the people who worked for her, such as the old housekeeper, who was put into the best bedroom in Rooks Nest House for her last years and was nursed by Elizabeth until she died. She went to great lengths to keep up with friends, entertaining them generously and corresponding with them at considerable length. Her letters, inscribed in magnificent calligraphy, consisted of elegant and sensitively crafted prose; they said far more about the recipients than about herself, which was so typical of her caring and selfless spirit.

Elizabeth’s final act of caring for me was revealed when I received a parcel from her solicitor, six months after her death. It contained a silver jug, inside which was a note, written on her deathbed: ‘with my love and thanks to you, and for knowing you. Elizabeth’.

Her life was wrapped in music, she breathed it, she lived in music in its broadest sense. She heard music in daily life, in country sounds and of course in language. And this is why song writing was so important to her. Elizabeth’s concept of the relationship between words and music was as the fusion of elements which are inextricably entwined and mutually enriching, rather than competition as some have seen it. This was why she insisted on having eloquent and beautiful texts to set to music. Dr. Jamie Bartlett has explored this theme elsewhere[1].

There is a line in Howards End, which she would have understood: ‘Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height’. Forster writes about ‘finding the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion’. Part of Elizabeth’s great gift was to find the right prose, and infuse it with passion: she found that elusive rainbow bridge, and her love for humanity was manifest.

2. Some Letters from Elizabeth Poston to William Busch

Julia Busch

From the 50 letters and over 40,000 words Elizabeth Poston wrote to my father William Busch, I have selected the first three which immediately shows the deepening friendship that was to develop between them during the period 1942 to 1945. I end this piece with the letter written by Elizabeth to my mother on his unexpected death.

The first letter written from G.P.O. B 7, Bedford[2] on 6 November 1942 is in response to a letter William wrote to René Soames[3] commenting on the performance of one of his songs.

‘Dear Mr. Busch,

René Soames has just shown me your letter after yesterday’s broadcast, so I have to thank you twice over, on our joint behalf as well as for your kind letter to me a few weeks ago. I was going to write in any case, but went away in the meantime to get better after being i Ritornello [the refrain]

ill – and shake off the BBC-!’

This was a song called Rest (1). I first heard it recorded in the 60’s by Dame Janet Baker, sung in her beautiful mellow voice with perfect phrasing and intelligence. We had this recording played at my mother‘s funeral in 1991, and I then subsequently discovered on reading William’s diaries (which only came into my possession on the death of my mother) that Rest was sung at William’s funeral, 46 years earlier by Sophie Wyss. In this letter Elizabeth reveals a true appreciation of the song and its composer and how it affected her.

‘I am really tremendously glad you approved of the performance of your Rest. I find so much in the song that I felt it would be hard to do it anything like justice. It is beautifully-wrought and satisfying writing: its strange mixture of austerity and more tender lyricism make a strong appeal to me. The impeccable craftsmanship – the actual quality of the writing, so finely carried out within the clearly defined harmonic scheme might, one would think, take away all real spontaneity. But that is there as well: you have succeeded in getting both and that is truly an artistic achievement. And you have caught the spirit of the poem.’

To a not so young aspiring composer – he was 41 – this must have been magic to read such an encouraging criticism of his work. William Busch’s composing career was unfortunately very short, covering a period of about 10 years from 1935, when he married and found the encouragement to devote more time to composition, to 1945 when he died on 30 January after walking home to Woolacombe in Devonshire, in a snow blizzard after visiting his wife in a nursing home in Ilfracombe where she had just given birth to their second child.

Elizabeth Poston and William developed a strong friendship through their letters, both being inveterate letter writers. Their discussions regarding the plight of composers to find the right poems on which to base their composition, was a constant source of amusement and discovery.

‘You raise a very interesting point in your previous letter and we must discuss it someday. I experience just the same difficulty in finding the right poem to set – and yet the wealth in this language is unsurpassed. This problem has made itself so acute that I’ve long ago given up trying to set any certain set of words. I only know – and that rarely – that I shall and must, and then (if I live long enough) I usually do. But so rarely that at that rate a lifetime would have but a tiny showing!’

From her letters I understand that she was a perfectionist and even though she was against transposing music to suit a particular singer, the song Rest had to be put into a higher pitch to rest easily with the voice of René Soames, she writes:

‘I hope our transposition of Rest didn’t worry you unduly. I’m against it on principle, but to do the song, René needed a higher pitch. It made it very awkward to play on the piano as it doesn’t ’lie’ in this key, the original being so black- note in shape and I had to exact all my skill in trying to disguise the difference. We will return you the copy you kindly sent, as I still have available the one in the set I borrowed from Henry Cummings (2), and I can transpose this one for any future occasions with René. I am very glad indeed you like his singing. His whole approach to the matter is exceptional – his sensitivity and perception rare.’

As this is the first letter I have in my possession, I am not sure whether it is the first one that Elizabeth wrote to my father. I feel that there must have been some previous communication between them before this one, as she seems perfectly at ease in reflecting her thoughts about the position of the pianist against the singer. She knew that William was also a pianist and that he would sympathize with her argument.

Certainly, that one of the first essentials of song performance is that it is not, and never should be singer + random or routine pianist and the last moment struggle, though this is often accepted (particularly, I regret to say, in the world of broadcasting), but a true ensemble is important as in any combination. I cannot see why a singer and the miserable individual ordinarily alluded to as ‘at the piano’ should be denied the self-same partnership as a fine instrumental pair. The scale may be smaller – but the fusion needs to be even more delicate, if anything. This, I believe, is why our best modern song-writers have on the whole been failed: why it is that the songs of Warlock, Ireland (3) and more have had so much less than their due.

Elizabeth was passionate about the minutiae of producing a work, particularly of a composer she admired, and was always eloquent in her appreciation.

‘Anyhow, René and I pay any song which interests us the compliment of many weeks and many hours of work and thought – and it is only at the end of this that we feel we’ve got it so near that it becomes a sort of second nature and moves into a sphere of freedom. Less than that we’d rather not do and that’s why we can’t, at present, do it oftener, both being tied to other jobs. But I hope it won’t be for ever. There’s nothing I’d like better to do than strike a blow (in my own way) for the best in British song.’

By the beginning of 1943, their letters were becoming more frequent, usually one a week, sometimes two, yet they still hadn’t met. That wasn’t to be until 1 March, William writes in his diary… Met Elizabeth Poston and had lunch with her at Mrs. Reubens. She is a bit like Jeanne Courtauld and very nice and seems genuinely interested in my music.

William had been advised by their doctor to move out of London as their first child was due in 1939 and pregnant women and children were being evacuated. His father had a large house in Woolacombe called The Dormers, so it seemed natural to rent a house nearby. They rented a house called Greenbanks, where many musical friends sought refuge away from the bombs, Elizabeth included.

The second letter, dated 12 January 1943, was typewritten, with a reference 03/M/EP (the only letter to have one) explaining about the move to headquarters in London

‘A quite awful upheaval, with dirt and difficulties and black-out. But life can’t always be as uncongenial as this, and some day one will see the spring again and the country and be able to think and work in quietness.’

She asks for the cello pieces that Florence Hooton (4) had played at the Wigmore Hall as she was interested in doing something about a performance.

William felt very cut off from the musical life of London, so Elizabeth’s letters were a life-line for him. Whenever he travelled up to London the days were full of meeting friends and publishers and attending concerts. She was excited at the prospect of William coming up to London and writes:

‘Dear Mr. Busch,

Our letters must have crossed!

I am so delighted to have your letter this morning and hear that you will be coming to London about Feb 3rd for a fortnight. [Unfortunately she fell ill and retired to bed, so they did not meet on that occasion] It would be lovely to forgather with Norman Fraser, and then go back after dinner where there’s a piano and some warmth. That being so, you could perhaps play me your new pieces – which I’m very interested to hear about and that would be best of all. As you will have gathered, I had not forgotten about the cello ones – NOR, in fact the songs – but as I couldn’t yet get the right singer or the right place for them, I have been waiting until such time as I can get the hearing for them I feel they deserve. These delays sometimes are exasperatingly prolonged, but I prefer to book them with the object of getting the right result in the end – and I’m sure you will agree.

Being born with an innate idealism and hopelessly fastidious mind does not qualify one with the world’s requirements for this sort of job, in which one finds little support for it where so much is ‘slick’ careerist and shallow. But there is all the more reason for ploughing a lonely furrow and one’s belief in it is its own reward.

I have been rather miserable lately – for no better reason than that life has been difficult and rather sordid and I want to go home! (I live in Howards End of E.M. Forster’s book[4] – I’ll tell you about it). And I think because of that, I’ve been writing pieces, in the small hours and amidst packing-cases. But only trifles – arrangements mostly. But I’m pleased with them and that helps!

The [BBC] Children’s Hour people asked René Soames and me to do a recital for them. I have done them in other services but not yet on Home [Service] and we thought it would be fun to try. It’s quite a problem, when you get down to it. I haven’t been able to fix a date yet as I have been so busy, but when we do, I’ll give you notice in advance. I do like the idea of your Nicholas Variations for your merry and energetic little son. Did you make any reference in them to his rapture at hearing the bells at Christmas…

I shall so look forward to meeting you.’

This third letter written on Thursday 14 January was strangely signed not with her name but…

‘Yours very sincerely

William Busch.’

Perhaps her mind was on other things. It wasn’t until 14 May that her letters started, ‘My dear William’.

Some of her letters contain gossip of the musical world, frustrations of broadcasting, the love of living at Rooks Nest with her mother Clementine and brother Ralph. She wrote a very heartfelt letter to my mother on the death of my father with which I end this article. ‘Wed: Evening Jan 31st 1945

My dear Sheila,

Stuart Wilson (of the BBC) telephoned the news from London this evening. I happen to be in bed ill, so you will, I know forgive. This is not a time for words, when one is past words, and when they may be only unbearable. But they are the only human things we have left now in the face of something so unbelievable – so unthinkable.

William himself is at the centre of us, just as he always was, just as he always will be. I don’t feel that the fact of the withdrawal of his human presence can ever alter that, nor lessen his powers among us – that very power of which he was so unconscious; in all the first shock of grief, one’s absolute incapacity in the face of the mystery, the real and living thought is uppermost: how terribly he would grieve at our grief – and so somehow, it seems that all we can do is to commend ourselves to him and to his love to help us now. I am sure that love is stronger than death…’

End Notes

(1) Rest is issued in a book of Busch’s songs available on the internet from www.justaccordmusic.com

(2) Henry Cummings sang many of William’s songs, The Centaur being one composed specifically for him of which the BBC have a copy which was used in the programme Forgotten Reputations made by John Amis and broadcast in December 1989.

(3) William studied composition with John Ireland, Bernard Van Dieren and Alan Bush

(4) William’s Cello Concerto was composed for Florence Hooton and performed at the Proms in 1944 conducted by Sir Adrian Boult.

3. Suzanne Rose’s Friendship with Elizabeth

Suzanne Rose was a very great friend of Elizabeth Poston whom she first met in 1950, at Rooks Nest[5]. Suzanne had been living as a French au pair to three young Butterfield children at Redcoats Farm House northwest of Stevenage whose aunts, as children, had taken part in various events with Elizabeth in the Stevenage Music Society[6] and whose grandmother was an old friend of Elizabeth’s mother, Clementine. When Clementine heard that the young nanny enjoyed dressmaking, she invited her to tea and to meet Elizabeth, who was a great Francophile, and they became friends at once. Some beautiful old dresses of her mother’s were soon transformed into modern gowns for the concert platform, for at that time Elizabeth was still performing on the piano. Suzanne remained a lifelong friend and has kindly made available the 14 letters she received from Elizabeth between 1970 and 1986, here designated, ‘SR’. Generally, there are no copies available of the letters written to Elizabeth (notable exceptions are those written by Madeau Stewart quoted or paraphrased in Section 7) but one to Elizabeth from Suzanne (designated SR/EP) is included here (in courier font) and, incidentally, illustrates the positive way Elizabeth reacted to difficulties:

SR/EP1. (M) Monday 8th June 1970

‘Chère Elizabeth,

I had a very disappointing letter from Faber[7].

I am enclosing it – I can’t bear to think of your reaction.

So sorry it could not be more encouraging.

I must rush to school.



A few lines of reply are drafted on the letter in pencil in Elizabeth’s hand,

‘…I am cheered really…Vive le français!… It will be nice to do a NOEL!’; the actual reply follows:

SR1. (T) 9 June 1970

Chère Suzanne,

Thank you so much for letting me know Faber’s [the publisher’s] answer. At least we have got one at last and I’m most grateful to you for taking the trouble, and cheered really, as at least Poston-Arma hasn’t gone down the drain altogether[8], and publication next year is a great deal better than none[9]. I can only hope they will pull themselves together now and get a move on. Vive le français!

It would be marvellous to do a NOEL and really give our English Schools a French Christmas (not a white one!!) with something that looks French as well. I am longing to know what your cousin (‘Mon ami’) Pierrot can suggest[10]. Do you think he might consider doing the illustrations himself? At any rate, how exciting it is to make plans.’

[The end of the letter may be missing].

SR2. (T) 29 September 1970

‘Chère Suzanne,

Je viens de recervoir en rentrant de Galle où je fis très gentiment reçu et sans trop de peine avec cette langue extraordinaire, votre letter et p.10 de Dernier Act – pour les deux un grand merci. Je conserve de notre heureuse soirèe à deux un souvenir (toujours en train!) en votre charmant cadeau de Pernod.[11] Suitably rationed, it props up my life!

I am putting in 30 s[hillings] in cash vers le réglement de notre compte – je me souviens que je vous dois déja 25s pour le Ricard precedent (qui ne sauva ainsi la vie!) – et en plus, combine? j’oublie.[12] Do let me know, my memory is awful!

I’m so interested to hear of your recorder experience with Jane Ault’s recorder group and so glad it is going well and that you feel it gives you something[13]. I’m greatly cheered she is a supporter of Penguin [Book of] Carols, the more particularly because that book is fighting for a principle, and we shall need her support in the forthcoming French campaign, now already well on the way with the P[aul] Arma collaboration, which is becoming more chaotic daily with a maze of papers and proofs floating between here and [Paul’s?] and no one in the publishers who has much clue what it’s all about! though that’s an advantage in some ways, as they don’t interfere and have to take one’s word for it! But I expected all this and trust I shall keep sane for the duration.

Penguin Carols is a book with a mission, something I have been trying to do and to establish in a subject so far abominably maltreated – what has come to be regarded as the old ‘standard’ works on the subject, like the Oxford Book of Carols &c., as full of wrong translations, bad versions, awful musical arrangements, &c. as the rest! One has to try and jolt people out of accepting them, or cajole them, or perhaps a mixture of both! The French in England have fared no better – people just publish any old nonsense and get away with it, or there’s nothing at all – and I do hope both Penguin and the French Folk Songs will serve as advance guard and help pave the way. It is marvellously cheering that you think the French plans should do well in Hertfordshire alone. I am pressing on with everything so far as life allows, as it seems to me very important at this juncture that the right things should get in first and establish the foothold once for all. Aux barricades! It is wonderful to have one’s collaborateuse really close at hand (and all ready for a picnic at any moment… the best moyen [way] of collaborating!).

I will try and enclose SALTEN Y BALLEN (Leaping and Dancing), which is in Catalan not French in the original, and is published in French translation in Anthologie des Chants populaires français II de Joseph Canteloube (Durand, Paris, 1951) and since out of print and difficult to obtain, I believe.

Best love’

SR3. (T) Wednesday 7 November 1973

‘Bien chère Suzanne,

Je suis navrée de te savoir en un tel cas! [14] I found your beautiful and appropriately rose-coloured letter and its news when I got in from London late yesterday evening. I’m so sorry. How sickening for you to have to go through this – I do hope very much that you are now safely over the operation and will quickly get through the worst part. You poor darling! What a change for you, in your busy mobile life! But thank goodness you are in good hands, and I do trust that if you are a good patient when you get home again, you will be as well as ever, in time (and even able to go out riding with George!![15])

I didn’t get his message at once – he took enormous trouble to write down that you had been, and then put it in such a safe place that I didn’t find it! (dear Auntie Ethel[16] is getting so dotty that we have to hide things, and so we get in double muddles! )

I’m so very sorry to have missed you. I have been pressed early and late, the Christmas cum carol season being one of my most rushed times of year, this year including the broadcasting in BBC Radio 3 on Christmas Day of my cantata The Nativity – a most lovely performance I have been recording with BBC Chorus, Royal Opera House Strings and Paul Esswood as the Angel. A lot to do, and now that’s off my chest, the usua1 Christmas talk to try and sling together, this year in Music Weekly (successor to Music Magazine), plus Christmas reviewing, which nearly kills me and I run out of adjectives; and score and parts to prepare for first performance, of a sad little folkish piece I have called Requiem for a Dog – Blackberry Fold, the second part of the title an allusion to the folk song of that name and one special to the dog and me. My dear little Pinkie, companion for 16 years (6 litters and a Great-Granny!) died of a stroke a week or two ago[17]. She was playing about peacefully in the garden earlier in the day, looking up at me at the window where I worked and wagging her tail, as was her custom. In the evening as she was quietly snoozing in her basket, she started crying and holding her head on one side. I realized what it was and the vet was here in 20 minutes. He said heart, lungs, everything was in perfect order and that she was in remarkable shape for her years, but that if we allowed her to survive, she would be paralyzed, as the cerebral haemorrhage was simply old age, as with people. I dug her little grave by starlight under the blackberry thicket we both loved. 16 years is a big slice of one’s life and memories and I love some dogs more than many people.

Otherwise, the musical rush continues and the garden clamours for attention, which I can’t often give it! But the calm peaceful weather at the end of summer has helped stave off the winter and the pigeons coo as if it were spring and sleep outside their house on moonlight nights.

I do hope it won’t be 1ong before we can welcome you back with open arms. Don’t try and hurry your recovery and do give yourself every chance (let the men take on!!). I don’t suppose the actual restaurant food, which, if not cuisine à la Suzanne doesn’t have to be prepared by her, will do you any harm! I’m sure you are often visited by your men folk (perhaps even serenaded?!) I will try and get news and find out what are the chances of seeing you.

All possible wishes & so very much sympathy.

& Lots of love,


Suzanne recalled how on Christmas Night she listened with Elizabeth to the BBC- broadcast of The Nativity, ensconced before a large log fire in the middle room at Rooks Nest (sometimes called ‘The Hall’ by Elizabeth), and with just enough white wine to send Elizabeth off to sleep for a while[18].

On 24 March 1974, an entry in Elizabeth’s Pocket diary reads, ‘Suzanne’s concert, St. Paul’s Walden’ (near Stevenage). This refers to a performance of French Songs that Elizabeth had arranged especially for Suzanne[19]. Two songs by Clément Marot (1496-1544), Quand vous voulez faire une amie and Ode to Roland: Mignon, allons voir si la rose had been delivered with a note,

and a third, Allons, allons gai, ma mignonne, duly followed. The words with English précis of the first two and Elizabeth’s translation of the third are given in Appendix 1.

SR4 (MS) Wed 3 July 1974. C/o Sisters of Mary, St. Michael’s Convalescent Home, 93 Marine Parade, Clacton, Essex CO15 6JW.

‘Ma très chère Suzanne,

I could have written before, but have been trying to find my feet, easier said than done! Mais ça commence à marcher peu a peu[20].

And today it has come, your parcel with that beautiful Thing in it & your sweet pink letter, and I’m too thrilled for words. I haven’t tried on the frock yet, as I’m fully clothed & want to catch the post, but I’ll let you know, & shall feel most un-nun-ish, & that’s a good sign!! Your other lovely black-design one has been a boon, so easy-to-wear & so practical, tho’ not yet without cardigan, & there has been a reversion, the last day or two so chilly and stormy that one had to go back into woollies! But both frocks will be just as useful, in fact probably even more so when I leave here for cousins a bit inland – I had nothing else, & these have absolutely solved the problem, grace à toi [thanks to you].

I shall never be able to thank you (tho’ I shall try, en ma façon) for all your sweetness & your practical help & goodness to me in Lister [Hospital, Stevenage], & the precious time you spent, & trouble. I have a real conscience for all the bother I caused! Tu es un vrai ange guardian, qui me sauva, qui me sauva non seulement en me nourissant de ces deliciaux délicaces, mais en mes moments les plus frénétiques de Général C!! [21]

There is no one who would have been such a very special darling as you, or so understanding… & the dresses and all. A huge, huge great loving hug & so very much love,

Toujours E x x x x x x x

I’ll let you know when I’m back – it won’t be just yet awhile, as I’m supposed to keep off work for a bit, & my brother [Ralph] will be able to hold the fort for August. In the meanwhile, it is all very quiet & kind & nice here, the good soers [sisters] doing a wonderful job, & the food nice – simple & beautifully cooked & served (v[ery]nice freshly-caught local fish &c), so the tempo just suits me & I am thankful to be breathing the sea air & looking hopefully onward – so MUCH grace à toi. x x’

The French songs were sung again by Suzanne at Weston Parish Church on 31 October that year, again with June Moore accompanying on the harpsichord. Suzanne sang once more at Weston on 22 December with the Cantata Singers (including her son Richard, tenor) when Elizabeth’s The Nativity (A Sequence for Christmas) was included in the programme; the notes that Elizabeth kindly provided at the time are reprinted below:

Notes by Elizabeth on The Nativity

‘This work, commissioned by the BBC, and first broadcast by them in 1950, is the collaboration of friends. The libretto was put together for me by my friend the poet, Terence Tiller[22], and we had the gift of traditional material for inclusion from his collection from my friend the late R[alph]Vaughan Williams to whom the work is dedicated, and who had a special affection for it. He was fond of pointing out that it is the only one to include the voice of the Unborn Child, who pipes up from within his mother to perform the miracle of the cherries in the Cherry Tree Carol. The Christmas story is told by a narrator (mezzo-soprano or tenor soli or semi-chorus) in the words of the Hertfordshire folk carol: This is the truth sent from above. Mary (soprano solo) and Joseph (bass) sing in character. The part of the Angel, for counter-tenor, originally cast for Alfred Deller, is confined to the scene of’ the Annunciation, when the famous 14th century carol of the angelic salutation, Angelus ad Virginem (The Angel unto Mary) – it is mentioned by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales[23] – is sung in free rhythm by Mary and the Angel over the carol sung by the chorus, the whole rising to a climax, at the Virgin’s Words: Let it be done to me! The old and traditional carols are seen through my own eyes; the rest of the music is original. Two optional spoken carols [one each for male and female narrators] were included as points of reflection and as contrast with musical sound.’

Visit to Stanbrook Abbey[24]

In June 1972, Elizabeth, was invited to a ceremony at Stanbrook Abbey to celebrate the taking of vows by a young woman, an accomplished musician, who had composed a mass for mixed female voices to be sung on the occasion by the Abbey congregation. The Abbess was an old friend of Elizabeth with whom she had studied at the Royal Academy of Music in the early twenties, possibly from 1922. Elizabeth was keen to accept but did not fancy the drive and also wanted the support, as she put it, of a very un-nun-ish companion. So plans were made for her French friend Suzanne Rose to stay overnight at Rooks Nest on Friday 23rd for an early morning start – at five o’clock on Saturday! Even so, Elizabeth brought her friend, not only a cup of tea in bed but breakfast too – on ‘a tray covered with a white embroidered cloth on which she had placed a soft boiled egg, some daintily cut bread ‘soldiers’, some toast, butter and marmalade and a lovely rose from her garden’ and, saying ‘Voila ma chère. Bon appetit’ [Here you are, my dear, enjoy it].

Reaching Worcester, Suzanne went into the Cathedral while Elizabeth changed to make herself ‘more presentable’ for the Abbey. Inside, the choir was practicing carols for a recording to come out in time for Christmas, and as Suzanne sat enthralled in the nave and was joined by the Dean, she was suddenly delighted to hear the beautiful treble solo introduction of Jesus Christ the Apple Tree. The Dean was anxious for the choir to meet Elizabeth, now changed and sitting at the back of the Cathedral, but when signalled to come forward she shook her head, and would not be persuaded; ‘No, no; it’s the wrong firm’ she said later and explained that she had a particular fondness for King’s College Choir, Cambridge and David Wilcocks. Suzanne felt that Elizabeth could be quite shy at times and certainly did not like to be made a great fuss of.

The Benedictines at the Abbey, a contemplative silent order, were warmly welcoming and offered refreshments, including fruit juices and cordials after the nuptial service. Elizabeth, so as not to be understood, commented in French that such a celebration in France would surely have been accompanied by wine; but a gentleman, standing not far away, agreed in his Provençal French!

On 11 October, 1975, as a 70th birthday tribute to Elizabeth, a recital was given by Caroline Clack (soprano) & Stephen Dickenson (piano) at the home of Gunnvor & Oliver Stallybrass, 106 Westwood Hill, London, attended by Suzanne, as the following letter indicates.

SR5. (M) 9 November 1975

‘Ma bien chère Suzanne,

I was so touched when I found your names on the list of contributors to that very gracious Birthday Present & cheque – wholly inattendu [unforeseen], as it was all kept secret from me & came as a complete surprise, I felt quite overcome! So very sweet of you, & so sweet of you too, to come – it made such a difference having you, & I fear you must have felt half dead![25] I’m so glad the trip was such a success. I must say, you both had splendidly bonne mine [good appearance] and looked as if you had had marvellous food!

About Nov 19th, could you add to your kindness & bring Margaret Moore[26] too? If you are sure it wouldn’t be adding too much to the food problem. If it is, be sure & let me know, & I could feed her here before we come over to you. The hall [the Purcell Room, London] is sold out. She is longing to come, & Tony Hopkins [concert conductor] has let me have one of his own tickets for her. She isn’t strong enough to do the night drive on her own, & to go by train in a long frock, etc is misery, so I thought you wouldn’t mind if she joined us, it would make her very happy. If you could do with the two of us to feed first, she could leave her car here and come on with me.

Let me know what time to be with you & with much love & so many loving thanks on an occasion that made being so one of the nicest things of a lifetime!

Toujours votre


SR6. (M) 1976? (3-fold notelet, with etching of cellist & harpist).

Mais qu’est ce que tu deviens? [Now, what has become of you?] Time we met. I do hope all is well.

Do come & support us on Sat. – they have worked very hard & it should be good. My work: Hertfordshire première! There’s a real Hurdy-Gurdy[27] (14C version) coming down from London.

Baisers [Kisses] x x x Elizabeth’

During 1978, in the midst of serious illness herself, Elizabeth’s thoughts were directed entirely to her addressee.

SR7. (M) Friday 22 July 1978

‘Ma chère Suzanne,

It was sweet of you to write. I was horrified at the accident – you must have been sick with worry.

Yesterday night I rang you late enough to be hopeful of catching you, & was very relieved to have a word with Peter [Suzanne’s husband] & hear about something. It is a miracle things were no worse – I do so hope Richard’s [Suzanne’s son’s] injuries will soon mend and that the bikes will mend too & be re-assembled as soon as the case & costs can be got through.

I’m sure the best thing for you all is to get some holiday, and the West Country plan sounds very nice. I am tied with BBC &c. into August & then my kind Canadian friends[28] suggest taking me as courier & ‘show them England’, which is another way of saying a break in good hotels, & I must say, I wouldn’t mind that, provided I can fix a sitter here. By then it will be September, & I do hope to see you then. I shall take no news as good. Bon courage

& lots of love, ever Elizabeth X.’

SR8. (M) 31 October 1978. St. Celia’s Convalescent Home, West Bay, Westgate-on-Sea. Kent.

‘Ma très chère Suzanne,

J’allais vous écrire plus subitement, vous remerciant de tout mon cœur pour vos chers soins, les adorables piqueniques et le tout de vous-mêmes qui m’ont fait une si bonne guérison. J’ai attende un peu jusqu’à ce que mes mains me fonctionnent un peu mieux – elles sont à présent moins bien que mes jambes[29], forgive the wiggly, wiggly! But all goes on well. I’m feeling so much better & am so grateful for all your sweetness that makes such a difference x x.

I was delighted & tickled to death to get your card & letter ‘living in France! – this was when I called in at home to collect a few woollies &c for the sea. Everybody was so kind & brought me by stages from Weston to the cousins in Suffolk & from there here, where I’m enjoying the good air and a gloriously mild sunny spell. The Home people are very kind & the food is nice, particularly the locally caught fish.

I have priceless histories to tell you about our friend at home (you’re not the only one!!). Thank goodness for me he has managed to hang on & look after Comfort till I get back, when I so look forward to seeing you – I do hope all goes well. Ne travaillez pas trop! [Don’t overdo it!] Very much love & [an] enormous Thank You,

À bientôt, [goodbye for now]

Elizabeth x.

SR9. (M) Rooks Nest le 16 mars [1979], taken to be 1979 because Elizabeth, in summarising the year in her Pocket Diary wrote, inter alia, ‘A frozen start to the year. A very severe winter: snow Dec-April, then wet’).

‘Ma chère Suzanne,

C’ment ça va? On est un train de sortir de la neige pour la seconde fois. Pendant les semaines passées, le chemin a été coupé pendant plusieurs jours en toutes directions[30] – the police coned off the road on both sides!

If you are free, would it not appeal to you to come to a production of TURANDOT by Southgate Technical College in their theatre (this side of London – it is N14) the evening of Wed. 9 May or Thurs. 10 May at 7.30 pm? They came down in a party to visit the house and have offered me tickets. I don’t know what the performance will be like but it is enterprising – a fascinating opera one doesn’t often get a chance to see, Puccini at his lushest!

Or will you be singing Grieg & Monteverdi in Timbuctoo [sic] or Mississippi? On ne sais jamais! [One never knows!][31]

Lots of love et un gros baiser, [and a big kiss]

Elizabeth x.’

SR10. (M) Monday 30 March 1981

‘Très chère Suzanne,

The police have been here this morning, warning me to stand by for the Burglary case[32], which they say is likely to be any time this week – the Crown Court, St. Albans. You only get definite notice the night before, & as I have to give evidence, I have to be there. So that means we shall have to postpone our lovely plan for Wednesday – Sickening, as we had just got it fixed up! (I shall feel in need of you & the Trout all the more!).

Could you manage next week instead, Wednesday, April 8th? That would be my only Wednesday till April 22nd (Bank Holiday week). Do let me know. I’m so sorry.

All love, X.’

SR11. (M) 4 May 1983

‘Très chère Suzanne,

Merci de tout mon Coeur [Thank you with all my Heart] for your lovely time. It was so very sweet of you to look after me so sweetly & to waft us home in your cosy voiture [car].

I hope everyone to do with the H[atfield] Phil[harmonic Chorus] was inspired by their tremendous success. The concert was marvellous & the reception & all charming[33]. All that is now required: more bodies in the hall! But one has to build, & this was a splendid London start, & I do hope Michael [Kiblewhite, the conductor] feels that too.

Viens manger des escargots lorsque cela t’est possible [Come and eat snails when you can manage it].

All love


SR12. (M) 16 July 1984 (Envelope marked URGENT)

‘Très chère Suzanne,

I did so enjoy our lunch – Merci, merci. x x

If I have not been able to establish contact with you before then – I have tried 4 times up to date, yesterday & today – DO PLEASE RING me tomorrow (Tuesday) first thing.

Best ever,


SR13. (M) 26 October 1984 (date on envelope); Note – with picture of bells in the kitchen at Rooks Nest, called ‘Kitchenscape’.

‘Très chère Suzanne,

It was so sweet of you to give us such a lovely party, I did so enjoy it, & all the wonderful things you brought. The house is full again of that glorious aroma! For I have had one plat of snails, as good as ever, re-heated, & both left so beautifully packed up by you; the other kept for tonight, & I shall + Ricard!! burn the bouts de bougie [midnight oil] to your health & happiness always.

All my loving thanks

E. x’.

SR14. (M) 8 Oct. 1985.

‘Très chère Suzanne

Rather short notice: I have been in hospital, but fortunately out in time! Is there any chance you could come? This has been fixed as specially for the County. The BBC are following up.

The occasion has crept up on me & I can’t really realise it.[34]

The Hatfield fiasco has turned into nothing but good. Arts Council grant, new commissions, more work than I can undertake & the most exciting plans.

Much love


Christopher Robinson is very fine: the Queen’s man at Windsor (Chapel Royal). I am very honoured.’

SR15. (M) 5 December 1986. C/o Poston, Nr. Colchester as from Rooks Nest

‘Ma très chère Suzanne,

Comment ça va? What on earth should I have done without you! You are sweetness itself to come to my rescue & so very marvellously to prop me up and cheer me on & feed me through a time that was pretty much of a cauchmar [nightmare]. Maggie’s[35] cuts not the time to be in hospital – a normally decent place turned into a madhouse. Without you I think there were times I should have gone under; the sight of your sweet face & the knowledge that you were there pulled me through.

Me voici [Here I am], after a very nice week with Robin [Poston], the doctor cousin & his family, handed me on to his parents, dear saintly people, he now retired, in their happy warm & attractive home, a wonderfully peaceful setting where I am slowly getting second wind, though it isn’t exactly blowing a gale yet! Bones are proverbially slow to mend, & mine are no exception, but the arm is a tiny bit less helpless, and legs have progressed from walking frame to stick. The weather has been fine & mild since I have been here, & I have greatly enjoyed drives about this lovely river-countryside where Constable painted his pictures[36].

Tom[37] & the neighbours have been marvellous keeping an eye on Rooks Nest & Polly [the dog], one of the girls sleeping in, to my great relief; & I expect to be getting back before long, as I have to go back to the hospital for a check nearer Christmas. It will be awkward being without car for a bit, but I hope it won’t be too long. My bed has been moved downstairs, & I think some Bach &c. in the left hand will be the best therapy!

Then there will be a gorgeous prospect of you and SNAILS! The Tai shirt has been very helpful, and the family have lent me a poncho which too is enormously helpful & covers up the rest, & is warm as well, so I am slightly less of a ragbag than I was!

I do hope all goes well with you & that you are not getting too tired or overdoing your countless kindnesses to other people. So much love and all my thanks.

Elizabeth x x x,’

Elizabeth died the following March and after the memorial service, Suzanne was reacquainted with Simon Campion, to whom Elizabeth had bequeathed all her manuscripts. Since Suzanne had recently retired from teaching, she jumped at his invitation to sort and catalogue the material and worked in the music room cum office where Elizabeth had done all her composing. Suzanne went there two or three times a week, working from mid-morning until mid- afternoon. Heavy parcels of manuscripts, wrapped in old yellowed newspapers and dated with the year, were brought down from the attic, almost every musical work accompanied by correspondence and notes to and from people who were involved. Not only were there replies to her letters but rough draughts of her own, including a short note to E. M. Forster with pencilled amendments, all in her beautiful handwriting:

EMF1. (M) (The date, probably early in May 1965)

‘Dear Morgie,

I am so distressed to hear the news of your heart attack[38] – I do hope it has left you still good-hearted! & not too poorly. Do be careful (but not enough to spoil things).

Mum was 89 yesterday – we went for a drive in the lanes, it was a lovely day & the house smiled in the sunshine.

Very dearest love – we do hope to hear better news soon.


Like so many, Suzanne was remembered in Elizabeth’s Will, receiving, as well as items of jewellery, the French shepherd’s woven coat which Elizabeth wore so often, as illustrated in the frontispiece – ‘never washed’, she said!

4. Extracts of Letters to Joan Littlejohn

Joan Ann Littlejohn, a prolific writer of poems and songs was on the administrative staff of the Royal College of Music (1960-1983). The complete correspondence between her and Elizabeth, spanning the period, 1972-1986, will be made generally available at the Devon Record Office in the year 2027, but in the meantime, photocopies of a small number have been shown to the editor and permission kindly given to use them, in part, in the present volume. The transcriptions of letters or extracts from these that are utilised here have been given the prefix JL, numbered chronologically 1 to 6 and given the suffix, (T) or (M) to indicate whether the originals are typed or in manuscript.

The first extract (from JL1 (T), 16 January 1978) relates to a proposed visit by Joan to Rooks Nest on Thursday 26th for a long recuperative weekend, which included a concert. But Elizabeth’s offer to pick Joan up at Hertford Station had to be cancelled, as she explained:

‘I am being visited that day by the Royal Commission for the Preservation of Historical Monuments (– me or the house?) who have asked permission to take winter photographs for a book. By the end of the day I suspect I shall have had as much as I can manage. Present seasonal hazards are a risk on the road at night. By road Hertford is half an hour or more; by train, 15 minutes. If I make the effort of night driving when it is cold and I am tired, it is apt to bring on an attack of pain, and then I am no good to any body.’

Much of the letter is given to encouraging Joan in dealing with life’s problems:

Go forward. Cut your losses. The gains are infinitely greater. What is real and of value in each one of us is there as the stuff of creation, to be used: something positive, whether for pleasure or pain, our own unique individual contribution from the rich experience of living, to be transmuted and turned into gain, […]’

As it turned out, the whole weekend had to be cancelled and Elizabeth wrote again (JL2 (T), 23 January) with regret, offering more words of advice:

‘I was taught from the outset to meet the great gift of life as it deserves: that not just Elizabeth and her whims mattered: the example of precept and service and steadfastness that has helped me through … ‘that ye may have life and have it more abundantly’. […]

As you grow older you will gain the bleak realisation that few, if’ any, are interested in oneself’ or one’s problems. It’s so much easier to ignore them. […]

[…] I had to cancel the concert because I knew I was not likely to get through. Now all is off. Matters are taken out of my hand. I am in almost continual pain and am being put back in hospital, Rooks Nest closed down. I have no time to do more than arrange in my Will that your very kind gift to the house go back to you in time. It was a very sweet thought, so much valued, as all your sweet thoughts. I thank Joan for the friendship that does matter, and for happy times shared. Please believe the love and concern that have been my sole prompting [for the advice offered].’

Elizabeth was not at all well at the time: she had seen her doctor that afternoon and was repeatedly in hospital that year for examinations and finally struck down with meningitis[39].

The following year, in reply to a long letter from Joan on 18 April in which she mentioned her song writing and asked Elizabeth for her opinion of her work, Elizabeth wrote (JL3 (T), 30 January 1979):

‘Dear Joan,


It was good that you had a session – with Herbert [Howells]. He is right, of course. I would go further and say 100 songs are too many (unless one is as rare a bird as [Peter] Warlock). In my opinion, any composer who can leave behind him a lifetime’s contribution of 12 good songs, accepted, wanted and sung has done a worthwhile job.

I do not believe that in general, the role of ‘lyric songwriter’ is a career. For one thing, it breeds subservience to the piano, which is limited and limiting and itself begets clichés, which, unless one is a Chopin or Rachmaninov, is no real contribution. I notice that your writing does repeat itself. This is piano influence, and even in The Bonny Earl, where more enterprising writing was apparent, the piano was pulling you back. You will only find liberation – as I think I said to you before – into the true full expressive realm of music when you throw away the piano and get down to essentials: not try and pull out all the stops on Full Organ before you can speak in linear terms, singly, voice and f1ute, say; one instrument; two; a trio. Only when you have discovered this and found its mastery will you be freed and able to express without the heavy harmonic vice that acquires a stranglehold. We most of us have this difficulty; those who do escape, escape into freedom and find their own wings. If this doesn’t appeal to you and you simply don’t want to, you can always go on pouring out songs as a harmless form of self gratification, but looking the thing realistically in the face, you will at least realise what it’s worth, and its value (if any) to you. The world is overfull of songs, and unless anyone can produce really first class products spoken with a truly individual voice, something that people want and will use and buy, a private-enthusiasm glut won’t get the producer or anybody else anywhere.

You pose a difficult question when you ask me: What is your work? In trying to find an answer, I would suggest that you have been trying being a ‘1yric song writer’ long enough and ask you to remember that certain people and you are one, who are widely and exceptionally gifted, are the very ones who often experience this problem of focus, i.e. how best to orientate a gift, how best to concentrate and proceed, and that it is very possible, as life develops, having oneself the basic and valuable essential of a sustaining job, that you can bring all your gifts into play, unshackled by an obsession with one thing, and use them in an ever fuller and richer orbit, with in consequence, more and more satisfaction and interest and enjoyment to oneself. The price is a discipline of proportion: the ability to discriminate, rather than cling to an idée fixe, which could prove an ignis fatuuis [will-o’-the-wisp], a blind alley enslaving one’s way. Only you can determine.

End of sermon. You don’t, of course, have to pay the slightest attention. You ask what 1 think, and after a misspent life nearing 80, I can only speak the truth, as I have known it. Don’t hold it against me! but do try and come when you can. If not, Rooks Nest will wait, so will I – though it has longer to stay than its owner.




In May 1980, following a visit to Rooks Nest, Joan sent Elizabeth several of her poems – The Little Arbour; Rooks Nest: Front Garden; Conversations; Rooks Nest: Back Garden & Roundabout; and Incantatory Study. Elizabeth replied succinctly and most appreciatively

(JL5 (T) 27 May 1980):

‘Dear Joan,

– how lovely! A weekend so beautifully recorded in kitchen, in arbour, with its full savour of feel and talk … the voles and the cow parsley and Pollawolla [Elizabeth’s dog Polly] and the anonymous slipper. I think my favourite is Incantatory Study and its happy last quatrain [Rooks Nest | always | shall be | merry], so near to the heart of the house and to mine. I always feel it is horrid to have to undo a bed and consign its occupant to train and enclosure. I do hope you will be able to surmount this trying time by being enabled to keep your sights on Liberation and eventually a lovely Devonshire home for you and the dogs, and freedom and all sorts of interests and jobs opening out. (AND NO MORE ARABS or so-called ‘Garden flats’). Thank you so much for my Personal Anthology, much valued and treasured.

Love, ever, Elizabeth.

The rooks: yes, – sad – nary a one. That is, not in constant habitation, though as Shakespeare describes; in ‘another part of the wood’. There were always rooks here, see the ancient field names &c., Rooks Nest, Rook Wood, Rook Hill. It was a shattering blow when they lost their housing a year or two ago when the elms went. They moved only a few yards up the lane, then lost that when the felling and replanting happened last winter and they had to move to the next wood. But they come constantly homing back, holding their parliaments on the ground in the meadow, as if prospecting under a strong instinct to get back. Perhaps they will some day. They were here in force yesterday, the place resounding all day with their cawing, as it always was.’

When Elizabeth was convalescing in Colchester in 1984 she wrote, ‘as from Rooks Nest’

(JL4 (M), 18 April 1984):

‘Dear Joan,

Do forgive me for not having thanked you before for your most welcome earlier letter, & again for your most recent news. It was truly sweet of you to send me that beautiful Lenten Rose, particularly welcome, as I had lost a previous one – I think from too much drought & not enough water. Now I have yours & have put it in a quite different place where I hope it will like it. I was thrilled when it arrived all beautifully packed in its Devon soil. It put out another bud quite quickly & all its blooms came out, & it seems to be doing fine. It was a wonderful thought of yours. So was the Butcher’s Broom [Ruscus aculeatus], which, incidentally has taken hold & has grown quite a bit, if slowly, & seems content where I put it among the herby mixture beneath my workroom window. All permanent thoughts of you.

I was so very glad to have such happy news of you at Chanterhayes [Devon], & that you are growing into village life, where your many activities sound just the thing. The people are obviously taking you to themselves, & that’s a happy & gratifying thing to be proud of. I’m delighted too that you have HH’s [Herbert Howells’] piano – as it should be. I hope you’ll give it some work!

Pardon this awful scrawl – I had a poor winter on the whole, tho’ it was in no sense a really severe one for weather – but I felt ill & couldn’t manage much. I finally collapsed and was rushed to hospital, where I have been some weeks under intensive & somewhat drastic treatment – trouble: blood pressure & pulse almost down to vanishing point, all very serious. Perhaps I have been trying too hard. Now convalescing with dear & favourite cousins in this peaceful loveable Constable country, now all new willow-gold[40] & daffodils. Polly is being looked after by friends. I hope to be back before long. I would rather die in the dear place than live without it, tho’ I have no intention of doing either just at present! so not to worry. Look after Joan – & I do hope dear Bingo [Joan’s collie dog] goes on all right. We shall, as always, have lots to talk about when we meet!

Ever much love,


Elizabeth’s last letter (JL6 (T), 10 January 1986) was written not long before she died.

‘My dear Joan,

What lovely and intriguing surprises! one, incidentally, I found quite difficult to prise open, it was so securely done up! It is perfectly sweet of you to send me the beautiful and very special watering can, and in its pretty box (snuff?). I hope Grandma would be happy about it, and that you will be. Where things have been, who loved them and touched them, matters very much (it does to me) and applies particularly to this delightful and original object. Thank you most warmly on behalf of them all – and me.

I think its home will be in the Dolls’ House – c. 1850 vintage, passed on to my mother from great friends in a lovely house, and so in time, to me, who cherished it greatly, as I still do: something it lacked: a real can to water its garden that used to be a discreet compound of sticks and stones and moss and snowdrops on the floor beneath it, there kindly tolerated by those whose job it was to keep the nursery floor clean.

Now the whole domain of Rooks Nest is being cleaned up and restored, a quite voluntary sword in heart, so that when I go it can go ahead prepared, with its treasures in place. At between 80 and 90 this leaves me much to do (and to earn!) at around double the volume and some half the tempo! But perhaps better so – it makes death less of a vacuum and oneself daily more up to the mark with an unknown deadline to keep.

I am closely and vividly sympathetic about your trials and difficulties with Chanterhayes, disappearing builders (yes! I have known this) and the awful chaos and discomfort one is let in for in times of house trouble. With the will and a bit of luck, one has a strong chance of survival and coming through, though it takes a deal of faith as also of trial. There does indeed come a time, as I know well, when one has to put first things first – and even decide on which are first – and let the cobwebs go. I am in the midst of this and I find the surest practical trial is the sorting/filing &c. in cold weather, when all I feel like is making a bonfire of the lot and warming my bones at the ashes!

But we can muster six aconites and a few chilly-looking snowdrops and spring will come, and summer, so may my thoughts and wishes add will and blessings on your way.

I am glad the piano survives and is acclimatising to Devonshire. You are fortunate if you can get a really reliable tuner, a rare and vanishing species. I am lucky in having one, a friend who has command of the RFH and top London jobs and has come to live locally; but the price is awful, and in the meantime, with putting it off as long as safe, my treble also goes a trifle atonal.

It is good news to hear you are rounding up your recollections of Herbert [Howells] and are purposing to do something with them, for remember their value for the future. Why not try them when ready, on someone right outside the personal circle, like a good (musical) publisher’s reader? one who knows all the requirements of the writing and is not a personal friend, which would be most likely to yield a disinterested unbiased opinion, a thoroughly professional one, unencumbered by personal considerations which can be awkward and inhibiting, as friends have inhibitions as regards friends. Anyhow, at whatever stage, I hope you will keep at it. And that by degrees, you will be able to disentangle the house.

Thank you again –

With love & appreciation & a caressing salute to all (Joan & Co.) E. PTO

I am not sure whether I said before, but will make it clear now, that the move in your life with your acquisition of Chanterhayes, automatically rules out any position of on-the-spot help as regards Rooks Nest that might have been possible with your proximity, as I suggested some years ago, you might like to have[41]. Though I hope this revision will in no way preclude your status as its friend always persona grata. That would make me very happy here & now.


5. Elizabeth and the BBC Production of Howards End

John S. Alabaster

The BBC’s colour television adaptation of E. M. Forster’s Howards End, broadcast as the Play of the Month on Sunday 19 April 1970 drew, not only plaudits in the national press for Glenda Jackson’s interpretation of the role of Margaret Schlegel, but also tributes to Elizabeth for her incidental music.

Forster had written the original in 1910, based upon the situation and occupants of the house, Rooks Nest, Stevenage, where he had lived as a boy and where, much later, Elizabeth, also as a child, moved with her family and never left. She developed a particular affection for it and its associations with the past, which may partly explain why, in writing to one of her closest friends, Jean Coulthard, in the 40’s and 50’s, she very often put her address as Howards End, occasionally as both Howards End and Rooks Nest and in a few cases even as Howards Nest![42] As an adult, she had also come to know Forster and had kept in regular touch from the late 40’s, he visiting Rooks Nest a few times almost every year.

In June 1969 Elizabeth, on being approached by the director of the film Donald McWhinnie, to compose the incidental music, had replied somewhat tentatively:

‘The story of Howards End is as yet only half told. EMF [E. M. Forster] and I feel very privately about it, and I wonder if I could do something musically that concerns me so personally – but I should have felt sad, I think, if you had asked someone else first! Could we talk about it? I should love to work with you and for you again.’[43]

In the event, in July, she joined Donald on shooting location both at Ashwell, just north of Stevenage, for the funeral scene of the first Mrs. Wilcox (with the church bells duly silenced!), and also at nearby Bassingbourne, for the exterior shots of Manor Farm, chosen to depict the house, Howards End. When these events were later reported in the local press[44], Elizabeth had occasion to point out that Rooks Nest had been rejected as the venue, not by choice of TV producers who supposedly thought that the extensive surrounding housing development would prevent the ‘recapture [of] the peaceful rural atmosphere associated with the Howards End of the book’, but because she had not granted her permission; the reason (not mentioned), as she had already explained to the BBC when first approached in April 1969, was the infirmity of her aged mother. She added,

‘Development had nothing to do with it. In view of the book’s prophecy that Stevenage would become London, new housing estates would, in fact, have been very much in place.’[45]

Early in August Elizabeth attended the London studio recording of the film sequences and then, not for the first time with the BBC, or the last, had had to take a very firm line in negotiating a fair contract, and in this case succeeding in more than doubling the fee initially offered; this was for about 15 minutes of music and also allowing for attendance at the final showing of the film as well as making last minute alterations to the score[46]. It is possible that her action had been fuelled by the significant reduction in recent years in the proportion of the BBC’s budget, which was allocated to artists compared with that of BBC programme staff[47]

By the middle of October the music (though not the full score) was written for 20 players, but the final editing and showing of the film to Elizabeth and her friend, Robbie (Douglas Robinson the conductor), was aborted for various good reasons – Donald’s ill health, Robbie’s limited availability, and disputes and strikes at the BBC. Then, despite Elizabeth doing much of the liaison work, the recording session for the music was finally postponed to Sunday 15 February. Not surprisingly, with this loss of momentum, Elizabeth confided her feelings to Robbie in December[48]:

‘My private bother at present is, that with all this messing about and delays and the awful pressures upon me in other ways[49], I dropped work on the score until I could take it up in earnest and finish it, and until I can get right back into it and into my full thought of it, the exact instrumentation isn’t final in my mind. I shan’t have a hope of re-starting work on it till after Christmas (I feel rather exhausted at the moment). Would it be all right if I let you know then? The problem is really a creative one for me – people expect one to turn on the tap… and the thing simply doesn’t work in that way!’

A viewing session was finally arranged for 11 February and, in advance, Elizabeth sent Robbie a borrowed script showing the precise fitting in of critical sequences, pointing out that although the music was not unduly complicated, ‘the total is very subtle and much interwoven’. The recording session at Riverside Studios was now put off until Sunday 22 March, still with some added uncertainty about its duration, and its final transmission fixed for Sunday 12 April.

Delivery of the score to the BBC for copying and preparation of parts early in March was then delayed, first by a rail strike and then by deep snowdrifts around Rooks Nest! So, against her better judgement Elizabeth’s only MS was entrusted to the post! In the event the recording went well and a final dubbing of the music was scheduled for 14 April.

In the meantime, however, Elizabeth now had to urge the BBC to expedite payment to due to her[50], pointing out:

‘It is difficult to get the BBC administration to realise that when he is employed by them, the composer is at the Corporation’s mercy. He has only his time and the lifeblood of his skill to sell. Every month of debt to him is a month of his only means of livelihood. He is without security.

I was told by Assistant Head of Drama (Sound) when I had been waiting for payment for six months, never to ask the BBC for payment. He said, ‘I have been a socialist all my life and I cannot imagine the matter of payment makes any difference to you’.

In point of fact the matter of payment does make a difference to me between life and death. It is literally that. I have sole responsibility for my family and home and one of my family is dying.

This official injunction made me rather nervous. If I am really going against BBC rules in asking to be paid, please disregard it. If it would be allowable, it would help me considerably and would avoid unnecessary work and duplication in circumstances in which the composer concerned has no office staff or facilities and has to cope with everything himself, if the payment outstanding could be made, as it should be [, it should be] detailed to my accountant in statement of Income Tax returns now due. If you would be so kind as to do anything about it, I should be awfully grateful. It is a problem to know when one dare ask these days, without being penalised’.

Despite all the delays and difficulties the broadcast itself went well and was acclaimed generally and by her friends in particular. A final twist to the tale came with the delivery late in July of a letter[51] written on the day of the broadcast, addressed to Elizabeth, C/o The BBC. An accompanying slip indicated that it had been stolen and tampered with and returned to the Post Office by the police!

‘Dear Miss Poston,

You will not know me, but I was in Bristol during the War & used to visit Miss Irene & Miss Isabel Gass who lived in a house in or near Berkeley Square[52]. I remember one day you were pointed out to me by them as one of the BBC musicians.

I am only writing now, fresh from watching Howards End, to say how much delighted I was with your music. It would be interesting to know how it is that the ‘same fountain’ (i.e. those who dictate what is to be played and what suppressed) can ‘turn out both sweet water & bitter’![53] I mean that, to me, the only real music today is being written by composers for film & TV programmes: what is put on in ‘full evening dress’ at the Public Concerts is so vile, & none of the critics dare say so; the famous contemporary names in the composing world carry all before them.

Your music for Howards End has grown so graciously out of the past; it flows from the same service as that of the great generation of Vaughan Williams, Ireland, Bridges & the others.

Yours sincerely

R. L. Shields

Parish Priest.’

It is worth quoting liberally from Elizabeth’s reply:

‘Fortunately the BBC [people] know me well and are very good about forwarding. I do Advisory Council work for them and was formerly on their music staff as my war service as a young post-student when you used to visit those dear sisters Isobel and Irene Gass in Berkeley Cottage in Bristol. Both have since died – Isobel first: Irene, in spite of her bravery, pined and followed her. The house is pulled down. Only a week or two ago, I was in Cheltenham for the first performance in the Festival of a commissioned work[54], I drove on to Bristol to collect from her nephew [Stanley Gass] a Queen Ann stool that Irene left me, that I used to sit on during wartime visits to the cottage[55].

How glad I am that you wrote – it was most kind of you to do so – and that in the end your letter reached me, the greatest encouragement and cheer in the creator’s solitary mission. I feel as you do about most contemporary music, and that the present anarchy in music and throughout the arts generally, is a tragedy and often harmful. The musical ‘dictatorship’ of the BBC has passed since the war mainly into German hands, and part of the anomaly of the war is that in these sad results it should largely have suppressed the English music that is a part of England and the English – their landscape and their heritage.[56]

It is perhaps not surprising that you should have felt as you did about my Howards End music, for the score, as the story, is deeply personal [,] biographic, from the England of Vaughan Williams. He and I sprang from much the same sort of background. My mother was born a few miles from his Gloucester home, and for most of my life he was to me friend, mentor and father in place of the father I lost too early.

I shared with him also – because it was also born in me – his love of and intense interest in English folk song, carols, hymns, children’s songs. It was his wish that I should collaborate with him in various pet schemes he had and which he intended should belong to the latter part of his life. One was what he called ‘putting right the hymn book’; another was the revision he had much at heart of the Oxford Book of Carols. He lived to do neither, and it fell to me to carry on: with The Cambridge Hymnal, a new and far from exhaustive approach sponsored by ‘the other place’, and which I am glad to say, has already during its few years in print, borne good fruit[57]; though the choir edition is not yet on the market. OUP [Oxford University Press], inhibited mainly by reason of still-living copyright holders (mostly of the very things VW [Vaughan Williams] in his latter years wished to get rid of!) would not revise the Carols, and this part of the work has passed to Penguin – the first volume has passed through six editions[58]; the second volume is due this Christmas[59].

Howards End is this house (its old name), common, in their several generations to the childhood of E. M. Forster and myself; where he came with his widowed mother, as I did later with mine in a strange and striking repetition of pattern. It was the place he loved best all his life. In close touch in the years of his retirement at King’s College, Cambridge (also our family college), he was often here. When we were making the film in the hot weather last autumn, he was already suffering the series of strokes, which led to his death, and he was not able to see or hear the film so bound up with life to us both. It was his wish at the end, that apart from myself and those who nursed him, his last ceremonies should be private; and a few weeks ago I followed his coffin, on it bits of the trees here that he loved – some that he planted, and the special ones, the oak he used to swing on; and the rosemary that he wore in his buttonhole every birthday[60]

Nearing the completion of part of a life story, knowing that once again I must continue on my path alone, without either dear presence whose support in each case meant so much to me, conscious of the inevitable solitude of the artist in a largely hostile world, I at first said I could not write the score for the film. I relented because the whole thing was too strong, and because no one else knows the real story. A lifetime – several lifetimes – went into the music: not only the poignancy of the present, but an almost unbearable nostalgia for a past, which the book enshrines, and I expect this communicated itself to you. Love of place, to the countryman, is curiously strong, and this old house has been much loved.

Some day, if I live to tell the tale, I may try and complete the story[61]. Just now, with a grateful aching heart, I am greatly moved by your letter. Please accept my thanks. The score of the film was a collaboration of friends. Douglas Robinson of the Royal Opera House and conducted the Covent Garden Orchestra, friends and colleagues who had played for both Forster and VW [Vaughan Williams], knew the house well and its people. So if ever music was blessed, this was – and I have never before, during the grilling exaction of three days of recording, felt so extraordinarily conscious of it. That, surely, must also mean something.’

6. Elizabeth Poston and Jean Coulthard,

Trans-Atlantic Artists
William Bruneau

Musical biographers quest for their own Holy Grail. They examine the social and political worlds of composers, trying to understand and to account for the music – where it comes from, what it means, why it matters. Those who seek the Grail divide good biography from bad. In the bad sort, composers’ lives are kept entirely separate from their music. Good biography connects the two – demonstrates ties between life and work, between context and content, between society and politics on one hand, and art on another (1). The Grail may be remote, and access may be difficult, but it is not to be resisted.

Unlikely though it may seem, a double biography – the intertwined life/lives of two composers – is less difficult, and the Grail thereby more approachable. In the common life of two composers, especially two geographically distant ones who cannot resist writing to one another, we are almost sure to find conversations about creative problems, descriptions of compositional practice, complaints about the economics of the profession, and references to the circumstances of music-making. Like professionals and artists of all kinds, musicians love to talk shop, and as they talk, we are provided with clues to context and content, music and the life-environments in which it was conceived and produced.

In all these respects, the Elizabeth Poston/Jean Coulthard friendship and its archives do not disappoint. These mid-twentieth century composers were forthcoming, fluent, and explicit. They spent more time apart than together, and they loved to write letters, to maintain day-books and daily agendas, to record their friendship in photographs, to keep old opera and symphony programmes – and of course, to retain their musical manuscripts, and to keep track of business matters that arose from performance, broadcast, and publication of their works.

Each on her own, neither Poston or Coulthard would have been so forthcoming about her working methods or motives (2). Poston kept her lives and loves as separate from one another as she could, and Coulthard, although a social being, was ruthless in keeping to her schedule of musical production. Not for her a correspondence in fifty volumes. It is all the more impressive that we have in the Poston-Coulthard archives so detailed a record, and so ample an opportunity to see how social origins, gender, political accident, and musical preference played out in each composer’s creative life (3).

In 1948, Poston was forty-three years old, working on an occasional, contractual basis at the BBC. Her mother, Clementine, had for twenty years been in touch with cousins living in British Columbia. It was Clementine’s idea, or so Poston told Coulthard, that Elizabeth should spend part of the summer of 1948 in Canada. The younger woman needed time to recover from what was later called a ‘minor breakdown’ after years of exhausting war work (4).

Mother and daughter made the trans-Atlantic journey, visiting the western United States and British Columbia. Their arrival in Canada was perhaps not a great shock to them, despite the isolated rural character of the island on which they landed (5). Elizabeth already knew something of British Columbia, and of Jean Coulthard, having talked about both with her friend, Arthur Benjamin (6). Benjamin lived in Vancouver from 1938 to 1946, conducting one of the CBC radio orchestras, founding another orchestra to recreate the Proms (complete with circulating and standing crowds, champagne suppers, and high drama), and teaching. From 1940 to 1946, he inducted Coulthard into the mysteries of large-scale orchestral writing, and helped see several of her works through to performance in Vancouver and on the national radio (7). Poston wrote to Coulthard:

‘The accompanying letter from Arthur Benjamin is my nice introduction. I arrived from England (8) ten days ago, and as this is the first real holiday I have allowed myself since 1939 when I was called in by the BBC to join their Music Staff, I hope to stay for several months. After much broadcasting to Canada I have yielded to my longing to come out & see it.

I have several families of cousins on this island, & as my arrangements are at present rather subject to theirs, I am uncertain yet as to when I shall get the chance of coming to Vancouver. When I do, please may I let you know? I should so greatly look forward to making your acquaintance and exchanging our mutual interests.’

Poston’s remark about mutual interests turned out to be something of an understatement. The anticipated meeting occurred at the Vancouver home of Coulthard’s artist friends, Lawren and Bess Harris. One of the original Group of Seven Canadian painters, Harris had lived in Vancouver since 1940. Within hours, Poston and Coulthard realized they had both known and learned from Ralph Vaughan Williams in the 1920s – Coulthard as his pupil at the RCM in 1928-29 (9), Poston as the recipient of Vaughan Williams’ encouragement to compose (10).

For Coulthard, who would return to Britain and to Europe some fifteen times between 1949 and 1989, often for long periods of creative work, Poston embodied culture at its source, at the Imperial centre, the starting-place of literature and art she had known in her family and at school. Coulthard’s outlook was mildly colonial and Edwardian, despite her streak of firm Canadian nationalism.

Poston had travelled intensively in France and Italy until the war, and would continue her careful studies of west European folk music and song, now that peace had returned. Coulthard would have been able to show Poston fifteen years’ worth of song, including the recent Two Songs of the Haida Indians (1942), the songs to texts by James Joyce (1946), and Three Shakespeare Sonnets (1947), and to announce in late 1948 her plans for new songs on texts provided by the University of British Columbia (UBC) Professor of Classics, L.A. MacKay. In early 1949, Poston writes to thank her Canadian ‘saviouress’ – a reference to the canned meat, packaged cakes, nylon underwear, and cash arriving regularly from Vancouver (11) – then comes to the question of song:

‘L.A. MacKay ministers to the soul. I weep as I remember Canadian Culture for Beginners on your kitchen table. I have loved renewing and deepening acquaintance with those poems which I had then only time to dip into. They contain an almost infinite variety from the kindliness of the love-poems at the beginning to his virile personal wars as expressed in Ontario and the Canadian Forum Committee! I like particularly Hylas, and Polyphemus Madden’d, and of the early ones, Or as Andromede. All those at the beginning are evocative of music, which is very exciting. I am longing to know how your settings are progressing?’ (12)

Coulthard presumably replied (this we know only by inference, as her replies to all but three of Poston’s letters have disappeared) right away, that the settings were complete. All three of the poems Coulthard chose to set were from the open section of MacKay’s collection, just as Poston advised (13).

In letters from 1952 and 1953, Poston mentions several times her memory of Earle Birney, a Canadian novelist and poet whom she met in 1948 in Vancouver, through Coulthard’s good offices. ‘That nice young man’, was already forty-four in 1948, a year older than Poston. But here the point must be that at its early stages, the Poston-Coulthard relation was an evenly matched thing. Coulthard had become a lecturer at UBC in 1947, and thus could connect Poston immediately to a literary and artistic world not accessible to most Vancouver visitors (14). Besides, Coulthard’s connections to the ‘best and oldest’ Vancouver families brought with it an implication of privilege that, combined with the university connection, may have led Poston to think in excessively respectful terms of her new ‘Professor friend’ (15).

Each exaggerated a little the other’s importance. Poston may have thought of Coulthard much as she did the London and Cambridge acquaintances she had through her BBC work from 1936, and through the symbolically-charged relation the Poston family had with Morgan Forster, and thus with Oxbridge. The reason was partly that Coulthard had habits, values, and connections that one associates ordinarily with cultural power and a fairly high social place. Surely a number of Poston’s English friends exhibited analogous ‘markings’. Poston’s assimilation of Coulthard to an English model must have been the most natural of moves.

Coulthard, on the other hand, was the daughter of an anglophile physician father, and a francophile piano-voice teacher mother. She strongly approved of and agreed with Poston’s clean sense of musical form, and even more with Poston’s occasional assertion that she owed it in part to her studies of European music, and especially French music. The Poston letters and the Coulthard Nachlass [literary legacy] show (and this is not just a matter of inference) how these two discussed Warlock and Poulenc and Stravinsky and Bartók, how they imagined the demands of Early Modern form might guide their 20th-century sensibility. When Coulthard chose to spend precious days in the British Museum and in the Bibliothèque Nationale reviewing the manuscripts of John Dowland and Palestrina (respectively), it was because Poston had persuaded her to make that investment of time and energy.

It will not do to underplay the colonial/colonist relation in much of this. On a 1955 trip to see ‘some English gardens’, Jean felt she must see Vita Sackville-West’s achievement at Sissinghurst. This was before the days of National Trust ownership at the Nicolson-Sackville-West property. Sackville-West and her author-diplomat husband, Harold Nicolson, were in residence at the time, and Coulthard had therefore to be content with a mere glimpse over the hedge. But at that moment, Coulthard and Poston were discovered by none other than Vita herself. Coulthard, as a colonial, was welcomed and shown around. For Poston, who travelled in Sackville-West’s artistic circles, to be found peering in like a common tourist was something of an embarrassment. It was a story that Coulthard relished endlessly and repeatedly in the telling. But why, exactly, did she like this particular story?

The Poston-Coulthard musical relation acted on several planes at once, and across thirty-one years. Coulthard talked Poston into visiting Bernard Wagenaar at Juilliard as Poston returned in late 1948 to the United Kingdom, through New York. Wagenaar had been Coulthard’s ‘root’ teacher in 1944-45, and maintained a close connection with his former pupil afterward. His connections in New York would prove invaluable to Poston, as they had to Coulthard: it was all another of Coulthard’s gifts to her English friend.

The link between the two was of a ‘psychologically peculiar’ kind. I refer to ‘psychology’ in the most practical possible way, as the study of reasons and motives for action, including reasons and motives arising from direct experiences – experience of other people, of the natural world, and… of art. When Coulthard rhapsodized about British Columbia’s ocean and mountains, she had a willing listener in Poston, whose commitment to Forster country was no less great, and no less rhapsodic. In both instances, the psychology tells us much. It takes us from 1) facts about the physical landscape, and direct experience of it; to 2) psychological –or better, emotional and artistic ‘response’; and thus to 3) music-making. This was, for both women, a well-trod path, a sequence that recurred through three decades of experience.

By this time it is obvious that one variety of experience was especially important: it was surely travel, more than any other single kind of experience that made this musical friendship. We have careful diaristic records by Coulthard of journeys through Europe with Poston – Americans would call these journeys ‘road trips’, in the way jazz bands or rock bands speak of their concert tours, or even better as Jack Kerouac would put it (16) – and later a sizeable body (58 letters and cards) of documents sent home to her husband (1959-1960), not to mention still later letters to her daughter – and finally a group of unpublished manuscript autobiographical sketches prepared in the 1980s (17). We have Poston’s letters, sometimes one for every week of the year. These records point again and again to the three-part sequence of experience, response, and art. (There was another psychological feature of travel to which I shall come back in a moment: the presence of other family members – Elizabeth’s mother Clementine, the role of Coulthard’s daughter and husband. But let us stay with travel for the moment.)

Neither woman complained much about the effects of frequent journeys across the Atlantic or through France or down to Cornwall – there might be moments of fatigue or a temporary shortage of cash or the accident of bad food and bad lodging. But complaints were rare.

Summer 1949 was Coulthard’s first visit to ‘Howards End’ (Rook’s Nest House, Stevenage, Hertfordshire) (18). Over the next five years, the records show Coulthard in England, Scotland, and France. In 1952, the year Elizabeth II became Queen, Coulthard journeyed with Poston through southern England and in the south of France, partly for music, but mostly for riotous fun. A long-time violinist friend of Coulthard once characterized the Coulthard-Poston progress through France in 1952, 1955, and 1958 as ‘nothing short of Rabelaisian’ (19). Poston spoke French well and was thoroughly familiar with European roads. Poston’s way of introducing Coulthard to her Europe had a certain romantic drama. She insisted that Jean’s first glimpse of Venice should be in the old manner, by boat, late at night. Jean and Elizabeth sailed through the shadowy canals of la Serenissima.

In 1955-56, it was a year in France, a term in Paris, another in Roquebrune, near Monaco, and a long-last and powerful musical response – songs, large chamber works, a violin concerto, and the beginnings of a full-scale opera – on an utterly English subject, Hardy’s Return of the Native. This is a relatively straightforward piece of evidence in aid of the equally straightforward psychology I described a moment ago.

But of course, it wasn’t quite this simple, for either woman. Coulthard did not travel just to re-charge her emotional batteries, partly by going to the Postonian well. The ‘motive’ was, partly, a brutally simple one: escape. Here the psychology is not as I described it earlier. For Coulthard found long years of teaching, composition, endless business (especially finding publishers and performers), family responsibility, and domestic life took a toll. These factors – teaching, creative work, and family – played a large part in Coulthard’s decisions to take whole summers, and eventually entire years abroad, away from Canada, away from UBC, away from home.

With this additional complication in mind, and remembering the social values that played some part in these women’s friendship, consider the tale of the Poston-Coulthard 1958 trip by car and boat to Greece. Here is Coulthard’s description:

‘We went through Italy by train, and to the port of Brindisi on the coast to take ship. It was perfectly beautiful, of course, the weather, absolutely wonderful, and we went through Corinth and we saw where Sappho jumped to her death. We first stopped at Mikonos that night, and it was fascinating to see the ruins there, the old Roman ruins.

We were given a day or half a day, enough to get up and to see things. Then we came back, and then the boat docked at Athens. We had booked a hotel in England, and we planned bus trips to various places in Greece. The hotel was called the New Angleterre, if you can imagine anything so ridiculous in Greece. It was a second-rate hotel, but clean. From there we took busses, up to Delphi and saw where the prophet did her prophetizing [sic] the Delphic oracle, and so on.

The main thing we were planning was to do some of the islands of Greece. The boat was very pleasant, one of the older boats that used to ply between Vancouver and Victoria, which the Greeks had bought. When I got on I thought, “My goodness, this is familiar!” When I walked into the little cabin with the funny little basins, I felt I’d done it before. And I had! Many times, going to Victoria. So we had quite a laugh about that, because on the life belts we saw the label, Victoria’ (20).

The musical result was Coulthard’s Aegean Sketches for piano.

But now hear Poston on the psychological and artistic benefits of this same trip:

‘Over the Pole, darling – or any handy spot – Drink to me only! Or, as may be more likely, if you feel sick at the very sight of gin – keep it for the next abyss, and just keep on going ’til we take up jointly, sinking into our own particular haven of bliss and haze in heaven-knows-what country, pub, café, ship’s bar… Oh! the places we have sat and drunk this time! All unforgettable, each perfect in its way…all ours, and all for our forever. So is my love, so are my thanks’ (21).

In 1958, the thirteen-year-long succession of crises leading to Clementine’s death at nearly a hundred years of age, had begun. Yet even now, after ten years of sustained Canadian charity (in the best sense of that term), Poston still found herself in some degree dependent on Coulthard for transfusions of material, not just of emotional wealth. As her mother entered the last stages of a long life, the value of travel for Poston became what it had so often been for Coulthard: escape. In short, a simple psychological model (tying experience, and thence to emotion, and thus to art) will no longer suffice. It is true that the engines of creation were still at work in Poston, perhaps more than ever before in the 1950s and 1960s.

But it is difficult to tie any particular experience (including travel to France, Italy, Spain, or Greece) to any particular artistic consequence in Poston’s life after about 1955. We shall have to find another explanatory strategy to deal with Poston, and thus with Coulthard, particularly for the twenty years preceding the final rupture in the friendship (in early 1979). That strategy comes from the history of the two families, the Coulthards and the Postons: and above from the histories of their mothers.

As early as spring 1949, Poston’s letters to Coulthard use the initials F.M. to refer to Clementine Poston. ‘F.M’, in this context, was ‘Foster Mother’. For Poston and her mother had decided in 1949, with all possible sincerity, that they wanted to treat Coulthard as a kind of foster child.

Coulthard had reason to agree with this plan. She had, after all, written and said, any number of times after 1933, that the early death of her mother (in 1933 aged 50) was decisive in every aspect of her emotional life and artistic work. Coulthard after 1933 wrote any number of works called Threnody, and until 1939, they were always written for her dead mother. During and after World War II, the Threnodies of Coulthard’s chamber and vocal output might refer either to the horrors of ‘our war century’… or to the death of Mrs Coulthard. To meet and to know another woman composer, similarly working to create the social category we call ‘woman composer’, was already in Coulthard’s eyes, something miraculous. But to be given back a mother, was still more remarkable.

F.M.’s death in 1971 was an enormous grief to Elizabeth Poston (22), but almost as much so to F.M’s Foster Daughter, Jean Coulthard. The musical result was, in Coulthard’s case, the ninth section in Coulthard’s greatest single musical work, the Twelve Essays on a Cantabile Theme (1972) for double string quartet, a section called The Wood Doves Grieve

For Coulthard, the outcome of that death was the making of art. For Poston it was, a little unexpectedly, political art as much as it was musical. It was, to paraphrase Margaret Ashby, Poston’s work now to fight to keep Howards End as it had been, and to keep development from destroying the Hertfordshire Poston loved almost as she loved her own life.

Perhaps we should not be surprised at this modest change of direction. Poston’s musical output was indeed significant and consistent after 1945, but it was always balanced, and sometimes outpaced by her work in several informal political spheres. In the 1940s and early 1950s, Poston was working to build up the BBC’s Third Programme. Then she was encouraging generation upon generation of young musicians and composers, not least women performers and composers in Britain. Then she was editing and writing songbooks and carol and hymn collections to give English seasonal music, church music, and the music of English places, a strong new foundation. Certainly her work for her beloved Society of Women Musicians must be an element in this list.

It may not matter much how one chooses to explain or to assess the lengthy creative lives of Elizabeth Poston and Jean Coulthard, or to understand their companionable relation. The central facts remain: their music was good and plentiful, and they demonstrably helped make possible a new professional life for women composers across the world. Description may be enough. We shall wait yet awhile for persuasive explanation.

End Notes

(1) In their biographies of Brahms and Mozart, Jan Swafford and Maynard Solomon come within sight of the Grail. But although Swafford gives us family history (Brahms’s unhappy lives as underprivileged child, tavern pianist, disappointed lover), he cannot finally say how his theory accounts for, say, Brahms’s late piano intermezzi or the fourth symphony. Solomon wanders off into psychotherapy and musical economics (!), yet cannot persuasively explain Mozart’s last operas. Mozart’s sentimental histories never quite connect with the formal power of all his works, great and small. The Grail is in sight, but never grasped. Jan Swafford, Johannes Brahms: A Biography (New York: A. Knopf, 1997); Maynard Solomon, Mozart: A Life (New York: HarperCollins, 1995).

(2) This is not to say that musical diarists and autobiographers would never deal with such matters. A fine example of compositional autobiography is Ned Rorem, Facing the Night: A Diary (1999-2005) and Musical Writings (London: Shoemaker and Hoard, 2006), the latest of a lengthy series of published diaries by the distinguished American composer. Berlioz, at his autobiographical best, was surely as explicit and practical as Rorem; see his Mémoires, ed. Pierre Citron (Paris: Flammarion, 2000).

(3) This is not to say that the documents are perfectly representative or complete, either for Poston or for Coulthard. See below, in text and notes, discussion of lacunae on both sides of the Post-Coulthard relation. The main one is that Poston’s several hundred letters to Coulthard, carefully preserved and archived, have no counterpart. That is, almost none of Coulthard’s letters have survived. For Coulthard’s side of the relation, we have to rely on annotated photographs, brief autobiographical sketches, the recollections of Jane Adams (Coulthard’s daughter), and detailed interviews Coulthard gave to her biographer, William Bruneau. On the other hand, Poston and Coulthard were alike in maintaining day books and agendas for the entire period, with relatively few gaps. The public records for each composer include, of course, the archival remains of their student days (at the RCM for Coulthard and the RAM for Poston), business records for musical publications, programmes and correspondence with national broadcasters (the CBC and BBC, respectively), and evidence of property ownership, probate, marriage, and death and correspondence with national broadcasters (the CBC and BBC, respectively), and evidence of property ownership, probate, marriage, and death..

(4) The cousin was probably a child of Norman Wolf Wilson, married to Ethel Crowe in Salt Spring Island on August 14, 1909. For marriage record, consult Salt Spring Island Archives, 129 McPhillips Avenue, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia V8K 2T6 Canada.

(5) Salt Spring Island was after 1865 (and still is) the most densely populated of the Gulf Islands, which islands form a lengthy chain in the waters between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Salt Spring is 29 km long and up to 14 km wide, with 133 km of shoreline and 182 km² of land area. The population of the island was just over 400 in 1948. The island was then connected to the mainland by ferry boat, and there were rudimentary telephone services after 1940. The society and economy depended on farming, small-scale ranching, a tiny fishery, and the lumber trade.

6Arthur Benjamin (born Sydney, Australia 18 Sept 1893; died London, UK 10 April 1960) entered the Royal College of Music (RCM) at 18, studying composition with Stanford, and left at the outbreak of war in 1914. In 1926 Benjamin became a member of the RCM staff. Like his countryman Benjamin Britten, Benjamin experienced World War II outside the UK, in this case in Vancouver, Canada (Britten – 1913-1976 – returned, of course, to Britain in 1942). Arthur Benjamin’s Canadian sojourn allowed him to instruct a clutch of young Canadian composers, and to build a lively (if brief) career as conductor and broadcaster in the Canadian west.

(7) On Benjamin’s Australian background, later career in the United Kingdom, and generally sceptical view of music teaching (he did not think composition could be taught), see R. Barnett, ‘Arthur Benjamin: Australian Symphonist’, Journal of the British Music Society, 10 (1988): 27-35.

(8) Elizabeth travelled with her mother, Clementine. Clementine broke an ankle during her summer 1948 stay in Salt Spring Island, but recovered well enough to travel back to the United Kingdom soon after Elizabeth returned to England, via New York City.

(9) Coulthard travelled to London as the first recipient of a scholarship provided by the Vancouver Women’s Musical Society. Her return to Canada in 1929 almost coincided with the opening of the Great Depression; from 1930 until 1949, Coulthardlacked the financial means to return to the United Kingdom for further musical studies, however much she might have wished to do so.

(10) Michael Hurd and Jamie Bartlett, ‘Poston, Elizabeth’, Grove Music Online (accessed 20 May 2007).

(11) In thousands of British families, post-war rationing led to hardship. Few escaped the difficulty of life under rationing, and often the only relief came from packages dispatched from American and Canadian friends, relatives, or kindly strangers. The eastward flow of food, clothing, and other things from North America to England features in many volumes of correspondence edited and published in the past half-century. Among them are Helen Hanff, 84 Charing Cross Road (New York: Grossman, 1970); Isaiah Berline, Letters, 1928-1946, ed. H. Hardy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); and C.S. Lewis, Collected Letters, 1950-1963 (London: HarperCollins, 2006). These three show that even relatively privileged English people – a well-established bookseller, an Oxford don, an influential London business family – gladly accepted donations from the USA and Canada. Poston’s dependence on and gratitude to Coulthard was therefore not unusual. That dependence eventually became a festering wound in the relation between the two women, and may help to account for the sudden and noisy end of the friendship in 1978-79, an event briefly discussed in Bruneau and Duke, Jean Coulthard, pp. 86 & 119.

(12) Letter, E. Poston/J. Coulthard, Stevenage/Vancouver, 16 January 1949, in Poston Letters, Poston fonds, Archives of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Hereafter, these letters are cited as ‘EP/JC’ and date, and unless otherwise indicated, that form of citation implies Poston’s address at Stevenage, and Coulthard’s in Vancouver.

(13) Jean Coulthard, The Ill-Tempered Lover (1948) settings of three poems by L.A. MacKay, from MacKay’s The Ill-Tempered Lover and Other Poems (Toronto: Macmillan, 1948).

(14) On Coulthard’s social background and position, see W. Bruneau and David G. Duke, Jean Coulthard: A Life in Music (Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2005).

(15) It is worth noting that Poston never did understand Coulthard’s true academic position at UBC. Coulthard never advanced in the professorial ranks, occupying a lectureship of the lowest rank throughout her career. The reason for Coulthard’s placement in the UBC ranks has to do with institutional politics, not with Coulthard’s productivity, or with her national and international importance as an artist. See W. Bruneau, ‘Music and Marginality: Jean Coulthard and the University of British Columbia, 1947-1973’, in E. Smyth, et al., eds., Challenging Professions: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Women’s Professional Work (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 96-116.

(16) Jack Kerouac, On the Road (New York: Viking, 1957).

(17) J. Coulthard, ‘Trip Diary’, volumes for 1952, 1958, and 1965, in the Coulthard Papers, Archives of the University of British Columbia (UBCA). In the accessions for 2002-2006, see the autobiographical reminiscences, ts. and ms. The Coulthard Papers are referred to hereafter as ‘JCP’. A distinct but crucial class of Coulthard documents is the lengthy sequence of transcripted interviews conducted between 1994 and 2000 by William Bruneau; the electronic and physical records of those interviews are on deposit at UBCA.

(18) On the Postons’ acquisition of Howards End, and the relations between the house and the outlook of novelist E.M. Forster, see Margaret Ashby, ‘Wilcoxes and Postons: Fiction and Reality at Howards End’, in John S. Alabaster, Ed., Elizabeth Poston Centenary, 2005: Contributed Articles and Personal Letters (Stevenage: Friends of the Forster Country, 2006), 1-7.

(19) Transcript, interview, Thomas Rolston/W.A. Bruneau, Vancouver, Canada, 26 May 1996, transcript in Coulthard Papers, Archives/UBC, Accession III.

(20) Interview, Coulthard/Bruneau, 22 January 1997.

(21) Letter, EP/JC, 14 September 1958.

(22) Margaret Ashby, ‘Wilcoxes and Postons: Fiction and Reality at Howards End’, in John S. Alabaster, ed., Elizabeth Poston Centenary, 2005: Contributed Articles and Personal Letters ((Stevenage: Friends of the Forster Country, 2006), 5.

7. Correspondence with Madeau Stewart, 1964-87

Madeau Stewart (1922-2006) was archive features producer for BBC Radio Three and had a great deal in common with Elizabeth Poston: she was fluent in French (her mother tongue); she was musical, having studied flute and piano; she was interested in incidental music for drama; early musical instruments became a passion of hers; and she was also engaged in collecting and recording non-British folk music. So it is hardly surprising they became such good friends, corresponding over a period of some 20 years.

Some correspondence received by Madeau from Elizabeth is deposited at the Records Office at Oxford amounting to 57 items, mostly letters, spanning the period from 1963 to at least 1982. Their reference numbers are P143/3/C/1 to P143/3/C/57 and, for the sake of simplicity, are numbered here as S1 to S57, avoiding any confusion through the use for the prefix of both Stewart’s initials (MS), an abbreviation that can denote a manuscript document. Numbers S1 to S49 are unequivocally dated and their transcriptions are printed here in chronological order. Number S31 is a duplicate of No. S30. The remainder are undated and are added at the end, as numbered by the Record Office, but it has been possible to deduce the date of most of them from their context, form of address and script, as well as postal code and telephone number, in which case their numbers are also inserted in chronological order, but out of numerical sequence in the list below, as in the case of letter S54 placed between letters S3 and S4.

A few letters from Elizabeth to Madeau, spanning the period 1963 to 1969, also exist in the Simon Campion Archive (Box No. 20), either as MS drafts (8) or as duplicates (2) or in addition to those at the Oxford Record Office (5). These latter five are transcribed here and designated ‘Campion Archive, Box 20’, with the date, and inserted below in chronological order; the drafts are not included.

Box 20 also contains 37 letters over the same period, from Madeau to Elizabeth and although they are very entertaining, they are not transcribed in full, but selectively quoted (using Calabri font) or paraphrased to illuminate the friendship and Elizabeth’s letters.

S1. (M) Tuesday March 12 ‘63

‘Dear Madeau,


Secours! [help]

Not bremse! [Emergency break!]

There was a particularly nice Nigerian hymn called THE FRIENDS OF THE SINNERS WHO DIED, played in ‘For the Young’ (Children’s Progra[mme] {Sound}) called Wuder the Same Sun, HS [Home Service] Thursday March 7 ’63: Anne Catchpole interviewing Esther Okechukuv (!).

Thinking to cut corners, I dashed off a line to Miss Anne C[atchpole] asking her if she’d kindly let me have the recording ref[erence] of the hymn, & if, as I surmised, it was a BBC recording. She replies, ‘BBC recording. Not for sale. No commercial recording. Sorry I can’t help’ – though I stated in my letter that I am a member of the BBC Music Advisory, which carries access to recordings, library material etc. – so I suppose she suspects my credentials!

The point is that by what she says, The Friends of the Sinners who Died is evidently in RPL [Radio Programme Library]. They do scrub things so, & I’m particularly anxious to hear this again, with an eye to its inclusion, in some form or other, possibly tune, in a later programme, as it so perfectly illustrates a point.

Without bothering you too terribly, is there anything you can do to confirm the recording no. & ask if they’d keep the recording till I can get at it? Am temporarily claustrophobic with bronchitis, so rather hamstrung (bronchial ham, the un-best bacon). Do forgive scrawl.

Are you all right?.

I do hope so, & that we can celebrate something somewhere soon.

Lots of love,

as ever


Madeau replied from the BBC on 13 March giving the Archive Number (20782 – Back Band 1), explaining that it was one of a series recorded in St. Jude’s Anglican Church, Ebutemeta, Nigeria that was in Yoruba [Western territory of Nigeria containing the capital, Adaban] adding:

‘[…] might I suggest that you listen to the whole series of the hymns – I seem to remember there are about eight or so – because others might illustrate your point even better; there is on Learn to be Pure which is, to my way of thinking, sensational. I would be very interested to know what you are trying to demonstrate because I’ve always tried to supply the Archives with all the various manifestations of attempts to freshen up, modernise, etc. hymns, and generally bring church music into line with today. The Missa Katenga is another good example of which we have a fragment… but I won’t go on drowning you with information you probably don’t want. I can arrange for you to hear it when you like, but of course Permanent Library can and should also give you any and all the help you want.

Anyway I’m glad you had to write to me because I wondered how you was [sic; Madeau shared Elizabeth’s playful misuse of language] … now that the warm weather has returned perhaps we can arrange to celebrate something. […] I will inform Catchpole as to WHO you are…

Much love,


S2. (M) [Thursday] March 14 [1963]

‘My dear Madeau,

Lovely to get your letter. So good of you to write about the hymns. Ha! I might have known you were at the bottom of them! I’m thrilled to bits & simply longing to hear them, all & any and the Missa Katenga bit. We’re evidently on parallel lines… perhaps on the same lines! I’m dying to talk to you about it. Could we celebrate as much as it’s possible to celebrate over lunch – the wrong time of day, I know, but better for me than evenings just at present, & could you spare time to come & have lunch with me on Wednesday March 27th? You suggest where – & if it suits, perhaps I c[oul]d give the morning to Archives & come in & do some listening? How stupid I was not to consult you about that tune straight away – shows the fungoid state of brain. I heard that [Anne] Catchpole prog[ramme] quite by chance.

I do hope to see you, it would be lovely,

Ever much love,


Madeau replied on the 15th :

‘[…] But first would you reveal to me a little of what you really are in search of? I think I’ve got the drift – hymns with a beat – the Lord’s Prayer hotted up – Beaumont hymns – they had a steel band accompanying hymns at St Paul’s once […]’

S3. (T) [Saturday] March 16 1963.

‘My dear Madeau,

Thank you so much for everything. Hooray, lunch 27th [March] and I’II be in first about 11 to do some listening, then we can get off where and as you feel inclined.

Reveal? – yes , but hush! I’m editing the new Hymn Book (non-denom[inational]/schools/all sorts). Am soft-pedalling on requests for articles, talks etc. till the scheme is further advanced and my ammunition a little more mustered*. But it’s very exciting and perhaps the chance of a lifetime (or am I plain daft to undertake such a thing??).

The Voruba [sic] type greatly after my own heart. Beaumont not so, as pseudo and vulgar – i.e., he has the idea but not the knowledge nor taste.

Anything of your suggestion of foregone interest, needless to say – in fact, I think you’d better write the book! But do come into collusion, cloakanddagger [sic].

Incidentally, do you think it would be possible for me to listen for literally about 2 minutes on somebody’s set at 11.20, to one of the things from my rhyme-book running in Schools broadcasts… I have to arrange them in odd ensembles, and it’s interesting to see what the children make of them. If it won’t fit in upstairs among the archives, I could go and borrow a Yalding set[62] or listening-room and come back – but one is apt to get pounced upon, and I just thought that on the spot might save time.

Longing to see you and hear all about your latest magic.

Tout à toi [All yours],


* Did you see interview in Time/Life?’

Madeau replied on 18 March with her address, BBC suitably crossed out:

My Dear Elizabeth,

Colluded, cloaked and daggered. Note concealed address. Come to my office at 11.00. At 11.20 you will be able to listen in my office to your programme. No need to go anywhere borrowing and begging.

[…] I hope this won’t fall into enemy hands […] Disguise yourself heavily of course and speak in a foreign accent.

A bientot:

V. much love


The next letter in the sequence is S54, as is clear from its relationship to the collection of several letters, including a copy of S3, clipped together in the Simon Campion Archive.

S54 (M) Saturday March 30 [1963]

‘My dear Madeau

I feel you must have been utterly exhausted by the time you got to the Halsey recording. It was such a lovely day, stolen from the world – & how precious they are! I came away strengthened, renewed & cheered in weighty tasks by your sympathy & help. It was absolutely sweet of you to give up the time; I did so appreciate it. I was fascinated by what you played me, new realms forever opening. In the meantime, Yoruba still seems to crown them all! I got on the telephone quickly & established Cambridge University Press agreement in principle. How I hope no other publisher here will get in first. I feel so sad I shan’t be there to accompany you to the Cavern on Monday. Can’t wait to hear how they’ve treated you!!

Blessings & thanks du coeur [from the heart], & as ever, very much love, E.’

S4. (M) [Wednesday] 30. x. 63

‘My dear Madeau,

I never gathered from Reading who was to take part! But I’m so glad you are: it will be good for them, & once one can get past the effort, it might even be fun for you! I do hope so. Coming at the end is a good idea: nobody can take you up on anything, & I’m quite sure you’re safe as to the originality of the contribution, as none of them have access to your works!

The difficulty is always selection: I go nearly mad over this sometimes, then, having got a scheme, I become enthralled with filling in the bits. So many other brilliant people have done so much thinking, that one can usually fasten on to a few facts as pegs – M. Dean-Smith in the A GUIDE TO ENGLISH FOLK SONG COLLECTIONS has dealt characteristically with ‘folk’ in the preface… it’s in the library[63].

What really matters, besides the music, of course, is that they should hear what you think. I always find what you think of such interest, whenever you let loose a thought in my direction (… this may only be another way of saying I mostly find myself in agreement!) that I’m sure Madeau can’t do better than just Madeau. When you smile at them, they’ll all purr, anyhow. I’m dying to know who Boris is. (I do pray not a reincarnation of Ord). Tell me more, when you have seen him.

As for the music, you’re really in a strong position there, as so much to offer, you need scarcely open your mouth at all, except for a few guiding motions. I do hope they’ll offer you a fat fee, & come out strong with drinks. Mid-Nov. w[oul]d suit me a treat. I’d adore a Cave evening. Let me know à tant tôt [as soon as possible]. Much, much love, & great shafts of inspiration!


S5. (M) December 28th 1963

‘My dear Madeau,

It was lovely to get your letter & know your flu is better, & that the Lecture is now shaped in its main architecture – the main thing, & always such a relief – to have the underpinning… one can have fun pulling in & taking out the trimmings at will, like an obsessed Mrs. Beeton[64]. I always relish this (once the Schmerz, Sturm u.[nd] Drang [blood , tears & sweat] are over!).

It’s a splendid title – enough to whet the dullest appetite, tho’ actually, you will find them very responsive, I should think. It sounds altogether entrancing. They really are lucky, & I’m green with envy, as of course I long to hear it – though I don’t think even I could get away with driving across England & appearing in the audience, after saying I couldn’t!! I hope you might just be able to give the faintest pre-view?

Our evening plan will have to be put on another week or two, as I’m completely & tiresomely tied for lack of help-in, though I’m trying fiendishly to get one before end of Jan. & I hope in the Lord she’ll materialise. Then away I shall dart.

In the meantime, my abortive (but not entirely) attempt at Yoruba only stuck a bit by my fault, for finding an appointment had fallen through & an unexpected 70 mins. on my hands, I turned up in RPL [Radio Programme Library] (you were away for a day) without warning, & of course without the mystic ref. No., which I couldn’t remember!

My cosy little friendship with the Revd. Ole Oluda [from Nigeria?] has ripened into an almost once-weekly Air Mail. All is signed & sealed for publication & he seems a honey-pie, but slow to move, & I’m still trying to get the actual translations out of him! He rather stumped me by sending me the tunes in Tonic Sol-fa[65], which is probably the form of notation he was taught in his Methodist school days, & which I loath… all those dots & dashes & semi-colons, & as far as I can make out, quite untrustworthy for those subtle syncopated rhythms.

So doubtless I drove the poor Dept. up the wall by settling down at the (non-room) turnable, when they v[ery] kindly did find the recording, & playing it over & over out at slow speed, whence I managed to transcribe on to paper. Quite tricky – & a good ear-test. Those native singers are so naturally expert in their own stuff that only snail-pace dissection reveals in the end which are ‘blue’ notes, which really notation-moves, & which slides or slurs. This, of course, applies to many native idioms, but was particularly tricky here with the organ, which aids & abets with enormous skill & charm. Anyhow, if the uncaring youth of England doesn’t get these in some sing-able form it won’t be my fault – nor yours, Nor those long-suffering RPL [Radio Programme Library] people.

Garlands all round,

An enormous love to you – á bien tôt [see you soon] – & all for the New Year.

Forgive awful writing – too much Christmas!

Ever your loving


S6. (M) Post Card, [Saturday] 4.1.64 to Miss Madeau Stewart, 64A Pembridge Villas, Notting Hill, London, W11.

‘In breathless haste, doing copies & rushing them off to Bish[66] against dense fog rolling up!

All under control, & such a relief! Grace à toi. Suis infiniment reconnaissante [Thanks to you. Am infinitely grateful].


On 19 January (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20), Madeau dismisses Elizabeth’s thanks, opening with:

‘In a feeble & ineffective manner I have been attempting to be of good use to you, but in fact have been much more useful to myself!’

And she goes on to mention rediscovering Chapman [presumably George (1595?-1634?), a Hitchin man, incidentally] in whom Elizabeth had expressed an interest, quoting from his The Shadows of Night, and also quoting from Spenser [Edmund (1552?-1599)]. And it seems, from the next letter to Madeau that she must have supplied Elizabeth with more help.

S7. (M) [Sunday] 26.1.64

‘My dear Madeau,

Thank you so very much for getting These things shall be[67] – which I only know as set by John Ireland[68]. Haven’t had time to delve into it yet, but am just post-catching with the thanks & will ‘report back’, as they say – beastly expression. Your most kind trouble very much appreciated.

As also your kindness & hostliness to nice Martin Woolley – appreciated equally I’m sure, in our several ways, by myself & him. I read for them on occasion, & was trying to prove a point over Yoruba that would have been difficult to make otherwise, as one is always at a loss trying to describe music (I have no A[nthony] Hopkins[69] in my fabric!) I think M W [Martin Woolley] got it, so I was glad. And I just managed, grace à toi [thanks to you], to scram through & home in time.

I loved that seal book. I really think you’ll have to do an anthology, treatise or something – if not for Penguin’s, I’m sure an enlightened publisher w[oul]d welcome it, Grace Darling[70] & all. It sounds fascinating.

I hope no ill has befallen Bish. If he doesn’t pull this off now, I’ve probably lost the round – but will keep hoping there’ll be some word. I have no idea which Bush’s Saint is? Who looks after tapes and recordings? You should know! Or do they come in with the seals![71] Does poor [Saint] Columba get landed with the lot?!

All love,

Ever E’

During the rest of 1964, although there are no extant related replies from Elizabeth, there are several more letters from Madeau (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20): on 13 February about a gift left in her office by Elizabeth; on 23 February her post script reads,

‘Give me up for Lent! It will do my soul good, I expect!’;

on 29 February she mentions Bish’s organising a Panto while on 13 November she records his illness and death; finally on 12 October she commiserates,

‘Obviously, we share the same feelings about arrangers – they really are arrangers and they fill me with gloom.’

The following year, 1965, there is an amusing exchange following a complaint by Elizabeth to the BBC, starting with Madeau on 18 April:

‘Dear Horrible Listener,

Your card of the 13th April 1965 has been received and your complaint forwarded through the appropriate channels and thus it has reached me. You may not be aware that it is possible to switch off the wireless when it offends your ear; your dealer will indicate to you the knob and the correct manner to operate it in the event of your desiring silence. This is cheaper and quicker than sending a postcard.

Moreover, you must be aware that to the majority of listeners it is of no consequence whether the singer and the piano are performing in what you call the same key! I think I can say with confidence that Mr. Joseph Cooper knows what the public likes and that your complaint (the only one received) cannot be registered as considerable. We only like to hear from listeners who are in harmony (a term you will readily understand) with Mr. Cooper … […]

That recording came into Archives when I was the Music Cataloguer. I regret to say that at the time I did not think much of the singer anyhow (I only admit this to you now) and that I was so overcome with horror at the announcer who announced ‘si mes vers avaient des ail’ (If my worms have garlic) that I had a mild form of hysteric and my feelings for the music must have been totally drowned by incontrollable cackling from me.

I will listen to it again. If not withdrawn, at least it should carry a warning with it and not leased out to vulgarians like Cooper. […] but is he any worse than Sidney Harrison for whom I have considerable hate; for cheapness he has no peer.

Really I am grateful to you for complaining.’

Letter of 21 April 1965 (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20),

‘My dear Madeau,

Your last letter put so much into my system & got so much out of it that I feel altogether renewed.

I do so like the idea of being in harmony with Mr. J. Cooper, or for that matter with Mr. Sid Harrison. ‘If my worms had garlic’ is the perfect mot. Anyhow, they, like ‘the worm’ never die; but having no peer, as you say, will no doubt shortly be made peers.

I’m so glad you are going home post-Easter. I have to be away briefly & shall rush at the first opportunity in your direction so we can carry on from there.

Very much love


S52 (M) 12 May [tentatively dated 1965 from being clipped to letters, ‘Friday’ and 16/5/65 (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20) that are quoted below later] a Post Card of five beady-eyed owls addressed to Miss Madeau Stewart, 2 Phillimore Place, Kensington, London W 8, and with a cutting torn in half across the lines and pasted on, one below the other, to allow space for the address,

‘Beady eyes peering at visitors / in the Zoo as four Kenya owls take a first look at the outside world while / their mother keeps guard. Their father is missing from this family group / because he had been removed from the cage as he was eating their share / of food.’

‘I have seen just such an expression of alert concentration as the mother bird’s on Madeau’s face!

Candle lit, though in a regrettable state of sobriety, still operative I hope!

Much love,


Friday (T) 1965 (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20)

‘My dear Elizabeth,

That’s the most funny card I’ve EVER had. You will of course forgive me if, when I hadn’t got my glasses on I thought what an awfully good portrait it was of you, with me among the lesser and more faded owls. […]

Incidentally, the cut-out on the back of the Owl Card read most surrealistically at first because I read it as you had stuck it on instead of re-assembling it in proper sequence,

Very much love


12.5.65 (T) (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20)

‘My dear Elizabeth,

I much enjoyed our long chat on the ‘phone and am MOST grateful to you for all your suggestions. […]

I listened, as a preliminary, to the V[aughan] W[illiams] Serenade and, like you, was quite boulversée [bowled over]; it seemed more like a Requiem for all those glorious voices and made me sad. Incidentally Ursula V[aughan] W[illiams] says in her latest book that it was done in the Queen’s Hall, but Astra Desmond says this is not correct – that it was the Albert Hall. […]

On the subject of nervousness, incidentally, she was good. I would like to press this point [in a scheduled BBC interview]. Too many people forget that the artist that appears before them, so cool, so posé and rather grand, has probably been violently sick before coming on to the platform. […]

As to my career, I really haven’t had time to think. […]

Anyway, the main point of the letter is to thank you for all the information. If you’re not very careful you’ll find yourself being interviewed by me about How I Paper-Clipped Irene Scharrer into her concert array – yes, indeed – that’s rather a good idea

V[ery] much love


14/5/65 (T) (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20)

‘My dear Madeau,

The Cuckoo is calling and a fierce internal flame is burning – I even type in red.

So interesting talking about IDEAS and especially yours. This one particularly valuable, I fee, and I commend your promptness in getting down to it… it is so unfortunate that people die. I’m most interested to hear of your session with Astra Desmond. Oh YES! get her on nerves: really a thing, and about time somebody did!

The V[aughan] W[illiams] Serenade is a Requiem for those glorious singers, and one weeps, but gratefully. U[rsula] V[aughan] W[illiams] is wrong. It was the Albert Hall. (I reviewed the book).

I should feel terribly forlorn for a principle as well as a person, as well as dissatisfied for you if you went and buried yourself in one of those nice-sounding jobs in Cardiff or even in Aberdeen ( – and you’d get Watson Forbes up there, a thing I wouldn’t wish any of my friends!). It seems to me you are of very real and great and unique (though you won’t agree with me) importance for this wonderful imaginative important archive work, and that what would benefit and lighten up everything and everybody would be an extended mandate to you to produce more (and more freely) on the music side (e.g. poor Dowland the other day, who fell between all the stools), and a foot free of both camps, each of which you would adorn – for you know them both and have the invaluable birds eye view of the whole world of subject and material, whereas [BBC] Music Department only know one side. Which of these could ever use, say, the Yoruba music in a programme of real rapport? Surely the thing is bigger than that? Let who will know all about Mahler &c – those they’ve got in plenty. You don’t need to be that kind of musician, and you certainly don’t need to feel inferior, you have so much to add that they haven’t. So I hope my loving wax may help burn to impress this on you as well!

What you call ‘leaving the hard work to others’ is (a) probably largely untrue (a Madeau overstatement!); (b) what you should be doing, as no racehorse is a cob; no person of creative ideas and certain kinds of genius should be bound down by dish wash.

It may be that only you can get your case bridged. Remember I’m speaking largely out of my own experience of the Corporation and its set-up… and I would have thought, certainly worth a try. After all, they have crossed plenty of their other dotted lines of late when it has suited them, and I’m inclined to think it is sometimes only the um-rigid person who can cut through barriers to the benefit of all. ‘Only connect’ (E. M. Forster). Wax, I can see, must be redoubled. I may have to send you in the bill, but would willingly wait till you and I are octogenarians (and so have acquired the additional eccentricity value of free speech as age-status-symbol) and Scharrer & Co are all safely dead, and then tell you my Experiences.’

Madeau replied on 18th May 1965 (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20) thanking Elizabeth for her red letter and agreeing that BBC Archives should,

‘in one way or another, be brought into the picture of broadcasting more effectively from the point of view of music […],

Do send me the bill for the wax […]

V[ery] much love and great gratitude for all your goodness and encouragement

The Owl’

During the rest of the year, there are 10 more letters (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20) from Madeau, but only rough drafts of four replies from Elizabeth; they show that Madeau sought and received advice on her BBC interviews (e.g. with Elsie Suddaby and Ruth Pacher) and on the archiving of recorded material (e.g. of Elizabeth’s talks on Peter Warlock[72] and of the music itself). A MS draft of 6 November reveals Elizabeth’s feelings after listening to Michael Tippett’s Piano Concerto,

‘One came out saying: à propos a quoi? Where the moderns unleash their energy in static neuroses, the g[rea]t employed it as a means of arrival. To arrive nowhere is like a dynamo in the middle of a wood – splendidly surrealistic, but not getting anywhere.’

In 1966, there is in the Archive only a card and a letter from Madeau in November and December respectively and another MS draft from Elizabeth on 5 December. The latter indicates that she

‘had a year… awkward one, & things are complicated here, which adds up to regrettable invisibility, but NOT FOR EVER. I hope gloriously to emerge into the brightness of your company any time now. Will be in touch.’

One of many reasons for Elizabeth’s ‘invisibility’ was the proof-reading in October 1966 and the production of The Cambridge Hymnal published by Cambridge University Press, and in the following June (letter 9.6.67 (T) Simon Campion Archive, Box 20)), Madeau drew her attention to a favourable review of it,

‘The best review I’ve read so far in that the reviewer does seem to have taken the trouble to sample the music himself, besides having heard the recordings – which none other has done, having just stuck to grumbling about the text. One gets awfully bored with reviewers who waste words on telling what is not there instead of saying what is; it’s an awful warning really.

How are you? I am better – I mean, I’ve had this horrid summer cold that never goes and still hasn’t. Otherwise fine. But so busy no time to practice harpsichord […}

In the last blessed two of an interminable series of ten programmes on Rare and Unusual Instruments (foisted on me but done with pleasure because the first time some of the rarer recordings of rare instruments have been used) I am, in the penultimate, kicking of with incantation on the Psaltery. But I do not announce it. In the last programme, however, I do. […]

Marylin [Wailes] has been and gone without my seeing her.

June 11th 1967 (T) (carbon copy, Simon Campion Archive, Box 20)

‘My dear Madeau,

Lovely to get your letter – and thank you so much for sending the review, which I shouldn’t otherwise have seen. It seems sensible, and an ironic mark to him for listening! I haven’t a clue as to the writer, but then I don’t know the Best People. It is amusing how the subject bothers most who have to appear in columns – Uncle Frank Howes and the Old Stooges go waffling on about Percy Dearmer and the English Hymnal, etc and the younger generation are almost totally at sea. Meanwhile, the book goes on its way with about 10,000 sales to date, which strikes me as fairly staggering for a thing of the kind, and I don’t know who is buying. But they are. There will then no doubt be a slump till I wearily complete the schools (cheaper and more tabloid) edition. BBC (‘Religious’?) have been doing the latest record proud in morning prayers, though this I hear mostly from people who tell me they have heard things, as I scarcely ever do. I’m sure this must be your good influence. I don’t know anybody in BBC Religion.

I am delighted, enraged, frustrated about your series on Rare and Unusual Instruments – where O where are/have they been? I would so love to hear the Psaltery, being both rare and unusual, in Incantation [73], which I find a terrifying piece and must have come straight out of the unconscious. I once stood on the heights of Petra by the sacrificial altar to Moloch and never quite got over it)[74], I adore all programmes you do, and you do them, understandably, too rarely – this, a wonderfully fecund subject, I would have said, and I wish you could have introduced them all, Madeau unique vintage is nonesuch. But jolly good you are doing the last.

I’m very sorry about your beastly cold – seems inevitably the outcome of the chronic pitiless damp, now for a brief spell, dried, and I do hope you are dehydrating. The effect it had on me was blasts of searing sinus pain, incommoding and very dimming, but now, thank heavens, subsided.

I have scarcely seen anyone – the Marylin [Wailes] circle all now rather sad and awkward, tell you about this anon – and am more or less enclosed, stuck, bogged down by the situation here, which I don’t ever admit to anyone except you, and find it distasteful to be more explicit, but your understanding doesn’t fail. Meantime, a large phase of life goes by and all I can do is write long-term hymnbooks etc. O for wings. O long to get out – herewith a try. Would Monday June 26th to pencil be possible? Have you tried the Garden Restaurant (near Royal Opera House)? good, amusing Picks/décor, good food, lunchtime not usually too crowded… could we try for it and hope to continue from there.

As it turned out (Letter (M) from Samaritan Hospital, 22.6.67; Simon Campion Archive, Box 20), Madeau had to stay in hospital longer than expected for a curettage and complained only of not being able to hear her favourite man, Donne on the Third Programme! She said she had had only water to drink and suspected that was debilitating and thought there should be a slogan for wine drinkers and suggested ‘Lolitre Girl’ to replace ‘the ghastly ‘Pinta Girl’.

S8. (M) Saturday June 24th 1967 (a draft (M) is also available, Simon Campion Archive, Box 20)

‘My very dear Madeau,

O dear, your letter – How I hate these things having to happen to you. I know it’s weakening – takes a lot out, & you will have to be sure & put the strength back. THAT’S the important thing now, & for heaven’s sake look to it & treat it with due deference & care, and keep away from work & take time & loiter until better. Then we’ll put back every good thing that can be crammed on to a table. I grieve not to see you, but having waited this long, needs must endure. Shall erupt with delight when signals go forth.

I missed you on Thursday, cursing the while, as I was in transit, as I had feared. I adore your titles! Next time should be safe. How maddening that the Samaritans don’t live up to their name where Third [Programme?] is concerned. But John Donne[75] also comes back in July – uncertain of date… c[oul]d be 8th? That is an incredible portrait of him (RT [Radio Times]), the recently discovered Lothian portrait, isn’t it?[76] I find his life saga unendingly moving. But the St. Paul’s boys by BBC out of Hymnal[77] were far less good than the King’s boys on record – & the BBC paid heavily for St. P[aul]’s all for the sake of not-the-right building anyhow!

I do so hope you are feeling better & will soon be better still, & off water. Am lighting my special fat beeswax candle, which you share with a hedgehog whose head was sliced by a hay-cutter… tho’ unlike you, on water (very best Grand Cru leaf mould, pig-trough bottle), he is also recovering,

Very much love,


S9. (T) [Friday] June 30 1967

‘My dear Madeau,

A Joyfull Noise sandwiched between Schools [Programmes?] at a time many of us can’t (or don’t) listen! – it isn’t good enough by half, though not to be ungrateful, a darned sight better than not at all. And O how tantalising – this last one gave me but a taste of what I had missed in the previous programmes. I must certainly try and get to work in my false beard and stir up repeats and at a peak time – for it was superb. Rare and unusual if ever.

Quite apart from the fact that I was eerily involved, I adored your choice, and the general mix-up came off 100%. There was a gorgeous irreverence and gaiety about it all, which to me was utterly entrancing – a sense of abandon all too rare on the air. That triple pipe thing was breathless… could feel the dust. Esther and Joey Lee in and on period piece (V & A [Victoria & Albert Museum] instrument?) were absolutely priceless – I particularly liked the fade on the pp sob of Zampa and the athletic ogling of the Fairy Queen (what a nice long way after Britten!).

Musically, also, and to the initiate, it was enormously worthwhile, both olde and new, and your inclusion of the alto flute was an inspiration. But false modesty apart, the electrifying sound remains that low unjoyful swindle, the Incantation – a masterly feat of playing on Joan’s part, the piece like nothing on earth and totally thrilling. I got a new look at it and do thank you for the weird experience!

Your commentary was excellent and to my mind couldn’t have been bettered; you gave one the musical essentials and the lifeblood too (trust you!). I could see Valda A[veling]. sitting at the Tschudi [harpsicord][78] among all that Fenton House chinoiserie! What a genius you are. Do hoard it, nurse it, heed it, guard it (… is this mixed up with a hymn? ‘For we have no help but thee’[79]… you see the pathetic effects of the past years have left an irrevocably hymn-buzzing bee!). Incidentally, for Hymns see BBC1 Songs of Praise 7.15 pm N.I. [Northern Ireland?] Sunday – wonder what they’ll make of them (if you ever do See… I refuse to say View, though I can’t think why I so dislike the term).

Take care. Go slow (pour mieux sauter [to be able to speed up the more easily]). I do so hope you begin to feel better as the days go. Pardon cold type, it isn’t really cold – my RH [Right Hand] is almost inept with copying manuscript.

Very much love,


Stop Press – the [sketch by Madeau of 16.7.67 (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20) of] Lolitre Girl just arrived, & bless you for S[unday] Times cutting. That Jolly old Beau is up to no good… wants her litre, eh what. And O the expression. It cheers & I adore it. Merci, merci

So very glad you felt up to Ruth & h[ar]psicord (no don’t let her delegate you to M. Silver!!). She is always so good for one, one of the rare people who are. Do give her chronic & continuous love when you see her – I don’t, very often.

Cloak & dagger [plot] thickens. Have now acquired friendly C.I.D.

Offer him the sherry & he says politely, ‘Won’t drink but will watch’. The dogs bark at all the strange things… postman, milkman, etc. Am now experimenting with booby traps with dustbin, but am more likely to be its victim myself, which w[oul]d be too Waiting for Godot[80], but w[oul]d give you a fine Third Progr[amme] chance to do a John Cage[81] Funérailles d’Ordure [Funeral of dirt].

I go on grieving about your loss, full of resentment it should happen to you, & I think you are too wonderfully Xtian thus to rise above it. Impotent fury is quite the worst!

Hurrying for Fri[day] post, as the GPO [General Post Office] doesn’t really want us to get letters on a Sat[urday], & I do!

À tout jamais [Ever yours]

e [sic, for ‘Elizabeth’]

Madeau wrote (17.8.67 (T) (Simon Campion Archive (Box 20) expressing her sympathy that Elizabeth ‘had been all hacked up’[82] and sending her a bottle of medicine which she had found quite enspirited but advised should be kept out of the way of children, dogs and wild animals.

S51. (M) Saturday evening [dated 19/20 July 1967 from draft (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20)]

‘My dear Madeau,

Filled with mystery, I brooded upon your cheering and cryptic letter. Not long to wait. By special parcels delivery (most unusual on a Sat[urday]) came a huge, unclued [sic] Thing. (No ‘Glass with Care’ or anything), I wasn’t long in doubt, & nearly swooned when I took out the contents! Figure-toi [Imagine]: a pouring wet day, me in the grip of what has been described by the Malapropism of ‘post-marital depression’ (God forbid!) the world & oneself no good, everything a nasty dun grey. Suddenly, 11 a.m., I did exactly what you described. Popped it all by myself – with such a magic vapour as whorled out with the pop as would have done Macbeth credit, & certainly released all the good genies for me!

The sun went down my throat & filled every vein till the bottle was empty. Glorious transformation! Tout d’un coup [In a trice], on air & – most astonishing – suddenly musical again. Letter from BBC saying, ‘Would I…’ lying listlessly on desk, taken up. Yes, I would! I just sat there while the rain poured down outside, feeling gorgeous, all right with everything – the first nectar to pass my lips for many a week, for one of the most depressing results, as no doubt you found, of all those things they give one, is to put one off drink as well as food. But not this perfect stuff. Your unerring taste in M. Jacquesson (et son fils) did a miracle – & it didn’t pass off! By lunchtime I felt quite hungry, & after Lunch I went to sleep. By the time the trilogy of miracles is complete, I shall either be beatified or have to be put away because I’ve got the habit – all your doing.

I have placed the two, like votive candles, in a Sweet Place, one on either side of a Donatello’s[83] head of St. John the Baptist as a boy. You know it, no doubt – a most perfect boy, beautiful & austere – two locusts & wild honey… pure Jordan water! These look so inappropriately in place that I think they must remain flanking the memorial. Poor J[ohn] the B[aptist] – what he missed! Bless you for the thought & also for such terrifying extravagance, but O, for what bliss & thriving. Has just helped me turn the corner. I do thank you.

O I do sympathise with your return from home. It is really gruesome that one has to so pay the balance of pleasure/pain. I grieve to think of you torn from Caruso & the Birdwit Sisters & Folies Bergères & the creative dogs & sea & boats – & I can imagine too vividly the Gertrude complications, & it’s all such a fag. O for the wings [of a dove, to fly away]. May you endure, even gather some life on the way, till they transport you again from the troughs. Now I’m back, grâce à toi [thanks to you], on the downward path (& thank goodness, what a grind is the upward one!) we shall soon celebrate, come what may. I return the reciprocal baiser vifment [sic] avec toute affection [kiss, warmly, with all affection],


S10. (M) [Sunday] August 14th 1967

‘My dear Madeau,

Your wonderful graphic of Madeau entangled in spinnaker, and evocative I o W [Isle of Wight] & picture of Beckett-ian Midnight at Rooks Nest did me a power of good & cheered me vastly at just the right moment. I fear that you have had to forsake your lovely sea life & return to the urban, a transition I deplore, but I do hope you are standing up to it buttressed & that the harpsichord is being a worthy consolation?

I’m desolated that my answering signals have been delayed, temporarily stuck in the bottom of the boat. I’ve had an operation hanging over me for some time, the summons came in July & I went into hospital & had a bit removed, returned home recently by ambulance (too like a Black Maria) and am I glad to be there![84] Tempo aggravatingly gone down Lento & I shall have to go to ground for another week or two & then may try & go away for a brief boost.

Can we wait for our great Emancipation Celebration until further emancipated? What a pair! Merde… en avant.[Dam… keep going]

Very much love,



Sunday [27 August 1967] (T) (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20)

‘My dear Elizabeth,

Well, you gave someone champagne the other evening: I mean, Jean Jenkins, curator of musical instruments at the Horniman Museum, came to dinner. She has an immense repertoire of Appalachian folk songs and after a glass of wine has a tendency to burst into singing. Well, this evening she discovered your Hymnal. She not only burst into song, she sat at the harpsichord and accompanied herself. Being rather intolerant, I then took out my flute and so then together we shouted, blew and banged through the hymns and carols. We simply loved the descant line. What was interesting was that Jean had her own Appalachian versions of some of them – tune and word wise – so that following was a little uneasy; moreover, I decorated my line folkwise and this put her off. After this she said she felt six inches taller and walking on air and who were you – so I told her. And she longs to meet you. And I would like you to meet her because of the variants of the words – and she has some good new tunes, which could be of interest to you perhaps. I thought one lot of words was better than the one selected by your literary editor. Anyway, we proved that the music is manageable by incompetent music lovers and that immense pleasure can be gained instantly. And the harpsichord simply rang with a tangle of overtones, as you can imagine. One of the advantages of playing the flute with the harpsichord is that you get this sort of resonating support – which of course is totally absent with the piano.

I do hope you are ‘finding your feet’ – what an amusing expression; I’ve never used it before – I have visions of your churning about under the bedclothes muttering, ‘Now where did I put them’. Your telegram was a grand counter-blow. I couldn’t believe it was for me – especially since the Boy said ‘Are you Mardi Stert?’ I felt I couldn’t be – but on opening it knew I was! It was very appropriate, with people singing and dancing and playing lutes and horns, with boats drawn up on a sun-drenched beach.

With all best love – and TAKE CARE! M’

Sunday, 3 September 1967 (M) (Draft, Simon Campion Archive, Box 20)

‘My dear Madeau,

I was entranced by your graphic description of Horniman Hymns with such a splendid descant & all the harpsichord overtones & a lot of brilliant new editing. Wish I could have been there – almost feel I was! I’d love to meet Jean Jenkins one of these days – what a learnèd, versatile person she sounds, & how lovely to know so many words & chunes [sic].

I’m not sure whether the ch[ampagne] helped me lose my feet or find them [… – undecipherable], & a new era is slowly getting under way, aided & abetted by me in utter shameless laziness, which I doubt I shall abandon unless chased into sudden necessity by H. M. Inspector of Taxes. Salving my conscience at the moment with proofs, a sort of mechanical token occupation & one can drift off to sleep when it becomes too boring. O dear, & you in the office… I can’t bear it. I do hope you go on alright? & that Gertrude [Rutherford, the owner of Madeau’s flat] isn’t doing anything fantastic. V[ery] v[ery] m[uch] best love, E

Miss Mardi Stert alter ego Miss Mardi Gras?’

In the New Year, Madeau wrote again, warmly and amusingly (letter 6.1.68 (T) Simon Campion Archive, Box 20), but had had notice to quit her flat and told Elizabeth saying,

‘It is a feeling I have never had before – no roof, no security – and I find it unpleasant and disturbing to work against.’ Elizabeth replied by return of post (carbon copy of letter 9 January 1968 (T) Simon Campion Archive, Box 20).

‘My dear Madeau,

It was lovely to get your letter – today: 3 days – the snow, I suppose – but what a very horrid shock of news. And just at Christmas time too, it couldn’t have been more ill-timed.

I think one can only be successful in dealing with horrid people by being Horrid too, so no go for you. A nasty thing, such a shock – cuts one’s legs from under. Mine are a trifle from under by flu, but that’s not a bad kind of undercutting. It’s ‘Blow, blow thou winter wind’ and all that[85] – very hard to take. I wish I could summon up Kubla Khan (winter jasmine and all)[86] and tuck you into it, thumb to nose.

There are nice civilised flats around. If you only had time, or could take time, I am sure you could find the right one that would give you the feeling: This is mine. Then you could transfer there as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Have you been across the way and consulted the local agents, & Harrods etc?

I do wish I could help. Please keep me posted. If the process is at all prolonged, I would recommend joining a good club and sleeping there till the odious business is over, as at least warmth and shelter from the blast, as I don’t feel Madeau ought to be out in that more than avoidable.

O am so terribly sorry. Will rush to the rescue at your summons, all blasts blowing. At least I am glad you got home [for Christmas], though meanwhile, Horrid weighs on the mind and is very lowering. May it resolve into none but happiness – and as SOON as ever possible is the fervent New Year prayer of

Your very loving commiserating’ Madeau soon found new accommodation at 24 Portland Place (letters 26.2.68 (M) from Madeau and Feb 28 ’68 (M) draft; Simon Campion Archive, Box 20), and the following year wrote when on holiday that she had a new job producing programmes based on Archive material, a new secretary ignorant of the meaning of ‘erotic’, mentioned that she had made a programme with her harpsichord teacher Ruth Dyson and also invited Elizabeth to see her in her new office ‘with curtains’! (letter 2.1.69 Seaview (M) Simon Campion Archive, Box 20).

S11. (M) 21:1:69 (a carbon copy is also in the Simon Campion Archive, Box 20).

‘Dearest Madeau,

I loved your signal – cheered & spurred during my annual bronchitis Bloody interruption & I do so hate those anti-bodies, off-putting food & drink & make everything grisâtre [greyish], so put off all writing till I cast the beastly bottle away. A full horay soon.

I’m so delighted & thrilled at your news: translation/figuration. Of course it’s what They ought to have done years ago – thank heaven they’ve come to their senses at last! I do hope it means more ultimate freedom for you, & that we all hear the results. The Corp[oration] c[oul]d be such a great impresario if only it had the compunction to cast people rightly…

I shall be bashful about braving your new (non-erotic) secretary in new respectable-language, non-crisis office, but can put on glazed upper class expression when required.

When restored to whooping fettle, I shall whoop off like a rocket in your direction.

Lots & lots of love,



Yes, dear Ruth – so wonderfully & saintly modest – And I think you are saintly in receiving with rejoicing for her the fact that she isn’t able to go on with your lessons. It’s very sad. I do feel for you. But perhaps you are being modest, & have really graduated in going ahead now on your own?

You did know – did you? – that darling Julius Isserlis is dead[87]. I went to a long Russian requiem for him & wept – couldn’t understand a word – braided icons & perambulatory Archimandrites[88] (Archimandrakes = a kind of chanting duck) & candles on rickety dressing tables – he would have liked it. He was great; modest the way a child is, a child (in the loveliest sense) most of the time. He let the world go by – it just went. There were two of them and I loved them both. The other – Elsie Suddaby – is still there – but she also can enter through the needle’s eye[89].’

In her reply (letter 26.1.69 (M) Simon Campion Archive, Box 20), Madeau said that she had met Julius Isserlis once when he was very old and tottery, and thought him a very sweet, gentle, kind and loving human. This is the last of the letters from Madeau in Box 20, but it is likely that more are extant in the Simon Campion Archive.

S12. (M) 2.xii.71

‘Dearest Madeau,

It was the happiest thing to hear the Madeau voice & chuckle – M[adeau] personelle (non M[adeau] universelle!) [the intimate, rather than the impersonal Madeau].

I am so delighted about your cottage & particularly that there may be a night’s lodgement in The Music Room for those too timid or too intoxicated to get back. You must devise a Secret Track for your friends & send the others round by a route where they get lost – be forewarned; as soon as you are ‘out’ people insist on coming to see you (nice as long as they’re the right ones!). I am protected by one of those mazes from which it is only too easy never to emerge, but I hope this won’t deter you, & that when this house is ready to receive you, you will steer your way through. I have 10 years leeway to make up & it is not going to be very quick going.

I planted the broom at dead of night, going withershins[90] & singing, very prettily, I thought, the Hallelujah Chorus [of Handel] à mi-voix [not very loudly]. Here is a token, which may help with your mattress or perhaps the dusting (if there is any).

Very much love,


S13. (T) 24 February 1972

‘Dearest Madeau,

Thank you so much. You have obviously Arrived. Fleet of addresses. Glad to know yer.

Your Pimlico fig tree lodgement sounds as nice as could possibly be if it has to be London. (Me and Chopin – your landlady is all right).

As for Stream Cottage, Nutbourne, I do believe you chose it for the name – I never heard anything more enchanting. Can scarcely wait. (The landlord also is obviously all right).

I do so like signing on as crew. It makes archives really seaworthy at last. (You don’t find me very sound about ropes, poolleys [sic] and things, if always ready to learn).

A night perhaps en route over Crossthreads[91] considerably adds to the lure. Come to think of it, isn’t one describable as almost totally cross-threaded in any case? tho’ so much better than groovy. But I’m all for the main brace. I cannot continue the metaphor further or shall go hopelessly wrong, but spirit willing.






oceans of it, as they say – E’

S14. (T) Sunday 14 May 1972

‘Dearest Madeau,

So very sweet of you. And Hooray for the Enlightenment, which allows (even expects?) Total Disappearance.

I did surface, as you no doubt heard, but alas, too late, so I left heartfelt messages. Our lunch (plus timely Disappearance of Mr DF) was such fun. Did me reel [sic] good. In fact, the whole day was gorgeous and I was justa [sic] bout swept out with the crumbs with kind Margaret Cox assisting me in moth hunting up to the very last moment. I was visited in that soulless entourage at Western House [part of BBC?] with an unreasoning and positively ecstatic enjoyment and in the end liked it there, the do-it-yourself emancipating, and no one came (except one interloper for about 3 minutes looking for crowd noises) and I withdrew into a miraculous world which was of the greatest possible entrancement, all engineered by you, and with such extreme kindness of laisser-passer [authorisation], without which I shouldn’t have found the spirit.

Doors no good (soulless and don’t reproduce – acoustically, I mean, rather than eugenically… goodness knows what goes on in those shelves at dead of night?). But there are the finest collection of clocks in Christendom and exquisite railways and cows, though your moth beats all. No organ 32 ft. Pedal tremble, but we can make do with Ralph Downes[92].

I meant initial resultati to be with you before you retire to bliss, but think it may now be kept to welcome your return.

Love & love, in beautiful garden shapes,


S15 (M) [Friday] 16 June 1972

‘My dear dearest Madeau,

Your letter! & mine is a non-starter for the very same reasons – work, visitors, weeds, telephone, workmen. I shall grub up the visitors & ask the weeds in for a drink.

– and you thank me! Outrageous but lovable.

Ours was a whole wonderful day, the wonder of it, to me, that with you at the helm, anything of the kind would be so happy & so creative & champagne-feeling. ‘Rarely, rarely, comest thou Spirit of Delight’[93] – in fact: almost never… And to find one’s friend also one’s producer in itself, was almost calculated to induce a swoon!

One is totally & desperately self-critical & this will never cease, the microphone always humbling. The only thing I have learnt (perhaps) is to try & not let this hinder, but to jump in, tant pis et merde [no matter how awful], & do the best that’s in one. In this case, it was fairly desperately tempered by not wishing to let you (The Side) down! But even this was dispelled by the fascination of the squeals & clocks & hurdy gurdy & all. I do thank you for allowing me the freedom of your Kingdom. It brought alive to me more than I could ever tell. I shall stand by for the transmission at the ready, with the dogs, & a supply of Kleenex [paper hankies] to weep into.

O yes! Breakfast (French) in bed – and stream to take one over for the magic to take hold. And people to stop talking (except US). This all subject to promise of return visit (if I live long enough I can manage to keep saving enough to finish my plumbing!!).

I thought our Engineers were absolute honeys – so lucky in them. I melt to anyone who, in their kind of job can still enjoy & participate & enthuse (but this again was part of the Magic of the Management).

All blessings upon it, & all my thanks (& for delicious bodily as well as physical nourishing) & much, very much love

Your most devoted

Dog whistler.’

S16. (M) [Monday] 26 June 1972

‘Dearest Madeau,

– felt I couldn’t ring… at certain moments I detest the phone. Writing inadequate as delayed, & I feel frustrated, wishing I could see you & give you an énorme baiser [huge kiss]. Please receive


It was lovely. Not because it was me, but for what you made of my threads & the satisfying shape that came out. Really couldn’t find anything to criticise in the wondrous way you did it – & it was an entrancing thought to have Incantation at the end! Come to think of it, I couldn’t think of anything more fitting… that small strong sound, so near the insects too!

I do thank you – hope I may do so more & better as time goes on. And O thank you, thank you for making the [Peter] Warlock [broadcast talk[94]] possible – very important to me as well as in other directions.

Dog reactions: at least two are known to have reacted. One of mine is deaf so wouldn’t hear it anyhow. The other, very alert, sat on my knee & au moment donné [right on cue] started up suddenly & licked my nose – evidently thought I was calling her from outer space or somewhere. She also showed an understandable interest in the insects, ears going back and forth, though none otherwise, except a plunge at the end into a pot of pinks etc. from which she emerged wagging & garlanded. We then had a nice drink & so would it were you too.

I have nothing to send you but a clock, but it contains everything.

All love,


S17. (T) [Wednesday] 28 June 1972

‘Dearest Madeau,

O how lovely. Our weird sounds have given us so much pleasure. The quiet listeners are coming out of their hides I’ve had a most pleasant post-bag, though all known to me, and of the sort I would think like to lie about under hedges anyhow.

I had a lovable though peculiar letter from John H (you see you’re a menace!!) saying ‘Perhaps we’re both saddened’, to which, feeling elated, I rather horridly rejoined that I wasn’t, in a world, spite of its defects, so enthralling (= speak fer yerself). Miscast as the Great (Crossthreaded) Earth Mother, you will obviously have to go on picking up the pieces of Franklin, Hotchkis et al.

I didn’t know Nevill had a brother – nice of him. A man called Derek Melville who writes about square pianos[95], said his dog picked up a whistle note and he thought he did. Dogs on the whole very responsive and seem on the whole to have got the message. Interesting.

Do give that nice and splendidly capable Liz my hail and congratulations – without her, no tick moo grunt would have been so assured. I felt terribly sorry to have let them in for all that trouble over the echo, but worth it, I thought, one of the best of the programme’s odd unexpectednesses [sic].

Would there be any chance of my having a BBC tape? They are always most obliging about allowing me one for my music programmes and productions and promotions. I sent £4.35 getting this put on tape (at a place called Magnegraph who are usua1ly very good) but on trying it over yesterday evening on its arrival, I found it had been taken at a most disappointing level – so much so, that although the voice comes off better on the whole, it even manages to lose most of the ff [fortissimo or very loud] Fairground music and this is a very great sadness. I do so wish I had a proper copy for myself (and to will to my grandchildren) at proper BBC level. Do you think?

As for P of the W and all those bright up-to-the-minute people, I am flabbergasted and also so amused at Crossthread reactions (definition of…. one of the joyful mysteries!) and my ‘background’. Dear souls, that’s what the programme was. E. M. Forster kept a drawer labelled ‘Myself through the Ages’.

O dear me, there is so much –

O why do you walk through the fields in gloves

Missing so much and so much,

O fat white woman whom nobody chuffs[96]

Comment, jusqu’à l’éternité, répandre ce comble de richesse? [97] Though as long as you stay with us, it will continue to enrich under your all-seeing all-hearing eye (after Picasso/Dali[98]).

I shall now become an over-minute fan (for this week only) of Pick [of the Week, on Radio]. Bloody lot of egoists we – but what fun!

Your most loving clockfaced E’

S18. (T) 5 July 1972

‘Dearest Madeau,

Wot a terrible lot of people. How dare they? You are, of course right. Anything as closely knit as a fugue can’t be cut and should not be, though the clever slickers will always do so. I didn’t hear the choppings and manglings, perhaps better so. I got ‘Pick [of the Week’] turned on and just heard Sybil Thorndyke[99] wailing about something, ‘I CAN’’T bear it, I CAN’T bear it’, when someone rushed in to say one of the horses had spiked itself, so I had to rush out with the Dettol [disinfectant] bottle and that was the end of that. So I am left with my lovely memories of Perfection (deprecating cough).

How dim, parochial and altogether incomprehensible of’ Scotland to go on like that about your pipes. Blast them back with such a skirl as would put ‘Pick’ and all right out of business. (I did something similar once with shawms, and it almost broke up the machines). Poor love – what a feelthy [sic] week you have had.

But CHEER: dear Ruth has been on the telephone taking soundings about dates in September (providing she returns alive from the recorder gangsters) and I will do all in my power to preserve and to wear the old green jeans if still hanging together – they certainly would make a harmonious and decorative whole with your pink. A new Lautrec symphony[100].

Can you, O can you, will you be able to get me a tape (private and secret) before any other monster steps in and mucks it up for good. I am lost in disappointment and utter chagrin that the tape I took so much trouble and at rather a heavy price to get, is no good. The programme was such very close-up work and so perfect in its smallest nuance as it went out, and I can’t think what the recording people did to it – I think they must have taken it, regardless, at such a low level that much of it just vanished. Maybe a junior engineer who didn’t know the difference and was conditioned to rock anyhow.

Incidentally, a letter you sent on said simply: ‘I did enjoy your fabulously charming talk this morning’, signed C. E. Wallis from the nice address, Batchelor’s Hall, Kirtling Green, near Newmarket.

Another said: ‘You have the perfect speaking voice and all you said was intensely interesting but you allowed the BBC to put in all those sound effects. Literal and imaginative’. (!! it takes all sorts).

Another, signed M. J. Brighton: ‘Absolutely delightful, so many graphic sounds, but none as lovely as the sound of your own voice’ (0 beware!).

One of’ the really worth while reactions of the kind rather rarely made known, has come from Basil Ashmore, known to me only as a very good producer at Glyndebourne, and of beautifu1 rarities in London (the Berlioz Lelio[101] and a very fine Blow[102] masque, Venus and Adonis). He writes that he wasn’t able to hear all the programme: ‘But, judging from the final ten minutes, you are one of the notable broadcasters of all time. Arthur Grimble,[103] Max Beerbohm[104] and Gordon Craig[105] are your only serious rivals’.

I rather blush. But it is evidently spoken from the heart as well as head, as the rest of the letter, at length, is about [Elizabeth’s close friend, Peter] Warlock, sparked off by the song, and of intense interest to me. He has been a close follower of music and events and personalities and is obviously very much on the beam. He also says he does hope it will be possible to hear the talk again, so that he can tape it for his private library of Broadcasts that Matter. I haven’t replied to it yet, as too much to reply to, but it is nice and real of people to take that much trouble.

Fling it at anyone who disagrees either with the insects or the bagpipes. Why not put in the Lesser tartan Pipus Majorem: stridulating in an Ayrshire cow byre. It would enrich the Archives and cause enormous interest among natura1ists.

Love & love for ever & aye,


S19. (T) Sunday 10 September 1972

‘My dearest Madeau,

Thank you and thank you de tout mon Coeur [from the bottom of my Heart]. I really can’t tell you. It will be quite safe and I never tell. Two people belong – the dear old dying man I told you of, a wounded hawk; the other a favourite kinsman [her brother Ralph] in the Corps Diplomatique. He comes briefly and flies away again and there is always the chance one might not see him again[106]. It will make him very happy, and me.

I am taking my machine up to the old hawk tonight. He remembers the horses and calls them by name, and the names of animals I had forgotten. I don’t know why the recollection of long-dead beasts can be so evocative, except that they belonged with their people in a scene seen in total presence. Present animals carry it on in a long enchainement [chain of consciousness].

Most important are these horrid weeks that have been happening to you. I am so very sorry – and as usual, you flew the flag with your complete and accustomed gallantry and said nothing. I do so very much hope the trouble is now wholly and permanently bettered and that there are things soon, immediately ahead, to shine and make up a bit? I wish I had known. I could at least have sent you a verse of’ Erbide [wiv me][107].

Actually, it has been a few weeks of sad errands over the death of a dear friend I loved, an unfailing interest and helper in enterprises over the years, John Davies, BBC Music Librarian. He had fought off indomitably two years of cancer and major operations, during which time he was completing his great work of the publication of the BBC Music Catalogue. He was only thrown finally through his determination to go to the Handel celebrations in Halle [in Germany] a few weeks ago. When I saw him again, he was virtually unrecognizable. He asked his wife within hours of his death, to ring and give me a message. He just said he sent his love. I went at once; there were matters and wishes he wanted to leave with me and all one could do was just to be around. I stayed over the funeral to help with lifts etc., so far as one could – it was a touching gathering representative of practically every stratum of the musical profession. He was a helper, and people loved him. They are a sweet and brilliant family, all exceptional people, and BBC brass accepted John as part of the wallpaper.

He was explicit in telling me in those last few hours, how he would like to be remembered in music, and in specifically what. Do you think anything could be done about it on record? All that he mentioned exists. He said, ‘I leave it to you’. What best to do? I simply cannot bring myself, even for him, to make suggestions to that awful Music Mag[azine] set-up – I know exactly what I should be asked to do and how it would have to be done, and I don’t want it that way for John, or as regards anyone who knew him.

Changeanddecay [sic]… there it is again. I know it is not that way really: change, yes, but could be for the better! It is one’s mortal lichen that clings. Now, at any rate, my old hawk will die happy. John was happy and believed in happiness. It remains for us.

Bless you. Do take care and try all you can to save Madeau.

All love,


I have made the most complicated network of sitting arrangements for the weekend of the 22nd and trust in the Lord that nothing will misfire!!

Swallows – yes! Magic creatures & so adorable. I have two families in the upper stable which houses the donkeys, who are also magic in their way, as well as incredibly funny, and in the gales of yesterday, the door broke loose & shut the donkeys in & the swallows out. I found a row of disconcerted babies perched on the fence. I tried to explain to them. I so hope the misadventure won’t deter them for next ear. How do they know, remember? I think that’s one of the most miraculous things of all, don’t you?’

S55. (M) Sunday 17 Sept [dated 1972 from context]. The year is based on the form of address; mention of John Davies; and the fact that a Sunday 17 September occurred in 1972.

‘Dearest Madeau,

Your letter was comforting. Dear John D… When in doubt, do nothing, Can’t think, at the moment. Let us leave it till we meet, & still hoping for the weekend of 22nd.

I can’t wait for trumpets [sic] for tea, & if I peer at the little crumpets under the south wall, it is only sympathetic peering. I am much too loving a gardener for aught else!

Have you, by the way, tried cuttings of creth[?] latifolia? It does quite well if you mulch at full moon with spaghetti. Cream cornette [nun’s winged coif] I find tiresomely subject to lugworm, & I am told it has been a poor season for Chandeliers – warble fly.

But Stream Cottage, Nutbourne – why do we worry!

Always your very loving


X X X’

S20. (M) Postcard. Ely Cathedral, misericord, Devil tempting two angels [Elizabeth & Madeau?] 23.1.73; addressed to Miss Madeau Stewart, 17 Bourne Street, Pimlico, [London] SW1.

‘So very pleased & encouraged you approve – it has only taken 4 years in production, each time the proofs got held up in postal grèves [strikes] one side or other! But DG [Deo Gratis; Thanks to God], its done![108]

I suspect your folk memory is no more nor less than illustration of the Kaipsharp-W[illia]ms theory of wot happens in remembering chunes (a Collection of Madeau Memories?).

I hadn’t realised the Purcell Room concert (I am sure you are right!).

So glad all well, as here, if slightly overloaded (work not weight!)

V[ery] in l[ove] ever, E.’

S21. (M) 9 April 1973

‘Dear dearest Madeau,

Lovely to have signals. Poor John T. I am so sorry, & proscription of bottel [sic] the worst for him, I fear. I do hope that with care and by degrees, a little cautious backsliding may be permitted. You will have to do double as libation/intention for your enforcedly abstemious friends! It has not forsaken me but I have forsaken it up to the present, dreary state of affairs, if cheaper! I think the drugs they give one put one’s system all out of gear.

Thank you so much for letting me know about the Poston Handloom Dept. in C[ross]threads, which I should have missed & now I can tell a listener who was very annoyed at missing it before. Surely a tribute to you when series are chosen for a come-back?

I’m so glad you are all right & have thus far weathered the winter, which has now renewed itself – quite a lot of snow & thick overlay of frost, & cold as (Dante’s) hell[109]. I would fancy anywhere warm except for Gen[eral] Amin[istration] & the Bermudas & the jolly rogers in Provence who chop you up. Perhaps just a teeny daybed in the hot house in Kew Gardens. Nice smell too,

Joy to you with the Olde Instruments (I had rather you than me – it’s bad enough being asked to write for them![110] I have recently completed a weird Dolmetch commission[111]). Do have a Tromba Marina – v[ery] funny, & rarity value[112].

All love & love & love & cheers for my favourite Archive sounds which I shall have the curative pleasure of hearing again. Egoistic lot of barstards [sic] aren’t we!


E X X X X X ’

S22. (T) 28 April 1973

‘Dearest Madeau,

Heavens, wot is all this? Thank you so much for the forwardings. I don’t recall, though the BBC’s correspondents obviously do. Of course in those days we were gentry and more people knew one than one had occasion to know personally, though all were potential friends. (This resembles one’s rather awful predicament from which I have suffered lifelong, as facer of choirs and orchestras… a charming confrontation somewhere: ‘Oh don’t you remember, I was singing/playing for you in…’ one of the pink anonymous sea of faces massed to produce sound!).

The repeat of the talk brought a nice mixed bag but nothing worthy [of] sending on – e.g. one who had since drifted away, from a depressing town address somewhere, recalling Haycroft Road [Old Stevenage] when it opened on a hay croft (ours) and saying on Sundays, ‘going up through the fields to Postons was our nicest treat in the week’.

Well, I’m glad in all the Have- and Have-not-ery, that there are good words as well for a past lot of people for whom there is still much good to be said. The Levellers have got it down to a boring formula, which it never was, and as one of the levelled[113], I am glad to have experienced a real landscape, for all its peaks and troughs.

End of Great Thoughts.

A whole landscape of love, E’

S23. (M) Friday 18 May 1973

‘Very dearest Madeau,


a triumph

Flying start, full of subtleties & niceties & held the interest (alas I soon get bored with harpsicol/con!). And you sound like YOU.

V[alda] Aveling’s a clever player, isn’t she? (She came to me as ‘young Australian pianist’ when I was in the BBC) – has since changed her spots.

A triple Hooray for the newfound candidate the Jacklady – you it is who have found the one real fact! Prove Rowse’s lady was blonde, & he will have to fall on his sword.

How splendid. I’m sure this will start something. But beware of ALR [A. L. Rowse] who can be so violent as an infuriated basilisk in his own causes. I don’t want him to run you through with some horrible secret Shakespearian weapon.[114]

But what an undertaking, the series, I mean! Godspeed, I shall hope to be a l’écoute à tantôt [a listener soon].

I rejoice to think of you heading for the garden, & I hope Dryden’s bousy oblivion.

Love and love and unending admiration,

E x

That Frescobaldi[115] Fray is a scream! – brilliant performance.’

Your background Serpent in RT [Radio Times] is horribly like a dreadful Thing I keep on finding in the garden!’

S24. (M) Saturday 7 July 1973

‘Dearest Madeau,

I do think it is wonderful of you to so join on to one’s thoughts & so creatively contribute to it. Your new suggestions are very much to the point – thank you de tout mon coeur [with all my heart]. I shall be back as soon as deliverance comes.

Desert sounds: Bedou Belching one of the most characteristic (you can hear it for miles about, on the principle of Alpenhorn) but of course, it is manners & du riguer [obligatory] & shows you have fed. (Personally, I found it all too easy, especially after [eating] a sort of beaten-up goo of pounded almonds & rancid sheep-fat).

My thoughts are with you today. I hope there may be some factors to outweigh the harrowing (in your useful black). What a double relief to regain home at the end. I was worried, as I thought you looked wan in the heat, & do trust a cooler weekend, what is left of it, may be at least a little palliative pick-me-up. On thinking over your News (Madeau’s Lib[rary?]), I feel you are absolutely right – & Godspeed! I never regretted a minute though the liabilities were worse!

It was so lovely to see you – so many, many thanks for time & thought & hospitality.

All love,

E x’

S25. (T) 3 October 1973

‘Dearest Madeau,

Our glorious Post Office – your signal dated (and postmarked) 24 September was delivered here today (9 days for 3p = 3-a-p!).

The Last Temptation[116] went as well as total muddle/near disaster over typical BBC foray of unfinished studio minus the particular facilities needed, would allow! Almost complete waste of some of my lovely disk effects and the rest mostly sacrificed. But I had a super gang of people to work with and a conductor [Peter Marchbank] who seemed to be magic. And I adored the disks, so avanti [advanced], wot do we care!

All love E.

The Dark Lady’s Clavichord and jack/tangent arguments in TLS [Times Literary Supplement] are getting more and more obscure but keeping lots of expert correspondents happy. What with the Angels and all, you will soon be their Controversy-Provoker of’ the Year and awarded the Rowse medal!’

S26. (M) [Wednesday] 10 October 1973

‘Dearest Madeau,

I am so sorry – that beastly bug – so horrid, so unnecessary to be floored in this way. I’m sure, it’s largely the antibiotics that nearly kill one (at least, in my case) & you poor love, you went & got it at the non-garden end. I do hope you will stay away from office & then get as long as you can at home. Wish I were nearer to fuss around.

You are quite right, of course – no good thing is lost & all my lovely disk-proving will add up somewhere sometime. But present I haven’t a single clue what to do for your folk series & was about to offer to shuffle out becos [sic] at the moment I’m a total blank. This is perhaps because I’m tired – a big effort has gone out on top of the Kazantzakis thing86, recording very lovely & The Nativity (dedicated to dear V[aughan] W[illiams]) in stereo for Christmas Day. On top of this my dog has died[117]. I loved her more than any other. Having fixed the mariage arrangé, I brought her into the world, and yesterday saw her out of it. I dug her little grave by lantern light & when day came covered it with bulbs under the blackberry hedge where I sat & sunned/picked & she sniffed bunnies. 15 years is a long time as the constant undemanding shadow of one’s prayers, sleeping, work, garden, cooking, & never anything but companionate sweetness (more than one can say of most people). I weep unconsoled, but no one & nothing can help. One little animal to mean so much.

All love, E x’

S27. (M) 27.x.73

‘Dearest Madeau,

I felt remorseful at unloading my domestic griefs onto you. & in the midst of screaming harpies, which must be awful! By my reaching towards your small quiet place didn’t fail – its outgoing waves reached & consoled me. Great blessings & thanks x.x.x.

Trouble with me is, I’m rather like a dog myself, e.g., when imbued with an idea, I chase it madly sans cesse [without pause]; if in a blank, simply go round in silly circles. I’m still fishing about for a programme idea. One of these days will hope to come in for an Archive browse & see if they will inspire. Your understanding is proof. But I do know, & from ‘inside’ the liability of trying to make series with bricks minus straw. I do hope enough of the right mixture will turn up to tide over in the meanwhile!

Your very loving, thanking E’

S 28. (T) 18 January 1974

‘Dearest Madeau,

O thank you! relief’ and cheer. Don’t know whether I shall catch you, but I do rejoice in long hol[iday] in the Inner Heb[rides]. ‘Would that I were there’ as the carol says. Somebody sent me the Christmas donkey from the Auxerre carvings – they’re difficult to see properly on the spot – I’ve never seen, caught by any human hand, such an expression of utter devotion on any animal’s face. None better than that medieval sculptor knew it. I’ve seen it on the face of my donkey mare when licking her new-born, the archetype runs throughout.

O I see: O somehow thought BOT (! = !) had to be folk. I’m glad if not (folk getting the teeniest bit exhausted, perhaps?). Will have a go. I feel rude about a lot of the theme – will see how far I am allowed to go before causing Auntie [i.e., the BBC?] to grow hairs out of her ears. I knew an enchanting mad Irishman – who had long red hairs growing out of his ears and he appeared at a fancy dress dance as himself’ and I said, ‘Who are you supposed to be?’ and he said, ‘I’m a Lion Tamer’.

What a shame you had to cancel your Doom Recording idea… yes, I see; I suppose it does lead, in the end, to Dr. Who (too terrible to contemplate. He gave me nightmares one night – those iron arms stretching out). It isn’t my year for trees – wicked gales and more down, tho’ not elms and not diseased, which makes it worse, in a way. A character called Alan and myself will shortly be felled ourselves with double rupture. What has happened to this typewriter [the spacing between the previous two typed lines was irregular]. The dire part of it is, you see, that you can’t, mustn’t domestically burn infected elm, unless it is only a small quantity and you can dispose of it pretty well at once. If you don’t, the deadly fungus plus beetle spreads with uncanny speed (April) and you have to burn immediately on huge pyres, not even the coffin-makers will thank you for it. Otherwise one could have sold the timber of giants as huge as these, and got a little offset. But no cheer there, and I have other beautiful young elms to be protected (£8 a shot for injection).

If dear sweet Archives people don’t mind, as you sanction, I will try and take my chance (get into that corner cupboard and recite witch’s runes). Dear Madeau’s deranged friends.

Longest love,


Pinkie’s Requiem is to be b[road]cast’[118]

S29. (T) 4 March 1974

‘Very dearest Madeau,

I was that glad to get your letter but fair gave me the spooks, it did, and my heart is wrung at your lovely holiday messed up by the horrid broncheety [sic] and disturbing relapse on your return. I do so feel for you. I did it once in Ireland, and having got myself home (with pneumonia) literally collapsed on the doorstep. I don’t think those Celtic outposts, marvellous as they are, are places to get stuck in… and such very weird and sinister influences at work. One look at the people they have hooked, and the conviction, O NO!! I do feel very relieved you are back, and I trust, safe, and I do hope you won’t hurry with the chandeliers. The metaphor figurative, of course; mine are wax and stuffed into old Cointreau bottles etc., and I decide the need is not pressing – I’m going along all right now, DG [Deo Gratias; Thanks to God], at about 1/4 candle power, apt to arrive disconcertingly a bout [at the end of my tether] quite suddenly, so I don’t, at present, try it out too far. I’ve got a sort of’ crazy idea for your Oral Trad[ition?] (Miss Oral Trad, the Sallies, G Sharp Close, Karpellesia) though I haven’t yet raided Archives to see if it would work but I’m watching the opportunity to do so one day soon and will signal. I do think you are saintly long-suffering. Keep your lovely nose, for heaven’s sake, out of these icy winds and don’t let the garden tempt you too far, nor the office either, for that matter. Let the BBC eat cake and wait on the chandeliers. I was listening to you and Nancy[119] (such a real treat to hear real top-class English for a change!) You both came over as completely your-selves, her chuckle particularly endearing. How she would loathe this brawling, sprawling electioneering world, vulgar without funny.

Lots, lots, lots of love,


STOP PRESS just before posting.

A music society in Bedford who seem to be fans of previous talks, have written to ask if I could do one for them in person. It would be reasonably easy for me to string something together on the sort of lines they ask, but the answer is, it couldn’t be done without recorded illustrations. What is the position as regards Archives disk material? Is it allowed out for such purposes (under the cloak of Public Relations?). I know that staff do it frequently. Wot about me (ex-staff!)?

x x.’

S30 & S31 (duplicates) 5 March 1974 Nutbourne/Pimlico

‘Dearest Madeau,

‘Further to mine of 4 March’ … I got the lines crossed! In the welter of (unanswered) requests, the talk I asked you about wasn’t Bedford, but quite an important thing of its kind. The request comes from Unilever Research, for one of their specially scheduled Celebrity Talks, an illustrated lecture recital, by special request. I wouldn’t mind doing it provided I had the illustrations, and I can’t say I’m not interested in the proffered fee in view of the two giant elms I have to take down at environs [about] £250! If you could possibly rise to it without disturbing the chandeliers and without my being an awful nuisance, your RSVP [reply] would be very much appreciated, as I’m holding up my answer.

No apologies. C’est la vie [That’s life]! x x x E.’

S32. (T) 25 April 1974

‘Dearest Madeau,

I gather you are back and ‘looking wonderful’ – Hooray! all flags flying. Though don’t trade on it… not the ‘looking wonderful’, cela va sans dire [that goes without saying] but the good (I do trust) done by rest, garden, vino. It’s still winter down here, though looking like spring. No woollies doffed!

I’m coming right back to the attack on a weird programme for you, soon as I’ve got present preoccupations off my back, which will probably be after next week. Have warned kind Archives Dept.

I owe you the return of a sweet, sweet letter you wrote me when you sent out SUCCOUR (and we exchanged it on the rather blessed telephone) and then was beset with one of my painful weary bouts and had to give in for a bit (nearly gone now, ticking nicely).

I followed your advice and got onto the Superior Bods [Persons] in Secretariat, one very speshl [sic] superior bod in particular called Miss Joan someone, who was unbelievable on the telephone: took 1/2 hr to explain what I a1reasy knew, with a blah stage voice that sounded like P[eter] Ustinov[120] being Maudie Littlehampton[121]. I got sillier and sillier, possessed by one thought: I must make her laugh. Did so, after some 20 mins hard going, and then only a frosty teacup giggle. Answer, of course, NO – tho’ I’m sure this was her nice Balham Ladies Club way of doing it. So Unilever dropped that one and sportingly invited me back at a later season, to do Carols, for which I have all sorts of tapes for illustration from various of my own broadcasts, so Hey Nonny and lets all sail away.

See you very soon – love & love & love, E x’

S33. (M) July 23 1974, Post Card with drawing of the church of St. Mary the Virgin, Wiston.

‘Near Colchester (veil doffed)[122]. I take great delight in your letter. Happy Departures & all but O, sorry deliverance is not complete (always a stuffed stooge in place of another). Mais courage [But have courage]. I feel assured of your capacity to win, strength, added, I’m sure by the warming garden colours. Poor Nonnah in the picture, strange family names round about like Baggis Ralfe and Ye Brett (Breton) etc., real tumble-down Constable-ish thatched barns in deep gold corn & a heronry round the corner. No one at all in evidence, so refreshing. Think I’m about to begin putting on an act… too frail to return to the great big world. Do hope you get out of it as much as possible!

Love enormous & comprehensive, E x x x x x’

S34. (M) 6 Sept 1974. As from Rooks Nest

‘Very dearest Madeau,

– your last letter, loved & unthanked. Forgive. And I had such a sweet one too from Ruth. Am just slow – latterly suitably, in a Norman Manor with moat, river & heavenly garden – windows & archways are round, it’s like sleeping in a corner of Caen Cathedral! Friends have been unbelievably kind to tide me over an otherwise awkward interval when I can’t stand around much or cook. Am not certain yet when back but will signal. A bit later than we had hoped, our picnic might have to be indoors, but shall still take place, I trust. Please tell John if /when in touch. I do hope life with all interesting Resolutions, programmes, hurdles, glorious gatherings & vinos supports you (rather than you it!).

lots & lots of lazy love,


S35. (M) 16 Dec. ‘74

‘Dearest Madeau,

These funny little people in their mandarin hats haunt me. (I got them in a junk shop). Perhaps Happy Christmas isn’t their real message, but it’s mine.

I’m so sorry not to have signalled you sooner. There were setbacks & I had to go back into hospital [e.g. for a liver scan] & since I came out, have been sleeping at home, but I do hope the picnic season only postponed and that we’ll rattraper [recover (our health) as] soon as possible!

All love E x’

S36. (M) Thursday 10 April 1975

‘Dearest Madeau,

– glorious news from John: Tuesday 15 April, all set, train chosen, unbounded jubilation here, red carpet being shaken out (it won’t stretch quite all the way!).

If you can’t get a taxi (taxi is John’s deuce), ring & I’ll be there right away. You land in the midst of the unspeakably awful New Town with the ugliest station & environs in Christendom. Because we are some miles distant & the moronic taxi-drivers usually need prompting, tell the man to take you up through the Old Town, by the High Street (which is noble & coaching with good pubs, Dickens & Pepys’s Swan Inn – on R[ight] opposite War Memorial on Bowling Green) & the Cromwell Hotel a bit earlier on, also R[ight], once the Cromwell family, now a rather expensive hotel. Then tell him to turn up R[ight] after you leave the town, by pub THE MARQUIS OF GRANBY up RECTORY LANE, & past Norman church by bollards, signposted to WESTON. There are only 2 houses on the hilltop of Rooks Nest about ¼ mile on, both on L[eft]: first Rooks Nest Farm, beyond it me.

I know you will be laden (!) & if impracticable please ignore: but if at all possible & really not to incommodious, could you possibly pick up & bring me a parcel of scores being left in my name at BH [Breitkopf & Härtel, music publishers] Reception, marked ‘To be Collected’. They are entries for a Composition Competition I have to adjudicate, & as [they are] composers’ master scores, the committee are anxious to avoid post. It w[oul]d enormously simplify & help to get them by hand – but if too awkward, just don’t hesitate to leave them.

Tout à toi à très bientôt – joyfully, lovingly, E’

S37. (M) Rooks Nest, Wednesday 16 April 1975

‘Very dearest Madeau,

The moment you sardined yourself out of the taxi & set foot in the house, time became nil, all was gloriously new, and with your extra special understanding & your sniffing nose, you were immediately acclaimed. There is something here nobody quite knows but one feels it, & how lovely it is to have the welcome doubled! It was a long-awaited moment, and when you handed me the ‘dog soap’, I, a trifle bemused, really thought it was. It was too naughty & generous of you… that lovely Hermès, rich & rare. Every little bubble will rejoice & luxuriate this dog (dear Comfort [Elizabeth’s dog] must make do with her kitchen Lifebuoy [a brand of soap]).

The evening was so lovely & perfect & John’s fare so good, that time only reasserted itself when you had to go. This morning I could scarcely believe it had happened, were it not for shrimps & olives & bread & another whole pie in the fridge!

Come again, please come again (this sounds like a Madrigal), it would be so lovely. I feel useless, at the moment, but one can at least share place & non-time. I hate the [British Broadcasting] Corporation, plus the stresses of life you have had a fatiguing share of, to wear you out, tho’ I know too well one can’t escape. Yet you will. The main thing is to save all you can of Madeau for when the joyful emancipation happens.

You will require canonisation, if for nothing else, for so very nobly transporting those scores – such a truly kind deed to everybody concerned. At a glance only, they look well worth while (women entrants only, prize money & performance a legacy of SWM [Society of Women Musicians]) & I suspect it will be quite a job to decide.

I do hope to see you before long. If there were more programmes like the I o W [Isle of Wight] productions, I’d listen more often. There is something about plainsong thus sung by nuns that is more moving than most things I can think of. Thank you for all. I do so hope the excursion didn’t add too heavy a last straw to the day. For me it was perfect & I felt so happy, Dearest love,


S38. (M) Nest 22 April 75

‘Very dearest Madeau,

Your lovingly perceiving letter is a joy. The house [Rooks Nest] holds much of love (yes, well named), it is there for the knowing, & in an odd way, knows its own. It was a special moment for me when you entered it & I do look forward to your being here again. (no, positively NO entertainment laid on, except possibly the occasional unexpected, livestock getting out at 5 am &c). I suggest it with extreme diffidence only, knowing your lovely stream place & your roots growing deeper & deeper down, and now, when it comes to it, one can ill spare time/energy to exchange one’s own chores for other things. I am a lost soul in this respect, as I have become part of the roots & wilt after even a few hours (in the BBC canteen I sit facing north in its direction).

O so fine about houses (& of course, owners) – the forbidding kind where the outside is out and the inside has no relation. Whereas to oneself it’s all one, with merely a few sops to climatic defences! Windows & the awful curtains people have can be dire – they lead nowhere, but then their owners lead nowhere either, there are no frames looking beyond.

You are right, I am sure, about John. He is vulnerable, & alas, all the people around him aren’t so sweet as he is. Rod Biss, that absolute honey, fellow New Zealander, late of Fabers [the publisher] (still with them, tho’ alas, at the other end) understood it all & was concerned, guide, stay & mentor. His was always a household of shelter, he was J’s strong tower & lifeline, & it was a grievous blow last year when he went back. I fear it has left John very bereft in his inner circle. Thank God he has you.

I rocked over your recent account of Poston/Pevsner & the taxi man. Stick to the facts, E. And I looked through your description of the whiz-visit of Ruth & Edward in the unmanaged off-orange car. (Harpsichord petrol, I shouldn’t wonder!).

As the [Cambridge] Hymnal is in proof for reprinting & new edition, I put [a page of] it to appropriate use as much better paper to write on than I can buy.

Whole Nest love, Elizabeth. x X x’

S39. (M) Thursday 15 May 1975

‘My dearest Madeau,

I purpose making one of my rather creaky journeys to the BBC on Thursday morning 22 May – hope for around 11.30-12 – object being Archives, to look up things & to ask for the home loan of my [radio feature] COMUS music, embedded, so far as I can remember, in 4 or so [sides on wax] of the complete production, so that I can work out & time a scheme of inclusions I have to do for Music Department. I get too tired to do these long chores on the spot, & one can be reasonably sure no one will be working these particular disks (which I think date back to the late 40’s)[123].

There would have been no difficulty with dear Mgt [Margaret] Cox, she always let me have everything I wanted & everything went smoothly. But I feel a trifle nervous of the new person in charge, & not over-enamoured of your description! (Loud voices kill me off in a second or two!). She has probably never heard of me & I certainly don’t know her. If you would be so very sweet as to put in a softening word on my behalf & prepare the way I’d be so grateful (I’m a tremulous little thing really). I’ve had to be a bit cut off from everything but I do hate being cut off from Archives, always up to now, principal home-from-home, & one feels at a loss when old trusty friends vanish & disperse. Wot on earth your loving friends will do when you leave the BBC scene does not bear imagining… you see what your just being there does for us!

I do hope all glows & flourishes & that you will get peace over Whitsun & a little second wind, & feel a little less tired. I was worried.

Love ever,


Is that CROSSTHREADS tape still extant? I do hope so. I want to use a bit of speech-cum-archival effects from it. C[oul]d you let me have its number.’

S40. (M) 29 May 1975

‘Very dearest Madeau,

Your letter this morning – So GLAD it was holiday. You did need it & a lot more. I do hope it was enough just to stem the tide a bit. I was afraid it might be a Home & Duty visit & that’s only an exchange of pressures.

I’m so glad too you are managing time at the cottage & in its enchanting garden. Fortunately ‘muddy & disorganised’ just falls short of suicide in the loving gardener, who, like a besotted parent, can bear all so long as [he is] able to muddle & disorganise in [his] own way. We are in like case, & while my gardener friends are opening their gardens, I close mine, happy among the weeds, they are so beautiful, the seeds of wild parsley etc. come in from the surrounding fields & I pick buttercups in the border.

What a very nice idea to put lavender down to tread on (like walking in the Midi [in France]). I burn it on the hearth, where it is the purest incense & obligingly clings about. I find I get the best results for drying by picking & doing it in full blossom in the hot sun, spreading the petals before massing them, so no damp or mildew gets in, & experimenting by mixing in herbs, which seem to help keep the scent. I think it helps to bottle the stuff up for a bit, before putting in bowls, to sort of collect & concentrate (but this is only my way).

I rather tremblingly took bull/archives by horns. Kind Mgt [Margaret] Cox was going that way & took me with her & said, ‘This is EP’, much as one w[oul]d say ‘the Queen of England’ & it had the desired effect on all, including me, & Miss Polly G let me take everything I wanted for timing & sorting, a v[ery] great help. It also helps keep down the Progr[amme] Allowance, as 4 times up in a week now costs me/them £10 & the more one can do at home the better. I haven’t discovered which one is Mirium but I shall do. Thank you so much for the tip. I definitely want to use some of the earlier sequences in CROSSTHREADS, & if, when you are back & able you c[oul]d give me its recording no. & particulars, it w[oul]d much help. Hope to be soon back & seeing you, All love,

E x x x’

S41. (M) 4. vi. 75 Post Card to Miss Madeau Stewart, Stream Cottage, Nutbourne, Nr. Pulborough, Sussex.

‘Ha! This is US. All owing to Sun Spots, the BBC tells me at 7 am, frost bitter, feeding two mother pheasants who are the most beautiful golds & browns imaginable. (BBC scientist advises us to go in for reindeer. I won’t mind but Comfort [Elizabeth’s dog] would).

The floating white night creature (pace the booze) must undoubtedly be a White [Barn] Owl – soundless & marvellous, becoming rare, I believe. We had one for years in hollow tree, then his house blew down, & no more.

Those herbs: any one can master at the time (rosemary good) + little whiffs of cloves/cinnamon, if inclined? Will try the Mystic Rites & invite you to a Smell-in. L[ove] & l[ots] of L[ove], E[lizabeth] x’

S42. (M) 11 August 1975

‘Very dearest Madeau,

to resume, after sundry interruptions: I’m SO GLAD about the White Owl news. How absolutely splendid and so right. I always think there’s something terribly touching about a legacy, a gift when one can no longer thank the giver. It must have given her so much pleasure in doing it, & how pleased she would be, that the first purchase is an 18 c. rose – the very memorial for her. It will always be Nancy’s rose[124].

I was vastly intrigued at your description of your experience of Mr. Heath[125]. Mine was at a PRS [Performing Rights Society?] Annual do. But what I liked and admired right through was a brief television bit of him at the rebuilt Magdalen College organ, sitting backwards on to the camera, feet in old running shoes on the pedals, hands roving over the manuals & stop banks – simply any good musician trying out an instrument, playing it, tinkering & assessing. He didn’t (lit[erally]!) put a foot wrong, it was so un-camera-conscious. One’s respect was thorough. How very nice of him to be so responsive to your call on behalf of Nancy, & how very nice that you made it. Would to God we could get rid of these sickening posturing little men & get back to dignity & order. How about a swop-over. Heath at the LSO [London Symphony Orchestra] & let that silly little Previn[126] be Prime Minister, I’m sure he’d love it.

When you have a moment, please could I have Crossthreads’ ref. no. I want to use an excerpt in a music progr[amme]. But I hope for your sake you haven’t a moment, or that you have all the moments in the world of garden… sea… summer bliss. Here we have made 150 bales of hay!

All love, E

S43. (M) 22 September 1975

‘Dearest Madeau,

I’m so so sorry you are in such a situation, as I know all too well. These impasses with parents are a most draining anxiety & need all one’s staying power, not to mention job as well. I came out of some ten years of it, practically OUT, & finding my way IN again topped up another two. Don’t let it happen to you if you can help it – I pray it doesn’t, life is too precious.

No answer expected/required. A White Owl symbol to cheer you.

Lovingest love,


S44. (M) Twelfth Night [1976]

‘Very dearest Madeau,

It was dear of you to send me that lovely cheering hand-worked hanky – greatly appreciated & far too good for nose. I think I am going to use it on trays. I was busy & rushed up to Christmas I felt completely exhausted, so thought I would keep quiet & enjoy the Blessed, blessed time & its mixture of spirit & magic, & surface after – so cards ‘n’ all went by the board.

I felt concerned lest you had to be circumscribed with family troubles & was thankful to hear that you had escaped to Stream Cottage & its owls & wondrous small birds. Also very intrigued that you are cautiously making approaches about release from BBC – tho’ not, I trust, entirely, if employed on other terms, as considering your built-up life’s work, I think you must certainly somehow get the funds & establish the organisation to do the Archives Catalogue of Folk Music. This w[oul]d not only be a service to posterity, but would crown yours, a tremendously inspiring raison d’être, & who but you could do it? Godrot old Helen F. Surely one power politically-minded stooge, or even several, couldn’t dispute the merit or the necessity of this work. Onward into 1976-7-8 & may the plan prosper. Couldn’t you, in time, live at home & do it? This is more or less what I opted for when I had to relinquish all office work & come home & look after mother & house – tho’ in happier times – & it worked, I don’t see why it shouldn’t in your case. The relief of breathing one’s own atmosphere more rather than less, is itself a spur & incentive to do work one wants to do, a very much better, more carefree state of being. I do wish it for you.

I go on, chronically behind time & trying, with indifferent success, to close gaps, but still rejoicing I’m still there to do it. I had sad news at Christmas. The frail Elsie Suddaby[127] has lost suddenly her lifelong friend, companion & protector, Jean Allan, & the home they had together, & has put herself in a nursing-home (The Ridgeway N[ursing] Home, 47 Park Road, Radlett, Herts). I must try and see her – tho’ it is in the country, ’cross-country, it isn’t easy & I don’t yet drive that far. What sort of state she is in I don’t know – mentally still very alert, I suspect. It grieves & maddens me that there’s all this fuss & BBC-ing about the 80th birthday of fat old Bella Baillie[128] who had a beautiful voice with the mentality of a suburban housewife & sang chronically out of tune, while exquisite quiet un-self-seeking Elsie the artist & musician, who could have been one of Scotland’s premier titles but preferred to stay with Jean & go on singing, worshipped by [Sir Thomas] Beecham & V[aughan] W[illiams] & them all, is left to dine out forgotten. She, of all the great artists of the time, was the centre of love and had the fund of memories. But time is running out. If I can get further, I’ll let you know,

Returning to the odious scum that frothed up in Nancy’s [Mitford’s] wake, all this is most upsetting & horrid. But surely, it is un-lasting, and even now passing into the no-matter. I personally wouldn’t believe a word of Harold A[cton]’s cashing-in, & would anyone, who knew?[129] What a lot of awful parasites. It was the same with Peter Warlock, but unfortunately his incurable penchant for scurrility left a continuing wave of dregs, still persistent, and completely contemptible. I shall slay them once & for all if I can turn my wrath into a penshare [cf. ploughshare].

A great deal of love & all blessings & wishings for 1976… room for improvement!

E X’

S45. 17 August 1976

‘Very dearest Madeau,

It was so lovely to have you here[130]. We (me & house) grieved to see you go. It knows its own. We just hope you will come back, sink in, & do nothing – & perhaps, one of these days, net that elusive butterfly, Alf!

What a dreadful; chapter of disasters about your music classes, I do sympathise. Thank goodness the others got there. Thank you so much for enchantingly delivered Code Message, tho’ you shouldn’t of [sic]. Your flower language book captivated everyone. I had to ask up a very nice Dr. & his wife to eat the lovely din[ner] Alfie forestalled! & they were greatly taken by it.

I have had those Jehovah [Witness] people here. Dreadful triteness, wot a lot of cant: ‘Insects all here for our enjoyment’? She ought to be taken over by fleas, nits, lice, earwigs, tapeworm & warble fly & shut up in a cellar, as you splendidly suggest, with the Liberal Lady. In fact, nobody really magic & appropriate except us. So satisfactory.

I think you have been wonderful in not letting the Beeb [BBC] capture you. (I’m not of). I hate the thought of your having to go back t[ink blot][131] recant when I think how much good you are doing (not to mention Inheritagars [sic] of goodness-knows-what, like me). How right you are. Alf has the answer – & truly one of the Pure in Heart.

All love


I ration myself to Special Treats of Tatler[132] & co., from which, grâce à toi, I derive endless pleasure, entertainment, private-ha-ha & with-it-ness! ‘

S46. (M) 4 March 1977

‘Very dearest Madeau,

It seems typical of the times that a letter from John in NZ [New Zealand] has brought the news about your father [Oliver Stewart]. I am so sorry. However much one thinks one is prepared, death, when it comes, is awe-ful & rending. I do hope you are all right. I fear mother problems. But don’t reply – leave all. God willing, we’ll catch up in our own time.

I think of you with very loving thoughts.


S47. (T) 7 June 1978

‘Dearest Madeau,

I do rejoice with you. How wonderfully the Lord disposes when he gets down to it! I’ve lived with tilting floors for so many years that it becomes the natural thing and one soon gets one’s floor legs and walks with a permanent ploughman’s list. It all sounds enchanting. I do hope it works out. How lovely that there is an orchard. I shall eagerly wait on events and hope the move isn’t too wearing in the meanwhile.

I never even ask for you at the BBC, thinking you had shaken off its dust. It is forlorn without you. I haven’t been there much lately, too busy with catching up here and grass spraying &c. Difficult to spare a day except for research rushes which are entirely anti-social, one is only hell bent in getting through and getting back… the year is so precious and the cuckoo sings and heavens, how it goes.

How absolutely splendid about John’s award for his Alfred Hill biography[133]. I hope it will bring; him in a nice bit of cash. I’m glad he has opted for return – one wondered whether he might be trapped out there.

Lots and lots of very special love, Elizabeth.’

At this time there is a gap in the correspondence of almost four years. This may have started partly because 1978 was another year of illness for Elizabeth: she had been to hospital in January for a duodenoscope; then an X-ray; and just two days before she had written the June letter, had undergone a further endoscopy. At the end of August she contracted meningitis and was hospitalised again for most of September. A further endoscopy followed in May 1979. Nevertheless, a very full diary still testifies to a busy life despite health problems, and the threads with Madeau were soon picked up again.

In 1981 Elizabeth composed Seal Saga, a song for flute and voice that she dedicated to Madeau (Oxford Record Office No. P143/3/MS/1), knowing that she spent time on the Isle of Inch Kenneth, the home of her half-aunt, Lady Redesdale, sitting on the rocks and playing her flute to the seals all around. The lyrics, reminiscent of Shelley’s ‘I am the daughter of Earth and Water’ in Clouds are:

Leave her alone,

She is the Island’s daughter.

Are risen from the water:

Leave her the company –

Her songs have brought her.

The old gray music doctors of the ocean –

Their holy, happy eyes

Shining devotion

Applaud and blow

In foam and soft commotion,

It is her home,

The Island’s only daughter.

The dark sleek heads –

Have risen from the water.

Leave her the company –

Her songs have brought her.

In pencil on the MS Elizabeth added,

‘I am very glad that there are still certain things, which cannot be recorded, which defy modern techniques,

One star hangs in the East, one in the West.

A few seals.

The Atlantic roars in the distance.

In spite of the best machine in the world & 50 yards of cable, recording is defeated.

And so this story may or may not be true – but at least there is nothing to prove it untrue.’

Some details of the song are given in Appendix II.

S48 (T) 9 January 1982

‘Dearest Madeau,

Your letter is rare and utter joy. But not on your behalf. I am sure John is right. The situation must be misery for you.

You should not have to accept it. If you can bear it, my advice is WRITE. Your way, the way you think it and want it. Don’t care a 2-p [twopeny] dam for what anyone else says: it has to be you or nothing – or what is the point? When it is done, YOU will tell you if/where you have gone wrong, and you can put it right. Then take the whole thing somewhere else (establishing, if possible, a good editorial bridgehead).

I adore my editors, a very special relationship and I suppose, just luck, that it just happened so. Not one, that I can recollect, has ever questioned or advised me unless I went to them for discussion, & then they only help. Surely the way it should be? But nil nil desp[erandum; never say die] WE WANT MADEAU. Don’t go back on her. I shall pray, wish, hope, make magic to see it is all right in the end. Are you tied to that hopeless-sounding non-editor and his firm?

That burglar is, thank heaven, by now in the past and a bad joke. I was so ANGRY I nearly bust – really decimating anger an awful emotion. At the time I realised my only weapon was trickery, which he underestimated, though I felt positively mean at being so much better at it than he was! But next day I was shaking like a leaf and spilling most ignominiously the tea[134]. However, it is good that laughter supervenes – as it usually does, I find.

I am chiefly intrigued and delighted you have fallen for a dog – a weakness of mine I suspected you not to share. It is so special and fulfilling. And I relish the thought of one with discrimination taste for whisky (mine, so far, have not shown any but a mild tendency for sherry, and then sneeze endlessly). What a consolation he/she must have been to you over your hectic Christmas pilgrimage. O I do sympathise. And the awful thing is that release only comes when they go…

I have had a weird year, life taking new and unexpected directions that are baffling as to whether to whiz backwards and retrace or press ahead in frequent chaos – possibly a mixture of both. This may be largely because of having to pick up old work so disastrously interrupted by long illness, and I’m rushing ahead like mad because I want to haul over the house and get it at least accomplished before I continue to live in it. The affair is attended by a deal of tiresome legal processes. By the time I think I am at last within sight of the requisite figure, another chimney falls off or a giant tree requires to be taken down, so I travel in hope but not much certainty.

An adventure anyhow.

I am so glad you are well dug in and feel the place is right for you. A move is a big step to take and very important it should work out.

I have no idea whether New Grove [’s Dictionary] is any good about me as I haven’t seen it and can’t afford. How wrong if No Seals! Perhaps I forgot to mention them, though never shall I forget the occasion nor the broadcast that followed, or you blowing away with your big toe. The sound effects were marvellous. I hope they kept it?

It was a joy to see Ruth – looking younger and better than for years. She spoke marvellously on RVW [Ralph Vaughan Williams], looking like a Botticelli[135] angel with blonde nimbus [cloud of glory]. What a darling among women she is.

I still have to be in London but am always happy and thankful to get back here. Come some day.

In the meantime, love and love and love and constant spirit-wafflings,



Did I tell you I am now FRAM [Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music]? It means the donkeys must sing on pitch. I find the letters useful for impressing people of the wrong sort like local Marxist town councillors. Earlier in the year I went to Court (by intent) in the cause of mains drainage, getting my pals of the Hospital to declare the issue a health hazard and refusing to pay the Rates (with the cheque in my pocket in case I was led away to the Condemned Cell), unless Something was Done, putting it on record that it was no part of my intention to endow the nation with an awful pong. Imagine to yourself my consternation when, nerving myself for confrontation with those frightful retired grocers &c., I was shown in before three female beaks! one the original Giacometti[136] (one could see the wires under a clinging gown of bedroom pink); the chairman, an immense working model of Epstein[137] Earth Mother hanging sack-like over the Bench; the third a scared-looking mouse that had got in from the outhouse. The result negative: court adjourned ‘for discussion’. I have not paid the rates and there has been no fresh demand, and I read in the local paper that the lane is to be closed for the installation of main drainage, though no one has told me!’

S49. (M) 13-14 Jan. 87, written in a very spidery hand.

‘Dearest Madeau,

I was/am delighted to hear of you & dog & pink shirt happily engaged in countryside & rejoicing, warm, in the right spot – I trust all this Siberian weather has not interfered too much.

I have been uncorrespondential [sic] for a variety of reasons, one the long delay owing to the fun & games of BBC radio, TV, other (& camera recordings &c.) plus more than 500 letters for my 80th birthday. Kindly celebrations tho’ mainly agreeable, which I have coped with inadequately.

Although preoccupation with beautiful Italianate script strikes me as admirable for the formality of documents, pedigrees & famous Knightly pursuits, I find no virtue in it for the personal – a penmanship which has always appealed to me powerfully as the most fascinating expressions of personality – no matter whether ‘bad’ or ‘good’. Nothing is more personal or revealing. I have lifelong been enthralled with the human herd in its every manifestation, from Dr. Crippen[138] to Voltaire[139] – something unique to be pored over, ponderable, deducible. With all respects, I hope it may never be lost.

Whatever, & not too many, excuses offered, my present disposition of typewriter is because of an accident which caused me a broken shoulder & fractured pelvis, flat on back in hospital since end October, only now wobbly promotion with various weakling aids, on sufferance for Christmas, but otherwise thankful – bed transferred downstairs, cared for by the workman who is my loved companion (a like mind); fed, on the lines of Elijah & the ravens, by the neighbours who are more than kind. Otherwise, signed & sealed by the Queen Mother with commission for massed voices of the Women’s Decacentenial Day of Prayer in the Albert Hall, though I doubt she will make the journey either in the most sublimely heated of Daimlers if this weather persists, & I am pretty certain I shan’t.

Old bones mend slowly & it is no longer possible to cut corners (or capers) at rising 82.

I would love to see you here & do hope you will come, though preferably at a later date when I am mobile – shall not be able to cook or drive for some time. In the meanwhile, snowbound ambulances tumble me to & fro from X-ray checks and I am as happy as circumstances will allow. I tremble to think of your opinion of this [spidery writing] – can only say it is effort with love (and v[ery] difficult).

It was good to hear news of John & that he is busy, hence, I trust happy. Do convey love to him. He was a sad loss to this country, if irresistibly attracted by his own.

Much, much love



Many thanks for the cutting[140]. The bit was done under my eye (I read proofs) the photographs taken a few weeks ago, with the exception of primroses & background view of me talking to someone’s baby early last year: Tom’s comment: You might have changed your trousers,

Plaque behind branches not emphasised (I have seen to that myself and on television). The view is there just as it always was, like Saxon church in the background. The Tories’ policy of selling out England begets special strategy. Don’t take too literally anything you may see or hear. My [musical] Autobiography, now touring the country is helping considerably.

The remaining eight letters were not dated by Elizabeth but in most cases the dates have been deduced.

S50. (M) [1981?]. The letter is taken to have been written in 1981 because mention is made of the colony of bees that was removed (by the editor!) from the roof of the bay window on the eastern side of the house.

‘Dearest Madeau,

I think lovingly & wishingly [sic] of you in my surrealistic way – hoping greatly all is well, as is here (with usual gouty reservations). A lot [is] happening inside own head, if not much outside it. Though immense activity, as I am busily ‘doing up’ my four centuries of house, which the Schedulers have top-graded A1. For tho’ in due course I shall have to leave the scene, I can’t see why the house should, & am hoping to give it in Trust for the arts/cooker/gardening or some such worthy object! We took some 50 years’ of honey – by now, alas, nbg – under the roof, where the bees had tunnelled under a beam & made a Good Pull-up for the workers[141]. I felt so sorry to have to disturb them. How wonderful to fill up sweetness into a ball and there lie, gently humming, into eternity.

Lots & lots of love X x x


S51. (M) Saturday evening [dated 19/20 July 1967 from draft (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20)]

S52. (M) 12 May [dated 1965 from being clipped to letters, ‘Friday’ and 16/5/65 (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20) and consistent with the date of the 2½ p stamp (1960-1967 for phosphor and 1958-65 for the ordinary).

S53. (M) January 8th [1964?] The date, suggested by the mention of St. Columba (as on 26 January 1964) and the form of address and writing found in other letters (unequivocally dated) during the period 1964 to 1967, is too uncertain to justify inserting the letter into the body of transcribed correspondence for that year.

‘My dear Madeau,

It’s horrid to feel like that, enervating & sapping, & I do hope you don’t feel like it any more, & that those miserable little bogeys, boogies, furies or gremlins that claw on & dig in & give one temperatures, have taken themselves off. Don’t go murdering anyone at the BBC or let them murder you till you can take a glass of wine & enjoy the battle – Or does one ever really? Not me, I think. Though if not battle, cabbage… or sweet sickly little sugar-beets. Not us, I’m sure!

All love & well wishing – & St. Columba to you, E.’

S54. (M) Saturday, March 30th [dated 1963 from context].

S55. (M) Sunday 17 Sept [dated 1972 from context]. The suggested year is based on: the form of address that changed from almost exclusively ‘My dear Madeau’ from 1964 to August 1967 to ‘Dearest Madeau’ in January 1969 and remained the dominant form of address thereafter; mention of John Davies; and the fact that Sunday 17 September occurred in 1972.

S56. (M) Greetings Card: picture of crocus in a bowl

‘Signals of Comfort & Joy!


with much love


I do hope all is well. V[ery] busy here.’

S57. (M) Greetings Card: picture of bells at Rooks Nest

‘Curfew shall not ring tonight


with much love



[Bells in Rooks Nest (copyright Margaret Ashby)]

8. Face to Face with Elizabeth

Elizabeth was a great raconteur and it is a pity that more of her stories are not recorded. However, in 1982 Tony Cole-Hamilton (T.H-C) had a conversation with her that he taped for The Talking Newspaper for the Blind, and he has kindly made it available for transcription here. The version that follows needed to be slightly abridged and paraphrased, partly because of imperfections in the recording, some caused, it has to be said, by Elizabeth’s enthusiastic chuckles. Margaret Ashby very kindly scrutinised the transcription in draft and solved some of the more difficult problems it posed.

T.H-C: When you were with the BBC, you were Director of Music for the European Service, were you not?

E.P: For a time, yes, I was a general dogsbody, because everybody was being put into the troops, taken away to the war, and so you were quickly put into anybody’s place they wanted to fill, regardless of the fact you knew anything about it, or not.

T.H-C: Well, I’m sure you did.

E.P: After I had been there about four years, they sent me to the BBC School where I had the most distinguished school mates, [the English critic & poet, William] Empson and George Orwell, the Animal Farm man, [author], and Douglas Cleverdon, and we thought we all knew about it then.

T.H-C: The school – you were teaching there?

E.P: Well, no, they were teaching us. They thought we ought to know about the stratosphere. We had been hurled into this; we approached musicians, writers, journalists, all the lot, and all our European friends too. So, a wonderful jumble of languages, and they had a bright idea they would start this school. They thought we ought to know about higher things, because one never dealt with the stratosphere, [radio waves] bouncing off and going over. There was no possible interest to me, so we were like a class of dreadful little children, doodling on art paper, waiting until we could get out at opening time.

T.H-C: That was during the war?

E.P: Yes, during the war. What a farcical way of fighting a war!

T.H-C: You were in a very necessary business?

E.P: I think they knew we were a whole bunch of amateurs, but I thought we did jolly well. We got programmes on the air night and day. For a long, long time I was on all night, catching the occupied countries. It was absolutely enthralling; it was very secret too. I was functioning more or less under the Foreign Office direct, you see, because there had to be a musician there; it was a case of music in code and all that sort of thing – absolutely brilliant, the whole conception of the thing.

T.H-C: Was music used as a code for getting messages to people?

E.P: Yes. Also, in fact it was absolutely amazing. I mean, the Czechs, for instance – because they were valiant resistors, but we had a hot line to them the whole war, and the Nazis never found it. We were on the phone to them nightly, which we thought was a tremendous feat. There was no telephonic communication with anybody else. But the Czechs kept going – underground line.

T.H-C: All the messages were sent by radio?

E.P: Yes, it was the only way of really getting things over, and I had to interview, oh, terrible things. Belgians would come off ships (who had swum the channel), and that sort of thing, and they would perhaps be holding a piece of paper in their teeth, or something. It was coming through by devious ways, but there had to be somebody there who could de-code and, if necessary, de-code a tune.

T.H-C: Oh, I see. But also during the war you played in the National Gallery lunchtime concerts, did you not?

E.P: Well, just for the feeling of sauve qu’il peut [sic; every man for himself], because I wanted to try and think that I was still me and doing something, because really one had to give everything. You were never allowed to appear in public very much or do anything like that, and I just thought I would for a change.

T.H-C: Alongside Myra Hess [the pianist] in fact?

E.P: Because it was such a personal thing, she asked those she knew. And nobody ever dreamt of saying, ‘No’. But I had to fight through a certain amount of red tape to get there at all. But having established that, I went on, so I didn’t bother.

T.H-C: Could I go back a bit now, I wouldn’t dream of asking a lady her age anyway?

E.P: I will tell you that; I’ve got four more birthdays till 80. I am 76 this year.

T.H-C: You were born in 1905.

E.P: How right you are, yes.

T.H-C: Am I right in thinking that you lived here then?

E.P: No, I didn’t. I have only had two homes. My mother brought me here when I was seven, in precisely the same sort of circumstances as E. M. Forster was brought here by his mother. Both were widowed young and both had a child, and both children loved the house, and we succeeded each other, you see. The Forsters were great friends of the Postons, long before I came on the scene, so it was a very interchangeable, interesting history.

T.H-C: Was this a Poston home then, in fact?

E.P: No, it wasn’t. It was a Forster home, but with a lapse of about 30 years before the Postons moved in, and in that time it had got very derelict, and had rather a scruffy collection of people in it, I think, and there was a lot to be done and it seems to me I have been doing it ever since.

T.H-C: So you have been here since 1912?

E.P: Yes, we moved in just before the First World War [1914-1918].

My mother was a great character and when it was announced – the umbrella episode – do you remember, when (what was the name of the Prime Minister who waved his umbrella at Hitler?) and said there is not going to be any war. What was his name; it’s gone[142].

T.H-C: Sorry I can’t help.

E.P: Never mind. Anyhow, when that came over the air, my mother was standing in the garden and she looked at the rose bed and said, ‘Well, I suppose this means roses are going to become rather scarce. I think we had better have another 20 of those, don’t you?’ And they are still there.

T.H-C: After what, 70 years?

E.P: Well, she had been through so many years; she died at nearly 100. Towards the end, if there was something awful happening, she was rather fond of saying, ‘Never mind, darling, Lord Kitchener will see to it’. She jumped back about, too often; she couldn’t remember who was managing the present War.

T.H-C: And, of course, in those days Stevenage was just what we now know as Old Stevenage and probably not all of that anyway?

E.P: No, it was a perfectly charming old agricultural town, really centred on all its good farms round about.

T.H-C: With the market?

E.P: With a sort of market. The principle animal market was always Hitchin. These roads were blocked up with beasts being driven in once a week, and nothing but farm carts in this lane; not many cars, you know. In fact we always had horses, and the Forsters always had ponies and carts and things. My mother, in the end, thought we had better get a car. And we did have a car, and the gardener just came and looked at it and said ‘Never a bit of manure are you going to get off that!’ What a splendid comment. He took great exception to changing over from horses. And of course it has always been very rural. It is a farm; it’s very interesting that the name he [E.M. Forster] gave it, ‘Howards End’, was really unconscious, I think, a thing that was in his memory because I have been into it quite a bit in the County Records Library, and it was farmed by a family called Howard for upwards of 200 years.

T.H-C: That’s how it came about?

E.P: Yes, it was ‘Howards’. And ‘End’ is a demarcation of territory. Howard Ferguson, the composer was very shocked; he said, ‘are you really living at Howard’s End? Oh dear, I do hope not’[143]. It’s nothing to do with the end of anything, but the end of a chap’s territory.

T.H-C: Of course the Great North Road, as it was then, went through the High Street. I can remember that.

E.P: Oh, yes.

T.H-C: Only 20 years ago.

E.P: Yes, it was a very nice town and a very friendly one, everybody knew everybody, and it revolved in its various circles. There was no music much, but people had splendid entertainments in the Town Hall, which is no longer there, and spent the rest of the time playing billiards and occasionally somebody fell through the floorboards. I think, actually, it was my first public appearance; I went and did a dance to Handel[144], and I played something rather sketchily on a violin. I think it was all for the Red Cross.

T.H-C: You played the violin as well of course?

E.P: I long ago gave that up because really, if you write music, you have got to know about it all in your head; you really haven’t time to practice things.

T.H-C: But you have composed a piece for violin and piano?

E.P: I haven’t really; they are mostly student works. I haven’t particularly wanted to hold on to them, but I do go back to the Savoy Hill[145] days because I had my first work played there and that was jolly funny[146].

T.H-C: Did you play yourself at that?

E.P: No, I had it all done for me. It was ordained by them, and I think I was still at the Royal Academy [of Music]; I was frightfully pleased. It was lovely. There was only about one studio, very ‘one horse’. Of course, I thought it was terrific then; we were just about emerging from the cat’s wiskers, [stage][147]. And there was a splendid notice outside the door saying (there was a sort of corridor, lavatories,), ‘Please do not flush while the red light is on’ – because the flushing used to come over the microphone! That’s quite a thing to remember.

T.H-C: Yes, Lord Reith[148] wouldn’t have cared for that, I think?

E.P: No, I think it was probably he who put the notice up. We all behaved frightfully well then. The standard went down with a wallop when the war came through, we were all chuffed.

T.H-C: I know that the announcers always used to have to wear dinner jackets to read the news. Did the orchestras have to be properly turned out?

E.P: Yes, indeed they did, and there were fearful protests amongst the wives. I was attached in the early part, with the wives, to the orchestra; I was trailing round with [Sir Adrian] Boult. They de-centralised us and sent us to Bristol and we were bombed out of there. And Paul Beard, who was then the leader, had it very much at heart that he must have a perfectly boiled shirt and a good black tie, and somebody pointed out to him that, in the blackout one night, he hadn’t brought his black tie; he had got a very racy dark blue one with white spots. So we all hove to with our fountain pens and things and blacked out the spots. Of course the audience didn’t see it. It satisfied the Raj!

T.H-C: This for just voice radio only. Nowadays it seems amazing doesn’t it that that sort of thing should have been insisted upon.

E.P: Oh, absolutely, but I think in a sort of way they were right; it did sort of keep up the showmanship side. It gave people who came to the concerts tremendous uplift; there we were all looking absolutely 100% and the wives grumbling about it like mad in the background because all these shirts had to be cleaned and washed and everything. People’s trousers were like looking glass, but still, no matter, the gesture had been made; it looked rather splendid.

T.H-C: In the 1930s, am I right in thinking you spent a lot of time abroad did you not?

E.P: Yes, I did. Where have you got all this from?

T.H-C: I have been boning up in the library.

E.P: Yes, I did because, when you are studying you do have holidays; it’s more like a school year, and I never felt music was all of life: it happened to be something that I can do, so I did it. But I joined a team of archaeologists at one time and went off and lived in the Middle East and did all sorts of things.

T.H-C: Whereabouts were you?

E.P: I was in mostly what was then Palestine because that came under the [British] mandate,[149] and one was still the upper hand there, so it was quite a good place to be. I used to stay at Government House and go out into the dessert and get lost with all sorts of bearded people. Absolutely fascinating. A gorgeous place, what is now Jordan[150]. Absolutely wonderful monuments there, in Jerash and Petra and all those places[151]. Very uncomfortable, one got rather scrofula in the end, living very rough, and you couldn’t pass the wadis [dry river courses] once it had started raining, and the Arabs were a doubtful quantity. [When] we travelled we always had a good Sheik on hand who was a great friend – on the principle that the others would kill him first and not us. The whole place was a mass of feuds everywhere.

T.H-C: Seems very reasonable!

E.P: Yes. Those were great times. I managed to get myself all over the place like this, but not for very long at a time.

T.H-C: I notice that you are mentioned as an explorer.

E.P: I think I was exploring. I managed to get myself into the jungle where the Burma Road is. That was the British again, because I happened to be staying with an Army cousin so one could go where they went – wonderful choice, because the whole territory has altered now, as you know[152].

T.H-C: Was it all very much unknown territory?

E.P: Well, it was because we had nothing except the forest drives cut by the British – it does suffer from awful burnings in that jungle. We had our own maps, the army maps of the rides, but nothing else as there was no road; you went on until you came to the Great Wall of China. I had, unfortunately, to come back before I got that far.

Then I had a very thrilling time in the USA too[153]. I got an old horse there and rough rode about on the west coast, which was absolutely enthralling.

T.H-C: I suppose in those days the west coast was not as grossly over populated as it is now?

E.P: Well, not the bit that I was in, which was somewhere south of Washington [State]. The mountains there were the most beautiful and quite a long way still from California. It hadn’t been developed, and the Americans had built a series of lookout huts on the top of those mountains. One was just immediately under the Golden Eagle [Line] and snowline, with nothing except the tremendous roar of these waterfalls going down to the ranches below. And for about a few dollars you could caretake up there and more or less go and live there and hire it. I went off with two artists and there we stayed, absolutely completely contented. We had to come down occasionally and fetch some tins up by the horse, but it was living just right under the sky; it was simply gorgeous, and I found it very difficult to come home to England from there. If I hadn’t had to be earning a living I would have stayed in one or other of these places and still be there. It’s just the straight and narrow; I had to keep earning – make an income – somehow. That’s very difficult in music, anyhow, and it’s been more and more difficult ever since.

T.H-C: Talking of earning a living at music, you have done a lot of composing, and for music for plays and television?

E.P: I have loved all that, but then I look upon all that as a sort of rather journalese – in a way, journalism – because you have got to have eggs in so many baskets in order to be able to make things pay at all, so I have never really refused very much. And I think the BBC drove me into that, because the more the people went away, their lovely players and composers were all being lost, to them. And then we were pressed into service and I found it fascinating. I mean, I learnt to score for jazz bands, which I should have never done in the ordinary way. You had to keep on filling the gaps. I think the gap filling went on and, after the War was over, I was very keen to get back to my own work. I had only signed on for the war, and they kept on asking me back, which was terribly nice in a way.

T.H-C: When you say, ‘your own work’?

E.P: Well, I wanted to write and I also had the thought that I really must look after this place a bit because I had just got the responsibility of that. I didn’t want to live too far away from it, and I couldn’t get home in those years at all. One lived more or less in a crater, or wherever you would find a bed, or the underground, or something – some of the most marvellous places I have ever lived in.

T.H-C: You say you were writing. What were you writing?

E.P: Well, I wanted to write what I wanted to write. I never quite knew how it was going to turn out. It might be a suite for a string orchestra or a Penguin book or something, whichever fancy took me, and whichever, quite candidly, was going to pay, but then, you see, it’s mostly done by commission. So you find yourself working, if you are lucky – if people like your work enough. You have to work to get to that point. Then they commission you. Then you are absolutely certain you are going to make some money out of it because there is going to be some cash down. That is the thing very few musicians ever have, unless they are orchestral players.

T.H-C: Ah, when you said ‘writing’, I didn’t understand you to mean writing music, but that is what you meant?

E.P: I meant writing any old thing actually.

T.H-C: You have written books?

E.P: I am doing books now because the rat race is so terrific – the concert halls and the draughty churches – I really didn’t want to go on with that side of it, not the platform side, forever. And, fortunately, people like Penguin are asking me to do these things, so I love doing them and I can do it a bit from here. Though the researching is always going on; one is always dashing about, looking up something somewhere.

T.H-C: You have written carols, I think, have you not?

E.P: Well, I love carols. I am very interested in all folklore, and carols have gone so badly astray, and I was a great friend of dear old Vaughan Williams, and he suggested [it] to me originally. I had a telephone call from him one morning and he said, ‘You come to lunch’ and I said. ‘Today?’ He said, ‘I want to talk to you about The Oxford Book of Carols because I don’t approve of it any more’. Well, he had done that at about the time I was born. And he was quite right, of course; things have moved on. There are a lot of things he didn’t like and his idea was that he was going to re-do it, and he thought it would be very nice if I came and helped him. But it never happened because he died; he was very old then. By that time I was so imbued with what he had been doing, I went on, on my own. What I did was more or less what he and I had planned to do, so it was all very nice in that way. I still feel he is rather standing behind my chair.

T.H-C: You did The Penguin Book of [Christmas] Carols [1965] didn’t you?

E.P: Yes, I did two. There was The Second Book of [Christmas] Carols [1970] and that was very interesting. I was trying to trace the immigration, so to speak, of our folk lore and trying to disentangle how much of the lovely stuff they have got in the States was entirely due to us. And then the sort of cross fertilisation of the coloured influence, and all the jazz and the spirituals that came in. It’s fascinating. Why the Americans never bothered to do it I never made out, but I managed to do it at a distance – with the help of the Library of Congress; splendid people.

T.H-C: Then you have collected and published children’s books?

E.P: Yes, I love nursery rhymes. I think they are tremendous. They have got everything; they’ve got the bite and the tradition and the humour and the rhythm. Wonderful little tiny tunes, lovely things.

T.H-C: And you have written some as well?

E.P: No, not really. I have put a few settings to words that hadn’t got them and that kind of thing. But I did take great pains. There is an awful lot in nursery rhymes; they have been so barbarised and so messed about, and I tried to get the versions right. I think those are the first things that meant much to me in music because we didn’t have anything else then.

T.H-C: Taking an ordinary nursery rhyme that everybody is likely to know, could you give me an example of one that has been knocked about and what it should be?

E.P: It’s difficult. The thing that springs to mind is, I think, carols have been worse treated than the nursery ones. They have all been badly treated partly because they have been passed down by word of mouth, and people have sung them how they think, which is not always so. The words have done better than the music on the whole, I think. If you take an ordinary sort of, more or less, international carol like [Silent Night,] Holy Night, which for one thing has been more or less turned into a Waltz, it always seems to me shockingly sugary. I can illustrate it on the piano. I mean it’s not what it ought to be. In the highlands of Austria, it was written in the 19th century to help a poor Christmas organist whose organ had gone wrong, and it was written for the guitar and strummed out there with perfectly sweet little words. Nothing at all about what we sing over here. And as for Good King Wenceslas, I have been trying to kill him off for ages, but nobody will agree. It’s a fertility carol; it’s about the bees in the flowers: ‘Go on, it’s spring, have a lovely time’. The venerable cleric, who wrote this, he took the tune, he slowed it down to a funeral march and wrote all this absolute nonsense. There isn’t anything about St. Agnes’ fountain; it’s just sheer invention! It has been taken up, because they love it that all the choirboys have a solo in it. [Elizabeth then sings in a squeaky soprano:] ‘Mark my footsteps, good my page’ [and continues]: It is absolute slush and it ought to be played about six times as quickly. It’s a dance and everybody is stamping their feet.

The Times took it up a year or two ago. The Times critic, whom I didn’t know very well, rang me up and said, ‘Listen to television tonight; you will be interested’. Well, I didn’t have any television, so I went over to the cottages and I said, ‘Can I look in about midnight or so?’ He had got a large family of children – about seven of them, I think – in the kitchen. I’d said in my Penguin [Book] that this is meant to be danced; it’s a joyous thing; it is nothing to do with treading in the snow.

(It is also responsible for one of the worst choir jokes in England; you can work that one out; I am not going to quote it. Are you taping this?

T.H-C: Yes.

E.P: Then you can take this bit out. Anything that has the line like, ‘Heat was in the very sod’ ought not to be perpetuated in a Christmas carol. You have really got to analyse some of this and you’ll see where we are getting to.)

And there they were, in the kitchen. I’d said. ‘You should do the traditional thing and sing it and dance it, and not to King Wenceslas, but about the bees and flowers and bang all the kitchen pots you can get hold of’. And they did it on the screen; it was terribly funny. But it proved the point. It was a very good Christmas gimmick, but people won’t do it. I haven’t killed him yet. I am trying.

T.H-C: What would the small boys who come round to one’s door do without it?

E.P: Well, I know. That’s it! It’s got so deeply engrained, but I wish they would sing something else or make the effort and sing it properly and come round at mid-summer.

T.H-C: They could hardly know that it was a fertility song, I think.

E.P: No. But if they had the proper words they would realise that the medieval people sang about all their seasons, and this definitely wasn’t Christmas, and it’s been nailed on to this poor old saint. I can’t stand for that. It just makes one laugh.

T.H-C: You talked of animals, have you got large numbers of animals?

E.P: I have donkeys and horses, quite enough to keep me going. I have some grass and it’s really a question of grazing, because one can’t turn the place into a jungle, and it’s really better to get some animals – because they do the grazing and I get the manure. Occasionally they all burst out and get somewhere awful.

T.H-C: You graze other people’s horses, do you?

E.P: Well, sometimes; it depends what I’ve got at the time. I was breeding donkeys at one point and I got so fascinated with it I began to realise we should go under donkeys, if I wasn’t careful. So I got rid of the foals and I’ve got my special one, Fairy. She is a celebrated donkey; a television queen. She won the donkey race at Olympia at the big Christmas horse show, which has never been known before or since. She was on the telly, and my, was I thrilled. I got my lunch and a free ticket after that, and I had to grind up there in a horsebox at 5 o’clock in the morning. A chap came along behind the scenes – this dreadful place behind Olympia, it’s all sort of dreadful concrete pillars and people with horse boxes; it’s like a circus – and asked, ‘You ‘arfordshire donkeys?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I think so’[154]. It was the first time they introduced with all the star riders, David Broom and everybody looking so marvellous, and they brought donkeys in for the first time, because it was Christmas and people bring their children. It was so funny to see all these little donkeys lining up for a race. They had to be driven in little carts called sulkies and the idea was that each posh jockey should burst through the doors like roman gladiators, choose a donkey, and jump into the cart. And we had the most charming Irish jockey and he burst in at the moment – I think it was done by somebody firing a pistol shot – and they all sprinted and he went straight for Fairy and said, ‘She’s me donkey, she’s me donkey’, and simply was over the moon before the others had started. There were about 4,000 children all leaning over and saying ‘Go it, Fairy, Fairy, Fairy’. I just couldn’t believe my eyes; it was so funny. This plump little thing, pelting round with tiny steps, it got the whole audience going. And Fairy was very celebrated because of that, and when I got home they said, ‘Oh, didn’t you think Fairy was marvellous on the box?’ ‘Well’, I said, ‘I couldn’t see it because I was up there with her’. Lord Bath, who has animals and a zoo and things at Longleat, lent them his elephant so it could have a tug of war with the BBC, and that I found very enjoyable because a lot of my pals were in it and they all bit the dust. The elephant won on points, anyhow. But the point of that was, Fairy had to leave the ring through the great doors, with the men who sort of control the traffic there, and she was leaving just as Lord Bath’s elephant was coming in. Fairy turned tail for she knew perfectly well she had won, and she was all agog and was going to race that elephant. She tore in after it again. It took about three strong men to get her out. That’s one they didn’t put on the box. It was incredibly funny. You just got the spirit of the meeting.

T.H-C: Can I bring the subject back to music? You have been very much associated with Hertfordshire music have you not – as a Governor of the Hertfordshire Rural Music School? Could you tell me what it is?

E.P: Well, it was started by a local lady who was a teacher in these parts, Mary Ibberson. She has since written a book about it[155]. She died not long ago, and she got the idea that music must be taken to villages because there were old chaps longing to play the double bass, and people had been playing instruments in churches and that sort of thing, but there was no real teaching, and she thought that she must get an organisation. And proceeded to do it, and muster all the teachers and people she could and beg for funds and get an organisation together. She sent the music to the villages and then, in time, the music began to come out of the villages and meet once a week and have small orchestras and things, and just grew that way.

T.H-C: This is a period in the late 1950s when you were associated with it, I think. Did they form together and make an orchestra or anything like that?

E.P: Oh yes, they did. Orchestras. It spread county by county until we were getting the same organisation going in all sorts of places, and then all the county people would come together at least once a year. After that, towards the end of her life – I think she was very far seeing – she let the Government in. Well, not so much that, as sort of wanted really to play in with them because, since then, music has become so much organised under school patronage and officialdom, that really it was a pity to keep apart. And so now we are run under the county, but we still keep, so to speak, our individuality. We go to the centre and we have got an organisation of Friends of Music, and got them a harpsichord, so they could play old music properly. And that all goes on, and it’s a good help to the County Education [Authority] because it takes a certain amount of that off their shoulders, and yet they are supervising the movement, which is a very good thing. It’s just changed its spots a bit, but it’s doing the same sort of work and, of course, in the age of radio and television, music does come to the villages now. But in an active sense, I think they still want it very much, and it helps with children, you see – gifted children in schools – in all sorts of ways.

T.H-C: So that is still a lively force?

E.P: That is still a lively force. It’s kept its own name because people don’t seem to know it by any other. I think they really wanted to change it to County Music, but they still call themselves ‘Rural’, although rural they are not very [rural] now.

T.H-C: It embraces towns as well?

E.P: Yes, it’s just changed its spots. Its impetus I think still goes on from this one woman. It was very nice, for the county. We were the father of it all, I think. And they have this rather nice house left to them – a place called Little Benslow Hills – by one of the Seebohm family (very well known Hitchin family) who, when he died, left everything there, so, from the beginning, making a very nice headquarters. It is very flourishing now because, under new management, since her death, it has reformed itself, re-grouped in a way, and it runs courses. And you can stay there and have bedrooms and small dormitories and cook for yourself, if you want, and get absolutely first class people down, training you in string quartets and that sort of thing – a help to many people.

T.H-C: You have composed what one might almost call folk songs, songs that are country-themed.

E.P: I suppose that sort of comes into it, in a way, because it’s part of one’s thought and you find yourself rather writing that sort of mood, but not all the time. All the work I’ve had to do with drama and poets makes one branch out very much in other things – Shakespeare, for instance; it’s been tremendous fun working with so many great stage people.

T.H-C: What is your own favourite composition – the one that has given you the most pleasure to do and to hear again?

E.P: Well, the trouble is one doesn’t hear them all again because a lot of the stuff is not even published. If it’s been commissioned for a stage run, its life is as long as the life of the play. I think the one I actually had the most complete thrill about was something I wanted to do nearly all my life, the music for The Tempest, because, as you know, ‘this isle is full of noises’[156]. Shakespeare put in almost everything in there and I always wanted to do it with the whole resources of modern sound treatment and echoes and modern orchestra. But I wanted to use all the animal sounds including the insects’. So I wove this into the score and I dashed madly about the country trying to find a cock that crowed in D Major, or get it as near as I could into the setting. And the sea bits; it was so wonderful using modern resources. You had your orchestra on one level making its lovely sounds, and then you get the sea recorded and you have bits where it was absolute water noise, completely natural and then, under that, when he talks about pearls that are his eyes[157], I got a recording of the Tenor Bell of St. John, Lateran, which is a particularly fascinating bell in Rome, and got this into the score, too, so, by which time you had a sort of tapestry of sounds – absolutely fascinating.

T.H-C: Is there a record of this?

E.P: It’s been destroyed because it was broadcast, and it was entirely up to the BBC – what they kept or what they destroyed. They now have this absolutely munificent thing called The Archives[158] in which everything is kept of any note. This was pre-archive and it was never kept – to my great, great sorrow. The score remains, but I would never be able to do that again, now. I researched into bee noises, and never realised so much that a bee looking for honey made quite a different sound as a bee swarming. And the bats … I was absolutely mad about the bats. They went so high you could hardly hear them. I mixed the bats with the piccolos, little tiny wind instruments; it was gorgeous. I think it came somewhere near Shakespeare’s feeling that the whole thing was alive with sound. It took some doing but I was absolutely enthralled. But that’s gone.

T.H-C: What a shame.

E.P: Well, one has to accept that.

[Elizabeth plays on the piano]

T.H-C: Lovely.

E.P: I’ve got a tiny little piece of Schubert, which is not known at all. I don’t think it’s been published in this country. He wrote it when he was very young. It’s a question of that or of [something from] this Penguin [Edition].

T.H-C: Well, whichever. Whatever you think you would like to play. Would it be greedy to have both?

E.P: Well, I’ll play this. Perhaps I’ll play some wrong notes and then you’ll have to scrub it. Are you right?

T.H-C: Yes.

[Elizabeth plays again]

T.H-C: That’s entirely unpublished?

E.P: It’s published in Germany, but I got it off a musicologist friend, as one does; she copied it up for me. It has a German reference and I have not seen it. I dare say now it’s in the hands of someone.

T.H-C: The song which one hears mentioned most often is ‘Sweet Suffolk Owl’.

E.P: Oh, yes. That was written here. That’s kept on; it’s just about seen me through over my life – the royalties for that.

T.H-C: Are you able to play that?

E.P: Not much good without the voice, it goes too high for me; sopranos love it because it goes [singing very high], ‘Toowit, toowoo’! No, I don’t think I can manage that now. But I am sure you don’t know this one; it is not known, but I am putting it in the book – My Man Says To Me; it’s a Tyneside song. Do you know that?

T.H-C: Sounds a good idea.

E.P: It’s a very good one[159].

T.H-C: You’ve got the microphone behind you.

E.P: Is that going all right. I suppose it is. I am so used to looking at microphones.

[Elizabeth accompanies herself:]

My man, he said to me,

‘Cuddle in, cuddle in’.

My man, he said to me,

‘Cuddle in, me darling’.


‘The nights be cold, the sheets be thin,

cuddle in, cuddle in.

The nights be cold, the sheets be thin,

cuddle in, me darling.’

T.H-C: That was lovely. Thank you very much indeed.

E.P: Well you must have enough, I should think, for about five hours!

T.H-C: Well, not quite, just over half an hour. Anyway, thank you very, very much indeed Miss Poston. It’s been most kind of you.

E.P: I’m very thrilled with your work. Now, what about a sherry! You will have a glass, won’t you?

9. Dispelling the Jackals

A BBC broadcast in 1964
Elizabeth Poston

If the figure of Philip Heseltine – or rather Peter Warlock – is only partly discernible today, it’s because he meant it to be. There are one or two basic facts to be accepted about him. He was born into the secure, comfortable world of the squirearchy, one which gave him the background of leisure. By nature and reading he was an aristocrat. He had a profound reticence, all the more closely guarded in face of the world at large that he charmed and welcomed. This reserve was proof against all assault: it was shed only to those of his chosen intimacy. If a corner of the veil can be lifted now, it is in an attempt to redress a balance tilted, in the course of time, wildly askew; to try for a more reasonable estimate; to dispel the jackals.

No more nonsense, I think, has been talked and written about one person than has been talked and written about Warlock: nonsense that has persisted with the years in old, void clichés and facile judgments trotted out ad nauseam. And since nothing, in the complexity of any restless human spirit, can be reduced to a computer answer, there is still the imponderable that leaves us guessing. But we can at least go by such facts as there are.

I would suggest two main factors to account for the nonsense. One is the mocking figure of Warlock himself, the actor whose mask the world has been only too ready to accept. One can scarcely blame a generation that didn’t know him for accepting him at second hand through the eyes of the second-rate – the mask for the man. There’s been nothing very much to help them, and a good deal to hinder. T. E. Lawrence, in a letter to Mrs. Hardy on the death of Thomas Hardy, said: ‘You will be miserably troubled now with jackal things that don’t matter. After a year of adulation the pack will run over where he stood. A generation will pass before the sky will be clear of clouds for his shining,’ – and he adds, ‘However, what’s a generation to a sun?’ Well, the jackals have followed Warlock all right, and to his detriment: they have successfully got between the man and his work. As a personality who towered amongst his fellows and fascinated and amused and annoyed them to the verge of mania, he was obviously one to inspire the various caricatures and references that are to be found scattered about the writings of his contemporaries. But for all that these give us of the real man, you may scan the pages of D. H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley and a host of lesser memoirs in vain. For any record of value they can be wiped off as not worth the paper they’re written on, and they leave us back where we started. The man and the artist stay aloof; a catalyst in the midst, a synthetic ghost whose persistent phantom is kept flapping ghoulishly, a scarecrow set up instead of the real person.

Blame the mask if you will: to blame it too much is to run equally into the trap of confounding a complex character with a too-easy, ready-made psychology. And here I would suggest the second factor in the Warlockian nonsense saga. If by his very nature Warlock victimised, he was also the victim of his biographer. Cecil Gray collected the Delius correspondence; he had sense enough to incorporate the affectionate reminiscences of Augustus John, R. R. Terry and Robert Nichols; he performed a valuable service in the bibliography. In various other respects his book is a portrait of Gray rather than of Warlock, and some of those who were closest to Warlock receive no mention. There’s a reason for this. Gray was the unhappy satellite of a planet about whom he revolved pointlessly, obsessed, until in later years that orbit failed him, and he faded out.

The Bouvard-Pécuchet myth[160] can be taken at its face value with a very large pinch of salt: the friendship, which started as an under-graduate link, was not the kind to mature. The full story is yet to be told, but what unfortunately has endured is the misleading story he started off Warlock versus Heseltine, a schizophrenic legend that is entirely Gray’s invention[161]. The very opposite was in fact the case: Warlock was one of the most complete people I’ve ever known. Complete not only in the Renaissance interpretation of attainments and a full life lived, but endowed with looks, brain, wit and birthright. And he achieved a substantial measure of success in his lifetime. He had, I would say, more sides to him, was more strongly assertive than most people, and he admitted the lot, giving rein to them all. And if this uninhibited outlook gave rise to wild clashes, and puzzled other people, it was at least logical to him even if, in the end, he also became its victim. His refusal to suppress one side of himself in favour of any other was accepted by those who really knew him, though, of course, it could, and did, lead to fantastic situations, and often complicated life considerably.

Beneath it, and with it all, there was the essential gentleness of the man, and an almost desperate sensitivity. From this there sprang the mask – the mask with which he sought to protect himself from him-self; with which he tried to legitimise the contrary strains in his nature that danced their dervish dance to destruction; that hid from all but the few his final failure to reconcile.

What comes out strongly in his music is the balance of intellect and emotion. He had none of the intellectual’s tendency to split heart and head. He had no ambition to create in big forms: these he grasped keenly in the works of others; for himself he required the compact expression of experience immediately captured, a moment caught and communicated – the capacity that makes of his best songs a little world of subtlety and meaning. Others, of course, were spontaneous and direct, like the greeting he kept for his friends.

He had a real affinity of mind with the Elizabethans. Their deep realisation of human impermanence enabled them to live in the shadow of death and gain from it a heightened sense of life. To Warlock the shadow – the sense of the abyss – was never not there.

In his presence one experienced always a heightened awareness, and it is this extreme poignancy of living that communicates itself in his best songs – in the heartrending cry of Sleep just as much as it does in the fleeting thistledown joy of Piggesnie. Warlock achieved in his best work moments of complete being, when he was able to ‘kiss joy as it flies’ and catch it quickly on paper. He experienced also the desolation of its aftermath, when he would seek to recapture the joy again in the gregarious consolations of the tap-room. The popular legend of the beer-swilling roisterer dies hard, and it has indeed some foundation in fact. But the roisterer was only one facet, and even the Warlockian soubriquet has been ludicrously overplayed. The name was characteristic of his whimsical relish for words. He adopted it for his bank account after a family tiff about his finances, and in 1929 we find him signing a letter ‘Peter Warlock Exclusively’. But at home he was always Philip. The Warlock was a convenient smokescreen for the other life he led in the Chelsea Set of the 1920s: the two never mixed.

As for the drinking songs, they were the very last thing he wished to be remembered by, though they had their place, and one or two have kept it – the excellent Good Ale, for one. Others, less worthy, have been overdone. Warlock himself had absolutely no illusions about it. He sold his songs outright for £10 apiece, and when he found a profitable popular vein, like many another composer he exploited it. He says in a letter: ‘I’ve not written nearly as many songs about beer as several very worthy composers addicted to Shropshire have written about graveyards’ – which you must admit is a subject still more liable to be overdone.

He was a stern self-critic and spoke disparagingly of such of his songs as he himself didn’t approve of. He refers to Yarmouth Fair as ‘horrible’; Rest, Sweet Nymphs he castigates as ‘rubbish’ and Passing By as ‘deliberate spoof’. Well, they’re admittedly a pretty far cry from the great love-songs and the lullabies, and Corpus Christi.

His output of upwards of 100 songs, a large body of transcriptions and scholarly editing – the months he spent in the Bodleian, the British Museum and other archives – besides his writing in his other works, all done in 12-odd years: these disprove in themselves the legend of a pub-crawling soak. If he had been, he couldn’t have done it. The work itself disproves it. In transcribing, he worked direct from the manuscript and didn’t photograph. And anyone who knows this job knows it can’t be done in a haze, or with a hangover. The amount of beer he sank wouldn’t keep any brewer in business: actually that was far more the prerogative of his friends and casual associates. His cult of the pub was always rather a pose, though his excesses on occasion were spectacular enough to beget a legend. But he could go for weeks without a drink, and did. At his death, the autopsy revealed no trace of alcoholism.

He was a country child, and his Montgomeryshire childhood was happy and normal. His home was a place of books and ordered comfort: the country-house surroundings of flowers and dogs, Morris wallpapers and log fires. It was a welcoming and lovely place, with the River Severn to bathe and fish in, and a heronry he loved near the house: a landscape of family acres and sturdy eccentrics. There was Aunt Bessie, who received the curate in a check sponge-bag cap when she approved of him, and drew up the drawbridge when she didn’t. They were a peaceful community, and it was one he came back to. In his years at Eton and Oxford he had money and time to read and travel, and reached early an unusual maturity of mind. While still at school he read widely and systematically, with an innate painstaking scholarship.

He also learned little of the practice of music in its practical application, and this was the cause of a fundamental problem in his technique. He never solved it. The pivotal point of his musical life, which came with his attraction to the music of Delius, was an obsession that coincided with the disturbances of his adolescence. It finally proved fatal, because by the time he repudiated it in his later years its strangle-hold admitted of no escape. He could see no creative way ahead of him.

He was forward-looking: he admired Bartok as the great hope of his age – poor Bartok, whom he transported cross-country in a battered sidecar, and landed him by the roadside in a motor-bike breakdown[162]. He was always enthusiastically generous about the work of those he admired; he was keenly alive to the European influences that were already then seething towards the sweeping changes to come. But he couldn’t apply to himself their methods of liberation from the grip of a tonality he recognised as limited. It seemed almost inevitable that he should take his musical roots from the English music of the past, which he loved and studied with lifelong devotion. Van Dieren’s influence was more mental than stylistic, and made itself explicit in only one early essay, the Saudades songs, and to a lesser extent in The Curlew. Warlock’s style was formed on 16th-century polyphony and the chromatic harmony of Delius, with all its sensuous colouring. This fusion is dominant in his work, and usually strongest when it’s most complete – though in one or two of his greatest songs there’s still a third category, when he surmounts both. There’s strength also, which is not remarkable on the whole in the song-writing of most of his Georgian contemporaries – who, he said, sang their songs into a filter.

When all is said and done, there remains the fact of the imprint of Warlock’s personality, which assimilated his influences and welded them into a style of his own – one that, whatever its roots, cannot be mistaken for the hand of anyone else.

Part of its secret lies in its inimitable capacity for melody, and the treatment of it in line and depth. With this unborn sense of shape and colour he had a fastidious taste in words, and a scrupulous regard in setting them. His mind was always with the poet, exploring and echoing every subtlety and nuance of the poem. It’s when we come to his piano writing, to the accompaniments, that we arrive at the stumbling-block. He was no pianist. His pianistic instinct – the sliding harmonic movement, and the lie of his part-writing under the hands, these come off perfectly when they’re conceived in a moderate tempo. When, in the quiet of his room, he conceived an accompaniment such as that of Whenas the Rye, or the last page of Pretty Ring Time, without being able to play it up to speed, proceeds to fill it with as many notes as the hand can strike at one time, piles colour on colour, and then marks it Presto – well, it’s virtually unplayable. The gap between his mental conception of piano-writing and its translation into practical terms was one he never learned to bridge. I think that only intensive early training could have taught him these principles, and to avoid what has been a bugbear in his work ever since. The devastating jangle when several of us stood round him, trying through a new song on the ancient upright which was his mobile companion, simply had to be heard to be believed.

In some cases he has suffered from indifferent editing, though publishers since can’t really be blamed for letting some of his most interesting songs go out of print, as where difficulties are intractable, accompanists shy off, and singers won’t try, so one naturally gets rather a lop-sided selection for survival.

Warlock had also a sublime disregard for the more normal practical tessitura of the voice. This also was something he treated by instinct but without the technical experience which would have stood him in good stead. In fact, he knew little or nothing about any instrument at first hand. School and university, and his contact with Beecham and Delius, did little to replace the groundwork of a professional musician’s technical equipment. With him, instinct too often outstrips technique. His application was enormous, but the leisure which had shaped him also impeded him.

He wrote most of his songs for his friend and mine, John Goss. John’s voice was not a great one: it was a light baritone with a high range, extraordinary flexibility and beauty of tone. I’ve heard greater singers: I’ve never been more moved by any. It was he, more than any other singer, who did most for English song in the years following the First World War. Before his death, some years ago, he and I were able to pool our resources, and going over everything in detail we did what we could, while we could, towards a more accessible corpus of Warlock’s work.

If I’ve concentrated on the songs it’s because they are the most important thing about Warlock. As to where the songs stand in our time – well, I do feel we need a more mature assessment than that of The Times some time ago, which suggested that a handful of Warlock’s witty and incredibly funny unquotable limericks have more value than his music. The same writer laid down complacently that, because musicologists have continued musicologising, Warlock’s work in this field has been largely superseded. Well, I must say, I wonder if that journalist had ever paused to examine it? No scholar has ever faulted Warlock’s musicological work. His edition of the Purcell Fantasias for Strings; the Cambridge Dowland lute manuscript; the Hilton string trios; John Danyel, Robert Jones, Whythorne, Ravenscroft and many more, are still standard. And if he marked his note-for-note transcriptions of the four-part string music of the Elizabethan airs for modern instruments, I think you should remember that in the 1920s the technique of playing old instruments was still in its infancy: there were not then the brilliant performers on viols and lute that we have now.

In the changing climate of our music, after the purgative rigours we have endured from Europe – though no doubt they have been salutary – some of us are turning away from that crashing bore, the closed circuit, and gratefully towards what we can respond to in our own fashion, what we do best – our lyric genius. In Warlock, this English bloodstream runs continuously. If his musical mentors can be said to constitute a blind alley – and Delius and van Dieren have imitators, but no successors in line – then Warlock occupies a similar position. How enduring it may prove depends on the performers, who alone can keep his work alive. His work is whole – of a piece. Except for one or two recognisably immature works, and the early vein he never returned to, his work has no development, no middle or late periods. The songs he wrote at the beginning are those he was writing at the end.

He did indeed die whole. No other English songwriter has ever given us so close a partnership with English lyric poetry; none has ever written such love-songs – as well as its heights and depths, the humour of love, its quirks and foibles and bravados. Warlock’s carols, and some of the choral part-songs, are in a class of their own. Christmas, the season of his death, is the season at which he still lives.

He had a premonition of the jackals. In that last year of his life, in 1930, we were in the country. In a conversation about ‘snuffing out’, as we called it, he said ‘They’ll never understand me’. The final desolation was gaining. The occasion was followed by the gift of his snuff-box.

Those of us who were present in the garish light of the Coroner’s Court on that dark December day knew that what mattered of him was from henceforth in the songs.

His friend Roy Campbell, the poet, wrote Dedication of a Tree to Peter Warlock:

This laurel-tree to Heseltine I vow

With one cicada silvering its shade –

Who lived, like him, a golden gasconade,

And will die whole when winter burns the bough:

Who in one hour, resounding, clear, and strong,

A century of ant-hood far out-glows,

And burns more sunlight in a single song

Than they can store against the winter snows.

Appendix I. Trois Chansons pour Suzanne [Rose]

arranged by Elizabeth Poston, 1974, for soprano and piano

Deux Chansons de Clémant Marot (Cahors 1496 – Turin 1544) and one traditional song

(1) Quand vous voulez faire une amie (Chanson xxiv)

Quand vous voudrez faire une amie,

Prenez la de belle grandeur,

En son esprit non endormie,

En ses appats bonne rondeur;


En coeur,

Langage bien sage,

Dansant, chantant par bon accorde

Et femme de coeur et de corps.

Si vous la prenez trop jeunette,

Vous en aurez peu d’entretien.

Pour durer, prenez la brunette,

En bon point, d’assuré maintien.

Tel bien

Vaut bien

Qu’on fasse

La chasse

Du plaisant gibier amoreux:

Qui prend telle proie est heureux.

In choosing a girlfriend look for a lively, interesting and well-balanced spirit, a gentle heart, wisdom and a feeling for song and dance, but not too immature lest your conversation together suffers. Capture an assured brunette, in good health for a lasting happy relationship.

(2) Ode de Ronsard

Mignon, allons voir si la rose (1576)[163]

Mignonne, allons voir si la rose

Qui cette nuit [ce matin] avait déclose

Sa robe de pourpre au soleil

A point perdu cette vesprée

Le lys [Les plis] de sa robe pourprée.

Et son teint au vôtre pareil.

Las! voyez comme en peu d’espace,

Mignonne, elle a dessus la place,

Las! las! ses beautés laissé choir!

O vrayment marastre [monâtre] nature,

Puis qu’une telle fleur ne dure,

Que de matin jusques au soir!

Donc, si vous me croyez, Mignonne,

Tandis que vostre agé fleuronne

En sa plus verte nouveauté,

Cueillez ceuillez vostre jeunesse:

Comme à ceste fleur la vieillesse

Fera ternir vaster beauté.

The lover likens his sweetheart’s complexion to that of a rose, and although the flower must die, he assures her that her beauty will endure.

(3) Allons, allons gai, ma mignonne

(Come away, away gaily little sweeting)


English translation by Elizabeth Poston[164]

1.Allons, allons gai, gaiment, vous et moi, vous et moi. 1. Come away, away, gaily you and me.
Mon père fait faire un Chateau,

Il est petit, mai il est beau,

Gaiment, ma mignonne,

Allons, allons gai, gaiment, vous et moi

My father built a castle fine,

It’s only little, but it’s fine,

Come away, little sweeting,

Come away, away, going gay, you and me.

2. Allons, etc. 2. Come away, etc.
Pour ma mignonne et pour moi,

J’irai jouer sur le muguet.

Gaimnent, etc.

Best does my sweeting play with me

Down by the lily of the valley.

Away little sweeting,

Come away, etc.

3. Allons etc.

Et j’y ferai un chapelet,

Pour ma mignonne et pour moi.

Gaimnent, etc.

3. Come away, etc.

I’ll crown her with a garland free,

Fit for my sweeting and for me.

Come away, etc.

Appendix II Notes on Elizabeth Poston’s Seal Saga for

Flute and Voice

Dedicated to Madeau Stewart, 1981

The song is of 43 bars with 11 further additions

No. Title Instructions Quaver Tempo marking Bars**
1 Horizon Moderato piacevole, con Licenza c.66 5
2 Call Molto moderato 78 6
3 Loure *1 Piacevole 72 8
4 Loure 2 (for plainsong seals) Liberamonte 72 5
5 Gathering*** Piacevole c.60 4
6 Pibroch**** Ritonico c.50 4
7 Slow Reel 100 8
8 Call 4
9 Lullaby 20
10 Molto Moderato – Horizon 52 6
11 Tone Row (for Serialist Seals) Moderato flessibile 60 6
12 Song Moderato Piecevole 28

* Loure: French: a bagpipe used in the Middle Ages; a dance of the reign of Louis XIV; part of an instrumental suite played on the bagpipe in ¾ or 6/4 time.

** Excluding repeats.

***A Gathering (Port teanaladh) is a term used in pipe music

**** This has a flavour of Piobaireachd [Pibroch] from the doubling of the note on the first and second beats of bars 1 and 3, and from the grace notes on beats 1 of bar 2 and beats 1 and 2 of bar 4; the other ornamentation is not found in Piobaireachd (see Logan’s Complete Tutor for the Bagpipe (1936) Revised Edition by Pipe-Major William Ross, Paterson’s Publications, London, 44 pp.)


  1. Bartlett, Jamie C. (2006) The Music of the Words Themselves. In Elizabeth Poston Centenary, 2005: Contributed Articles and Personal Letters. Ed. John S. Alabaster. Friends of the Forster Country, 2006, 129 pp.
  2. Elizabeth had moved with the BBC from Bristol to Bedford on 28 July 1941 (Poston Pocket Diary)
  3. René Soames (tenor) was a soloist in broadcasts of several of Elizabeth’s works during the 40’s and 50’s, including The Elizabethans, Comus and A Garland of Laurel – a collection of 8 songs, the first of which, A Definition she dedicated to him (Simon Campion Archive).
  4. Elizabeth lived in Rooks Nest House, the model for Forster’s Howards End. Her difficulties there are mentioned in Section 6 of this volume and are to be found detailed in her letters to her close Canadian friend, Jean Coulthard (University of British Columbia Archives), whilst her emotional attachment to the house is glimpsed in Section 5.
  5. This and other details are taken from a letter of July 2006 by Suzanne Rose to the Editor, BBC Music Magazine, Bristol (Suzanne Rose, personal communication).
  6. A programme for 12 December 1917 lists Elizabeth and two of the Butterfield children, Joan and Betty, as dancers, and there is another dated 1913 when Elizabeth was already a very accomplished pianist and violinist (Suzanne Rose, personal communication).
  7. The proposal had been for Suzanne Rose, a teacher, to write a nativity play in French for primary school children, with short musical interludes by Elizabeth based on French carols (Suzanne Rose, personal communication).
  8. Arma, Paul (1972) The Gambit Book of French Folk Songs. Translated & arranged by Elizabeth Poston. Gambit.
  9. The Faber Book of French Songs, Faber (1972).
  10. Pierre (or Pierrot) Blanc, a multi-talented goldsmith, was also a good water colourist and cartoonist (Susan Rose, personal communication).
  11. ‘On returning from Wales, where I was very politely welcomed, without too much difficulty with their extraordinary language, I have just received your letter and page 10 of Last Act, for both of which, many thanks. In your delightful present of Pernod (always at the ready!) I recapture the memory of our happy evening together.’ Last Act was the last of a three-act Nativity play written in French by Suzanne.
  12. ‘I am putting in 30/- in cash towards the settlement of our account – I remember that I already owe you 23/- for the previous Ricard [similar to Pernod, a brand name for the aniseed drink, Pastis] (who did not save his life) – and in total, how much? I forget.’
  13. Jane Ault was Music Adviser for Primary Schools in Mid-Hertfordshire and, with County backing, started free evening classes in recorder for Junior School Teachers.
  14. ‘I am shattered to learn of your situation!’; Suzanne Rose’s whole face was swollen and discoloured following the removal of a benign tumour from a front sinus (Suzanne Rose, personal communication).
  15. George, once a professional jockey was Elizabeth’s odd job man and had once offered to take Suzanne out riding, so it was an in-joke with Elizabeth (Suzanne Rose, personal communication).
  16. Auntie Ethel died on 7 May 1974, nursed by Elizabeth (see Sylvia Watkins’ tribute, p.1.). Elizabeth wrote kindly of her in letters to Jean Coulthard, for example on 3 and 26 January 1973 (University of British Columbia Archive, courtesy of William Bruneau).
  17. Pinkie died on Monday 8 October; see also letter S26.
  18. Suzanne Rose, personal communication.
  19. These French songs are different from those arranged by Elizabeth for the tour of France in 1972 by the Hertfordshire County Youth Choir; they were sung by Suzanne, with June Moore, of Hitchin accompanying on the harpsichord.
  20. ‘But it’s beginning to work, bit by bit’, with a pun on marcher – to go or to walk.
  21. ‘You are a true guardian angel, who saved me, who saved me not only feeding me these wonderful delicacies, but also in my most frenetic moments with General C!!’ ‘General C’ was a private French joke between Elizabeth and Suzanne
  22. Terrence Tiller had also acted as producer, and his collaboration and aesthetic interaction with Elizabeth over more than 20 years is a story in itself, involving him in many aspects of her work: authorship (of The Passion and Queen Elizabeth I); adaptations (e.g. The Death of Adam); use of contemporary sources for In Time of Pestilence (about the plague in London); and completing posthumously C. S. Lewis’ unfinished text of After Ten Years. Tiller appreciated, inter alia, Elizabeth’s ability, as he put it, to have her ‘music bands dramatically and wittily tied up’.
  23. The reference seems to be to The Man of Law’s Tale, Part II, Verse 36.
  24. Compiled from material kindly supplied by Suzanne Rose.
  25. Suzanne & her husband had only just arrived in time after a delay en route from France.
  26. Margaret’s husband, Eric Moore (Bookseller at Hitchin) was acquainted with Elizabeth professionally from 1974’ This Margaret may be the one mentioned in Elizabeth Poston’s Pocket Diariesup to 1983; Eric contributed a short note to Elizabeth Poston Centenary, 2005: Contributed Articles and Personal Letters. Ed., John S. Alabaster, The Friends of The Forster Country, 2006.
  27. The only Composition of Elizabeth that includes the hurdy-gurdy is Penguin Carols composed in 1965 (Simon Campion Archive).
  28. Jean Coulthard Adams and her husband Don (Poston Pocket Diary).
  29. My very dear Suzanne, I was going to write to you straight away thanking you from the bottom of my heart for your dear care, the adorable picnics and your very presence that has made my recovery so good.
  30. ‘How are you? One is all set to sally forth into the snow for the second time. During the past few weeks, the road has been cut for many days in both directions’.
  31. Elizabeth was taken by Suzanne to the opera and thoroughly enjoyed it.
  32. The burglary is referred to in Letter S48 (9 January) as well as in Letter RL7, 21 February 1981 and by Joan James; see Alabaster, John S. (2006) Elizabeth Poston , 2005: Contributed Articles and Personal Letters, Friends of The Forster Country, 129 pp.
  33. The concert was at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, with Elizabeth the special quest and the Cecils (Lady Salisbury is specifically mentioned on Friday 29 April in Elizabeth’s Pocket Diary).
  34. This was a concert arranged at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire for Elizabeth’s 80th birthday and is referred to in letters to other friends (see, for example, letters RL17 and DS30 in Alabaster, John S. (2006) Elizabeth Poston Centenary, 2005: Contributed Articles and Personal Letters. Friends of The Forster Country, 129 pp.
  35. Prime Minster, Margaret Thatcher.
  36. John Constable (1776-1837) a leading 19th century English landscape painter.
  37. Tom Allan, a local fireman, who helped Elizabeth particularly with repairs to Rooks Nest, including the roof to the bay window on the west side that turned out to be inhabited by a large colony of bees!
  38. Forster suffered a stroke, 6 May 1965 and died, 7 June 1970 (Poston Pocket Diary).
  39. See Poston Pocket Diary.
  40. This may refer to the Goat-Willow or Pussy Willow
  41. Elizabeth, being concerned that Rooks Nest should be preserved for the nation had, from time to time approached several of her friends to act as custodians after her death (see, for example Elizabeth Poston as a Friend by Jack & Imogen Thomas in Elizabeth Poston Centenary, 2005: Contributed Articles and Personal Letters. Ed. John S. Alabaster (2006) Friends of The Forster Country, 129 pp
  42. University of British Columbia Archive (courtesy of William Bruneau).
  43. Letters dated 21 & 22 June 1969 (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20).
  44. North Herts Gazette, Thursday 23 April 1970. BBC came to North Herts to film ‘Howard’s [sic] End’ play.
  45. North Herts Gazette, Thursday 30 April 1970 Howards End (Letter to The Editor by Elizabeth Poston).
  46. In March 1970, for example, Elizabeth had had to argue strongly for a fair fee for her work on the 4-part BBC colour TV serial on Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders, and then press for prompt payment. See letter to R.G. Howard, Head of Copyright, BBC on 27 April, 1970 (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20).
  47. Mounting payments by BBC to staff, Letter by John Roland, Chairman, Radio Committee Writers’ Guild in The Daily Telegraph 25 June 1969 [cut out and saved by Elizabeth (Simon Campion Archive, Box 20)].
  48. Letter of 16 December 1969 (Simon Campion Archive).
  49. Elizabeth was under considerable strain looking after her mother who was bed-bound and whose health was fast deteriorating. At 2 am in November she had fallen out of bed and Elizabeth had, with great difficulty, managed to lift her back, but injuring herself in the process. Her brother Ralph had come, but was a semi-invalid since his stroke. See, for example, letters to Jean Coulthard, 28 November and 29 December 1969 (University of British Columbia Archive, courtesy of William Bruneau).
  50. Letter to Miss Ann Kirch, BBC Television (Drama), 3 April 1970 (Simon Campion Archive).
  51. The letter of 19 April, from The Priest’s House, West Grinstead, Sussex, and Elizabeth’s reply of 29 July 1970 are included in the Simon Campion Archive (Box 20).
  52. Irene Gass wrote the words of Carol of the Crown and The Magi (Simon Campion, personal communication).
  53. This is an allusion to the text, ‘Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?’ The Bible, James iii, 11.
  54. This was a service anthem, Setting for Choir & Organ, Text by John Austin (1613-1669) commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain for the Cheltenham Festival, Sunday 5 July 1970 (Simon Campion Archive & Poston Pocket Diary).
  55. There seems to have been later contact when Elizabeth travelled to France, judging from an entry, ‘I Gass, Monaco’ in Elizabeth’s Pocket Diary for 6 August 1955.
  56. What Elizabeth had in mind, as she had spelled out in a letter to her close friend Jean Coulthard on 9 May 1956 was ‘a heavy preponderance of Jewish music of inferior quality’ that followed the appointment of Leonard Isaacs as head of planning of the Third Programme Music, and which led to his replacement within 18 months; the theme recurred in later correspondence (University of British Columbia, Archive, courtesy of William Bruneau).
  57. Published by Cambridge University Press in 1967.
  58. First published in 1964.
  59. This was published in 1970.
  60. Forster suffered a stroke as early as 1965 and news of his death reached Elizabeth via Robbie [Douglas Robinson] on Sunday 7 June; the cremation took place on Friday 12 June. (Poston Pocket Diary).
  61. Elizabeth did start her autobiography but, unfortunately, did not proceed very far with it.
  62. A set from BBC, Yalding House, 156 Great Portland Street, London.
  63. Margaret Dean-Smith (1952). A Guide to English Folk Song Collections (1822-1952). Liverpool University Press. 120 pp.
  64. Isobell Beeton wrote a very detailed Book of Household Management followed later by several comprehensive books on cooking.
  65. While the notation is complicated, the system was sound, based on the relative, not absolute pitch of all scales of the octave, taking doh as the tonic, or keynote; it was used particularly to help sight-reading of music by singers, especially in Methodist Wales.
  66. John Bishop, who established Thames Publishers in the early 70’s (Betty Rowe, personal communication).
  67. From the hymn by John Addington Symonds (1840-1893).
  68. John Nicholson Ireland (1879-1962) composed some 50 or more songs, the most well known being Sea Fever.
  69. Radio broadcaster on music.
  70. Famously involved in a coastal sea rescue of nine sailors in 1838.
  71. The talk of seals must related to Madeau’s having spent time in the 1960’s sitting on the rocks on the Island of Inch Kenneth, playing her flute to the seals (Obituary in Daily Telegraph, 5 October 1996). In 1981 Elizabeth composed Seal Saga for Madeau (see Letter S47).
  72. The talk on Warlock broadcast by Elizabeth in 1964 is reprinted in Section 9 of this volume.
  73. Incantation and Ritornello, for Psaltery, a BBC commission for Joan Rimmer in 1959 (Simon Campion Archive).
  74. Elizabeth was there on 26 April and 5 May 1938 (Poston Pocket Diary).
  75. John Donne (c.1572-1631) wrote love poems and later metaphysical religious works.
  76. Rediscovered in 1959 by the Ancrum family; See, Tarnya Cooper (2006) Searching for Shakespeare National Portrait Gallery, London 239 pp.
  77. Elizabeth’s The Cambridge Hymnal, Cambridge University Press, 1967.
  78. A harpsichord made by Barkat Tschudi, a famous Swiss maker and housed at Fenton House, Hampstead, London.
  79. From Sacred Lyrics, Set 2, Lead Us, Heavenly Father by James Edmeston (1791-1867).
  80. Play by Samuel Beckett (1906-1989).
  81. Perhaps this refers to American composer, John Cage (b. 1912), who is known for experimental, controversial works.
  82. Elizabeth had had an operation on 17 July and had been on National Health Benefit up to 12 August (Poston Pocket Diary).
  83. Donatello (c.1386-1466), an Italian painter & sculptor.
  84. Elizabeth was on National Health Benefit for a month from 12 July and had the operation on 17 July (Poston Pocket Diary).
  85. ‘Blow, blow thou winter wind | Thou art not so unkind | As man’s ingratitude;’ from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, II, iv, 174.
  86. Poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834).
  87. The pianist, Julius Isserlis had been engaged, at Elizabeth’s behest, for a number of concerts in Stevenage in the 50’s.
  88. In the Greek orthodox churches, the Superiors or Abbots of monasteries.
  89. An allusion to The Bible (Matthew xix.21), ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God’. Elsie Suddaby sang broadcast performances of Elizabeth’s radio feature, Comus in 1946 and the song (that was dedicated to her), Tell me Lovely Shepherd in 1947 (Simon Campion Archive). See also Letter S44.
  90. Namely, in the wrong direction, against the apparent course of the sun.
  91. This was the first of three illustrated talks, broadcast on Radio 3 in May 1972, David Topp having been commissioned by Madeau Stewart. The other two were The Sacred (November 1974) and The Breath of Magic (November 1975) (David Topp Website).
  92. Organist (at Brompton Oratory, London) and expert on organs.
  93. From the wonderful poem, Song: Rarely, Rarely, Comest Thou, by Shelley.
  94. See Section 9, Dispelling the Jackals reprinted in this volume
  95. Melville had written recently about Beethoven’s pianos in The Musical Times, Vol. 112, August, 1971 & Vol. 113, April, 1972)
  96. From, To a Lady Seen from a Train, by Francis Crofts Cornford (b. 1886) with ‘chuffs’ substituted for ‘loves’.
  97. How could one disseminate, even to eternity, this abundance of riches?
  98. Both Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, in their painted portraits, positioned eyes and noses in unrealistic positions.
  99. Dame [Agnes] Sybil Thorndyke, English actress, known for her Shakespearian roles.
  100. Lautrec was, of course a painter, not a composer.
  101. Hector Berlioz’s Lélec, ou La Retour à La Vie would have had special appeal for Elizabeth: fusion of music and drama; Shakespeare resurrected; and trilingual.
  102. John Blow (1649-1708)
  103. Presumably Sir Arthur Grimble (1888-1956) who wrote particularly about the Gilbert Islands.
  104. Sir Henry Max[imilian] Beerbohm (1872-1956) an English writer and caricaturist, known for his witty theatrical criticism.
  105. Gordon [Edward] Craig (1872-1956) an English actor and producer who published On the Art of the Theatre.
  106. Ralph came on Sunday 24th September and left on Friday 26th (Poston Pocket Diary).
  107. An oft-repeated take-off by Elizabeth of Remains, Abide with Me by Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847); see Elizabeth’s letters DS4 and DS5 and her poem Celebration at my Death, in Alabaster, John S. (2006) Ed. Elizabeth Poston Centenary, 2005: Contributed Articles and Personal Letters Friends of The Forster Country, 129 pp.
  108. This could refer to The Faber Book of French Folk Songs published in 1972.
  109. The Tenth Circle of Hell is the frozen Lake of Cocytus (The Descent into Hell, Dante, translated by Dorothy L. Sayers (2006), Canto XXXII, Penguin Epics. 130 pp.).
  110. Madeau, having spearheaded the salvation of old instruments at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, later published The Music Lover’s Guide to Instruments of the Orchestra (1980) Van Nostrad, New York.
  111. This was Divisions on Mistress B for cracked consort (tunes and dances for ensemble of ancient instruments – recorders, harpsichord, percussion and consort of viola and lutes), commissioned by the Carl Dolmetsch Chamber Orchestra. It is based on a theme of Knees up Mother Brown and is a musical joke typical of Elizabeth’s sense of humour, and the movements are 1. Her Puffe-Master Dowland’s Salute, 2. Her Lure, 3. Her Cuckoo, 4. Her Way Out: Monsieur Bouluez’s Adieu, 5. Her Dream – Sarabande and 6. Her Knees (Simon Campion Archive).
  112. 12th century or earlier, a sort of double base with one string and a bridge with one loose foot, playing only harmonics, accompanied by a rattle!
  113. Highfield, the house where Elisabeth was born was demolished by the Stevenage Development Corporation in 1957 (Poston Pocket Diary).
  114. Whatever kind of basilisk Elizabeth had in mind – fiery fabulous creature or brass cannon – it goes some way to describing the venom Rowse substituted for argument in dealing with those he attacked for doubting (for lack of any supporting evidence) that Shaksper of Stratford was literate. The same danger seems to have been there for Madeau, in the identification of the so-called ‘dark lady’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets. (Incidentally many facts support 24 Elizabethans as being bona fide authors, but there is nothing comparable to support Shaksper (Price, Diana (2001) Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem, Contributions to Drama and Theatre Studies, No. 94. Greenwood Press, London, 357 pp.).
  115. Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643), a composer (and organist) with a degree of unpredictability in his unique, sometimes bizarre, idiosyncratic style, displayed a sense of humour and trickery (as summarised from Todd Michel McComb, (8/97) http://www.classical.net/music/comp.1st/frescobaldi.htlm).
  116. A radio drama, Part I of which, The Lion Within, written by Nikos Kazantzakis, with music composed by Elizabeth was broadcast on 16 September 1973.
  117. Pinkie died on Monday 8th October; see also Letter SR3.
  118. Blackberry Fold: Requiem for a Dog, for string orchestra was broadcast on 11 February 1974 (Simon Campion Archive); it was also performed by the Stevenage Symphony Orchestra on 29 October 2005 as part of the Centenary Celebratory events.
  119. Madeau was a sympathetic and effective interviewer and recorded The World of Nancy Mitford [her cousin] at one of the BBC programmes about Chatsworth, called Open to the Public (See, Obituary in The Telegraph).
  120. Peter Ustinov, English actor, was an excellent mimic.
  121. From 1939 Osbert Lancaster produced his cartoon figure, Maudie Littlehampton in the Daily Express to satirise upper class preoccupations.
  122. As a result of her operation on 18 June (aneurism of hepatic artery, ligatured by Mr. Armour), Elizabeth had been at the Sisters of St. Michael’s Convalescent Home early in the month (see Letter SR4) and had then, on 13 July, stayed with the Revd. Robert and Margery Poston at Clements House, Great Horkesley, near Colchester (Poston Pocket Diary).
  123. 1946 broadcast on Third Programme on 30 September (Simon Campion Archive).
  124. Nancy Freeman-Mitford had died on 30 June 1973.
  125. Edward Heath, Prime Minister, leader of the Conservative Party 1965-1975.
  126. André Previn, conductor who had a circular beat.
  127. See Letter S11.
  128. Elizabeth Baillie, soprano
  129. Sir Harold Acton (1904-1994), an Anglo-Italian aesthete, wrote openly about his sexuality in his memoirs and its sequel in 1970 and also wrote Nancy Mitford: a Memoir in 1976.
  130. 12-13 August (Poston Pocket Diary)
  131. The inkblot is commented upon in pencil by Elizabeth, ‘POSTON, E. Disorderly in work & person, 0/10’.
  132. The Tatler, a society magazine.
  133. Australian composer, conductor, leader (1870-1960).
  134. The burglary is referred to in Letter SR9, as well as in Alabaster, John S. (2006) Elizabeth Poston Centenary, 2005: Contributed Articles and Personal Letters. Friends of The Forster Country, 129 pp. (Letters RL7, and a note by Joan James).
  135. Sandro Botticelli (c.1415-1510), a leading Florentine painter, famous inter alia for his Birth of Venus.
  136. Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), a Swiss sculptor who made figures, usually elongated and emaciated, from Plaster of Paris formed over a wire foundation.
  137. Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), a British sculptor influenced by African art.
  138. Hawley Harvey Crippen (1861-1910), an English murderer.
  139. François Marie Arouet (1694-1778), a French philosopher and writer.
  140. This was an article, A Little Piece of England by Margaret Ashby published in The Lady, Vol. 205, No. 5297, 1 January 1987, pp. 12-13,
  141. Since the bees were buzzing Tom Allan, stopping him from repairing the bay window on the west side of the house, it fell to me to remove them. Some of the old comb was then used to mould a pair of chunky candles that remained in the house until it was sold and were then inherited by Elizabeth’s nephew, Jim Poston. I think this happened in 1981.
  142. 1 Neville Chamberlain was Prime Minister from 1937 to 1940 and used an ‘appeasement’ policy in trying to limit Hitler’s power in Eastern Europe, signing the Munich Pact in 1938.
  143. Born in Belfast, 1908 and studied at the Royal College of Music.
  144. On 12 December 1917 (Suzanne Rose, personal communication).
  145. An important early BBC broadcasting location.
  146. Elizabeth’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in C – one movement – was composed in February 1927 and performed the following year (Simon Campion Archive).
  147. Used in early radio (wireless) receivers.
  148. First Director General of the BBC who stamped the organisation with his own personality and ethos of high standards.
  149. After the First World War (1914-1918), Britain, as one of the victorious allies, acquired from Turkey, through the League of Nations in 1922, the governance of the colonial territories of Iraq, Trans-Jordan and Palestine.
  150. Then, known as Trans-Jordan.
  151. During a 4½-month visit abroad in 1938, Elizabeth visited her diplomat brother Ralph in Palestine, seeing many places of interest, including Jerash, in March, and Petra, in May. She also visited him there in 1936 and 1939 (Poston Pocket Diary).
  152. Burma was given its own administration in 1937 and its independence in 1948.
  153. This was in 1948 when Elizabeth went to Canada and first met Jean Coulthard who subsequently became a very close friend (Poston Pocket Diary).
  154. Apart from dropping the letter, ‘H’ for fun, Elizabeth considered that dropping the letter, ‘t’ was mandatory; indeed, following a Radio 4 News Programme on 12 May 1980, she was moved to write and complain of its not being dropped, saying, ‘It seems to us important not to mispronounce the correct, standard and traditional usage of English place-names of which one is justly proud’. Replying some seven months later the BBC, having accumulated evidence of a preference by some town and county residents for pronouncing the ‘t’, had decided not to take sides and henceforth would ‘inform announcers that both pronunciations are in common use in the county, and that they may use their discretion’! (copies of letters kindly provided by Graham Pointon),
  155. Ibberson, Mary, For Joy that we are Here: Rural Music Schools, 1829-1950. Bedford Square Press, National Council of Social Service, London, 1977, 97 pp.
  156. The Tempest, Act III, Scene 2.
  157. Ariel’s song in The Tempest, Act 1 scene 2, ’Full fathom, five thy father lies; | Of his bones are coral made; | Those are pearls that were his eyes; |…’
  158. See Elizabeth’s letters to Madeau Stewart advising what should be saved for the BBC Archives.
  159. Elizabeth was fond of this song, which was written in 1975 for voice and piano (Simon Campion Archive), singing it at both her 70th and 80th birthday parties (Margaret Ashby, personal communication). Her rendering of part of the song is included in the Video/DVD, Elizabeth Poston at Rooks Nest scripted and directed by Margaret Ashby for The Friends of the Forster Country, 2005, available from the Stevenage Museum and 1 Granby Road, Stevenage.
  160. The Chesterian New Series, No. 40. June 1924, pp. 245-250 (Box 39).
  161. This is a reference to Gustave Flaubert’s unfinished novel, Bouvard et Pécuchet (1881) in which two imitators, without method, tried their hand at science and technology and failed dismally.
  162. March 1922, see Smith, Barry, Ed. (2005) The Collected Letters of Peter Warlock (Philip Heseltine) Vol. IV. The Boydell Press. p. 20
  163. Differences from the music MS are shown above in red.
  164. The three verses in the arrangement for Suzanne correspond to verses 2, 5 and 6 in the full version in [illegible].