Item 37 - Letter from Donald Tovey to R. C. Trevelyan

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Letter from Donald Tovey to R. C. Trevelyan


  • [13 Aug 1914?] (Creation)

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Elton Hall, Peterborough. - Is attracted by Trevelyan's Rothbury plan and will join in if he can, but there are factors which may prevent him. Miss Weisse went to Germany the Sunday before the British declaration of war; the Noordewiers [Aaltje and Michiel], who have just returned to Holland, heard from her a week ago and she is safe in Hanover. She can get money from the Streckers at Mainz there, and he has 'no special cause for anxiety' at the moment. His brother [Duncan] is in the London Scottish Regiment and has just left on active service, so his family at Worplesdon may want help. He also left all his opera score at the Shiffolds. Whatever his own prospects, and whatever becomes of Fritz Busch, he has to try to work as if nothing has changed. It is 'awful' working on his symphony, 'every note of which is Fritz's private property' but if Fritz comes through the war he could not face him unless the work were perfect. He and Trevelyan must also carry on with the opera: 'German translation & all'. Must not let himself merely subside into his Edinburgh professorship, but must also make 'a striking and solid success' of his first term's work there. Will have a few 'rather vulgar sham-organization-&-efficiency bullies' to cope with, and needs to win the support of people of 'real culture' through efficiency. His timetable is in print in the University calendar; has decided to get a secretary for office-work, and asks if Trevelyan knows of a candidate, though he must be 'an Edinburgh sort of librarian's bottle-washer' and it wouldn't be a good move for Rupert Leigh [Rupert Lee?].

Thinks it best to complete his time at Elton Hall: 'Victor [Hely-Hutchinson]'s talent is a thing of immense importance' and he must be saved 'from the appalling bad musical taste of his people'; they are not 'bad and vulgar' but 'good and kind, in spite of many British limitations that are beyond caricature' and their 'impenetrable satisfaction with the precise stage of culture they happen to have drifted into', which makes things difficult, but he thinks he will succeed. Hal Goodhart-Rendel is an example of 'what bad feeding can do for the finest material in the world': both he and Victor had 'more talent, better health & stronger brains' than Tovey had. His sister [Natalie] must had had a quite useful talent and her violin-playing could have been useful to Victor, but 'it is now so unspeakably bad' and she plays 'such vile stuff' to the delight of her relations that it is bad for Victor to play with her. So Tovey feels he should stay until the other tutor comes on the 20th.

Would be an 'honour & delight' to meet Trevelyan's parents again, and sees it would be good for Trevelyan to be north; however, it may be better for Tovey to be near Northlands, Worplesdon and the Shiffolds. Leaves the decision to Trevelyan.

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Pencil annotation dating the letter to '13 Aug 1914'

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