The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (12 October 1872 – 26 August 1958) was linked by marriage and descent to an interlocking group of Cambridge intellectual families. His mother was a niece of Charles Darwin and also had Wedgwood ancestors. His wife Adeline was the daughter of H. W. Fisher, historian, and sister of H. A. L. Fisher, Liberal politician. Her sister Florence married first F. W. Maitland, legal historian, and second Sir Francis (“Frank”) Darwin, one of the three sons of Charles Darwin. Maitland was linked by descent to William Blake’s patron, Rebekah Bliss, though he was probably unaware of the connection. (His Fuller Maitland cousins, on the other hand, had kept alive memories of Mrs Bliss and Mrs Whitaker.) Maitland’s daughter, Fredegond, married Gerald Shove, Cambridge economist, Apostle and Bloomsburyite. Frank Darwin’s brother George had two daughters: Margaret, who married Geoffrey Keynes, surgeon and Blake scholar, brother of Maynard, and Gwendolen, who married the painter Jacques Raverat. All this is relevant.
It’s over a year now since I visited the British Library as one of an informal group to look at the Library’s holdings of Vaughan Williams manuscripts; at last I get round to following up the visit with some comments on Vaughan Williams and Blake. Graham Jefcoate had organised this private visit for a few Vaughan Williams enthusiasts, on Wednesday 6th November, 2015, and I was able to tag along. Richard Chesser, Head of Music at the British Library, hosted the meeting and introduced the material: manuscripts from the British Library’s extensive Vaughan Williams collections (both scores and letters). Documents shown to us included, by my request, the manuscripts of Job: a masque for dancing and the Ten Blake Songs. My thanks to Ted Ryan for suggesting I join the group, and to Graham and Richard for organising the afternoon and making some fascinating materials available.