Lot 64
Sold for £2,400 (US$ 3,165) inc. premium

Lot Details
Autograph letter signed ("Ed.E"), to A.J. Jaeger ("My dear Jaeger"), discussing the latest stage in his progress composing The Dream of Gerontius, with a postscript written in pencil acknowledging Jaeger's letter that has just arrived; the postscript inked over by Jaeger: "(written faintly in pencil & inked over by A.J.J."; docketed by him at the head with the date, 4 pages, pasted at the inside edge of the last page onto an album leaf, 8vo, Craeg Lea, "May 30" [1900]


  • ELGAR, IN THE MIDST OF COMPOSING 'PRAISE TO THE HOLIEST', RESPONDS TO NIMROD'S AFFIRMATION OF HIS GENIUS, and of The Dream of Gerontius as a great work of art. This letter is part of the remarkable series exchanged during the composition of The Dream of Gerontius between Elgar and his editor at Novello's, A.J. Jaeger, immortalized as 'Nimrod' in the Enigma Variations, and of whom his biographer writes: "Jaeger may be said to have done as much if not more than anyone not a composer or conductor to contribute to the dynamic of the English musical renaissance, albeit from a strongly German perspective. His superbly well-judged suggestions for improvement in Elgar's music remain without parallel in relations between composer and publisher" (Kevin Allen, ODNB, see also the same author's August Jaeger: Portrait of Nimrod, 2000). Our letter hitherto appeared to be among the many between Elgar and Jaeger which had not survived, and is not printed in Elgar and his Publishers: Letters of a Creative Life, edited by Jerrold Northrop Moore, 1987.

    The main body of the letter was written on Wednesday, 30 May 1900, in response to a letter by Jaeger that appears not to survive, and gives an account of the crucial passage that leads into 'Praise to the Holiest': "Very many thanks for your remarks on enclosed page which are always good to have./ Here: at the Double Bar the profiscere chords begin, merging into that undulatory passage – isn't that right? or isn't it plain? I couldn't as I first thought introduce the real voices 'cos they've just finished the big chorus: but I thought – (& may I think still?) that the chords are sufficiently characteristic to call attention to remembrance – but tell me again if you're not satisfied...[postscript] You'll have all the rest very quickly now Deo gratis/ [overleaf] It strikes me its more 'artistic' as it stands". This passage in The Dream of Gerontius is summarised by Jerrold Northrop Moore: "Edward was now deep in the Angelical chorus 'Praise to the Holiest'. First came the semi-chorus (which had represented the 'Assistants' in Part I) over the treading bass-figure from the 'Profiscere'. It culminated in a sharp crescendo-diminuendo for the full chorus on a single chord of 'Praise'; while Jaeger later wrote of it in his published analysis of the work: 'It is as if one of the gates of heaven were opened, and we heard for one moment the full, harmonious hymning of the Angelicals'"(Edward Elgar, p.313).

    Having written the main part of his letter, it is clear that Jaeger's letter written the night before arrived; so Elgar adds a scribbled pencil note of acknowledgement. Whatever doubts the often neurotic and deeply insecure Elgar might have had at about his work at this most crucial moment of its composition must surely have been dispelled by his friend's quite extraordinarily generous assessment. Jaeger told him that nothing he had heard since Parsiful had "stirred me, & spoken to me with the trumpet tongue of genius as has this part of your latest, & by far greatest work", although warning him that "You must not, cannot expect this work of yours to be appreciated by the ordinary amateur (or Critic!) after once hearing. You will have to rest content, as other great men had to before you, if a few friends & enthusiasts hail it as a work of genius, & become devoted to its creator". So at the foot of our letter, Elgar writes his acknowledgement in pencil: "My dear J./ Your letter has come & I can't tell you how delighted we are that you can say such things about my work[.] I'll write later but only send thanks for your taking the troubleto write when you are so busy & tired/ Yours ever EE". In his follow-up letter, posted the next day, Thursday 31 May, Elgar at last sends Jaeger 'Praise to the Holiest': "By this post comes the great Blaze".
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