ELGAR (EDWARD) Series of twelve autograph letters signed ("Edward Elgar"), plus one typed letter and a letter by Alice, to his pupil Reginald Hugh Bailey and Bailey's parents (mostly his mother), Forli, Malvern, and elsewhere, 1892-1906, mostly 1890s
Lot 256
Series of twelve autograph letters signed ("Edward Elgar"), plus one typed letter and a letter by Alice, to his pupil Reginald Hugh Bailey and Bailey's parents (mostly his mother), Forli, Malvern, and elsewhere, 1892-1906, mostly 1890s
Sold for £ 5,250 (US$ 7,376) inc. premium

Lot Details
Series of twelve autograph letters signed ("Edward Elgar"), plus one typed letter and a letter by Alice, to his pupil Reginald Hugh Bailey and Bailey's parents (mostly his mother), giving advice on his musical education and education in general, while giving news of himself; with envelopes and a pictorial musical Christmas card, c.50 pages, some dust-staining, 8vo, Forli, Malvern, and elsewhere, 1892-1906, mostly 1890s


  • 'MERE MECHANICAL DEXTERITY COMES TO MOST PEOPLE BUT IT IS OF NO ACOUNT WITHOUT THE SOUL, IS IT?' – ELGAR'S ADVICE TO A YOUNG MUSICIAN. This is a rare series dating from comparatively early in Elgar's career, during the period when he was at last beginning to win recognition as a composer but still having to earn a living as a violin teacher. They are the letters not of the stiff-upper-lip caricature of Englishness, but of someone swayed by strong feelings, and have something of the sometimes startling emotional openness to be found in his music. Indeed, at times, they read as if Elgar were addressing his younger self, as for example when in an eight-page letter of 23 January 1893 he advises Bailey: '"I hope you try and find out all the inner meaning of the music & are still not satisfied with mere show: that is always unsatisfactory & leads to nowhere. You used to like, I remember, to talk about the 'feeling' of the Music; pray do this always, the mere mechanical dexterity comes to most people but it is of no account without the Soul, is it? Well I hope you have had a good holiday: this time has been very sad for me as I told you my wife has been [ill] so I will tell you about our Summer holiday: we went to Baireuth I daresay you have heard of all the Wagner Operas: there they are done in his own theatre & most superlatively well done... I am sending you some Violin Studies: I fear they are dry & perhaps too difficult for you just yet but you will see. I have written a lot of things since I saw you & do more writing than playing now: I will send you some one day. Now, my very dear boy, you must go on working very hard – it is really your best time for getting over the drudgery & when you devote yourself entirely to Music you will be so glad... I trust you keep your other studies well in front: the days when musicians need not be educated men are over now: Schubert was about the last of that school: the art is now in a higher position than ever & it is the duty of every musician to raise it as high as he can... I am dreadfully ashamed of my writing now, but I have been scoring a Cantata [The Black Knight] 176 pages of small writing & it cramps the hand dreadfully & the pen will try & make semiquavers or minims all over the page instead of nice shapely letters"; subscribing himself: "Write to me sometime & tell me everything & with much love Believe me Affectionately yours Edward Elgar".

    In a long letter to his mother of 19 April 1892, advising her on the purchase of a suitable bow, he recommends her son study harmony and pianoforte as well as the violin, adding: "At any time I shall be most delighted to advise you on any point connected with your son's music: I have taken a great liking to him (I doubt who could help that) & that must be my excuse for troubling you with such a long epistle". By 1902, it is clear that their lessons have long since ceased and that Bailey is ready to launch his own career; nevertheless Elgar, but now having achieved international fame with the German triumph of Gerontius and Richard Strauss's famous toast to his genius, can still write to his mother: "I hasten to say what extreme pleasure it gives me to hear of the success of your son. Please tell him that he need never be afraid to write to me and tell me of his doings".

    Elsewhere, he advises his mother: "you must guard against his getting inflated notions from the praise in private circles (he is quite 'unspoilt') & try all you can to impose upon him the necessity of broad noble style in place of mere prettiness of playing & trickery & that a high ideal is necessary for a great musician"; offers to help Bailey with professional contacts ("...I know Dr Parry a little & Dr Stanford more & shall be very pleased to do anything possible when you are in London..."); sends music ("...I have just finished a set of six volkslieder with orchestra in imitation of their music: Mrs Elgar has written the words after Bavarian models..."); and gives news of the progress of his own career, including the first performance of the Enigma Variations ("...Richter is playing an orchl piece of mine on the 19th first performance & I hope to be in town again round about that date, if possible...").

    This series appears to be unpublished, and indeed we can find no record of Bailey's having been Elgar's pupil in the usual literature. Jerrold Northrop Moore remarks that 'Few of Elgar's letters from the middle years of the 1890s have survived', and prints none for either 1895 or 1896 (Edward Elgar: Letters of a Lifetime, 1990, p. 47; some from these years survive however from the now dispersed Novello correspondence); while another example of the Christmas card carol of 1897/8 is reproduced by Moore at pp. 60-1. Moore refers to the 'ongoing drudgery of [Elgar's] violin teaching'; but from our letters it is clear that on this occasion at least Elgar, ever aware of the nobleness of his calling, put his heart into it as so many great musicians have done.

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