11 December 2001 (Conan Doyle, Rosenbaum, Brahms book, Jeremy, Goethe-book, Grove)

11 December 2001

      How nice to hear from you. Both Enid and I, in our separate homes (she with the well‑named Musicians Benevolent Fund, and I still here) are as well as can be expected, thanks.

      Yes, it would be nice to chat. To the best of my recollection, though (which admittedly isn't what it was ‑ la voce delcantor non è pii quella, or words to that effect) Sherlock Holmes would be a new topic of discourse; but he's a good guide, I reckon. I tried to operate a similar system (i.e. Doyle's quasi‑realistic reasoning, of course in his pre‑spiritualist phase) in my own books on Shakespeare ‑ with fair success, to judge from the like‑minded people who confessed some fellow­feeling, such as Ron ('Explaining Hitler') Rosenbaum. But like him I've fallen fallow, not to say silent, of late. I write nothing nowadays (exceptoccasional pieces on Tudor literature for so‑called learned journals such as Notes & Queries) and hear little except the Comedian Harmonists and either Lucia Popp or Rita Streich singing Draussen in Sievering. Indeed. I've retired more often than that other favourite female Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. Last year's Brahms song book (again from Yale, with many misprints in the musical examples) has proved my Schwanengesang, so to speak. I'm about to hand over all my lieder etc. holdings, including books and records, to our younger son Jeremy, who's the musician, as his elder brother is the boardgame expert, of the family. I recall that Jeremy gave up chess at the same time that Richard stopped learning the clarinet. I gather from your letter that you're not troubled by sibling rivalry, which is anyhow more endemic among the males of the species. A propos, Jeremy managed, as a theatre director, to be in New York on the 11th September last, but escaped unscathed. I hope the same can be said of Noises Off, the Michael Frayn farce he's directing over there; his work has had rave reviews here and on Broadway. He's now translating Wagner's Ring, by the way, which would enable me to misquote R. L. Stevenson ('bright are the words of the Ring’ etc.) etc.) if I were still in the business.

      Nowadays it's in the very capable hands of Graham Johnson, who is our foremost (and hence Vorwort) person, who did (and made) me proud with his foreword to my Brahms book. Your first care should be to secure a publisher, preferably one with a long music list. Who brought out the Dizionario Enciclopedico Universale? The Unione Tipografico, was it, in Turin? And of course Ricordi is a well‑known name. But so is Battaglia; it's just (just!) that the Lied is still a German word, and province, and not (yet) an Italian word, despite your own efforts and your father's (to whom appropriate obeisances). So neither of these great languages may be appropriate for your purposes; and it was quite encouraging for me to hear that English had been proposed. Now, I know that you (the youngest professor since Nietzsche?) profess that tongue among others; so how about preparing your own translation of what seems to me a masterly work, much needed at the present time? And of course if you thought that I could be of any service In such a project I'd be happy to give whatever help I can, while this machine is to him (Shakespeare). So, I'm sure, would various American aficionados, including that nice and able Prof. Susan Youens, to whom I felt I could hand over Wolf. And why not an American pubisher? They may not have the same love of the Lied; but they more thaJ make up for that by their massive population, much of which is of German‑speaking extraction.

      I see, by the way, that I'm still mentioned in the recent Grove, and indeed represented by a whole article (namely an update of cryptography, which no one else wanted to tackle); but that's a trifling matter in comparison with the dedications I've received from Robin Holloway and now from you (which Housman poems are these?); in consequence I shall glow down the twenty‑first century in a reflected light.

      Yes, I have, or had, the Schumann Der Fischer (with, I seem to recollect, demisemiquavers rausching and schwolling all over the place) and have, or had, access to some Zumsteeg‑Goethe and both the Schubert fragments called Mahomets Gesang (whether D549 or D721; on Graham's complete vocal music, vols. 24 & 28 respectively).

            Farewell for now,

       Yours as ever