The file begins with a formal acknowledgement of Aldrich’s invitation to lunch at the Algonquin Club on January 22nd, 1915. Then there is an excited and much more familiar letter of September 29th of that year containing a copy of a letter Sharp had received from a prospective collaborator in Asheville, North Carolina named John C. Campbell (“I feel that it may be possible for me to open many doors to you by accompanying you, should you wish, to certain centres, and at other times by introducing you in other ways to mountain friends”).
An anxious dispatch comes that winter of Sharp’s attempt to secure funding for his research in the United States and then there is a triumphant declaration in January: “I am sailing for America by the Nieuw Amsterdam on February 7th.” These last two are stamped “OPENED BY CENSOR” as Great Britain was then at war.
Once in Asheville, Sharp wrote several long letters to Aldrich in which he reported on his findings. “The people talk 18. cent English,” he observed; “the tunes are extraordinarily beautiful.”
Tucked into a letter from May 10th, 1917 is this “perfect little gem” “which you may care to teach your children,” on which Sharp has noted, “Sung by Mrs. Mary Wilson at Pineville, Ky., May 2, 1917.”
Sharp and Aldrich kept up their correspondence until shortly before the former’s death in 1924. In one of his last communications to his friend, Sharp included this photograph from one of his vacation schools of folk music, a tradition that continues to this day at Cecil Sharp House.
The 158 items in the Richard Aldrich collection of correspondence also include:
- A letter from a staff member at “the Laboratory of Thomas A. Edison”: “You will remember that when Mr. Edison visited you a few days ago, he promised to send you one of his phonographs with 50 recreations. It is intended to deliver this to you by one of our trucks, and is now ready.”
- Several letters from Edmund Fellowes in which he and Aldrich concoct a scheme (unsuccesful) to convince Henry Clay Folger to allow them to prepare an edition of his unique copy of Thomas Morley’s First booke of ayres or little short songs.
- Negotiations with Walter Willson Cobbett, editor of Cobbett’s Cyclopedia of Chamber Music, who wished that “references to the influences of his madness may be toned down” in Aldrich’s article on Robert Schumann.
Contributed by Christina Linklater, Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library.
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