Elgar was not only a composer; he was also a skilled and prolific writer of letters. In his day the Post Office provided several deliveries a day, making it possible to receive an answer to a letter written the same morning. On a letter-writing day Elgar was capable of penning twenty-five letters and notes at a sitting. Many were to regular correspondents: family, friends, acquaintances in publishing offices who often became friends. Elgar could be generous in responding, often through Alice, to letters seeking advice on aspects of performance of his works or from younger composers seeking help. But he rarely suffered fools gladly.
While Elgarís changeable moods are reflected in his music, his letters and diaries offer additional, fascinating insights into the man. Elgarís biographers were among the first to recognise this. Percy Young published the first collection of Elgarís letters in 1956, while Jerrold Northrop Moore edited five substantial volumes of Elgarís correspondence published by Oxford University Press between 1974 and 1990. Others, notably Wulstan Atkins with The Elgar-Atkins Friendship (1984), followed Dr Mooreís lead. But all of these cherished and much sought-after volumes have long been out of print, with some now changing hands at prices in excess of £100 a copy, several times their original retail price.
With a clear need to protect such a precious heritage, Elgar Works agreed with Dr Moore to republish his own five volumes of Elgar correspondence, and then to extend the series to include other out-of-print volumes under the series title of Edward Elgar: Collected Correspondence. But why limit the edition to reprints of previously published volumes? Over the past ten years or so, Martin Bird, editor of the Elgar Society Journal, has transcribed some 15,000 letters written to, by or about Elgar and his immediate family, as well as the Elgar family diaries. Not every letter demands publication, but the breadth of the amassed correspondence, carefully collated and presented, provides a fascinating insight into all aspects of Elgarís life, personal and professional. The publication in 1997 of the delightful selection of the postcards Elgar wrote to his daughter Carice while he was away from home provided a new insight into the relationship between father and daughter; but who has read his extensive correspondence with Richter and with Troyte, or the letters Alice wrote from Brinkwells to the servants at Severn House. The project provides a strong extension to the Elgar Complete Edition, which offers the model of volumes published at regular intervals, sold mainly on subscription to secure the income to cover publication costs and reduce the sales effort required.
Anyone interested in Elgarís life and relationships will find the new edition essential reading. The series was launched in Autumn 2012 with the republication of Dr Mooreís Letters of a Lifetime, an overarching volume illustrating the breadth of Elgarís writing style with a multitude of correspondents. Thereafter, under the General Editorship of Martin Bird and Elgar biographer Robert Anderson, our intention is to publish a further volume every 6-8 months, initially alternating newly edited volumes with those previously published.