Part 1 – Elgar in France
It is May 1933 and we are in the garden of Delius’s French home at Grez-sur-Loing, twenty miles south of Paris. There is a table covered in a white cloth, and around the table chairs. To one side an easel with one of Jelka Delius unfinished canvases. It is a hot day.
We hear Noel Coward singing â€œ Lover of my Dreams.
The 71 year old Frederick Delius enters pushed in a wheelchair by his German nurse, Carl; they are followed by Deliusâ€™s wife, Jelka. Delius is paralysed, and partially blind as a result of Syphilis. He wears a white suite, white shirt, dark glasses, and a large white fedora. Jelka is a woman in her 60s, and her clothes are more reminiscent of the 1910s, than of the 1930s. As the Noel Coward fades we hear Deliuss Concerto for Cello in the background. The nurse parks Delius to one side of the table, and Jelka sits at the other side.
JELKA: Why did you say he could call, Fred? You know I dont like Elgar.
DELIUS: Jelka? Leibling? Edward is a good man, a good composer too. But not as good as me you understand.
JELKA: He intimidates me, he’s so loud, and tall.
DELIUS: Jelka Rosen, daughter of a Junker intimidated by an Englishman?
JELKA: Just don’t ask me to join in. I shall escape and paint for the day.
DELIUS: As you wish, but at least stay for an hour, and make him welcome. (To the nurse) You may leave us now, Carl, but keep a look out for Sir Edward.
The Nurse Exits
JELKA: An hour.
DELIUS: Good, then you can escape.
We hear the sound of men laughing.
DELIUS: I think he is already here, my dear?
Enter Sir Edward Elgar, followed by his driver Joe. They are still laughing as if they have shared a rather good joke. Elgar is wearing a dark suit, and has a cane. Joe is wearing a rumpled suit and shirt. Elgar sees Delius.
Sir Edward Elgar
ELGAR: Ah, Fred.
Elgar goes over to Delius, removes the fedora and kisses the top of Delius’ head, then puts the hat back.
ELGAR: How are you, old man?
DELIUS: As you see, Edward, as you see. Such noise.
ELGAR: Joe can tell a good joke. (To Jelka) How are you, my dear?
ELGAR (To Joe): Joe, say hello to Frederick Delius, England’s finest composer, and his delightful wife Jelka.
JOE: A great pleasure, sir, madam.
DELIUS: Fred, call me Fred.
JOE: Fred, sir.
ELGAR: We had quite a journey did we not, Joe?
JOE: We did.
ELGAR: Nearly ended in the ditch, some damn fool of a motorcyclist. Joe is a taxi driver from Paris, an American.
DELIUS: Ah, indeed. I spent many happy years in Paris, it is the most wonderful of cities, is it not?
JOE: Indeed it is, sir, er, Fred.
DELIUS: Sit down, Joe, Edward. But alas I fear we may all remember this day, and this year for more important reasons than a motorcyclist. I received a letter from my sister this morning where she has written again of the outpourings of adulation shown on Hitler’s birthday last month. It obviously preys on her mind a good deal, and I have to say I fear for my family’s land under his chancellorship.
ELGAR: You may be right, Fred, and I have to say I feel he is greatly flawed. A statesman who begins by persecuting the Jews is as hopelessly compromised as an officer who cheats at cards. But I feel I must support his proclamation on compulsory labour, and his nationalisation of the trade unions, which are essentially communist of course.
DELIUS: You sound like your friend Shaw.
ELGAR: George? The most notorious of communists. And he would argue that it is senseless for Hitler to denounce Marxism at every opportunity, that he should wait to see who his friends are.
JELKA: Sir Edward. Fred. I will not have politics discussed on such a beautiful day.
Elgar goes across to Jelka and kisses her hand; he’d kiss her mouth if he could.
ELGAR: Madam Delius, Jelka, forgive me, and, as you say, on such a beautiful day, and in such a beautiful garden. It is an honour, a delight, to meet you again.
JELKA: Thank you, Sir Edward. Fred? That corporal will not last, the German people will not tolerate him.
Elgar returns to his seat.
DELIUS: But, Jelka, they voted for him in overwhelming numbers. He has already purged the universities of professors who do not agree with National Socialism. The work of Freud and Einstein can no longer be taught. The man will destroy everything that is beautiful, including this garden if he gets half a chance. He is the personification of the worst of the German character, the worst of you and I, Jelka. He is the brutality of the German army in 1914.
ELGAR: Joe? I wonder would you mind bringing in the package from the car?
JOE: Hell no, Sir Edward.
ELGAR: Hell no. I rather like the American don’t you? So honest. We would have been lost in 1918 without them I fear.
JELKA: Sir Edward, please.