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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 27 November, 1926

page 1

My dear Mummy,

I was considerably bucked to see
your handwriting again this morning, even though only
in pencil, & to hear that there are prospects of your leaping
around in the spring-time like a deer on the mountains.
Now if you only jolly-well take care of yourself you ought
to be jake also for a long time, so see that you do. You
might even take that trip over here before I come back (give
me away in marriage to some nice English girl perhaps)
because by cripes! there are a lot of things I could show you
that you would like. Also a good many you would not
like. By gum! I think you would have your feelings a
good deal less harrowed if you kept away from London.
I am glad to learn (a) that Dr Bennett is pleased with you,
though of course I should be a good deal more gladder if Reddie
or some blooming old quack of Auntie's were pleased with
you (b) that Auntie is enjoying herself touring the country, though
to be sure if I were less than a year married like Geoffrey
I mightn't stand for aunts coming snooping around & (c) that
Auntie Win has turned out a splendid nurse, though of course
there aren't many heights of successful endeavour barred to one
of so many virtues & so much capacity, — so naturally the
only comment I made on reading that item of news this
morning at breakfast was Well, well, where will she stop? &
take another raisin. In answer to your inquiry re
page 2 shirt-washing on board Osterley I may say that it was my canoe
shirts that I washed & dried so successfully & economically, &
that I placed the contract for fo my dress-shirts with the ship's
laundry which did them fairly successfully but not too
economically. Did I tell you of the masterpiece of laundry
work I carried out, washing my white trousers? I think
I did, & although the immortal story would certainly bear telling
again, I don't think I shall do so. As for giving Ern the
benefit of my experience, he had better get the [unclear: schol] first &
and then I may consider going to the labour of writing out
instructions. I have some difficulty in making out one
or two words in your letter, but I think I have answered
everything calling for answer. Daddy said in his last
letter that you had a lot of questions to ask me, so I
was quite relieved to find you so tactful. I hope
your next letter will be a bit longer & your general
sense of well-being go on with vast strides. By the way,
I like the contrast between your way & Daddy's of heading
your letters — yours "49 Hopper St Sunday afternoon"; D's
"49 H St Wgton NZ (does he I think I might thing [sic: think] the family has
emigrated to Australia?) 24th October 1926". However as
long as yours is pinned to his I suppose I shall always
be able to give it an accurate date.

In answer to Daddy's letter: I'm sorry he was getting
the work in the neck so hard when he wrote, but I dare
say he will have had a Christmas rest before you get this.
You both seem pretty strong on modern history, what with
page 3 your Page & House & so on. That's one way in which I'm
worse off for books than when I was in NZ — I can't
buzz down town & borrow anything expensive whenever
I like & therefore I can't read that sort of stuff; by gum!
though I believe there is a library that lends books, free
too, Dr Williams' library, which would probably have
them. The Times Book Club is too darn expensive &
anyhow the books get so dirty I wouldn't touch most of
them with a 40 ft pole. No doubt in time I shall be
familiar enough with Bumpus's people to do what I like.
Anyhow I can buy my books on their day of publication
if I like & that's a darn sight more than you can do. By
the way, Daddy, talking of books — if Whitcombes' have
the Nonesuch Milton grab it — it is one of the best books
I have ever seen, & even at the price Whitcombes' wd
charge for it wd be dirt cheap. It was published at
27/6 two vols, & was practically given away at that price.
Of course the only blokes who got it at that price were
subscribers to the whole series & speculators, who immed-
began to sell them back to the booksellers again; one
cove I talked to had four copies in his shop & told me
all about the speculating system. He wanted £4..4 for
his copies. I went back the other day thinking I might
make myself a Christmas present of same — one copy
left £4.10. So I said to myself Nuthin doin. But
if Whitcombe's got one by any chance & haven't sold it
you barge in & grab it. If so I'll take your Florence
page 4 Press
edition off your hands — you were going to get this, weren't
you? If you don't I certainly will —, it is a snorter, miles
better than F.P. Blake or Shelley or Keats which are
square rather squat books. Nothing doing so far in regard
to Hibbert Journal. — No wonder Keithles joined the Railway
dept if he can travel at reduced rates — he was always a
bit of a Jew; but I suppose when he comes to take Frannie
round for his honeymoon, & and then a family, he will feel
the benefit. Thanks for greetings from Spurdle & de Mon-
; Ern might return same at some convenient oppor-
. I think it was just as well Mrs. Porter came &
thanked you for being such good numbers neighbours
& never quarrelled; by gum! look at the parsley &
willow leaves she got for free for old Porter's rel rheumatism
or warts or whatever he had. Yes, yes, always the best of
feeling. Glad to hear that Auntie Win & co enjoyed Faust;
but the Royal Wgton Choral Union doesn't interest me
any longer — I've heard the Philharmonic Society & the
real dinkum Royal Choral Society. To blazes with H.
Temple White & his blooming crew. — Thanks for cuttings.
Evidently V.U.C. doesn't intend to get a full time history
assist. yet the mean hounds; so there may be a chance
for me to hop in in a couple of years. By cripes
I'd like to know who gets the job!

Well, the latest about my work is this:
Sunday 28th: I drag myself away from Earlham to finish
this — Goodwin, our Durham cobber, came in last night, &
page 5 I had to put in the rest of the evening helping to entertain him;
the rest of a one-roomed flat is that you can't go upstairs
to work. By the way, I haven't heard anything of the library
lately; is it all fixed up all right now? And also by the
way, talking of Earlham, did you notice that the grandmother in
it is the dead spit of you, Mummy? See pp46 et seq — I never
saw a better likeness; by gum! it sums you up well.

Well, as for work: I think I came to the point where
Pollard & I parted without sorrow. I saw Newton, & the first
time I thought he was going to prove a snag as well. I saw
Laski again, & he said, Well, how about transferring down
here (to the L.S.E.) & taking your degree in the School of Economics
& Pol. Science
under me? You might do a history of the
Whig party in such and such a period. I said it seemed
pretty juicy, but I had to see Newton again — which I
did, & he turned out very decent. He opened up Well,
tell us about it. How did you get into P's hands? etc &
went back to my earliest educational antecedents. And
then gave me fatherly advice. He turned out to be chairman
of the Board of Studies in History, with a lot of experience
in colonial students' requirements, so he said. And he
reckoned that what I needed was the most intensive ground-
in historical method & research I could get (which I
knew already) & that the subject of my thesis was relatively
unimportant; but as I was a colonial student, and wd probably
be occupying a colonial chair (which I thought entirely
optimistic) the best thing would be to take a colonial
page 6 subject and work under him. So, to cut a long story short —
I saw Laski again, & he agreed that there was probably
something in that; & it seems that I am now in the
somewhat peculiar position of preparing to work either
on Jamaica or Newfoundland in the first half of the
18th century. I only hope I shall get some amusement out
of it. I am to read up both colonies till Christmas, &
settle on something definite then; which means a couple
of months wasted in a way, but still I have read some
interesting books. I have got an anti-Pollard complex now
so I am not going to his lectures, though the complex doesn't
extend to his books; but I am going to a swag of Laski's, &
Laski is going to help me on the general political side
with my thesis, whatever it is. He is a good lad. I
must say Newton has also turned out very well, much
better than I was led to expect. I start working at the
Br. Museum tomorrow. I am also changing my regis-
from University College to King's, which is Newton's
college; I was told that the Provost would be rather sorry
to hear that, as I had a letter to him from a personal
friend, didn't hadn't I? But as I've got nothing out of the Provost,
he can go to blazes for all I care. Of course I shall
still be getting le seminars at the institute; so my activities
will be ranging pretty widely, what with lectures here,
there, & elsewhere. I am rather sorry I can't work on the
whigs, but no doubt there is something in training on hard,
basic fact, and then doing what I like, as Newton says. He
page 7 is also running a series of books, just starting, called
Imperial Studies, which will provide for automatic publica-
of my thesis, if it is any good; & I intend it to be
good, if only as a whack in the eye for Pollard. Newton
by the way, goes by the resounding title of Professor Rhodes
Professor of Imperial History in the University of London. But
he quotes Mr. Pickwick & talks a good deal of sense otherwise.

Outside of all this, I have been doing the normal things,
with a bit of variety in the detail. I find I have developed
another expensive taste, which is your fault, Mummy. As a
matter of fact, I think you & Daddy did a criminal thing
in getting married, or anyhow in having me for a child.
What with your music & furniture & books & china & Daddy's
books & pictures & so on, I am in a fine old mess — while
if you had married a mechanical engineer I might have been
pulling down thousands now as president of a wireless trust
or something. As it is I am du driven into hand-made
salt-glaze pottery. I was roaming along Gt Russell St, just
in front of the museum after lunch the other day, when I noticed
the sign of an exhibition of same stuck up outside a shop &
I thought Hullo! Mummy wd like that. And next day I
thought, I'll just buzz in there & have a look round for 5
minutes. And next day I did. And fell into the hands
of Alfred J Hopkins & wife — most enthusiastic people, who
asked me if I was a potter & complimented me on my
evident taste & told me anecdotes about Wm de Morgan &
page 8 explained the technique & various beauties of their pieces; some
of which were nevertheless pretty good. So I gave them a
disquisition on the state of art in the southern hemisphere &
said H'm, I might come back tomorrow & have another look
round. And Mrs. said, Well, you can decide much better
with things in front of you, you know. And I said Yes,
I know; good-bye. For the fact was, I was greatly tempted
to spend 27/6 on a stunner jar with a blue glaze on one
side & green on the other; & the more I thought about it the
more I was tempted. And I thought, This is no place for you,
my boy. But naturally I had to pass the place again next
day, so I had a screw through the window at my jar, &
Mrs H saw me and laughed, so I thought at that I had better go
in. I forgot to say it was her I talked to the first day, & Mr
the second time mainly, though they kept on barracking each
other a good deal. He is keener on the glaze, she on form.
They have a small furnace out at Lambeth, & invited me
out some time to see the works go round; which I accepted
with thanks. A great lad is Alfred; & his wife very nice,
too. Oh yes, I nearly forgot to say I bought the jar. There
was another I wanted to buy for £1..1 too; but I resisted
& told McGrath to go along & grab it before anyone else got
it. Alfred said: If you ever get keen on this sort of thing
you'll never stop; & sure enough I have had hankerings after
a lot more of the stuff. So I dare say I shall have quite
a collection of mixed objects d'art to bring back to you.
Stone-ware this stuff is, & jolly good, believe me. Of course
page 9 if I get sick of it I can easily give it to the wife for a
wedding-present. Tell Auntie. But don't go telling off
me for reckless expenditure; it's all your fault, as I have
explained perfectly clearly.

We heard a jolly good lecture in that Fabian series
by one S. K. Thatchcliffe on the [unclear: race]-problem; & last Wednesday
it was old Shaw's turn; place crowded, with a good
number of adorers who rippled as soon as he opened his
mouth. Good stuff, but not extraordinarily out of the common
for him; two or three good jokes too. He is an impressive
old bird, with his white hair & beard, about 7ft high.
The Doctors' Dilemma is running at the Kingsway Theatre
now, to which we are going next week, with a season of
other plays going on after Christmas, I believe; so that's
all right. I have been to the Russian Ballet twice, & am
going again if I can run to it — & that is another taste I
find very strongly developed in me, thanks to you, or largely
to Daddy, I expect, as it consists so largely of shapely female
forms. Some of it is great stuff, though — L'Après Midi
d'un Faune
was jolly good, & Prince Igor stunner, like-
Petroushka, & some of the dancing in The Swan Lake;
do you remember how we used to see pictures of all
these in the Sphere in the old days before the war. I
want to see the Fire Bird, so that probably means another
2/4 going plink. It is really very cheap, & only 2d for a
programme — what do you think of that? One or two of
the principal dancers in the show are about the most
page 10 perfectly built people I have ever seen. Some of the music
is pretty fair bunk, but on the whole it is all f pretty
good. I also went to Ruddigore last week, which has
some great music in it, especially the ghost's song, which
is about the best thing I have heard of Sullivan's for vigour
& characterisation; but some of the witty conversation of
W.S. Gilbert is dreadfully flat tripe. Fair dinkum, it palls
on me. Not so bad, evidently, as that in Princess Ida,
into which Ernest Newman was putting the boot good &
hard in this morning's paper — I will cut it out for you
if I remember. By gum! I think he's quite right too, on
the whole, though I forget what the backchat in Princess
is like. The next fortnight is the last of the G & S season
this year — they are putting on all the series, bar one or
two, for a couple of performances each, so we may be
able to see some more of them. The trouble is that unless
you go and stand in the queue from about 4 in the after-
you don't stand an earthly chance of getting a seat.
I had standing room at the back of the pit both my times,
at 3/-. You can hear everything, though t, the performances
are so good, & see everything except the top of the scenery,
& if you are lucky, lean on the wall at the back of the

Other shows I have been to were Verdi's Mass, at the
Albert Hall by the Royal Choral Society; very good, with
Norman Allin singing the bass solos; & Bach's B Minor
at the Queen's Hall last Thursday — there is some
page 11 great stuff in this — the Philharmonic Choir did it. What
annoys me is that whatever you go to you miss something
else which is just about as good; e.g. on Thursday there
was another B.B.C. concert, Elgar conducting a programme
of his works, with Albert Sammons playing the concerto;
no need to pay more than 2/4 for a good seat for the
Bach either, or 1/ [unclear: -] for the Elgar. You can enjoy yourself
cheaply enough. I think I mentioned the 8 concerts
the Lener Quartet were giving — 7 of them have gone by, &
I haven't been to one yet; though I tried to get in last
Saturday & found only 10/6 seats left — cheapest 3/6. Next
Wednesday is my last chance for them; & suppose some-
else will clash then. However it can't be helped. I
dare say they'll be on again, as they fill their hall so
easily. I think that is all in the way of shows to report.

We have been having pretty [unclear: crummy] weather lately,
with a real dinkum fog on Thursday — an interesting
thing for the first five minutes, but ghastly after that;
the darn thing nearly chokes you & you spend half the
time in blowing smuts out of your nose. Then in the
middle of it a bloke sticks me up & wants me to buy a
box of soap — nothing to eat since yesterday, ready to drop,
etc etc. The same old yarn. So I buy his soap. The
night before another washed out specimen I could have
knocked out with my little finger pushed matches at
me as I was going into the Institute; I said Well they'll
always come in handy, I suppose; & gave him 2d for
page 12 a box. He looked at me doubtfully — "Well, it's more
than they're worth, you know" he said. "But I've been
in the infirmary for 15 months, & I don't know what
I'll do if I have to walk round all night". I thought a
bit & then chased after him & asked him how many
more boxes he had & gave him 6d for the last one;
& he just stood & gazed at me as if I had been the
Lord God Almighty. Fair dinkum, when a bloke
gets that low it's time they had a change in the
country. Another white-faced cove sits down in the street
down Kingsway all day with his chest covered with medals
& knits kids' caps & socks for a living & a wife & Lord knows
how many children. And up in Birmingham a crowd
of working women got together & signed a petition for
a birth-control clinic or free access to knowledge of
same or something, so Duncan's brother told me; & the
Bishop of Birmingham rose in his blasted episcopal
righteousness & damned the life out of them. You see the
women up there going down the street to buy their food in
nothing but a skirt & a blouse & a blanket, says the same
lad also; while as for the pubs! He has been there for
two years in the G.E.C. on Keithle's [unclear: lay] & has just gone
over to the States for a year in their factory at Pittsburgh; he
has much the same yarn as Keithles to tell about general
lack of organisation & inefficiency, with a good deal
more about graft & faking & so forth. He came over
here a die-hard Tory for his age & goes away looking
page 13 for bloody revolution. The coal-owners are still engaged
in the delightful task of treading on the faces of the miners,
though some of them haven't gone back yet. Oh yes, it's a
stunner country.

One thing I nearly forgot to mention was a visit
last Saturday night to C. Delisle Burns' place out at
Hampstead. He is at the L.S.E., where they have about the
most brilliant collection of men in England in the social
science line; we got the invitation per Goodwin & met
a lot of interesting blokes there, civil servants & such like,
also J.H. Thomas' private sec. Typical prosperous
trade unionist, said Goodwin; the railwaymen are
the upper ten of the movement, & very comfortable about
it apparently; so at least the private sec, a lad
full of wiles & diplomacy, but good & hearty withal.
Burns is a peasant cove enough. He had just been
yapping to a Chinese prof, over here on the Boxer indem-
negotiations, who told him that when they imported
Shakespeare into China they called him Shah; and they
subsequently got very keen on G.B.S. but having only one
sound for the his name & the first half of Shpr's they
now call them Shah I & Shah II.

Well, I seem to have got my letter slightly smaller
this time. I don't think I am going to Paris after all at
Christmas, so when you get this I shall probably be
eating hearty at Father Johnson's.

With love to all &
sundry & particularly to yourself, Mummy /