Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (digital text)   Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 13 December, 1926

21 Brunswick Sq. — WC1 26/12/13

page 1

My dear Mummy,

Well, I was very glad to see your
writing displayed in ink again by the last mail; you
are evidently beginning to spring around a bit more
like the spring lambs or the doe on the mountain-
& so forth. I dare say that by the time you get
this you will be ordering Auntie Win around in
your fine old traditional style again; so keep it up.
It was really very gratifying to see your fist again
as of yore. By the way, while I am on the subject
of Auntie Win, please thank her for her fine & womanly
letter, breathing that noble spirit of fellowship & camaraderie
& smiling bonhomie for which she is so widely & so justly
famous. I shall endeavour to reply to same some
day. She mentioned a mysterious something which
she was sending & which she hoped I would enjoy,
but as it has not yet turned up I withhold my thanks
till I see what it is & if I do enjoy it. I can't commit
myself this early to any statement which may afterwards
turn out to be a lie. Of course if it's anything that she
has made, like a plum-pudding with threepences in it,
no doubt I shall enjoy it heartily & so will Duncan if
I allow him a look in; which I may do, having carefully
abstracted the threepences. — It is interesting to read
that you had your hair off at last, while of course
page 2 Auntie Win couldn't hold out long in the face of such an
example. Anyhow I always thought she had a sinister
strain of recklessness hidden deep down in her soul, but
liable to burst out & make a wreck of things in moments
of deep stress & excitement — & evidently it has. You'd
better have your photographs taken & send home for me,
or you can't expect me to give you a critical opinion.
Fair dinkum, though, I think you were pretty rash to
let Keithles do the business — I wouldn't have him mess-
round me with a pair of scissors, though no doubt
he worked it out & thought that if he cut Frannie's hair & she
cut his he would be able to save enough in a year to buy
a house or a collar for his dog. And a bit of practice always
comes in handy. I got the impression though that Frannie
would think twice before building on that system — no
girl who would fall in love with Keithles can be altogether
normal, but still she seemed to have a certain sense of
proportion. So you had better tell Keithles to try pruning
tomato plants. Fair dinkum, I nearly suffocated
with chortles over the idea of Geoffrey skiting about
his tomato plants. I said to Duncan Gawd! if that's
where marriage leads a bloke I'm off it! He said,
Well, I'm damned! I've got a brother, an engineer, who
got married, & in about two months there he was, burbling
about his tomatos! So tomato-growing seems to be the
first rash that breaks out on the skin of married-life.
Daddy says "Mother is trying to fire Keith with the same page 3 optimism, suggesting that he take over the care of our vegetable
garden." Now that's what I call true optimism, character-
of Mummy; you would have thought that after his
abortive efforts to bring up an orchard she would have
realised the hopelessness of any horticultural future for the
lad; but no, I can just see her sitting back in her
chair at dinner & as if she had just thought of the brainy
notion (& proud as punch of it) proposing that K should
grow some vegetables. Well, well, hope springs eternal
in the human breast, all right; but I'll bet no one who
knew anything about Keithles would have any hope for
him in that line except his mother. — I'm sorry to
hear that Daddy has been getting it in the neck at the
office — I hope his new bloke will be able to do a bit
more of the work; I reckon Dunning was a bit too
fat for real 100% efficiency. Anyhow a bloke who could
ask me to work out a sum in algebra for him, as he
did one day, must have something lacking somewhere. —
I am glad to read that Auntie Win is keeping up her church-
, in spite of all colds & other physical disabilities —
real dinkum church too, & none of these 1/2 pie vaudeville
psycho-extravaganza affairs that attract giddy young things
like Auntie & Auntie Nancy. I like to think of one example
of true true old-fashioned solid thick-or-thin piety left in
the family; & I'm at sure no one could more worthily
hold up the prestige of the Church that than Auntie
. She really needs a St Paul's or a Westminster Abbey page 4 to be worthy of her — let alone a few decent [unclear: parsons]. I
don't suppose that outside old Sprott & Uncle Harold there
is a bloke in NZ really worth her listening to.

Well, so much in answer to your letters, which
arrived unexpectedly early this time; there's been nothing
regular about the mails so far but their extreme irregularity;
& I always have to be on the jump lest I miss a mail out;
& there are so many going by one route or another that
you're never absolutely sure that you've got the right one
even when you've posted your letter. But perhaps you
have been hearing more regularly from me than I have
from you. I'm only hoping now that my Christmas
mail will get in before Christmas & that they'll it'll help
to solve the unemployment question by requisitioning
more postmen. Since I wrote last I have got
settled on a fairly good subject for my work, though
I'm afraid it won't turn out to be especially readable
when finished, or altogether worthy of dedication to
my parents, as I had intended. After making
me mess around for a fortnight [gap — reason: unclear] without getting greatly
interested in anything Newton proposed that I should
work on the instructions to colonial governors between
1783 & 1840. Nobody has looked at this before, according
to him; & the point of it is, that those were the
years between the loss of the American colonies &
the beginning of the new style empire when England
was evolving a more modern colonial system — so page 5 there is a certain amount of political thought in it
too. The idea is to publish a book with a selection of
the things or extracts from same with full explanations
of the circumstances which gave rise to changes in policy,
& a good long introduction on the whole period.
Laski reckons it sounds pretty good, & as likely to be work
of permanent value, so I have started in at the Record
thankful to have got something to write on to at
last. I am sorry as I have to do Colonial history that I
can't do the old company, as there is loads of stuff on it
untouched in the R. Office; but I dare say it isn't very
important after all. This stuff I am doing is certainly more
fundamental & more general in its bearing. Pretty sure of
being published too. I have had to get my registration
[gap — reason: unclear] transferred to King's College — did I tell you that before? —
& in the course of so doing had a few words with Ernest
the principal; who is a very decent cove, & I
may manage some time to get in a longer yap with
him. He wrote a jolly good book on Greek
political theory, you may remember; & altogether
is one of the leading academic lights. It is a bit
of a crush to be attached to the one representative
of the Church of England among the London colleges! Though
as I spend most of the time I do spend in a college,
which is very little, in the L.S.E that doesn't make
much difference, except to my self-respect. And as
they have such scientific blighters as Julian Huxley on page 6 the staff at King's it doesn't really make much difference.
The Record Office is a very decent place — you know
they have the most complete records for the in the world
in Eng for the history of a country, & you see people
digging into all sorts of stuff there, from rolls of parch-
18ft or more long covered with ghastly mediaeval
script to the 18th cent. stuff I am working on. The
people in charge are very decent too, as they are at the
Museum; but of course the number of people at the
Museum is a dozen times greater — I think the Museum
must be the most democratic place in the world — all
sorts of types & costumes you see working there, from
fat parsons who go to sleep & snore, & niggers & cChinese
& Hindus & other subject races to nordic giants of intellect
like me. You would laugh to see some of the old
coves who amble in & out there too, swotting up Egyptian
hieroglyphics & the slave trade & [gap — reason: unclear] new thought & the history
of Germany in the middle ages & law & god knows
what. It'd be interesting if there was another Karl
or Sam Butler battering away there unbeknownst
at the foundations of society — that is, besides me. Duncan
(talking of Butler) has just come across the Notebooks,
& was nearly prostrated yesterday afternoon by
"Jesus with all thy faults I love thee still". I don't know
whether it is altogether good for me to have to
live in such an atmosphere of such vociferous
impiety. However as long as I have a parson page 7 among my correspondents I dare say I shall do all
right — I had a note from the Rev H.H.J. the other
day instructing me to come when I like & go when
I like at Christmas & endorsing a neat little book
of Wayside pulpit thoughts which impressed me very
much, let alone D. I had an invitation
from Auntie Jeanne, too, to go & spend the festive season
at [unclear: Trimley], but I said I might amble along some time
between Christmas & the beginning of next term, Lent
Term as they call it here. Michaelmas, Lent, & Summer
Terms we get.

I haven't had many concerts in the last fortnight;
for one thing I have been economising after my vase,
for another drawing breath after the first big splash, &
for a third I had a lot of other things to do. But I
have been to two Saturday afternoon affairs at St. Martin
in the Fields
— buckshee with a collection (I contrib-
to the collection) I enclose programmes. The Bach
was very good, except for the tenor — I have heard
as good in NZ; & the String quartet on last Saturday was
stunner — the slow movt of the Debussy we have on the
gramophone much abridged — I think it is one of the
most beautiful things ever written. I didn't like
the Mozart as well as some of his other things I have
heard; but of course it was only a first hearing. They
do a lot of good work at that Church — run a labour
exchange, let deadbeats sleep there for the night, & so page 8 forth. You know it is supposed to be one of Wren's
greatest efforts, opposite the National Gallery. All
these places seem very handy for me. I seem to h There
is to be a pretty flash performance of the Messiah on
Wednesday at the Queen's Hall, with Beecham conducting
the Philharmonic Choir etc, so I dare say I may trickle
along there if I can et a nice cheap seat. I seem
to have been doing more visiting than anything else
of late — oh! I've been to a few meetings too. Duncan
& Goodwin & I went along to a big No more war meeting
at the Albert Hall the Sunday before yesterday & heard
Lansbury (very good) & Ponsonby & Margaret Bondfield
(very good) & a lot more Bolsheviks speak & sang the
Red Flag & listened to some hummer singing by a choir
the Labour Party runs — first-rate part-singing it was — it
is conducted by Rutland Boughton (the Immortal Hour
cove, you know) who turned Labour & then Communist, I
hear. He is the sort of cove they want in the movt, all
right, to give it a bit of jog in life. They give a
boost even to the Red Flag too. Then I went to a
meeting of protest against the bust up of the Bloomsbury
squares, mainly to hear Sir J Forbes-Robertson's cul-
speech (he didn't say much however, & what he
did say I had difficulty in hearing) & a very
good free & easy speech by John Drinkwater, after
which I left. There is a big body of opinion
against smashing up the squares, the plans for which page 9 are run by two or three buying & selling companies
all run by Beecham's Pills & Estates Ltd; & they have
got the Times behind them good & solid & as Parliament
seems in an aesthetic fit just now it looks as if the
squares will be saved all right. The coy wd have to
get a private bill through, as their plans wd involve
digging up all the roads for a while. It would certainly
be a blot of on London if the squares were wiped out. All
the highbrows are full of fight however, & feeling pretty bucked
over the rescue from perdition of the City Churches & Waterloo
. — Likewise I was dragged off by Duncan to
listen to a lecture by Carr-Saunders to the Eugenics
on population & emigration & the Empire which
wasn't bad, though far from startling but there was a
fearful lot of tripe talked by various eugenists in the
audience afterwards about Australians & NZers & racial
types. We got down there (it was in the Royal Society
rooms) 1/2 hr too soon, through D's mistaking the kicking
off time; so I employed the odd 1/2 hr in roaming round
looking at the paintings of celebrities & P. & F.R.S.s etc —
your old Pepys & Kelvin & Bacon & dozens more
of them by famous painters a lot of them too — Lely &
so on. This was about the best part of the evening's
entertainment. Then I got an invitation to the
Royal Colonial Institute on Friday to tea & to
hear one of the lads from the Inst. of Hist R. orate
on education in the Transvaal — the tea was not page 10 bad, what there was of it, but I must repeat that the
way the English arrange their meals annoys me.
The [gap — reason: unclear] speech wasn't bad, though I can't raise much
passionate interest in [gap — reason: unclear] elementary education, but there
was a stunner climax — the cove was an Afrikander,
more at home in low Dutch than in Eng, & he got a
bit mixed up in his idioms at times, finishing up with
"The man who pays the tune rules the roost". He is
coming along to partake of our hospitality next Friday.
We had an Indian lad along from the School
last Friday discussing the soul & British Imperial-
; by gosh they turn out some brains in that country;
this lad Dundeken was is 19, speaks English very well down
to the slang of the language, four Indian languages &
French & German & is full of beans. A pleasant sight to
watch Duncan stirred to philosophical activity — he has a
pretty keen analytical brain, has the lad; & Dundeken had
thought things out for himself on a Hindu-Buddhistic basis.
He is going into the Indian Civil Service if he can; if not,
is going to be a chartered accountant on his own &
then go into politics. We are getting him along
again to overt overhaul Indian politics, as Friday's
spasm was mainly metaphysical. I heard a very
good address by a Chinese at the School, talking of
Eastern intellects, on the posit university & youth
movements in China — but I think I mentioned this
in my last letter — a Dr Hu Shih — yes, the Shah I page 11 & Shah II cove. Tonight I went to the Creighton lecture
& heard a Prof Alvond from the States poke borax at George
& all the other 18th century sanctities — Haldane
in the chair; & tomorrow night I am going to Parliament,
Goodwin having passed on to us two tickets he got
from Sidney Webb & having gone home himself for

I got an [gap — reason: unclear] invitation from Sir G. Foster at last
to afternoon tea last Sunday & accordingly blew out to
Hamstead & gave him a stirring account of the Maori
race & Lady F. (whom I found myself calling Mrs)
an equally stirring account of the servant problem in
NZ & had a tinkle on a stunner little Bechstein
grand they have; they have a very nice daughter too,
who knew Vera Birdie Reader, whose fame as a
bright companion apparently went through the land
the day after she arrived. And one day I sat
in the Museum next to Wm J. McEldowney of New
fame, & thinking to myself "by gum! there's a good
meal sticking out there!" appealed to V. J. C as our
common spiritual ancestor, & accordingly he said, Well,
how about coming out for dinner on Saturday? ^ To Which
I rejoined the Lord make his face to shine upon you
& went & almost fell as if I was back on the Osterley
again; & chatted to the wife & admired the baby
& altogether got on very amicably. There is a difference
between the Eng & the colonial temperaments all page 12 right — it was quite different at the McEldowney's from
the Foster's, though I knew the ones no better than
the others. McEldowney doesn't have a bad time, fair
dinkum — he seems to be tinkering around with col-
history & buzzes backwards & forwards between
Eng & NZ & runs his wife & family with great satis-
& apparently not much anxiety, except appar-
lest a bus may catch him in the midriff
when he's out wheeling the baby in a fog — so alto-
he seems a cove to be envied. He told me
to come again whenever I wanted to, which is
more than old Foster did, though to be sure he did
ask me if I had anywhere to go at Christmas, &
I thought I detected a kindly thought there. His
daughter was certainly very charming — almost good
enough for a colonial. I don't think much of the
Eng girls I have met so far, Frannie excepted. The
Yanks are all right, though.

I have not been reading much lately, except
W.B. Yeats & A London Perambulator. I picked up
Nevinson's More Changes More Chances f 2nd hand in the
Charing Cross Rd for 5/- on Saturday. Do you want
Raleigh's Letters, Daddy? I run across them quite
often, up to about 17/6. I think I shall now
stop. Kind regards to Auntie & Auntie Win & all
other aunts & Hoopers etc.

With love from


P.S. L.S.E refectory is very good P.P.S. Ld Haldane has a very fat & benevolent smile [gap — reason: unclear] page 13 About that Rhoda Ward: I'm sorry she
has been done out of her 30/- so far. You
might ring her up (Roseneath Wards) & tell her
she cd get the criminal's address probably from F.P.
I think it would be either one Rona Cross, Brightvale
Nelson, or Cora Bartlett, 174 Church St, Palmer-
— probably Miss Ward will know which.
I'm sorry, but it was a somewhat involved trans-
on Miss W taking over the external students
I was coaching — I thought I gave her their names
& addresses all right. If nothing doing, send
her 30/- on my a/c to make it straight.