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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 1927

page 1

My dear Mummy,

I have two letters to answer this time,
which including the news of the world-shaking news of the grandmotherhood
of Mrs D.G. Beaglehole, a fact which seems to have excited
that lady to an unconscionable degree. I notice that
Daddy maintains a complete silence on the subject, &
personally I regard the attitude of studied neutrality my-
as being by long odds the wisest & most rational. Do I
feel any excitement at being an uncle? Not in the slightest.
Did my pulse throb & the blood rush to my temples? Far
from it. I merely took another bite out of a banana & remarked
to Duncan Well the population of NZ has gone up one. Be-
you never know the way a kid will turn out. It may
be a pattern of every possible virtue & accomplishment, like
Auntie Win or me; or it may be a half-doped looking
moron like Keithles or a regrettable streak of misery like
Ern. Now if I was sure that this kid would grow up
sweet & good-tempered & clever & respectful to her uncle I
might feel inclined to risk a postcard to Geoffrey & [unclear: Theo] to
appraise them that I was not unpleased at the prospect; but
it may yell blue murder for the first three years of its life
like Keithles (it may be yelling at this identical moment
for all I know) & then it may go to the kindergarten & poke
out its tongue at the teacher & put bent pins under the other little
page 2 boys & girls (& this reminds me of a priceless piece of ponderosity
in this morning's Times. "The increasing custom of taking young per-
in statu pupillari to see pictures as part of their education". Of
course it would have broken the cove's heart to write "children");
& then I suppose it will go to the university & won fail in the
English exam for not knowing who wrote Hamlet & go out
for moonlit pillion-rides after Charlestoning till 2 am &
fall in love with the wrong young man & smoke & swear
& get drunk & get its name in the Freelance as one of the
smartest of the leaders of Wanganui's younger set & generally
bring its pore old dad's head in sorrow to the grave. In
the meantime consuming an immense amount of money
however it turns out & doing nothing for it bar perhaps drying
up the dishes under compulsion & being rude to its mother.
Besides getting all dirty & the whooping cough & making mud
pies & fighting & falling into the river & out of the bath &
drinking its bath water & eating coal & getting scratched
by the cat & barking its knees & yelling & screaming at the
wrong time & being sick & playing cricket on Sundays &
refusing to stand up like a good girl and & recite Twinkle twinkle
little star in company & refusing to practise the piano & biting
the thermometer in two when the doctor comes to see her.
And generally being a curse to the world. No, I don't see in the
least why I should get excited at the advent of a fresh child
in the world. [unclear: Cin bous]? I could here quote a most pessimis-
poem by Hardy, but won't for fear of reducing Auntie to
tears. How Auntie could bear to be [unclear: in] Wanganui at the wrong
page 3 time & in Wellington when all the fun was going on, beats me
to a frazzle. She might at least have been on the spot to pour
holy water on its poll & show it what a bath was like for the
first time; but I really suppose having had such a lot to
do with my upbringing she thought it hardly worthy of her to
descend to anything lower Well, I suppose I had better congrat-
her on her great-auntship. Laws! she says, it makes her
feel she must be getting old. Never you mind, Auntie, you're
a nippy youngster in spirit, full of kick & go & verve
& espirit de joie de vivre & no doubt in the years to come
you will be hailing many another little nephew & niece, broods
of them, clustering round your knees & demanding pennies & hokey-
pokey & giving you cheek. I suppose I had better pat Grannie
on the back too & tell her to bear up under the strain &
not to drop the infant in her trembling decrepitude when
she holds it; & urge Daddy to not sing too loudly when
he walks up & down in an odour of peppermint helping
to conquer the wind. I suppose that's Geoffrey's midnight
job at present: well, he can have it on his own. I notice
you are all getting worried about what to call it, & that Keith-
submitted some peculiarly half-witted suggestion which
you quite superfluously described as his own own; of course
if you had applied to me I could have fixed you up in
no time, but as you didn't I won't say anything except that
I rather fancy Anne myself. Well, it doesn't matter to me
much, though it would certainly have been very comforting to
page 4 have been able to come back to NZ in my old age & say
"Anne, my child, just run round the corner to the pub for your
pore [sic: poor] Old uncle's beer & be as quick as you can & don't drink
it on the way back & here's a penny for you & mind you are
a good girl." But I suppose such a pleasure will never be
mine, I'll probably have perished in my second English

Let me say about the snap you sent that no doubt it is
pretty good for Ern, but although Daddy comes out all right
I never saw a worse travesty of you in my life, Mummy
Your dress & your glasses come out alright, but I'm blest
if I should have known who it was if I hadn't been told.
I got a letter from Auntie which I think I mentioned
some time back, which was gratifying, & I may write
to Auntie one of these days, though lord knows when.
Also two letters for which due thanks from Ern which rather surprised me,
til I found that the second was just to cadge some infor-
from me; & I might say that the right place for
a young fellow going to write a thesis on psychology to get
information from is from his prof. Gee! It was bad
enough to have to run F.P.'s hons classes for him; if I
have to do Tommy Hunter's as well it will be a bit of a
break-up for me. However I dare say that I may be able
to squeeze a bit out of Laski & Burns, & so forth, so perhaps
in due course something will eventuate. Ern will
of course understand that if I send my books out to him
it will be on the strict understanding that I get cash remit-
by return of post plus 5% commission; or a better
page 5 arrangement would be for him to send over the money first.
& then I'll send out the books. This won't make any differ-
to him if as he says the Hunter's & Sutherland's
right hand man; for what with the magnificent scale of
pay the college council indulges in & the many tips he will
get from gratified & grateful students, he'll have more money than he
knows what to do with; while quite the reverse is the case with
me. I occasionally feel called upon to give Win the Waitress
a tip myself when she has been more than ordinarily brisk
& obliging; & of course the expenses of a man of the world in a
city that includes Piccadilly & Bond St are many. I might before
abandoning this subject just give Ern a couple of tips, such as not
to be sarcastic to people of less than his own size & when mark-
papers to mark them good & high. The family has a pretty good
reputation so far in these lines, & it would be a pity to see it
ruined by a young feller's at the outset of his career trying
to eclipse his teacher & generally make a splash. Of course
undue modesty is also a danger in the case, but I dare say
Ern will escape that all right. The great things wil be to
keep his feet to himself when moving round among delicate scien-
apparatus & not to blush when he doesn't know the an-
to a question put forward by some fair & fluffy young

I don't know that more comment is called for by
your letters. I am glad you have had such a good holiday
together; I dare say you could do very well with such a
page 6 honeymoon periodically; it is certainly a bit stiff Daddy's having
to go back to work at all, but if he keeps obeys the doctor &
keeps off nightwork it ought to be a bit better than it has been in
the past; while in a few years no doubt we'll all be
earning such magnificent salaries that we'll be able to pension
you off in a neat little cottage somewhere out at the Hutt
with a garden seat & a kitten & a lawn to mow. Let's hope so
anyhow. I hope Auntie Win is jakealoo by the time you
get this; you might give her my kindest sympathy & hopes
that she'll be well & strong by at least by 1929 when Johnny
comes marching home again. McGrath was going to Oxford
but after buzzing down there & to Cambridge & Paris & Lord
knows how many places in London he thought he would
settle down for a bit at the Brixton School of Building & do
some practical plumbing & bricklaying for a while. When
he isn't acting the British workman he goes to the Westminster
School of Art ( is that the place Alan was at?) & to a
wood-engraving class & to the pictures & theatres & so forth & pays
about 2 quid a week for bed & breakfast & blasts the cost of living.
But then he has a grandmother who gave him £50 when he
left home & sent him £25 at Christmas so he ought to
have a certain margin to come & go on. However he swears he
hasn't & is always on the rocks; so I suppose he is like all most
other artists & literary men; shiftless & improvident. Alan
seems to be the only cove who can make a do of it; & no
doubt just when he has saved up a nice little pile & com-
his plans for coming over here again, some girl
will hook him, & that will be the finish. thanks for the extracts
page 7 from English Literature you have copied out for me, Mummy,
the bit about London rain is accurate enough; I never see
such rain. Although there was a bit of real rain today
with blue sky visible over portion of Oxford Street & even the
sun positively sun-like in a different direction. The say this
is evidence of spring; & it may be so. That 10/- came quite
o.k., was very welcome, and has now gone the way of all other
ten bobs, good or bad. With regard to the deal in Davies &
the remark of mine that Daddy quotes on same; I perceive
that said remark was not altogether unambiguous. The
book I referred to my A Poet's Alphabet; but as I have now
given it away, the matter need no longer worry him. Blast
the Times! I understand I was to get £ 3 for each of my articles,
& here's the darn thing closed down & I haven't got a penny for
anything, prose or verse, since last July. If you hear of
[unclear: Morris] you might put in the book. If anybody cares to ring up
C.Q.P. perhaps he will do the good work for me. I don't sup-
the darn things were syndicated, or even all published,
so I'll take 2 quid for the lot & think I'm lucky if I get
that. I wrote to Parson Phillips about the lad Bottomley last
week, but haven't had an answer yet. When I get one I shall
probably send the address out to Miss Newton direct, & so gratify your
wish for correspondence with her. Thanks for jokes in your
last letter, which were duly appreciated. In re Paris; the
day after we got to London I met Jack Yeates & Lorrie Richard-
, Yeates said, how about all going to Paris at Christmas?
page 8 to which we replied, Boy, you've spilled a bibfull. However
that was only Oct 2; & Dec 2 we were all much lower in
funds & Lorrie went to see an aunt in Wales, & Jack Yeates
got a buckshee show out of T.P.'s friend at South Africa
House, Lady Frances Ryder C.B.E. — they do a good bit for students
at that joint — & I went to sponge on the Johnsons'. So we
all got off pretty cheaply. Which is more than I am going to
do this Easter, I am afraid. I think I mentioned our
going down to Bristol for a N.U.S. conference for a week. We
filled in our cheques for £3..10 & posted same in, then
woke up to the fact that this Total Cost, as the prospectus
said in large letters, did not include train-fare. That
wouldn't be so bad in itself if I hadn't already fixed up
the Lakes trip, which will cost me a few quid I suppose. And
then I'd better trot down to see Auntie Jeanne, as she has
asked me to twice or thrice, & I didn't at Christmas, & do my
bit to keep the wheels of family affection oiled. Still I can
make up the cost of railway fare in that instance in food, so
there's hope for the hoops yet.

I have only been to three concerts this last week, but all
first-raters. Lener on Tuesday; they finish their series
tomorrow. I daresay after 50 or 60 more I'll know a bit
about Beethoven's quartets. I will now include a diagram
of myself after absorbing the later quartets.
HIGH BROWalso, as the space is handy, I include a diagram of me going up the Charing X Rd on a Saturday night Trafalgar Square, Nelson, Lions, Charing X RdCharing Cross Road, dotted lines show course pursued angles indicate bookshops et seq page 9 Then there was a good Philharmonic orchestra concert on
Monday; Bach & Beethoven & Brahms; conducted by a cove
from the Fatherland, blond & lusty & with arms like a flail,
who worked the orchestra up to mighty deeds & the audience includ-
me to mighty enthusiasm ; alas! the Times next
morning said coldly "Thus & thus & thus ; we fancy that several
of our own conductors understand the great German better than
some of his compatriots." So that was that. (Of the Brahms by the
way more particularly) so & no doubt everybody felt duly
crushed. But G.N. was a bit more comforting on Sunday.
Thirdly on Saturday afternoon I went to the St. Matthew
Passion, done by the Bach Choir, [gap — reason: unclear] Vaughan Williams conducting.
And a more curious conductor in some respects I never
see; but he got results. It was the best choral singing on
the whole I have heard here, pretty well perfectly done, & the
chorales magnificent. I was shouted to tea afterwards & then
taken home to supper & to play the piano & yap by the Ross family.
I don't think I have mentioned them before. There is a
young cove by the name of Ross at the I.H.R. one of the
student assist librarians, & he asked me out to his joint one
night to feed & play & give his good parents & himself the
benefit of my views on life, which I did with my accus-
good will & benevolence. They are a decent crowd,
very keen on music, though the piano is not of the best,
& pretty rough in their domestic habits; Father Ross delighting
to dispense with his slippers & Mother Ross calling attention to
page 10 her own with superannuated specimens with breezy " uncon-
". They wanted me to stay the night on Saturday &
Mrs R. inquired if Duncan wd be anxious if I didn't ar-
back, but I reassured her that being a colonial he would
not feel undue anxiety. However I didn't stay as I wanted
to get hold of my mail, which was due & waiting for me.
No doubt I shall be blowing out there again some time, as
the food is good & plentiful & the family bright & intelligent
& of the right hospitable open-hearted sort. Ross is one of Newton's
students & keen on the same things as I am. The week
before I got some good stuff too; the [unclear: linen], another Phil-
show, the Dream of Gerontius conducted by
Elgar & pretty well as good as the Passion for singing; &
aha! Man & Superman. I went to this on Wednesday with
McGrath & saw the usual shortened version, the finest
thing all around for play & acting combined I've seen
in my life. Then seeing that they were doing the
whole thing the Friday after, starting at 5pm Duncan &
de Kievriel & I went to that. We got to the queue at 4, too
late to get a seat, got inside about 4.30 & stood till 11.15.
All for 1/6 & by cripes! it was worth it! The had an
interval of ½ hr from 7 to 7.30 when we strolled
around Kingsway & Lincoln Inn Fields eating bananas &
buns & apples, a kind old lady having guaranteed to hang
on to our stands for us; by jingo! we were worn
out by the time we staggered up our three flights of
stairs & fell on our beds; but I wouldn't have missed it for
page 11 £25. It's a rank shame a good company doesn't take some
Shaw to NZ; it's a very paying proposition here apparently
Gwen Frangçon Davies did Anne, a wonderful performance,
& a cove called S. Esmé Percy Tanner; I believe he has
played it since the play was first done. Well, by gum, if
you could see a few things like this it would add 20 years to your
life, The goods, the goods, & no mistake. And yet there's not a
nit of acting in the Hell scene — just 2 ½ hrs straight talk. I
must say I give old G.&.S. the palm. I enclose the Times report
of the first night — a great & glorious performance. Unfortunately
from one point of view Man & Superman which was only billed
for a week fortnight, to be followed by other Shaw, was so great
a success that they are playing it till the end of the season,
& so doing us out of the others for the time being. But the
opera is back this week, so there is quite enough to go to.

We went down to Laski's yesterday afternoon
for the first time & then cursed ourselves for putting it
off so long. God! The man's a marvel! I never heard
such conversation before. Apparently he knows everybody
& everything. He started off by discussing the question
of papal supremacy in the first century & finished up
by giving books away to one of his cobbers (not me)
after discussing about 50 people & giving his own reminis-
of them & of his Oxford days. "Ever know T.H.
Bradley" says one cove "He knocked me down on a bike"
says Laski & goes off into an extended account of his
page 12 little ways, which I will tell you when I get home.
He is a book collector, mainly of stuff bearing on his own
subject, but pretty shrewd on other things. He once bought
a book outside Heffer's in Cambridge for 1/6 & then went
upstairs & sold it back to them for some enormous sum.
But that I gather is a habit of his, anyhow according to his wife.
She seems a decent sort. But he reckoned the prize yarn of
that sort was about Birrell, who bought a 1st ed of the Pilgrim's
Progress from an old lady in a country market place for 1/6.
It was marked 1/-, but wanting to be generous he offered her 2/-,
which she steadfastly refused to take, compromising on 1/6.
He then sold it by auction for £300. And then Birrell wanted
to get rid of a huge edition in 6 large vols, of some early 19th
century authors, Hannah More, I fancy; & he couldn't get any-
to buy it from him. So he took it out into the garden &
buried it. Then he L. got on to the Beatty-Jellicoe controversy.
Apparently most of the navy is pro-Jellicoe. He told a
yarn about Beatty which is pretty illuminating. Haldane
wanted to get an up to date naval staff organised or some-
& he got hold of some bright lads in the service &
got all the information he could from them & chewed things
over & thought a lot & worked out a scheme; & then he got Beatty
along to dinner to get his ideas on the plan. He talked brilliantly
but Beatty didn't say a word. Laski was there too, being a par-
protégé of Haldane's, & walking home over through Hyde
Park with Beatty he said “well, Lord Beatty, the old man talked
better than I've ever heard him to-night. What did you think of him?”
Beatty grunted & said "H'm! I was trying to think who'd told
him all that so that I could sack him" So much for naval

Well, goodnight & God bless you all, Granmer & gaffers
& the rest of you