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, 07-10-1927

page 1
21 Brunswick Square
London W.C.1

My dear Mummy,

Letter, cake, socks, cardigan, threepences,
& Campbell to hand. For all of which many thanks.
The letter is read, the cake is nearly eaten (having
had a very short run) the socks are being worn
at the present moment, the cardigan is being worn at
other moments, the threepence have been well licked
preparatory to spending, & Campbell has talked &
been talked to.

First of all your letter; as I am writing
this at the Institute I am [unclear: not] unable to consult same,
but as far as I remember you were getting on very
well, which is very cheering, & the Dr had told you
you were a good patient. As you reportl this yourself, I
am a bit sceptical about it, but no doubt you may have
misunderstood something she said & passed it on in
all good faith. This is the sort of doubtful evidence the
historian is trained to weigh & estimate very carefully because
as you know it is very difficult to size up a complex
character like yours, & all sorts of circumstances have to be
taken into account very carefully before arriving at the
final result. And of course, the final result can only be
provisional, so far as history is concerned. So you will
page 2 quite understand that however much personal inclination
urges me to believe that you are a good patient, professional
practice restrains me, knowing what I know about your life
& your regard for the truth when yourself is concerned, from
giving your assertion the absolute & instantaneous credence
which I should be forced to give to one of Daddy's on, say,
the political morality of the N.Z Labour Party. I must
apologise if any of this seems involved, but then the historian's
trade is a very involved one, & somewhat sordid. Besides
historians lie so much themselves that they find it quite
impossible to believe anyone else. In fact you might say
that the whole of history is one damned lie after
another.  Also: balancing time at [unclear: Sharland's] was coming
along, & Daddy was anticipating a rough spin for a while;
I hope he has been bearing the quack's advice in mind, &
cutting out night work. I am glad to learn he has been
looking out for a cushy job, though I suppose such are
not too easy to come by these days, with the country on
the rocks as it is. Still you hang on a bit till I pick
up a profitable chair in the States or somewhere
having rendered up my soul in the process & I'll pen-
you both off on a few thousand dollars p.a.
Also I note you celebrated Ern's 21st birthday in
the time-honoured manner, family wit flowing free as
usual. I didn't realise Ern was on the brink of becom-
a man, with all a man's responsibilities & worries,
[unclear: or] I might have been a bit more generous in my
page 3 method of marking the occasion. However Christmas
is coming, so Ern can [unclear: surname] his [unclear: colda.] It was a
pity I wasn't there to give him some valuable advice
on why young men go wrong, & how to live within
your income, & how to tell a Nice Girl from a
mere pursuer, & how to avoid getting into the hands of the
[unclear: Jews], & the respect to be paid to sisters-in-law & other married
ladies, & such-like; & no doubt he may suffer badly
later on from the lack of such advice; but after all
every young man has to go his own way & sow his
own wild oats & reap his own whirlwind, & lucky if his
sins are not visited on his children; so I dare say
what he loses in advice he will make up in bitter
experience.  And after all, there's a divinity that shapes our
ends rough-hew them how we may. Which may be a
pleasing reflection for the lad when he bruises histhe
shins of his soul against some female rock in his
path, or chops his face about with his razor. And
above all, what these young men want to remember is
not to try to be too clever; there's a lot in what the
poet ought to have said, Be good, young man, etc. What
the world needs today, in my opinion, is just
simple goodness.  Yes — I think it would do Ern a
lot of good to get away from Kant & Freud & those birds
for a while & just study the life of Auntie Win; he'd
learn a lot that way. I was going to say Auntie but I think
page 4 there's many a catch in her character that does not meet
the eye. Now with Auntie Win, all is plain & straight-
forward & above-board, simple goodness carried to the nth
point. Many a time I have said to myself in the midst
of temptation, "Now, stand firm, remember Auntie W —", but
I see I am getting a bit more spicy in my correspon-
than I should be when writing home. However,
just let Ern bear these few words in mind & he won't
go far wrong. I might just add as a sort of addendum
that I dare say Frannie would always be glad to give
him a bit of good advice when necessary. You will
notice I haven't mentioned his Mother, but then there are
very few things that a young feller can say to his
Mother.  Mothers in my opinion should be kept [unclear: Unspoiled]
from the World.  Well, I think I had better talk about
something else now.

I notice that Frannie has been staying with you
for a week, & I should feel greatly honoured I'm sure
to learn that she had been occupying what was once my room
I think Keithles might have taken her down to Christchurch
too, just to see what N.Z. can do in the way of culture;
but I never thought much of the Chch girls myself, so I
dare say he will be all right, & that his married life
will go on as before. Everything else seems to be going
on as well as can be expected in my absence, I gather;
though you do seem to have got yourselves into a pretty mess
with Samoa. So much for in [unclear: letters.]
page 5 I spent last week according to programme at Popplestones,
Trimley, Suffolk. I didn't go on my bike after all, though
I got a perfect day for it, with a southerly wind; for
coming home late the night before, whom should I run into
but McGrath just back from Spain, with a diary, a
book of watercolour sketches, a wad of snapshots, &
400 postcards. So as he was going up to Cambridge before
I would be back we had to have a good yap on the
spot & arrange to do Charing X Rd next day together,
being Saturday , also to have lunch, so that we finally
left Bertorelli's about 3 after a most hilarious time.
I'm sorry I didn't have the cash at the time to go to
Spain with him & his two cobbers; he wants me to
buzz over to Sweden with him in the Easter vac.
& we shall see. I have been getting a good deal of
amusing stuff, indeed, what with him & then Campbell,
& other smaller bits of it crammed in between by various
people. It's an amusing life. Trimley was on its best
behaviour for three days after I got there; it's cold on the east
coast, especially when you hit the bathwater in the mornings,
but when you get up you saw the sun shining on hay-
stacks out of the window, & green fields & trees & a road
that wasn't all covered with taxis; & all of these things are
very refreshing at times. Me & the dog went for walks
over the surrounding country at intervals, even when the
weather broke & became natural. This dog goes by the
page 6 name of [unclear: Tups] & is one of those dogs whose tails have solved
the problem of perpetual motion — it was a good cobber
of mine, & we had good times together. Though I must
say that when you have chucked a spud away about
57 times for a dog to bring back the dog shows no
signs of wearying of the sport after the 57th, however
weary you & the spud look, you begin to doubt the
divine purpose in dogs. This was a good dog though,
with the faculty of finding rabbits hidden behind grass-
blades & all the romance in the world on the other
side of a fence. They don't have a bad life, dogs. This
one looked after me, anyhow. Of the other members of
the family, Brian was away all the week at his
job, getting experience in looking after estates, so I gather,
he also runs some sort of a course for a correspondence
college at Sheffield, & knocks about £200 yr out of that.
He seems to be the only one of the family who can
make any money. Uncle George is down at his studio
every day, & Berrie now & again; so on the whole I had
to stand up to the onslaught of Auntie Jeanne single handed.
My word, she's like a river in spate! However no doubt
you know all about it, so I need say nothing more. I
stood up against it pretty well after the first day & got
pretty expert at putting in formal assents in the right
places. I took down a big swag of books too, & read them
all except one, including you will be delighted to
learn, Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen. Well, I
page 7 agree with all you've said about her — she's perfect in her
way. Unluckily the vacation has just come to an end,
instead of just beginning, so it looks as if I am going to
be hard put to it to read the others. But never say die, I
may be able to stay up all night for a week [unclear: running]
some time. I also read C.E.Montague's latest, Right
Off the Map, which a girl with a [unclear: Murke's] Subscription
was good enough to lend me — first rate, except for one
or two little bits of situations. I reckon he's a great man,
that bloke. Also I read that thing by Marais, on the
Colonization of N.Z. This is the book I meant to write;
& I do no boasting when I say that if Messrs
Harrop &Marais had got out of the way, the job
would have been done a lot better. These blooming
Ph.D students, they get hold of the dope all right; but as
for organising it into a decent books or writing with
the glimmerings of a style — you might as well ask
them to walk on their hands down the middle of
Oxford St. I heard the other day that Harrop had just
finished a life of E.G. Wakefield, which was another little
job I was thinking of taking on. Blast him! Never
mind; if I can stay here a bit longer there are
plenty of things to do, & if I come back to N.Z.there
won't be anything to do anyhow — so either way you
look at it it doesn't matter. I don't suppose now
that the govt is so hard up they will be doing anything
page 8 in the way of the archives Scholefield was so keen on, &
which are certainly wanted. I hear that F.P has finished
his 40 yrs in the govt service, too; but I can't see him
getting out yet, on £900 p.a., the lousy ignoramus. I
wrote to Hunter & told him to give me all the dope on
that business he could. Not much use my coming back,
& then scratching my head & looking for a job. However,
there's plenty of time yet. Let's get back to Popplestones.
Uncle George has been doing some good sketches lately;
he went up to the lakes in the holidays & [unclear: churned]out
some good water-colours; but what I liked best were
four sketches round about [unclear: Frinley & Stand], where
Brian is. He has been giving one or two away for
wedding-presents lately, & I suggested in a hopeful
that I might get married, but there was nothing doing.
However, Berrie [unclear: chored] me in charcoal one after-
with good results, which she afterwards gave
to me; so I am adding to my collection of works
of art. It is supposed to be a pretty good picture
by them what know me, the principal criticism
being that the eyes aren't twinkling enough. So you
can see what a pleasant reputation I must have
made for myself. Besides all this I was well-
fed, with morning tea or cocoa into the bargain, so
that I put on 3 lbs, & am once again approaching
my normal weight. In return I may say that
besides taking the dog out for walks, I did a good
page 9 deal of landscape gardening, mowed the lawn,
wheeled off loads of weeds, & chopped wood regular-
. This was a good wheeze — Uncle G bought a tree
in the shape of logs about 6 ft long — I picked out
the best ones & sharpened up the axe & went at it in
great style; leaving a lot of lumps full of branches
& knots for him & Brian to get at with the cross-cut saw.
Well, well, the bloke who gets in first generally scores; &
the logs had been lying there all the summer. Please
note that I behaved myself well, & in all respects
tried to do my Mother credit. Also I played the
piano a bit, a vile instrument, & Uncle G got out his
fiddle & we scraped & strummed in harmony one night.

Since I got back I have been meeting the N.Z.
invasion. Max Richardson turned up on Monday, so
I had to entertain him & Lorrie to tea at the Institute
& go to the pictures in the evening — Chang, a Siamese
jungle-picture, jolly good; at a flash joint in Regent St
called the Plaza, where they have sham-antique
furniture in the lobby & a carpet 6 inches deep. I
found the cake on the table the night I got back,
happily intact (that alas was five days ago) & in a
couple of days Campbell turned up & we had a good
yarn. He is at the School of course; & has got a
room next door to the House of Lords, so as to be on
the spot in moments of crisis. He had a great
page 10 time coming across the States apparently, making himself a
nuisance to all & sundry, & is looking very prosperous; as
no doubt J.G. Coates' private sec ought to look. He tells
me that the Labour Party's great grievance is that Coates
is taking away all their grievances, somewhat to the alarm
of Coates' own party. So that the Samoan business came
as a godsend to them. He appears to be quite indefensible.
Richardson's nerves apparently being a bit on edge after 6
years of tropical administration. but I suppose you
know a lot more about it than I do. Interesting,
though, very interesting. then Espiner is over here
for a week or two, hogging into the B.M.; so we had a
party & a good wrangle last night, Helen Allen, Ross,
de K, Campbell, Espiner, Duncan & me — I never
knew a crowd spark better — an auspicious opening
for [unclear: one]the opening of our season. A large section of the
cake went west, together with much cocoa & a
quart or so of cider. Happy days. I am now waiting
for Bill Joliffe & the biscuits, but can't see anything in
the [unclear: paper] about either.

The concert whirl is starting again — I went
along ^this morning to get a ticket for the 9th Symphony, but the cheap-
they had was 5/- hence I am feeling a bit sore, that
being beyond my means. The Leuen crowd are having
another series of 6 concerts too, from Mozart to [unclear: Cesar]
Franck, Flavel, & Debussy. Yes. yes. happy days. P.G.Wode- house has another book out, supposed to be good.

so long.

I send you much love as usual