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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 3 April 1928

page 1

My Dear Mummy,

Another month ? & still another month!
However if every month brings you along as you seem to have
been going lately, it will be all right. You certainly look
in your photographs as if you had got back to the land, & had
had a long spell cols close to the bosom of Nature, to pinch a few
words from our [unclear: rav.] cobber [unclear: Jas] Shaw Brown. You seem pretty
concerned about the exact shade of your hair; but it looks all
right to me anyhow: I daresay another reason for its being so
white is in contrast with your face. As you say you have
been walking around the lawn I don’t doubt that by the time
you get this you will have been doing fandangos. If not a
cachuca. I must say that you look as if you enjoyed being a grand-
, though Ern, with his accustomed accuracy & artistic taste, gets
you out of focus. The picture of Daddy is very good too, though
moving in the elevated circles as I do I have to explain that
no respectable grandfather wears a collar in N.Z. on Saturday
afternoons. Still his shirt seems to be clean, so I am safe
enough in that respect at least, & I can always say that he
was a bushman in his youth. [unclear: My Fen] What’s her name doesn’t
look like a S.A. bird, & she is evidently dreaming
about her Lad from the way her eyes are closed & the beatific
look on her face; or it may be that she is just modestly showing
page 2 off the superior attraction of you & Anne Mary. I gather
that the lady next to Auntie is Theo, & that Auntie is herself
as of yore; looking down her nose in her usual sidelong way.
As for this kid, I understood it was growing up very attractive;
but it seems to be getting too much like Geoffrey for true beauty. It
would have done better on the whole to have stuck like me, &
cultivated a genteel attractiveness. Still it’s no business of mine, &
I dare say that if she looks after herself carefully she will get over
the wrong stages by the time she gets into her twenties & starts going
to college dances. Or perhaps if she goes to college dances before
she gets into the twenties. But I must say she’s no great
shakes at present. You had better reserve any pictures of
this unmarried product of Keith & Frannie till she looks
fairly attractive, because an uncle can’t stand too much. This
uncle isn’t the same as Auntie — she apparently can greet any-
with enthusiasm as long as it’s young enough, but I have
got to draw a line somewhere. I don’t think it’s necessary to
give Frannie any advice — if you look up a letter of mine in
the archives, about this date last year, you will find some
very sound words on the subject of the education of A.M.
& the same applies mutatis mutandis, to this new ’un. Truby King,
Feeding & Care of Baby, is a good appendix to the remarks I may
have made.

I can’t make out how I came to leave a coat
home that was fit for Keith to wor wear; but I dare say he left it out
on purpose when he closed that trunk of mine, at the same time
as he lost the key. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have it cleaned
page 3 & send it over to me, if it’s a light coat; K. might pay for that,
as he has had the use of it; that coat of Daddy’s I had cleaned
just before I came away must have had the waterproofing
taken out of it in the process, because the rain comes straight
through it now — however it’s good enough for light showers, on
the infrequent occasions on which we get light showers in this
country. — As for the name Beagle, K. or Frannie, hasn’t
got any copyright in that — old Joe Firth used to call me that
at W’gton College. However as I told Frannie, I don’t approve
of a wife addressing her husband in that way; God forbid
that any wife of mine should ever call me either Beagle or
sweet. But they seem to be a terribly sickly couple. However I
suppose she will be starting to call him Father now. — No
use Frannie being disappointed at the act of God in giving her a girl —
she evidently didn’t know her business properly. I think it’s up to
Ern now to take a hand & turn out a few good he-men. After
having the brat of Ada the maid squalling round for a few days
I prefer to remain as an observer only. Tell Auntie lest she
should form any rash hopes of looking after my kids while
I am away for a holiday. — Well, well, fancy Auntie Win
coming along to nurse you! I gather from this that she is in the
pink herself, so she had better not be too energetic with you
or she will be running you off your feet before you have had
a chance to settle down on them, as it were; they’re dangerous,
these energetic people. — I was glad to hear you had a visit
from Elsie Holmes; a charming girl, I think; one of the best I
page 4 knew at V.U.C. I suppose you really know her better now
than I do, as you had French lessons from her & so forth, &
appear to have got along together pretty well; but I shall be
glad to see her & her cobber all the same. We might possibly
be able to manage one or two tramps in the summer, what with
Bill [unclear: Jolliffe] & [unclear: Lovie R.] & so forth all over here. It’s a pity one
or two more of those girls can’t get over here; it would suit Mar-
Wiren down to the ground to leave Bach behind for a
bit & be taken round by a dashing cove like me. In fact
if I am here much longer I might arrange for a personally
conducted tour of eligible young ladies, under the most approved
& moral auspices. Might take on Auntie & Auntie Win too, &
show them a few of the high spots in Paris. Or London — you
don’t need to go to Paris. — I was surprised to hear that
you’ve taken to reading history at last. You had better go on
to the Town [unclear: labourer] now & have your blood boil a bit more;
there are some piquent pages about eliminating chimney sweepers. But
can’t such things be repeated? Don’t you believe it — what
about the coal-mines? The English miners are working longer
hours now (those of them that can get any work) than any
other miners in Europe, & a fat lot of good they can do.
The English lower classes aren’t the revolting kind — they haven’t
got the sense — Kick them, & they say Thank you, sir, with their
hat in their hands. To kick back would be (a) a thing they
would never think of (b) unconstitutional, so in either case
impossible. Duncan's brother came over here to Birmingham
on a job like Keith's in some [unclear: rail] show; he had a complete
page 5 indifference to politics when he left Australia, but before he
had been a couple of months in Birmingham he was wolfing
Shaw & turning the air livid with his views on English
industrialism — & the English character as concerned therein.
What’s the use of even talking to them, he said, or asking
them to come out on strike? — you’ve only got to wave a
Union Jack & sing God Save the King, or send the Prince
of Wales down; & the men rush go back to work 12 hours a day
& the women go home & breed like rabbits. Some women
up there, a sort of miracle, got it into their hands heads that
under such conditions there might be something in birth-
control — that unlimited babies didn’t help to clean up dirt
& overcrowding & low wages & slum areas. So they asked for
a little bit of information. On which a Bishop (not Barnes)
got up & blasted them backwards & forwards & sky-high for their
indecent & immoral curiosity. There have just been three
articles in the Times in the last week about the coal
industry in Wales, & it isn’t very pretty. Depression of course
isn’t the owner’s fault; but it sort of makes a man bitter, as you
might say, when out of a total weekly income of 16/- for himself
& family, he has to fork out 6/- rent to the owners of the
colliery, who also own his house. But bless your soul, there’ll
never be a revolution in this country. They simply haven’t got
the guts. During an argument with Duncan on this point he
says that some blanky historian has pointed out that when the
Englishman does get aroused he is more ruthless than the
page 6 Frenchman, & that in about 200 years he may be aroused. Per-
200 years is a short space of time, historically speaking,
& there may be a revolution around 2100. D now says that the
historian (who he know now thinks was Chesterton) was talking about
political revolutions & not economic revolutions, so that alters
the case considerably. — Thank you for hints on books to
read, both of you. Messer Marco Polo I have read, got it
indeed from Challis as a Xmas present, but none of the others.
I have read some of Davidson’s poems somewhere though.
Thank you also for cuttings — we always get the Literary
Supplement, so you needn’t bother to chop anything out of
that. I of course heard about Ern from [unclear: Jaynt], but I
was interested to see that a lot of hopeless duds I had
a slight acquaintance with had got through in history. I
am glad to know that Daddy is all right again after throw-
himself around, Thanks for posting Trevelyan; it
has not yet turned up but will come by a slower mail,
I suppose. I think if I stay any longer I had better
come back & collect all my books & buy a house here for
them. Thank you also for what you say about the
S.A. job & helping me. I think on the whole I did the
best thing in turning it down — my thesis is a devil to
write — so many things to work in together smoothly that
I won’t be able to get it finished for June — & if I can
get a Rockefeller I shall be all right for a couple of
years. I don’t know what the chances are for this, & I
am not banking on it very much — The cows want a
page 7 a terrible lot of information, including my religion, & whether
I speak English well & so forth. Also I have to supply a
mental & dental certificate, which did me in for 25/- together.
However it will gratify you no doubt to learn that I am
free from [unclear: Organce] Disease. I have to send a photograph
too, & had to be took again this morning for that purpose:
however if it turns out all right it will be cheap enough, 6
postcards for 3/6 — I already have two applications for
copies; get in early if you want one. It was one of those
Tottenham Court Road joints where I went, with a cove in
the real photographer’s tradition, with a professional & the most unctuous-
caressing manner — using [sic: used] to calming down excited nerves,
I suppose. I saw J.R.M. Butter, the Rockefeller agent over
here last week, too : he is a pleasant cove, a fellow of Trinity,
& did not seem to be discouraging — he has the 147 pages [unclear: of my]
thesis that I have done so far at present, & I can only hope
he will be as impressed with the lot as Laski was with the
Introduction. But of course the Yanks have the final
word. I am trusting that Laski’s letter will have more
of an effect than anything else — he is a pretty big name
over there — But you had better take all this as very
much up in the air — nothing at all may come of it, &
I may be sniffing around for a job again at the end
of the year. In other words, don’t de be disappointed if I
get no further on the road to academic fame, such as it is.
Talking of such, I had a note from Fay, saying nothing
page 8 about my proofs beyond the fact that he had received them
& that they would go to the printer forthwith, & that the job would
be finished by about the end of April. So I suppose
that with luck, you may be let in on the ground floor,
by the end of June. I am getting about £3 worth of the
darn things for free distribution — I only hope they will enhance
my reputation. Well, I think that’s about all in answer
to your letter; except that I’m sorry that winter has
broken out again with you. Of course over here I am
still waiting for summer.

Of news here there isn’t much to tell you. I
haven’t been to any concerts that I can remember. I
did get to the last part of Back to Methuselah, though,
last Saturday afternoon, after trying in vain the Wednesday
night before. It is first-rate fantasy. What beats me is
the way Shaw can put up a crowd of characters & make
them give speeches on evolution & biology, & yet on the whole
keep you interested, & even excited, all the while. Both Gwen
Frangcon Davies & Edith Evans were very good in this — EE.
as an [unclear: Ancient] — very different from Millament. This
same crowd is now doing Harold, by the late Alf Tennyson,
Not a bad play, says the Times this morning, but he don’t
really get into the battle; you’re interested but not really
moved. Well, I dare say I shall get along to have a
squiz some time. I read in the Evening Standard
also that [unclear: Messrs] John Drinkwater & Humbert Wolfe, the
eminent poets, went to Harold, with due piety; but that Mr
page 9 Arnold Bennett & Mr H.G. Wells were seen seated side by side
the same night at the première of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
The Evening Standard (this is Low’s paper — I must send
out some of his cartoons some time, just to encourage Alan)
has also to report two infernal stupidities — Commander
Daniel found guilty on all charges in this Royal Oak case,
& Alice in Wonderland MS sold to Rosenbach for £14,500.
My oath! in both cases. This Admiral Collard seems
to be about the prize [unclear: boor] of the post–war epoch. — However to
get back to my plays. I have been also to two Ibsen
matinées, The Doll’s House & The Wild Duck. Hedda Gabler
was on for about a fortnight, but I could’t go. This is the
only way they are celebrating the Ibsen centenary here, bar
articles. The Wild Duck was much the better done of the
two, & a much better play; but both are very interesting, the
D’s-H more so historically than dramatically. Ghosts & The
W.D. are to be put on for a series of matinées now, so I shall
have a chance to see Mrs Patrick Campbell in the former.
Can’t cram too much into one week these days; have to
waste too much time in fiddling round with notes & getting
nowhere. I have got a good many things in perspect. in-
Charlie Chaplin. Oh, I also went to the Beggar’s
Opera last week, on being unable to get into the Shaw —
a very excellent performance it was too, full of snap, sparkle,
punch, piquancy, jollity, & most melodious into the bargain.
It was a great shame Lovat Fraser died do early, the settings
page 10 & the dresses & the drop curtain (of 18th century London) were about
the best I have seen. Of course I saw the thing in N.Z., but
it didn’t have anything like the same pungency & finish

I have picked up a few interesting secondhand books
lately — a beautifully printed little Pickering edition 1849 of Thoughts
& Opinions of Statesmen, i.e.Humboldt — not very profound so
far as I have read, but it is a be charming little book. Also Posthumous
Works in Prose & Verse &c &c of Mr Samuel Butler, Author of Hudibras &c &c
[unclear: c/]15, with a lot of amusing tripe in it. Shirley’s The Glories of
our Blood & State is also attributed to Mr SB. The readers
says the edition “will depend to see Wit in its whole extent & variety,
so unconstrain‘d, & flowing with that freedom, as if the great Author
were only the AMANUWENSIS to some Heavenly Muse, & charmed us
with thoughts not his own” Alas, says he, SB. was one “whom
all confess the most exalted Wit of the Age in which he lives, & one
of the brightest spirits that ever adorn‘d our Island” &c &c. I also
got a 17th century Erasmus Colloquies, & an 18th century Pope & a Fay &
a Prior & so on, not wonderfully clean but interesting to have.
Good 18th century stuff is a pretty high price these days. My
Butler is pretty well as good as new though. If I had the cash
I could send you out a lot of interesting dope like this. That
place at Gloucester still makes me weep. I must see what
Oxford & Cambridge bring forth — whenever I get there.
Well, well, time to knock off I think, though I don’t seem to have
said much. I enclose a picture of this district I meant to
send you about a year ago — our house approximately marked,
as it is too late to go out & count the exact number along the street
now. With all the love in the world.