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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 20 August, 1928

page 1

My Dear Mummy,

I’ve just had a note from Manitoba to
say that they’ve given two blokes jobs, but I’m not one of them.
Also a few days ago, what was a lot more interesting, your
last letter, complete with enclosures & appendices & what not,
fat enough for a PhD thesis. Which I now proceed to an-
. Thank you for your practical advice about pyjama
strings — I shall bear it in mind & perhaps sew them in some
wet afternoon when my hands & mind are otherwise unem-
. I shall pass on Stan’s cartoon to deK, who will
be suitably overjoyed, I suppose, now that the All Blacks have
been stopped again. I suppose also that N.Z. is going around
garbed in black. This ought to take the skite out of the
country for a bit. Ah well! we grow wise through suffering —
who knows but that a better & brighter N.Z. may not emerge
as a result of this sojourn in the Valley of the Shadow? —
My cobbers chances in the Rockefeller gamble were settled
earlier than mine because they applied earlier. DeK
has now got a London travelling scholarship for a year
and is in Paris on it correcting Hemming’s French for
him & generally putting the natives in their place. The
title of his thesis was, if I remember rightly, British
Relations with the S. African Dutch Republics 1854-71,
page 2
but I’m not too certain about the dates. Perhaps you won’t
mind that. It is to go to press about September, so you
may have an opportunity of reading it in due course. —
I think I agree with you about Sandy & [unclear: Trudie] — they’re
the happy ones of this world all right. [unclear: Cow-poaching] &
butter-making — what more do you want? — As for the Moun-
troubles, I don’t quite see whether you’re jeering at
birth-control, or boosting it as the right way to get babies,
or what. Anyhow whatever it is, remember you can’t reas-
from the Mountier family — they’re all a bit cracked,
I reckon; from Mrs Mountier down. I’m interested
to see that you’re reading up the Renaissance, let alone
Christopher Columbus — so you’re taking up history at
last! You’d better remember that it isn’t a paying
game, though, before it is too late. — As for your re-
about the English weather, I may say that it rained
the first day I was back, & that I emerged from the B.M.
at 6o’clock to-day into a good solid downpour. — What
do the Monaghans want with more children? I suppose
it may be all right if you’re a parson in a country
of primary producers & staunch believers in the faith
as delivered to the Church of England! but I think
four are plenty for one family. I should perhaps
bring the matter beneath Dean [unclear: Inges] notice — he some-
gets a bit worried because the upper class of
parsons are not replenishing the earth with sufficient
page 3
vigour. This ought to buck him up a bit.

As for Daddy’s quotation, if he can remember
what it was, I’d say it was from [unclear: Don] Byrne, but I
can’t lay my hand on the exact place, being away from
my books, as they say. Probably now he will say it was
from some other cove, to which I reply in advance that
those Irish coves are all the same anyhow, & anyhow you
should fill up your letters with original literary matter,
& not quotations. I’m pleased to see he is taking up
ethnology; all the mobs are taking it up nowadays; it
is certainly a tragedy that he can only get it out of American
books too — but I shall keep my eyes skinned for a suitable
& superior British article. What’s he going to do about
the Kellogg Pact? — that was started by an American you
know, & here is Jimmy Parr, who distrusts all these
foreigners, going to sign it next week — with a reservation
I suppose that it’s not to affect Daddy unless he sees his
way clear to give an individual assent, which he
may not, as the Yanks are in it. As for ethnology,
why not try the Golden Bough? The whole things in
the V.U.C. library, if the abridged edition’s too short.
A pity I brought mine away with me, as I haven’t
read it yet. Thought I might read it on the boat;
so I did — 30 pages. — Interesting to hear about
Thornhill’s activity, & the philanthropists. I suppose
old Bobby Stout is the £100 man. But I wouldn’t
page 4
give them 2d. I have come to the conclusion that
the feather-bed for falling [unclear: Xians] joke about sums it
all up; & I am on the floor. Why worry to rean-
the moribund? Get on with something useful,
I say, even if it’s only writing theses. From this you
can see that I’m not likely to be standing in the
queue for the job, even if I am turned down on all
sides over here. Although it wouldn’t be bad form
preaching at [unclear: Sall & old Geddis] for a week or two on the
unloveliness of advertising & the iniquity of the modern
press. Those birds seem very far away now; likewise
Thornhill, who is a bloke I never had much time for —
he’s a parson now all over, if you like — it fairly runs
out of him. Yes, only the best would be any good in
Wellington; but Wellington won’t get the best, either in
parsons or anything else, until the best can run
back home for the week-end to get freshened up again.
We’re hopelessly handicapped out there by our distance
from anything.

You say you are rather banking on the result
of my thesis-travail. Don’t you be too sure — it will
probably be as dry as dust — what is it after all but a
footnote for constitutional history, & a prolix footnote at
that? I ought to get it finished about October, I think,
except for typing & indexing & adding on appendices
& all the other boring God-forsaken jobs, though writing
page 5
is god-forsaken enough in all conscience. Anyhow I’ll
get it finished now, & the world won’t be held in suspense
for a year or two while I run off to Canada. Yes, I
have pretty well finished all the research for it, except for
an occasional visit to the B.M. to see if there is anything
there I can pinch to make the job easier. As the
Observer remarked yesterday, research is copying things
out of books nobody ever has read into a book that nobody
ever will read. You pay to be allowed to do it, too.
And now here’s Ern coming over on the say day.
The specifications for a room for him make me laugh;
I hope he isn’t under any illusion that London is a cheap
place to get rooms in, or that the cost of living is partic-
low. This is the season of mists & mellow
fruitfulness — well, the mists haven’t started to come yet,
but we’re getting on into autumn — & I paid 4 ½d for two
apples on Saturday. N.Z. apples are 8d pound, so I
can’t afford them. Oranges 3d or 4d each. Pears 4d
each. Bananas 2d each. You can get tomatos [sic: tomatoes] as
low as 6d pound. thank heaven. N.Z. butter up to 1/10.
Elsie Holmes told me you thought we were paying
too much for our room — well, if I get anything like
a decent single room with anything like a tree to look at
for 25/- a week, I shall think I haven’t done so badly.
So Ern needn’t think he’s going to conquer the world
on £200 year. I hope he has saved some of his own.
page 6
His Jacob Joseph money will help to pay for his degree
anyhow — it is absurd to expect any cove to get a
London PhD on £400 when fees & typing alone cost
him about £80. However I’ll be in London all right
when Ern turns up to see that his feet are set in the
right path. — I have not yet read The Highway, but the
names of D. Mona Castle (a very literary family, the
Castles — didn’t the other one use to write rhapsodies
in French for the Zoo Standard?) & Valerie C. Coliss
C.R.A.M. rather put a cove off. This bloke Douglas
Taylor though seems a bit of an acquisition. — Savage
Programme not bad. — I was glad to get Aunties letter
also, with their news of Mary & foreshadowings of
fruitsalads to greet the returning prodigal — now that
is the spirit I really do like to see in an aunt.

I now bring my news up to date. I got back
from Paris last Tuesday — The last week there was as
entertaining as the others, but nothing special happened —
I spent another day in the Louvre, inspecting Chinese
gold-lacquered boxes, chine pottery, & French pictures, let
alone a few Egyptian Sarcophagi & other relics on the
way. Did I ever tell you that big museums are a curse?
They are, anyhow. Give me a small one, with plenty
of room, & one exhibit & that good to a glass case. Hint
for the N.Z. national war memorial. (Old Firth
seems to have come a crash over that business, by the way)
page 7
Also did I tell you about a Music [unclear: Cernusctor], an Oriental
museum, all collected by one man, out by a charming
little park called the [unclear: Porc Mouceau]? Anyhow, that’s the
place. Museums shouldn’t be any bigger than that. Some
beautiful porcelain they had there. If I were a millionaire I
would collect porcelain — I saw a nice pair of green saucers
to-day with dragons on them, only £3.10, about 1730. Any-
I think I shall go to China — I’m getting more & more
to like Chinese pottery. Not to mention Japanese prints, of
which I bought some first-rate examples in Paris. Only
20 francs each, & 30 for an extra good one. I wish I’d
bought a lot more now. I think I’ll have an Oriental
drawing-room someday, hung with prints, & a few
nice expensive bowls sitting around in handy places.
Only China tea served, of course, & the most eastern thin
bread & butter, & chocolate biscuits the Buddha wouldn’t say
no to. Then next door, an oak-panelled dining room,
a room for myself consisting entirely of books, & a
music room hung with Botticellis. Heaven knows where
I’d put the Flemish primitives, though — they’ll have to go
into the bath-room , I expect. Ah, you could do a lot
with a couple of thousand a year. I really am bubbling
with ideas for an art gallery for Wellington & a library
for V.U.C. & a museum for [unclear: Kaiwarra], & Lord knows
what. If they’d only give me a roving commission to
run the place, it might be worth coming back for. I’ve
page 8
got a lot of things in mind I’d like to bring back for
you too, from handwoven coats to pewter sugar spoons,
let alone books for Daddy. — We ran into Helen & an
aunt of hers one afternoon outside the Louvre, too, & were
taken back to the Hotel Palais d’Orsay for afternoon tea.
My word, the Yanks can do it in style. Said aunt has come
over for a visit, & in about a month had spent on herself
& H. more than H. spent the whole 1 ¾ years she
was here on her own. Nothing like having a maiden
aunt with sound investments in gilt-edged securities. A
talkative aunt too — she touched on about 17 topics in
about 200 yards of quay as she strolled along with me,
from pottery to politics, finishing up on Catholics. Then
she sent a special message to me afterwards in case
I had got the impression that she was intolerant. She
said she always had a great admiration for us in Aus-
because of the way we treated our women, & I
agreed yes, we were pretty good to the girls, it was very praise-
. Then she got horribly involved with the waiter
in explaining, quite gratuitously, that she didn’t want whipped
cream, & de K had to spring to the rescue, which he
was not too reluctant to do. In fact he is a bird who
can cope even with [unclear: me] in conversation. So the rest
of us just sat still on gold chairs & absorbed nourishment. — We went
to Versailles one day too, had a picnic in the woods
somewhere behind the little Trianon; got locked in & had
page 9
to climb down a tree outside a 12ft wall to get out — what they
close such a huge place at night for heaven only knows. It
was only ½ past 9 then. Versailles itself of course is ruined
by the decoration — the rooms are finely, & some of them
nobly proportioned. Fountains not playing — they only go
on Sundays, I believe, & holidays, & the park very unkempt.
We had a final party at Hemming’s on Sunday night, &
next day Elsie & Kathleen set off for Belgium. I had a
final look round the bookshops with Hemming, borrowed
a suitcase from him to pack the books I had bought in,
& I too left for England. [unclear: Dunkenque]–Tilbury this time;
4 ½ hours of a damnable French train, boat about 6 hours,
berths all full, cold wind & rain. So I arranged my bags
as a breakwind (see margin)[unclear: tied] a blanket & spent a fairly Sketch diagram of John Cawte Beaglehole protecting himself from the wind
comfortable night on deck. The English 3rd class tra
carriage was heaven. Two customs blokes insisted on looking
at my books, the 2nd after the first had already passed
them — there’s no accounting for the funny things these
birds do — never so much as cast a glance at the other bag.
However I only bought one [unclear: Lanchrity] this trip, & I posted
that — Gallion’s Reach, by H.M. Tomlinson — Jolly good, too;
I just finished reading it tonight.

I came back to Brunswick Square to see how things
were getting on (after cadging a breakfast from Duncan)
& found the house now papered in bright blues & yellows shot
with silver & all the rooms gone up in price; a new bath-
page 10
consisting of an old cupboard & part of the landing,
the old bathroom turned into a room, & so on & so forth.
Luckily there is a new bath & [unclear: caliphout] installed also. So
I am just hanging out here for a week while I get a
chapter finished & find a good room. There is a good one
on the other side of the square, the quiet side, 25/-; but
you’re not allowed to have visitors after 11pm except
with special permission. It is a very tempting room, but
I don’t want to join the Y.M.C.A.just yet, so I think I shall
turn it down. Might do for Ern though. Funny the dif-
sorts of landladies you strike. It’s not that I’d want
to keep many people after 11pm anyhow, but the idea of a
rule annoys me. Like Annie Hawkins with the light
on the stairs — she thought one light in the hall was quite
enough, so your visitors regularly fell down & broke their

Bill Joliffe turned up in London & then the [unclear: Heggie].
I had them all to tea yesterday afternoon being Sunday.
Borrowed a table cloth from Duncan & bought out my
flash tea-pot, & went down to Lyon’s & bought a swiss roll.
They both seem blooming. & I got a full account of the
finances of the trip, as well as a lot of other things, from
Jim — I’d like to see him & [unclear: P.J.A.] together. They seem
to be enjoying themselves pretty well. Mrs [unclear: Heggie] immediately
enquired after you, & did her best to shut up Jim for the
rest of the afternoon, but without success. A stout con-
page 11
he is.

24.8.28 Still at Brunswick Square, but shifted out of our
old room on top to one on the first floor. still overlooking the
square, but a long way from the bathroom, which used to be
just opposite us. The old room is being divided in two now.
the landlady having at last made up her mind to do that;
the things they will do here to knock an extra bob out of a
house are appalling. I’m afraid the John Knightley’s would
recognise the interiors of precious few houses if they came
back now. — The girls came back on Tuesday, & got a room
here again; Bill Jolliffe turned up about ½ hour later, so there
was a very happy reunion. We all went to She Stoops to
Conquer at night at the Lyric Hammersmith — a first rate
production — Marie [unclear: Ney], a N.Z.er, I believe, very good as
Mrs Hardcastle. Galsworthy’s Loyalties is next on
the dramatic list for seeing; meanwhile the proms have
started & are going strong; but I am not going more
than twice or three times a week. The Bach concert was
crowded out on Wednesday night — B. being by far the greatest
popular draw these days; concerts for flutes, oboe, two pianos,
strings & so forth. Some good Handel too after the interval,
including an organ concerto. Beethoven & BrahmsMozart tonight.
Beethoven last Friday; & Elgar’s cello concerto last Saturday,
Beatrice Harrison the soloist — the lady who plays a long
unaccompanied thing ([unclear: Fugue]?) by Bach on our gramophone.
And she is pretty good too. — Ern ought to arrive in time
page 12
for about the last fortnight of them, so I suppose he will go
& make himself drunk. There seem to be some first rate
things coming along for the winter; so I am not too sorry
that Manitoba has given me the go-by. I suppose I had
better start enquiring again what chances there are of a job
at V.U.C. next year, under the tutelage of F.P. — Nothing
much else has happened this week — there is an exhibition of
enlarged “Country Life” photos of the English country houses,
which you would like; & Waring & Gillows have a show of
Oriental carpets I have not seen yet. I went & had
another look at the Chinese porcelain in the B.M. yesterday;
& have practically decided to make it my life-work
to make a collection of same. — I think that about sums
up recent proceedings; though I should mention the trip
up the Seine we had one night in a little steamboat, a
party of us & about 1000 French: a fine well-kept river it
is, & very spectacular the [gap — reason: unclear] illuminations on the Eiffel
Tower. [Praise be, it is said this thing will not last more than
about 30 years more.] Then we had a drink at a café, &
ate peanuts all the way back — prescribed by the cove who
sold them as very good for the mal de mer. So we ate them
very industriously. — Have I mentioned the Cluny Museum? —
furniture, tapestry, medieval carvings &c? Still you know
all about it from E.V. Lucas. With this I knock off
for a week or two. With much love as always