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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 1926

page 1

Dear [unclear: Parence]

Thank you very much for your letters,
likewise thank Auntie for hers. I got a bit of a shock on rushing
down to the P.O. the day the N.Z. mail came in. My first
mail from here consisted of 14 letters of business, thanks
or otherwise & 2 parcels & cost me 3/5 ½ altogether; & I
was confronted with one thin envelope i.e. Auntie's, at
a total cost of 1d!!! However I trotted down again yester-
& raised yours, delayed a day through registration — they
do things in a complicated way here, so that was all

Before I forget Mrs. Moore; darn it, I thought I was
being so jolly careful with my papers at College too. I
think I must have left that Fitzroy paper between the pages
of a Manchester Guardian on my table at College if it isn't
in that attaché case of Daddy's I carried backwards and for-
with me. Have a look in there, & I will write to
Miles, the maths assist who occupies my place there, by this
Ern might go and ask M if he has found it. mail to see if he can lay his hands on it. I wanted to get the
thing copied too. You might tell Mrs M. she ought to send all of that
kind of thing she has along to the Turnbull Library. Also the
key Scholefield wanted: I found this in my pocket the
the afternoon I left & posted it back registered to him [gap — reason: unclear] by the
first mail home. You might keep those letters: one or two
of them I wanted to keep but I forgot which; so if you shove
them in with my other papers they will be all right. And re
that green cardigan: you can fix it up if you like & send
it along & I will send Ern's back; I think what it wants
page 2 is a dozen stitch or something. I sent Mrs. Hooper a photog.
by the last mail. Thanks for the snaps you enclose (& also all
the other enclosures). Keith is a bit of a mug fair dinkum;
he didn't give me the key of that leather cabin-trunk (I assume
it has a key); & I will have to get one made I suppose. I
meant to mention it in my last letter when you could
have posted it to Adelaide or Freemantle; but after twelve
pages my brain got rather numb. To [unclear: return] to the snaps —
the one of you was certainly pretty good, Mummy, I but I
didn't see a great deal of me, who was presumably the hero
of the piece. Keithle's feeble mismanagement again, I sup-
. Well, I knew he was a bit of a mug; but I thought
he was supposed to have matured and broadened his intelli-
on his travels but I dare say a mug properly ma-
is a lot worse than a callow one.

As you can see by my address I have hopped out of
the Y.M., that lousy show, on to the boat, where I live in
style once more. I changed over yesterday, understanding that
after the last connecting boat from NZ you could live live
on the Orient. It isn't too bad either. I have a single-berth
cabin on the top cabin deck, porthole opening over the
promenade on to the sea, & only two doors from the deck
itself considered longways. See diagram. Sketch diagram of J. C. Beaglehole's cabin position on R.M.S.Royal Mail Ship Osterley
Plenty of room in the cabins. Stewards nice young polite
young fellas. Everything just so. Saloon a bit tawdry
but food first-class of its kind. They say the Osterley
is a tub compared to the new boats, but she'll
do me. Chairs in the music-room all nice and new —
covered with parrots & peculiar trees, piano fair, library
with some quite interesting books in it. & So on & so forth.
But it's a pity you can't see my cabin. I wallow.
The only thing is that bathing facilities are pretty poor till
page 3 we get out to sea; but as I've had a hot bath every morning since
I left home, I can stand that for a couple of days. I meant
on leaving the Y.M. to stick a note in the Suggestion Box they
have prominently displayed: "Don't be so mean with the butter";
but I see that all the joints are like that. I went to buy some
butter to eat with Auntie's biscuits in the seclusion of my room;
but I got a bit of a shock when the bird charged me 1/1 for
½ lb. My oath, the cost of living's high here — but if you go
far enough out, you certainly can get a 3-course meal for
a bob. But I didn't risk one of those, having my future to
think of. I found a joint called the Owl Cafeteria — did I
tell you about that before?, — where you help yourself to what
you want & can get a good lunch or tea for 1/- lettuce, radishes,
cheese, etc & a roll; or you can pay a darned lot also if
you're not careful. This is a good place on the whole. But you
can get an average meal for 1/6 if you don't expect anything flash.
Fish is very expensive though. So much for food. I really think
the best thing is to live on a boat 1st class on a free pass.

Well, I have seen a good bit more of Sydney since I
last wrote, though I haven't been outside it, & don't think I'll
have time yet, though I wanted to see a bit of the country.
I trotted out to the Carver's the other night, per boat &
train & displayed my tramping photos. I find they come
in very handy to fill up gaps in the conversation; &
they worked off some of theirs on me, so it wasn't so
one-sided as it may seem. Then about 10 o'clock just as I
was moving towards the door Mr Carver opened up about
Theosophy and Mrs. [gap — reason: unclear]. Then he started to produce books
page 4 on the subject, and she said "Well, if you men are going to
talk books, I'll say goodnight". So I said I would say
goodnight too & get; but he said "Oh! the night's young yet"
And started off again. I gathered from what he said that
he thought a bloke of my commanding intellect would be
able to do a great deal for the world if I got the right
spirit; but I managed to tear myself away before
conversion set in. I said after a while hauling
out my watch, Excuse me but what time does the
last train go? Oh, he said, there's plenty of time yet; what
is it? I said 10 to 12. Oh dear dear he said studying
a time-table; then it's just gone! So he put on his
boots & took me down to the last train, which dropped
me in some godforsaken place whence I walked a
couple of miles to a wharf to catch the Drunk's Ferry
about ½ past 1; & got to bed at last about 2.15. Yes,
it's a great thing is Theosophy. They find out a great many
of the details by clairvoyance — mostly by Mrs. Besant
& this Bishop Leadbeater: what they agree on goes down
as gospel. Eg. the room in which JC. appeared to
the disciples after the crucifixion held exactly 240 people.
And so forth on the population & domestic peculiarities of
the population of Atlantis. I probed him a bit, but it
wasn't much good. The scoffer wants needs to keep out of
the business, however; or a terrible retribution awaits
him. But as I said, an earnest intellectual bloke
like me could do a lot for the cause if I took the
necessary steps in the way of self-control, diet,
etc etc etc. Diet plays a good part in the business,
so I daresay Mummy will take it up for a while
& urge its importance on everybody else in her
page 5 well-known way. I never met such a fraud. It seems
curious Auntie Nancy hasn't seen the light yet, though: you
might give her the good word. I got a good deal of
religion in the Domain on Sunday afternoon too; I never
had such fun. There were crowds there, listening to heated
discourses on Billy Hughes ("the dirty black liar, & I'd tell
him so to his face") the Meat Board, the general improve-
of Australia, Moses, the fundamental truths of nation-
, Commonwealth crime statistics as applied to the Roman
Catholic church
& so on. I might may be doing an
article on this for the Times; but by gum, it was an
education in humanity. I dare say Hyde Park's like that;
but it couldn't be any funnier. The Salvation Army was
in full blast, too, & various persons with Union Jacks;
I had a look in at the museum on the way down &
thought it a very gratifying sight & but when I got to
the Domain I wished I hadn't wasted the time. So much
for religion. The Y.M. catered for the sensation loving
Australian public by turning on an afternoon address
on "What I Saw at Monte Carlo" by the Rev. Frederick Potts,
principal of the Methodist Ladies' College, Burnwood & the
night after they had a sing-song tournament; so you can
see at what a hectic speed Sydney lives.

Did I tell you I met Henry Knowles Smith in the Bank
of N.Z.
? Such is the fact; & he has a cobber in the University,
the Clerk of Exams, who showed me round. I was
introduced to the Librarian, who was very chatty; gave me
page 6 morning tea & offered me a job; he explained the place to me & told
me all his troubles. They have 160,000 vols. but no open access
for students. They have a great big reading room full of win-
& no room for shelves much & all the books except those
most used are kept in a sev stack-room of seven floors;
the floors are very thick glass; the librarian gives honours
students the run of the place; but the others have to ask for
books over a counter. He doesn't like the system himself
but can't do much. The stack-room is a freezing place for
Australians, even in the summer & in the winter summer it's
also it's impossible for anyone to work in the reading
room owing to the heat. The books are arranged on the
Dewey system; & he was surprised & shocked to hear of
Horace. The history section is pretty good. He was an
interesting lad, Green by name, an ex-journalist, but
evidently a good librarian. Then the Clerk of Exams
took me in charge again & showed me over the Union
Building; my oath, the male students at least do
themselves well — reading room, common room,
billiard room, shop run by David Jones at 10% disc,
[gap — reason: unclear]& confectionery shops, ½d off town prices; bar-
shop, picture theatre, also for debates etc & small
dancer etc, & a magnificent dining room very white &
light & high & airy with paintings lent by the Art
Gallery. (They have a stunner collection of Hilden water-
colours at the Art Gallery by the way — did Alan
see these? Also some good etchings). It cost about
£27000 to build I think; & about £19000 a year to
run; they work things out so as just to pay expenses.
They hope to add a residential block later on. The
Senate built this place for them. And yet my Clerk page 7
was writing about College spirit in the old familiar

Then I have been to the Mitchell library a good bit; I
found some rather juicy ones there for my thesis & am
working on it now, hoping to extract the plums by the time
I leave. The library is a fine place with a big mss
section, mostly Australian and some NZ, with a lot
of photograph copies of journals of Cook's voyages; but
it is strongest on history & topography, travel and so on.
It has nothing like the collections of rare & beautiful
things the Turnbull has. But Mitchell though he never
moved out of NSW (he was one of the first [gap — reason: unclear]graduate of
Sydney University) got some extraordinary stuff — 15 (I
think) incunabula alone. He left about £60 000 a year
for upkeep — they spend about £3000 a yr on buying
stuff. Sydney seems pretty well to ooze money. I
strolled in & presented my general letter of introd.
from Macmillan Brown & the Librarian gave me a
Reader's ticket & made me free of the place. So I'm
not doing badly — I wouldn't mind staying a fort-
more in Sydney under these circumstances.

Let's see where else I've been — out to Jean's hos-
one afternoon to see the place, landing into the
middle of the opening of a new wing. It is run by the
Methodists & the place was fairly lousy with parsons; still,
as I arrived in the middle, i.e. just after the speeches &
just before the afternoon tea, everything was lovely.
I will finish writing my
letter of thanks some day;
but my pen hand is too
weary for this mail.
I must tear into town anyhow to post this
page 8 I chatted away amiably; one lad (not a parson) informed
me he was a Mt Cook School boy himself away back in
1886 or so, was I a Methodist, & did I know his sister
who edited the Methodist Christian Life or something in
Foxton? I told him I'm gave him the latest news of the
old school, told him I wasn't a Methodist, but in such
a way as to imply that it was the dearest wish of my
life to be one, if I could only figure out the way,
& said I was afraid I didn't know the Foxton district
very well. He seemed mildly surprised at this last (won-
how literary expectations fail to carry) but
rallied & asked me round to tea some night. But I
explained very sad-like that I was afraid owing to a
rush of engagements that that was impossible. It was
a good afternoon-tea though.

Then I went have been to some friends of Jean's twice
for some music; they have a grand piano not as good
as it looks, but playable; & she sang, again which
was a great pleasure to hear again. And last night
we went to What Every Woman Knows. I shall send you
over these two Barrie programmes some time.
I hope the coy strikes Wgton; they do the play really
well. Scotch accent a bit wanting in this, though,
according to Jean. Good value for money — 3 hours for
3 bob in the gallery. You buy numbered tickets too, &
thus automatically reserve your seats.

Well, I leave on Saturday, & I don't quite know
where I'll write from next; Melbourne I dare say.
Keep on taking care of yourself, Mummy; apportion
my love & kind regards around judiciously

believe me your loving son