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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 22nd August, 1926

page 1

Here we are, two days out, & getting into Melbourne
tomorrow morning. Therefore although there aren't many days to chron-
since I wrote last, if I don't post a letter from Melbourne I'm
afraid I'll miss the next mail; & as I don't want to spend all my
time in port writing letters I [sic: I'll] start now; though it is ½ past 9 of a
Sunday night. So no doubt you are doing the same. I am thus late
because I have been playing the piano — a Broadwood grand, a
bit wonky but good in parts — to my fellow travelling scholars, or
some of them. There are an immense crowd of us on board, about
9 at least, some from Sydney as well as N.Z. And five of us
are travelling first with free passages. I got chatting to a girl at
breakfast before we left Sydney, who mentioned casually that she
was a NZer, & mentioned that I too came from God's Own Country;
when it turned out that she was a classics scholar going from
Canterbury to Oxford for three years. Then just as I was getting
interested in her, she mentioned casually that her fianceé was on board
too — but he, poor devil, has to travel 3rd-class, so that she dosen't
get much chance to see him except at ports. And he is low, one
of the NZ Rhodes Scholars; the other one Barak is also here, but
also 3rd The Castle gang, thank heaven, are going 3d [sic: 3rd]. Then when
we got our seats at table on leaving Sydney who should we
(i.e the girl, Miss Rowe, & I) find at our table but three Sydney
travelling scholars — one in French & German, a bird with a fat
face who had the misfortune to be wonky yesterday, though the
sea was ideally calm — one in economics, I think, & the third
in architecture, a bloke called Raymond MacGrath, who did a lot
of drawing & writing for Hermes the Sydney Univ magazine. Something
like Alan in appearance, with the same sort of hands. And the
girls from the Canterbury College Review for two years, so taking
page 2 us all in all, we are a pretty bright party. The table is completed
by a bright young officer lad, with a nice Marcelle wave in front.
The rest of the saloon is a pretty rough lot; one or two ultra-
flash young females with accents & officers in tow; one or two dowagers
with frosty faces, & a few large men who look more unintelligent
than they possibly may be. We feed on the fat of the land, though
hindered to a certain extent by the singular French in which
the dinner menu is composed — so that even our French scholar
is a bit hard put to interpret sometimes. I find too that it's
no use putting on your best French accent with these low-
bred stewards — what you have to do is to pronounce as written. Nice
menus they get out to [sic: too], with charming designs around the edges or
on top. It's not much use trying to be a food reformer — so I
am having a grand splurge — getting in while the going's good (I
refer to the weather) & casting my net far & wide. I generally
have some fruit to start off breakfast with, followed by an
omelette (good omelettes they are too) & a slice of grilled
Wiltshire bacon (nothing so rough as the common or garden bacon
& eggs) or I may possibly insert a trifle of fish; & then a finger
or two of toast & marmalade forms a suitable light coping stone.
The coffee is good; & we get it after lunch & dinner as well.
On these latter occasions in the lounge or smoking room
of course. With Demerara sugar, which I had never seen before,
but which does not seem to differ in effect from any other
sugar. At lunch we toy with a spoonful or so of soup,
possibly again fish (turbot for me today), cold viands of
some sort, salad, two or three apricots, etc. Dinner I hesitate
to describe to you, lest your hygienic soul should shudder
& wilt. So far I appear to be thriving — we walk eng ener-
round & round the deck till our legs wobble & play
quoits & deck-tennis till the blood rushes to our heads, so
that so far there are no signs of increasing fat on my
manly frame. I meant to weigh myself before leaving Sydn-
, but forgot — I must try to remember this important detail
page 3 at Melbourne.

To get back to the beginning, I put in most of Friday Thurs-
writing letters & then dashed along to the Mitchell Library
in the evening to work; next day I had to meet a cove on
the wharf to make a new key to my cabin-trunk. ½ hour
late he was, & charged me 7 bob — the dirty Australian.
And then when I had a look in my other trunk I found
the books in it I thought were in Keith's, which I wanted
the key for. Otherwise I could have waited for the damn
thing till I got home. However you never know, I might have
wanted it for something else. What about Keithle's paying half of
the cost? — he can send the 3/6 per the Bank of N.Z.. And then
I spent the rest of the day at the Library, finishing up on the mess
they have just on closing time at 9 p.m. They give the casual
visitor more freedom there than they do at the Turnbull
you just write your name in a visitors' book & wander
round as you like. Of course they haven't got the little
treasures the Turnbull Liby has — their valuable things are
mostly ships' logs & governor's papers. I've seen some
famous men's autographs. However that's by the way. On
Saturday morning I started off with a list of things to do —
& I'm blest if second person I met wasn't a bloke
off the Osterley or on the point of joining the Osterley wanting
advice on where to go or how to get somewhere or what to do
when he got there. So I told them all and then I'm darned
if I didn't go & get lost myself, for the first and only time
I was in Sydney. Lord knows where I wandered; but I
know I took ¾ hr to reach the Bank to fix up my finan-
business instead of about 5 minutes, from the Orient
Coy's place. If you walk out of a street at the wrong end
down near the Circular Quay it seems to be fatal. However
I did most of the other things I meant to do before meeting Jean
at for morning tea on Farmer's roof-garden. I forgot to
mention that on Friday night I was very busy acquiring
page 4 white trousers (2 prs at 16/6 ea) evening shoes (1 pr at 16/6)
three studs (at 6d ea)1 evening tie (at 3/6). I asked the bloke
in the shop if he could teach me to tie one; & I said, "If
you [sic: do] I'll buy it." He said "Certainly; a single or a double
end?" To which I said "Search me". Now the one you
bought me was a double end, & the single end is much
simpler to tie, I find; in fact, according to the gent in the
shop, it is now as worn. So when I wear it I hope to
adjust same with the minimum of trouble. Dressing for
dinner, however, according to a steward cobber of mine,
is not de rige reig rigueur (terrible word to spell) till
after we leave Melbourne; so our table dispenses with
it. Well, I purchased a copy of What
Every Woman Knows
for Jean, as we had enjoyed same so much when
acted, & she shouted me morning tea & a sprig of boronia;
& we bowled down to the wharf & purchased a streamer
& shouted facetious remarks till the s boat went out. It
was decent to have her on the wharf — one of the best among
girls. Then I watched them drop the pilot & had a look at
the coast & then the couple went for lunch & I leapt down
to same with great vim, not to say avidity — finding in
my cabin your cable, which was very cheering, & for
which I thank you very much; it was indeed pleasant to get.

By the way, Daddy, Angus & Robertson's have "H.W.M."
that [unclear: Massingham] book reduced to 7/6 (pub 12/6) if you
should want it. They had a shelf- [unclear: f...] full of very attractive
bargains, but I turned my eyes away resolutely — after having
a good look. They have a few of the Nonesuch books, Wycherley
& Congreve, Casanova Society's Casanova & Arabian
(which however hardly seem the books for a respectable
Christian household). I got Clifford Bax's Inland Far for
4/6. Also a first edition of Davies last book for 4/6. You can
page 5 have the copy now on my shelves if you like; if you don't
want it I dare say C.Q.P. will buy it. That's all I have bought
here, though sorely tempted.

We have had jolly good weather since leaving Sydney,
with the coast in sight nearly all the time, either just visible
on the horizon or fairly close. He We have seen one or two
ships & two gorgeous sunsets over the coast. I knock off
now; expecting to be nearly at Melbourne wharf in the morning;
which noble city I shall try & describe to you later on.

24/8/26 i.e. Tuesday morning. We were in before break-
yesterday morning & hopped into town first thing — me with a
large brown paper parcel intent on finding a laundry; which
I found in due course, the owner thereof promising faithfully,
on the honour of a gentleman who had worked on the
Osterley himself during the war, too, & to return contents of same,
efficiently cleansed & bone dry, by three o'clock this afternoon.
So let's hope he does so. My first pair of pyjamas went
west the night before we got here — very pathetic they looked,
floating rapidly astern on the white foam; but they looked
more pathetic when they were hung on me. I'm afraid
I scandalised the old girl at a bit at the YM who cleaned
out my room, but she always folded them up most religious-
& put them under on top of the pillow as done in the best circles. I
also (to return to Melbourne) tracked down Maie Ross success-
in the ghastly crockery department of a vast concern
known as Myer's Emporium Limited, which covers about four
blocks & is still building. The girl seemed very pleased to
see me, in which you will agree she showed excellent taste,
& invited me out to their joint for the evening meal & some
music. They have a gramaphone with a few good records, Melba
etc; & a piano of the patent iron-foundry type; however I played
my piece & she sang a bit & I moved off, in mortal fear
page 6 of being stoushed on the head with a beer-bottle by one of
the celebrated Melbourne pushers. But no harm cal came to
the lad, thereby bearing out a poem by Horace on the advan-
of an innocent unstained life when wandering through a
wilderness of wild beasts. I found a good bookshop in
the morning, A. H. Spencer, "The Hill of Content", in Bourke
; but his prices were the same as elsewhere; in fact in some
cases stiffer. But he had a few good second hand things, & some
things that booksellers in Australia & NZ don't usually get out.
He had that Navarra Society Smollett (was it?) by the way,
Daddy, which was what I guessed it to be, a reprint reissue? of Dent's
edition, but clearly printed & cheap enough at the price.

I put in the whole of the afternoon from 1 to ¼ to 5
at the Art Gallery; they have some wonderful stuff there;
a magnificent Raeburn which puts all the other portraits
by Reynolds or Romney or anybody completely in the
shade; about four [unclear: Corots], Sargents (Landscapes), Watts (portrait of Tenny-
) Burne-Jones, D. Y. Cameron, Van Eyck (a wonderful brilliant
little thing they paid £21,000 odd for) Pissarro, Monet, C.J. Holmes,
Madox Brown, Maris brothers, Orpen, John, Turner, (great water-
Okehampton Castle), P de Wint, Morland, Reynolds, Romney, etchings
by Rembrandt, Whislter [sic: Whistler], [unclear: Merson, Pennell, Haden, Braugown,]
Durer, a lot of Australians; pen drawings by N. Lindsey, two
Hilden watercolours, lithographs by [unclear: Sharon] and Rennell, a great
collection of Japanese prints, including one or two of mine
and some miraculous ones besides, furniture, glass, Chinese
carved and embroidered screens, and Lord knows what besides. Of
course they have this Felton bequest and expert advisers at
home to grab stuff for them. A collection also of coloured
drawings by Blake to illustrate Dante; two Australian lads
came in and gazed in silence for some time then one of them
opened his mouth. He said, “e must 'a been dippy” page 7 I didn't think much of them myself at the time; but they
have stuck in my memory very vividly — But I wouldn't
give two pins for the lot, so I am evidently a low-brow.
Oh, they have also two original carto caricatures by Max
, recent ones; Ld Balfour & one of Lytton
trying to see Queen Victoria as Ld Melbourne
saw her. By gum, they're good too; drawn very faintly
in pencil & then fa washed off with very pale colour.
I wouldn't mind going back there again to-day but I
want to see the University & the Library if I can, which
they say is pretty good.

Melbourne seems cleaner than Sydney; the trams are
certainly more up to date; but it is a lot slower. They are
having a citrous [sic: citrus] fruits week just now; so I must buy some
lemons to help on the good cause. I can have grape-fruit
for breakfast if I like every morning, of course; but they
only give you ½ of one — very juicy, & much to my taste.
But I work round the menus a great deal, in French &
English; to get as much experience as possible. At present we
are thinking of getting our French scholar to give a course
of University extension letters lectures in French for stew-
; for they generally pronounce the language as writ-
themselves; & if you translate into English for their benefit
they gape. I may have told you this before.

Well, I must cease, or I shall never get into town at
all, & I must get there, for I busted my braces at a crucial
point in a game of deck-tennis the other day. I probably
shan't post another letter till Fremantle.

Love to all &
sundry, including Peter the prize-cat —