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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 2 November, 1926

page 1

Dear People,

By cripes! I'd like to know what's hap-
pened to my letter this week — not a line, not a fraction
of a word from home. The darned mail was late as
it was — I gaily strode down to the Bank on Thurs-
as my custom is in alternate weeks (the other
weeks I generally go down with death in my face &
draw a cheque for self), and lo! the boat was held
up by bad weather, & there wouldn't be no mail till
Monday. So I went & bought a few books to console
myself, & trotted down hopefully yesterday morning; & again
to my horror there was nothing doing, although the mail was
in all right, as I picked up a couple of things at the H.C's.
So Daddy had better hit up the Post Office Officials of two
hemispheres in his well-known way. I suppose what
really happened was that you gave the letter to Keithles to
post & he has been carrying it round in his pocket even
since — he always was a bit of a mutt. Talking
of Keithles (I must say I always thought he was a bit of a
mutt; but this just about puts the lid on), I spent a weekend
with Frannie, uncle, aunt, child & maidservant ten days
ago. Well, I'm dashed if I know how a good sensible girl
like Frannie could pick on a bloke like Keithles; she says
herself she doesn't know. I gather she was rushed by some
cave-man stuff, & before any responsible friend could inter-
page 2 vene
, all was over with the girl. It's a pity, because she's
too good to waste. She was a bit surprised to hear a
few truths about NZ — I casually mentioned rain, & she
said, "But surely it doesn't rain in NZ! Why, Beagle
said —" I said, "Don't call the boy Beagle! Call him
Keith or Keithes or a mutt or a dope or a loon & you
will be near the truth; but Beagle is quite inaccur-
". And then I mentioned in another connection snow
on the Tararuas & how misty it was coming home from Coll
one night & how muddy you got tramping & she said in
the most alarmed way "But Beagle said you never had
snow or mist or mud in NZ!" It was apparently a
great shock to the girl to learn that the cove in whose hands
she had placed her fullest confidence, not to mention her
life, was such a liar. She said furthermore that K.
had told her not to believe anything I said; to which I
rejoined that that was only natural under the circum-
stances — any bloke who had left such a trail of deceit
behind him would obviously do the same thing. But that
did not alter the truth of my revelations. I could see the
girl's faith was obviously shaken; so I reckon
if Keithles is anything of a man, which I doubt, he
will call off the whole business. But by jingo! it
was interesting to follow up Keithles trail & see the yarns
he had spread around. You wd think he was a Chamber
of Commerce or a Rotary Club or some other big noise to
hear about NZ as described by him. The Earthly Paradise
page 3 doesn't come anywhere near it. I had to pull F up once
or twice & ask her exactly what country she was talking
about. I finally gathered the It reminded me of some of the
prospectuses The NZ Company issued. I finally gathered that she
was shrewder that I thought in a way — she was going out for
the sake of the change really, not so much to meet Keithles;
but now that she has got an inkling of the truth, I don't
suppose she'll stay long. She appears to be a good deal
worried about the fashions out there, & wanted to know if
her trousseau would be as worn; I replied that so far as I
could see it would be as worn all right, as long as she
didn't catch a cold. She wants to go out in February, &
doesn't seem too pleased at the prospect of waiting any longer;
She says if Keithles starts buid building a house she wants
to be there while its building; so she evidently doesn't trust
Keithles too much. I said "By cripes! you're right there; so
would I". She has a lot more reasons which I have for-
; she seems a bit suspicious of the girls Keithles
knows, & enquired most particularly about them, how old,
whether pretty, how long he had known them etc. I told
her she needn't worry about that them, he didn't stand a hope with
any of that lot; I in fact I was a bit surprised at
her picking him up, but I supposed it was largely pity.
However the NZ girls knew him too well to pity him.
So what I think she had better do is to go out & stay with
you for a while, till Keithles gets his house built, if ever; &
when she got gets there she could can have a good look at Keithles
page 4 with new s eyes & decide whether the game's worth the candle;
see how he treats his m Mother, aunties etc, not to mention Ern
which always throws a good deal of light on a bloke's char-
; then she could can decide whether to marry him or not.
Candidly I don't think she would will, & I have half a mind
to write & tell her to take a return ticket, as it's cheaper;
but I dare say she'd prefer to have some things left to
herself. However that's the conclusion I came to, after mature
deliberation — esp. that she'd better go out then, as she evidently
wants to. I said in my manner of cheerful bandiage, Well,
I was thinking it wouldn't be a bad idea if you waited a
couple of years & then went out with me. She said, in
the utmost consternation (not at the prospect of going out
with me, of course, but at having to wait for the privilege)
Did Beagle suggest that? Don't you dare to suggest that to
Mother! I had quite considerable difficulty in calming
her down. So there you are, that's my conclusion; & K.
had better buck up & tell her what he's going to do about
it. She doesn't seem a girl who'll stand much non-
(another reason why I wonder at her choice). I
forgot to say that she seems a very nice girl, not un-pretty,
with sensible ideas on a variety of subjects, (so far as
Keithle's personality does not impinge on them. & then she goes
all to pieces); & I think she would be very useful in
the house while she was waiting for one of her own.
She could give Auntie a rest & keep you in your place & try
her hand at poisoning Daddy with vegetarian cookery, & page 5 generally make herself a little ray of sunshine. She would will
suit Daddy down to the ground; she is on the side of these
coal-miners, but she's got no time for these socialists, s
screaming & shouting at street-corners (I said "Paid agita-
?" & She said Yes.) But she doesn't know what socialism
means. Alth Also she believes in the English Gentleman &
that's the sort of cove she would like to marry really, that is her
ideal; but she said that love took you in funny ways,
& that unfortunately there wasn't much of the English Gentle-
in Keithles. I agreed that that was evidently so, & that
her theories had crashed badly in that respect. But no doubt
she will try & reform him a bit, & get him to wear his
spats again etc. She evidently had an immense admira-
for me, & confessed that she felt extremely nervous
waiting on the station for so great a man; so apparently there
was one direction in which K stuck to the truth in
talking about his homeland. Oh, well, she ought to do all

How it happened that I went down to Rugby was
that I didn't meet her in London after all; she couldn't
come down or up? for some reason; so her aunt invited me
down there. I must say I like the English country in
its way; its very neat & pretty & well-trimmed & orna-
spaced out; grass just the right shade of green;
trees placed just where they'll be most picturesque; canal,
bridges, roads just so; houses mainly ful fitting the landscape
very well — that is as long as you don't strike a town.
page 6 Some of them are the last things on earth for vulgarity. Rugby
is not so bad as some, though some of its street are pretty
awful; but the school & its attendant buildings, & some very
old houses, help it along. It was market-day on Saturday too,
with long lines of stalls & bright-coloured waves, so everything
looked nice & picturesque. And then I had a large meal
& was taken all one Warwickshire in the car, & had its beaut-
explained to me. We went through a horrible spa town
called Leamington, to Warwick, which is wonderful in parts,
with the castle & the ½-timbered houses & the gates; the
contrast of the modern buildings is not too pleasing, I can
tell you. Of course the whole place is thoroughly com-
& exploited, 6d to see this & a bob to see
that & so on & so forth. Then to Stratford on Avon which is
run in the same way & the same type of place, though
of course much smaller. The Elizabethans certainly
could build. The old one or two places in London
show up like rays of light among the generality of blotches
of masonry & heaps of rock. All this Warwickshire is
as beautiful as a dream too; though I should like to
know a good deal more about its social organisation.
(I've just been reading Hewlett's Song of the Plow). I
was shown a tree that lays claim to be the very centre
of England; but I believe there are other. Still I
wouldn't mind spending a year or so in the middle of this
country in a house like Uncle George's. I shouldn't be
surprised if the dinkum old ones are more charming from
page 7 the outside than the inside. The roads are just about
perfect; so when I get my bike & a bit of a holiday I
shall buzz down there again & soak myself in the

By the way, talking of Uncle George reminds me
that Auntie Jeanne is turning out all right. She gave
me a jar of chutney & a lump of cake when I came
back from the joint; & this morning arrived by post a
box of pickled eggs. They look pretty indigestible, as they
are first hard-boiled & then pickled, but they will make
a change in our plain but wholesome diet. We
live mainly on wholemeal bread raisins & marmalade,
plus what fruit we can get cheap, apples & dried figs
(4d lb cooking) & manage to bring expenses down thus (out
side lunches of course) to 5/- – 7/- a week. I have given
up Lyons & the ABC joints for lunch, even though they
are cheap with their beans; but the stuff's generally cold,
& you have to wait ½ hr to get served — the way the
girls are overworked in these joints is shameful. I
have found quite a good lunch for 1/3 or 1/6 ; & when
I go to work at Univ College & I dare say I shall try
the refectory there. There has been a sudden rise in
the price of bread, though, that has carried terror to our
hearts — it is now two three, i.e. 2 ¾d for the lb
loaf we used to get for 2 ½d. The way they deal in
farthings here is amazing. Farthings, halfpennies, & pennies,
page 8 make up most of their change — I haven't seen a threepenny
bit since I got here. Once for change out of sixpence for
a loaf I got 6 ha'pennies & 2 farthings. It's only ad-
is that if your shake your pocket you might in a
moment of forgetfulness be inclined to think that you had a
lot of money; it certainly weighs a lot to carry around.
They're a queer people. Did I tell you about the NZ
butter ("lovely butter, that is," says the lady behind the counter)
we get for 1/5 lb? When did you last buy butter for 1/5 lb in
NZ? They call it salt butter, though it tastes the same
as any other, & sell it 1d dearer than fresh butter. So you
can get quite good butter for 1/4 lb. I told the lady it
sounded very suspicious to sell it at that price if it was
NZ butter, considering the price in NZ; & she said well,
she could never understand it; at the Exhibition they
were selling it
it was sold for more than they charged. So there
seems there's more in the marketing of butter than meets
the eye s. It might pay you if I sent you out a cut or
so. Fruit is a ghastly price — 6d for a pear or most
oranges & so on. Apples are cheap in some places; & some
morning I'm going sown to Covent Garden for a splurge.
Sunmaid raisins like the ones you have cost 11 ½d packet;
you can get quite a large tin of beans for 6 ½d [sic: .]

Well, I'll have to finish this letter to-night. I've put
in most of yesterday & all this morning messing around with
mails, incoming & outgoing; & I think I had better go out my-
page 9 self
& get some food & do some work. Next mail will be
worse, being the Christmas one. However I think that people
who miss a mail to me will have a mail missed to them,
so you'd better look out. This Auntie Laura stunt with
correspondence certainly takes a good deal of time.

To resume: As far as work goes I am still up a tree a
certain distance, though this morning I thought I had success-
climbed down. I heard from a girl who has been work-
under one of the lecturers here that he has been working
himself pretty completely on 16th century political thought
both European & English & will be publishing a book next year;
I asked her how it was that Pollard didn't tell me that; oh, s
she said melodramatically, Professor Pollard & Mr.
never speak to each other! So even the great appar-
are not free from ordinary frailties. So I may
go on to the 17th century, which is very interesting.
I was going to be introduced to another Prof. R.W. Chambers
who has been working on Sir Thos. More for a long while,
too — well I still will be, as far as that goes; he could
have given me a good deal of help. I am going to a
lecture by him on Sir T.M. on Friday. I don't much
mind about being cut out by Allen; I have read some of
his articles, & they are jolly good — his book ought to be
worth reading. Anyhow as I have to pay 21 guineas a
year & 20 gns for the degree if I ever get it I am going
to get all I can out of the business so far as technical
equipment is concerned; I am going to Pollard's seminar
page 10 on constitutional history; & I am going to start on another
introductory to the use of Eng. sources, one on palaeog-
, & a class on German; & after that perhaps
mediaeval Latin. And then we'll see. A lot of it won't
be much good for my immediate purpose, but it ought all
to come in handy some day. If I am going to do any
good I may as well bog in properly; though the atmos-
of the place isn't greatly conducive to swot. There's
too much going on in the way of concerts & so on. Eg
tomorrow there are about four concerts I want to go to, &
also a lecture by Bertrand Russell (see Fabian prospec-
I am sending by this mail); the chief concert is
Kreisler playing Elgar & Brahms concertos with the London
Sym. Orchestra
& Landon Ronald. After a prolonged &
horrible conflict of loyalties I came to the conclusion that
I would certainly be able to hear B.R. again, but possibly
not Kreisler or Elgar concerts; so I went & got the
last 5/9 ticket, C not without a good deal of calculation &
perturbation of spirit, & have commissioned Duncan to sell
my course ticket for B.R. at as big a premium as he
can get for it.

Talking of lectures reminds me of the lecturers
I have heard — an astonishing number of them have been
duds — Arnold Toynbee for instance one night put across the
most elementary tripe about the Pacific as a political centre
in the most pitiful, puerile style. But at the Fabian
lecture he gave he improved a great deal which was just as
page 11 well. That Graham MP. who gave the first of those Fabian
things was pretty weak. Dr. Walter Seton, the Franciscan
expert, is only average. Ditto Geryl the prof. of Dutch history
here. Julian Huxley isn't bad in a conversational way, but
breaks up his sentences in the most extraordinary fashion.
I haven't heard Pollard, but I should think he would be
pretty good. One bloke who was a stunner was H.J. Laski
Graham Wallas' successor in the Pol. Science chair; he is only
32, but by cripes! he's a brainwave. I heard him give
his inaugural address, & it was the dinkum oil. I wrote
to him forthwith, putting my case before him, he advised
me to stay under Pollard if I was working on 16th cent.
"He is not only the greatest living authority on the period but
one of the greatest teachers in England & I envy you the
chance of continuous intellectual contact with him." But
he would be glad to see me at any time & talk over my
work. Which I call handsome of him. Another cove
I heard the other night was A.J. Grant, who was my examiner;
[gap — reason: unclear] he gave a good lecture on Richelieu & I walked down the
road with him — he is going out to NZ next year to exchange
for a session with Hight, & said he would let me know
when he came down to London again. He is at Leeds. So
none of the three people who have treated me really decently
so far are Englishmen — Laski is a Jew, & Grant &
Meikle, the Sec of the Institute are Scotch. One bloke
I saw at Grant's lecture I had worshipped from
afar for a good while — G.P. Gooch, who Grant said
page 12 was supposed to be the widest read & most omniscient
historian in England, besides being editor of the Contemp.
— & what does he look like? — a lanky dyspep-
grocer. He is on the council of the Institute & E
Meikle says he will introduce me as soon as possible.
He did some work on 16th cent pol thought; so he
ought to come in handy. By gum! though, precious few
men are as you imagine them. Shaw is the dead spit
of his pictures though — you will see he is to be the crown &
summit of the Fabian lectures. He turns up to them all —
a great old fellow. Other lecturers in prospect are Sidney
& Ernest Rhys (on Celtic literature); but there is always
something doing. I am darn sorry to miss Russell tomorrow,
but it can't be helped. To make up Duncan hears a lot
of him — he follows him round like a dog.

The weather here has been a bit misty lately — as
long as it's not too bad it rather improves the place, & makes
the long street quite beautiful. I heat you had a snow-
storm — it's a bit stiff the way all these things happen
in my absence; look at all the fires I used to
miss. — I went to the Albert Hall on Sunday to hear the
London Sym. Orchestra under Sir Thos. Beecham — he is
an extraordinary conductor; doesn't use a note of
music, jumps about all over his stand, uses his
right or left hand quite indifferently & sometimes
doesn't conduct at all, but just stands back & looks
at the orchestra. A very smart looking cove, garbed
page 13 most immaculately — I'll bet he wears the shiniest
of top-hats outside. So much for the prestige of the
celebrated pill-industry. Compared to him Sir Henry
looks as rough as a sack. I meant to go to the C.S.O.
last night under Albert Coates, but had too much
correspondence to worry at. I only hope people are
half as conscientious about writing to me; By the
way. I wrote to Mrs Moore. I hears the Philhar-
the other night (Sir H.W.) — jolly good;
very strong on double basses. about 8 of them. They are
all men, bar the harpist; & so are the C.S.O. But the
New Queen's Hall Orch, Sir Henry's bright particular
crowd, are about half women — it looked quite cur
curious to see an exclusively male crowd. Which
just goes to show how women need to be put back into
the home. The next Phil. Soc's concert Bruno Walter
is to conduct. One very bright thing in prospect is a
series of 8 historical chamber-music concerts by the
Lener Quartet — of course they must clash with
Shaw. It strikes me I am pretty heroic to get any
work done under the circumstances, or have any
cash left at all. — Did I mention the wireless &
player piano stuff at F's uncle's? Very good.
Well, I think I had better knock off before I overflow on
to another page. Two snippets enclosed which ought to
please Mummy; likewise a copy of our epic which looks
pretty wonky in the cold light of retros after-consideration,
& one or two things under separate cover.

Love to all,