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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 15 November, 1926

page 1

My dear Mummy,

Well I have just been struggling with
my Christmas mail, calendars, Christmas cards etc & got
it all polished it off except you, & a devil of a job it has
been. However I shall have a peaceful time in December
& think of the postman struggling up Hopper St; or they'll
probably have to bring out their biggest lorry. I have arranged
with my good friends Messrs J & E Bumpus to send out some
larger parcels for me, which ought to arrive about the same time
as this letter if they go by the Frisco mail; or anyhow
shortly after. But I should think they would arrive before
Christmas. Of course the strictly honourable thing to do will
be to retain all parcels unopened till anyhow 12.5am. on
Dec 25, but it is not for me to give any definite directions
in the matter. I got Bumpus to send the stuff as I thought they
would be able to pack it better than I; I gave strict instruc-
for it to be packed extra well, so I hope it all arrives
unbent & with corners intact. I spent a good deal of time
in feverish cogitation over the right thing; so if anybody is
not pleased I hope he or she will have the decency to keep
his or her mouth shut. Anyhow I have the consolation that
most of the stuff will be quite new on the New Zealand market.
So that's that. I enclose slips of greeting that I thought
might slip out of the books in process of packing. The
page 2 trouble about picking books here for presents is that there's an
embarrassment of riches. I was very nearly sending Daddy
a reproduction of Blake's Songs of Innocence, a facsimilie in
colour; but decided to get that for myself. I think he will
like the one I have sent as well as anything — it is a not
altogether uncharming volume (D & I have caught this negative
way of commendation from Harold [unclear: Monro] — we were in the
Poetry Bookshop having a snoop around & HM was showing
some foreign plays to a bloke. When the bloke was finished
looking through them HM says in a politely indifferent way
"They're not entirely uninteresting, are they?" This, I thought, is modern
quick-fire salesmanship with a vengeance. I forget what the
bloke said). So far as you are concerned Mummy, I re-
a good deal of very good stuff, including Christopher
's last book, on the score that you would romp through
it in a couple of hours. I think what I have sent will be some
thing you can get your teeth into — also I think it will turn
out to be one of those books you will be able to quote at
meal-times & put markers in for me to read selected
passages if I can just spare a minute or two now and again.
You had better save the passages up for me, or get a secretary
& have them typed out and sent home. Of course you might not
like it at all, but I hope it will turn out to be not
altogether entirely absolutely uninteresting. As for Ern &
Keithles if they don't like theirs they can go to blazes. I have sent
Geoffrey & Theo one between them. I know Auntie will like
the contents of her envelope because anything I send she will
page 3 know to be godly & approve of. Ditto Auntie Win. I saw
some really wicked underwear in a shop in Piccadilly
Saturday morning & was nearly buying it for Auntie
; but I thought no, there wold would be no end of duty to pay
on this, & why ruin both of us? The shop windows are
really very fascinating though, if you know where to look.
A Great Pity Auntie Win isn't here. I'd just like to see
her amp; Auntie Ada trotting down to [unclear: hit] up Regent St of a
morning. There are all sorts of weird religions too, that
would suit Auntie. And thy have just opened a Mohammedan
mosque, if she is getting a bit fed up with spiritualism. And
I bet I could get Auntie Nancy converted to something fresh twice
a week. Oh, before I get off this paragraph & while I remem-
— I send a couple of little supernumerary presents,
the Victorian letters book to Daddy; I picked it up in the Poetry
— I don't suppose there's much in it, but I thought he
might like it; the Carlyle anyhow is characteristic, &
it only cost a bob. The other, Pharos & Pharillon, I bought for
myself & read; on which I thought, "This my boy is quite too
rich to be withheld from your Mother." There isn't any object-
tion to your opening this little lot as soon as you get it. Fair
dinkum, that E.M. Forster has a style to marvel at. So that's that.

Well, I was very sorry, & a bit startled, Mummy, to hear
that you have been getting it in the neck again. You really
must take better care of yourself. I hope by the time you get
this you will be sparking well again for Christmas. I can
understand any one going to bed after dinner on Christmas day
page 4 & not regretting it; but it would be a bit stiff if he laid aside
all through the festive Yuletide season. However I suppose it's
no use blasting you at this distance & by this time you are
probably all right again, if you haven't got up too soon to
go & stand up in the hall at the telephone in the draught with
½ dozen chairs around you, to avoid hurting the feelings of
Mrs Chapman or some other bally ass. But I can't see much
permanent hope for you unless you stop looking after people &
get looked after yourself for a year or so. And then when you
are reasonably restored I suppose you will want to go off &
climb Mt Everest; or dash out to the Hutt to give Frannie
a bit of mother-in-lawish advice on the feeding & care of
husbands. Well, I hope if you do, she puts you in your
place once & for all. Anyhow I am glad to hear from
Auntie Win that your heart is well on the upgrade. This
is all I shall say to you in the way of personal abuse or
advice this time, unless I think of something else later on.
You might thank Auntie Win for me very much for her
letter, which I shall answer in due course — I should
have liked to have done so by the Christmas mail, to lift
so far as possible the veil of sorrow at my absence from
before her eyes, but I am afraid that the time at my
disposable [sic: disposal] unfortunately renders this impossible. I was
peculiarly touched with the way she finished up her letter —
"With love from Auntie Win" — Now I think that's very
nice; & a proud man have I been since I read her
letter to feel that I had gained the affection of one
page 5 so noble in every respect. However I had better not let
myself go properly on this subject, or I may bring the blush of em-
to those sensitive cheeks.

So the Church is let at last. I can't say I feel very
cheerful about it, even 13000 miles away, & though my thoughts
have wandered away somewhat even from the Unitarian fold.
It is pretty stiff, as you say, Daddy, after twenty years' solid
plugging at the business. At least you go down with your
flag flying. It wouldn't be so bad in a way if the
Masonic crowd had taken it; but I suppose it would have
been hard to deny the Pentecostal push their poetic jus-
. In a way it will be a good thing for you Daddy
you will get a bit more reading done on Sundays, if
you don't go to sleep in the extra time; & it would take a
pretty good parson to give you anything worth going to church
for. I can't see much good in churches now — I should
think if you had any beliefs, a good ritual would be more
satisfying than anything else, if it was well carried out —
but there are a good many ifs about it — look at the silly
darn precentor we heard at St. Paul's. If you can't worship
the Lord in the beauty of holiness you want a good deal to
make up for it, & I don't see that the ordinary low-brow,
parson begins to do that. And if he's any sort of a high-brow,
or even a mezzo-brow, he doesn't stand a chance of carrying
on. Fellowship is all very well, but not fellowship in
the feeble-minded tripe Salt puts out. As for passing on
the torch for me — well, the torch I hold may possible [sic: possibly]
page 6 light up some place, but I doubt if it will be a church.
More likely to be some obscure minute corner of Tudor political
theory. There is a good paragraph at the end of C.E.M. Joad's
Thrasymachus in that Today & Tomorrow series, which is too
long to copy out in full: "A world without religion is a
sad & a tiring world because its lacks an object, & for this
reason there have been few generations which have known
less happiness than our own… In a new & positive morality
in which men can believe lies the hope for the world; yet
such a morality cannot come without a revival of religion.
Religion & religion alone gives the driving force which impels
men to change things" etc; But so far as I can see the
only religion that will be any use in the long run will
be a secular religion, if you can have such a thing. Dress
it up if you like & get emotion behind it, but make it a
force for & in this world & keep it in this world. Then
possibly the coal-owners will come within measurable
distance of ordinary common-sense, & the Gluckstein family
the rest of the shareholders in Lyon's will pay their girls
an approach to a living wage & you there won't be so many ex-
soldiers playing one string fiddles in the rain & you won't
see so many prostitutes walking up & down Russell Square.
Meanwhile about the only reason use I can see for the existence of
parsons is that it's a polite way of giving mental deficients
the dole.

Other points in your letter! Right-oh, I shall try to pick
up those Hibbert Jls — I may be sending out one or two
page 7 other things at times — I saw a few books in the Times
Book Club the other day that looked as if you or Mummy
wd like them; so I dare say that if I come across any-
like this cheap & good I shall send it out & you
can let me have the cash back when it gets to be a
sum big enough to be worth sending. Thanks very
much for the Spike, which I was very glad to have,
although the number was a bit scrappy. My thing not
much good, but it's hard to write on a boat. If you
will send me the next year's numbers Ern can get
hold of them & I will probably get them quicker than
otherwise (from what I know about business managers) &
after that I'll have to make some other arrangement.
Thanks also for the Post & Truth. The Baume affair seems smells
fishy enough to draw a cat from this side of the world; but
why call him a friend? The truth probably is that after
7 months of Mrs Hane the Ministry of Justice let him out in
self-defence. It's pretty solid, all right. I'd like to
know what are the lots of questions Mummy has to ask
me & if they are going to be of the too maternally -
probing kind I think she had better stay on her back
till I have time to forget the answers. Well, I think
I'll go to bed now & try to squeeze in the rest of
some time tomorrow — McGrath reserved seats for
the three of us at the Russian Ballet tomorrow night
when the mail closes, so it has thrown me out of gear
a bit. Don't think we are desperately extravagant — page 8 you can sereserve seats for 3/-.

  16/11/26 As far as work is concerned, not much has
happened since I first last wrote, except that I have done a bit.
Neither Pollard nor Laski nor anybody else seemed to think
that this bloke Allen can possibly have cleaned up the
whole lot of the 16th century, so I am keeping on at the Tudor
stuff & hoping Allen's book will be of some use to me when
it comes out. I took along a sketch of the work I wanted
to do to Pollard last week, on Laski's advice ("Give him
something to work on & you'll get the real Pollard"); which
he proceeded to tear to pieces in a manner rude, if not
insulting. However it is something novel for me to have
a prof take enough interest in me even to tread on me;
so although I was a bit dashed at first I haven't been…
unduly depressed on the whole. I have to see him again
this morning with another sketch, which Laski says seems
all right to him. (it ought to, too, as I practically took
it down from his dictation); & if he doesn't like that he
can lump it. Or I will. The trouble about Pollard is
that he has got an institutional mind — he is working
on the Tudor constitutional history himself, & he wants to
get all his pupils on the same line. 'So that he can
pick their brains' says Duncan rudely. Put it in a
more polite way & it would be largely true I expect. Most
research seems to be picking somebody's [sic: delete] else's brains. "Ab
" is a favourite denunciatory word of his. However I'll
put it across him yet with God's & Laski's help. You can
page 9 see that Laski is turning out a real jewel. Duncan too
has just gone off to the L.S.E. smacking his lips over the
prospects of a lecture by L. on property as a reward for
merit. Duncan has had rather stiff luck — they reckon
down there that he is not well enough equipped to start the
line of research he wanted to, & he has to put in a year's
preliminary work, which will rather mess up his money.
I have half a mind to take Pollard's constitutional history
lectures myself — I'm certainly going to take some lec-
tures at the L.S.E. next year if I have time. There is such
an absolute superabundance of first-class stuff flying
around that it seems a positive sin not to pick it up.
Talking of property rights, as I see I was a few lines back, the
end of the strike is pretty written — D. knows a cove from
Durham at the School, who says his people are back where
they were in 1880 — Durham has a 7hr day & fairly good
conditions since then. The way the owners are putting in
the boot is sickening; & the way the Govt stands by and keeps
the [unclear: swing] for them is disgraceful. Pity there isn't an election
this year; by the time the next one comes off all the comfort-
people will have forgotten this & only the miners will
remember. And then I suppose there'll be some fresh darn
silly scare engineered. The rot that's talked here by such
men as Birkenhead & printed even in the Times, & is appar-
believed by the people, makes you despair of human
commonsense; according to Duncan's brother who left home
a couple of years ago a hardened Tory & has been in Birming page 10 ham on a job something like Keith's it's no use trying
run a strike up there. You've only got to wave a Union Jack
& sing God Save the King & the men go back to work quite
prepared to do 16 hours a day & their wives go home & breed
like rabbits. And the housing conditions are enough to make
you sick. It may be good nature & consideration for other
people's comfort that makes the British workman so easy to
diddle; but you can carry that amiable characteristic a good
deal too far. However I don't suppose talk cuts much ice.

One of the people at the Institute got me an invitation
the other d night for a lecture by A.W Reed one of the London
profs on Sir Thos More — a Br. Academy affair & very
good too. Balfour was in the chair, I therefore send the
invitation card out for Dudley's delectation. He (B) went
through all the traditional motions of the hands & wore the
traditional ineffable amiable inept smile; he is very
fat around the neck, & from the look of him I can quite
believe what I have read of his complete selfishness.
There was something in the Sunday Times two days ago by
T.P. O'Connorwhy was B. like what sort of tree was B.
like? The ash, because nothing could grow up beneath him.
You can't expect much in the industrial & economic way
from a cove like him; & with all his distinction in politics,
you haven't got it either, so long as he's had anything to
do with it. However the lecture was darned good.

I heard Kreisler again the week before last. It hap-
that he was playing, ( one concert only, on the same
page 11 night as Bertrand Russell's Fabian lecture, which didn't
please me too much, but as he was playing the Elgar
concerto I thought I would go. Had to pay 5/9 for a seat,
& 1/- lost on my B.R. ticket & 1/- for programme which
was a rotten wash out; but worth it. I'm hoping B.R.
will be available on some other occasion, as he is a man
I must hear. Kreisler played the Brahms concerto too —
Landon Ronald conducting the London Symphony Orch.,
Ronald's style is quite different from either Wood's or Beech-
, — so quiet he seems almost unenthusiastic — but he
gets the band going all right. Albert Sammons is playing
the Elgar for the B.B.C. in a week or so — they have big
concerts in the Albert Hall which they broadcast — so I
ought to be able to get the gist of this, anyhow. It is a
great thing. I heard a Strauss concert at the A one of
the B.B.C. affairs conducted by the great man himself, but
most of it was mainly pretensious noise — cowbells &
windmachines that broke down & so forth. But he certainly can
play round with an orchestra. I haven't heard much music
besides these things lately, bar another Beecham concert, very
good; I want to go to the Lener Quartet before their
series finishes & also to Ruddigore this week. And still
I haven't been to a single theatre. I'm hoping the Ballet
tonight will be worth my 3 bob.

Sidney Webb we heard last Wednesday — a little
insignificant cove, you wouldn't have thought he was the man
to change the thought of a generation. Spoke in a conversation [sic: conversational]
page 12 way about voluntary co-operation in the world, with some
jokes, unfortunately not loud enough to hear. Shaw as usual
on the platform; the way he turns up regularly reminds
me of a Unitarian diehard. Susan Lawrence in the chair,
rather disappointing — an immense introductory dull
speech with laboured humour that fell very flat. However
as she is M.P. & L.C.C. she may be better than she sounds.
S.K. Ratcliffe tomorrow night & next week Shaw.

They dr run the Armistice day celebrations here pretty
well, & apparently they are improving them every year.
I had to go to a lecture at W.C. & so couldn't go down to
the Cenotaph, but they had a short sort of service at the College
in the quadrangle. There was the profoundest silence I've
ever heard by day all over the city — the only sound was
the twittering of a some [gap — reason: unclear] doves on the U.C. roof. The
English are certainly pretty good at some things. U.C. has
a very good song they sang on Arm. Day, just written
for them by John Drinkwater, with music by John Ire-
. It is their centenary this year — have I mentioned
this before? They sang it again last night, when the [sic: they]
had some of the Imp Conference looking around — they
invited a crowd of colonial students up to meet these birds,
& what did "meeting" them consist of? They invited us to
tea at 5, dragged us away before we'd had time to get more
than a cake & a half & then made us stand in two rows &
wait for a solid ¾ hr for these birds, who were guzzling
upstairs. (During this interval I met a bloke of the name of
page 13 Barker or Barton, from the Slade School, who had knew
the Auckland Beagleholes in Samoa. Inquired kindly
after them, so you had better tell Auntie Laura that.) Then
the Imp. Conf. came downstairs & sat in a ½ circle & had their
photos taken — no one from N.Z. Bell not having the decency
to turn up — our names were called out & we went up
& shook hands with one of them, me with the vice-chairman
of the College committee, some long lord or other with drooping
white whiskers. Most unsatisfying, considering the tea they
gave us. And then two or three of these coves made the usual
speeches. Gregory Foster is a ghastly dud at speechifying — if he
has to give 5 minutes formal welcome he reads it off a big
piece of paper. He hasn't asked me to afternoon tea yet, the
blighter — nor have I heard from Mr Jellies' other friend, the
Sec of V.C. There was one good joke from the Prime
Minister of Newfoundland, which proves that NZ isn't the
only place in the world not heard of. " An And where
do you come from?" says a lady to him at a social
gathering the day before. "Newfdland" "How interesting.
And where is Newfdla?" He told her it was an island
off the coast of North America "How interesting! I
always thought it was off the coast of Scotland."

Will you send me my "Old Clay Patch"?
Pack it up well, but leave ends open or you will have
to pay extra postage. I wish I had brought a whole
lot more books; I may get you to send some more
Home some-time, but I am a bit afraid of them in the
page 14 post. Well, I must get off & get rid of some of my
mail now — it looks as if it's going to cost me about 10/-
in stamps. What about each recipients' refunding post-
? In case I haven't got time to add much more
in between tea-time and the Ballet I send everybody
my love & best Christmas wishes; & you might apolo-
Mummy to anybody I have forgotten to send a calendar
to o. Dear, dear, I do believe I have forgotten the Auck-
push. Well, they gave me a quid, so I suppose
they deserve something.

I hope this will find you out of bed Mummy
with love from


P.S. One or two cuttings enclosed. What do you think of Newman's
musical criticism for the straight stuff?
P.P.S. 2pm. Well, I have seen his nibs & it looks like a
case of vaulting ambitions coming a crash as usual. Political
theory is of no use at all; political thought of no effect at all.
Nothing apparently but constit. history is of any good. I happened to
mention the letters Ph.D. & he was so horrified he nearly fell
off his seat — thought I was going for an M.A.! I told him I was one
already & had been accepted as Ph D student by the Univ.
Homily on wonderful character of London MA. Almost super-
human character of London Ph.D. Well, says I, would I be
wiser to get back to NZ history which I know pretty well. Finally
he thought yes, I might get a Ph.D. on that. So I have to see Newton,
the Colonial hist man. I'll be amused to see what Laski
says about the way his plan for a thesis was treated! A bit of a
page 15 nuisance to lose the last month's time; but still no doubt all
knowledge is valuable, even of Pollard's own books. I might be
able to go down to the L.S.E. & work under Laski. If there is
a supplementary mail on Friday I may be able to tell you
something further. It's a good job Daddy has not got hold
of any kind of conjoint negotiations at the other end!


Can't seem to get these letters boiled down to a reasonable
size — I feel quite alarmed when I think how closely
I approximate to Aunt Laura. By the way I have
forgotten her address so I send a calendar to her to you.