Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (digital text)   Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 8 January 1927

page 1
Forgot to remark that J. family gave me a tie, & a hanky, & a box of cigarettes for Xmas.


  Dear Mummy,

Contrary to expectations I write again from
the Johnsons' where I am staying for a final weekend. After
being on the point of buzzing off both last Thursday & this
morning which is Saturday. On Thursday I was only kept
by the united persuasions of the entire Johnson family & the
neighbours next door & over the way, & this morning by
the discovery that an excursion train which I intended
to catch at 9/6 & so save 14/- was not running till
next Saturday; on which they all said oh well, stay
the weekend now. So I thought, well, I suppose I can
write home as well here as from London & get free
meals into the bargain, which may be worth one of
Father Johnson's sermons; & upstairs I carted my luggage
again. A bit peeved about the train, let me tell
you — the ordinary 3rd class fare to London is £1/3/2.
single; this excursion in 9/6 return, with two meals
14/6; & a non-stop express run. The boy's sorrow is
easy to realise; especially as he had just bid the most
affecting farewell to the Rev H H Johnson, with great
professions of regard, admiration & attachment on both
sides. "Let me know if I can do anything for you" says
he. "God (the existence of whom as a volitional entity
may or may not be a matter for problematical discussion)
bless you for your paternal care" says I; & so I rushed
page 2 over the road to say goodbye to the girl in no 32.
She designs fabrics, & as I understand Keithles writes
to her I daresay he will give you any further informa-
desired. Well, the upshot of it is, that Mrs.
says I must get out on Monday, which I gather is
final. As a matter of fact, I my own opinion is that
I am a very useful feller to have about the house, as
she & Frannie are in the a cloud of preparations for
the departure of the latter & the domestic conversation
is mostly on the iniquities of the [unclear: Rugby] dressmaker
who made all the frocks too long, exactly how
many trunks make up 20 cubic feet, blankets, sheets,
afternoon tea-cloths, & the relative prices of gloves in
M/c & NZ, to which I lend my bright & helpful aid;
so that the presence of a quiet & masterful cove who
carries on with clearing the table & drying the dishes &
giving backchat to Father Johnson must be a considerable
help, let alone the more casual jobs he does in the way
of repairing chairs & tables & cleaning father's boots.

I met a girl from NZ, a nurse at a hospital here, at the
Guilds', who was going off at a considerable rate at the
helplessness of the Englishmen; & fair dinkum, if he's a fair
example, they must be a trying lot to live with. At this
point, as one of the things at which I really excel is a critic-
dissection of personalities whom I have met, I should
prefer to sit down in front of the fire in one of the
big chairs at home & orate with a gently waving hand,
page 3 but when it comes to writing it down in ink my energy
fades. While a liberal cove in theology generally, on
marriage & divorce etc, he takes up the R C standpoint,
which he reckons he can justify on strictly rational
grounds; & as he gave a series of sermons on the subject
once I borrowed them of him yesterday & read them; what
he calls 'a frantic & ruthless grappling with fundamentals';
however by the time I had finished them I was pretty
well spitting blood — I never read such bunk as
50% of it in my life. The rest was just generalities.
The funny thing about it is that though he refuses to dis-
any such things with his family they all believe
in birth-control which is the abomination of desolation
to him. So apparently he doesn't cut much ice, although
he reckons that his arguments are absolutely unanswer-
. These parsons give me the pip. Did I tell
the you that in politics he is a Christian Imperialist?
which I gather is a patent faith of his own: I asked him
if the two things were entirely compatible, but he
didn't have any doubts on the point. The other main
plank in his platform is that if England ever gets
a Labour govt in power that will be her finish. The
only thing one can do in a case of this kind of course is
to make deprecating but consolatory noises in one's
throat. He generally asks visitors to the house now, with
a meaning look at me, what they think of the state & future
of England, & as they invariably give highly favourable
page 4 replies, it must cause him considerable fashion. And all
these things I treasure up in my mind. He really I
gather has a great regard for me, but the trouble with me
is, that I'm going through a sceptical period — what I want
is some great faith to give coherence & point & consistency
to my views & my expression of them, particularly in verse.
Look at Walt Whitman, for instance. Always knew what
he wanted to say & said it, & look a his view of the
universe — wonderful — marvellous!. Well that's what I
need. To all of which I say yes in a non-committal
way: This was at a tête-à-tête review of my verse, some
of which he regards as showing a certain promise;
after which he showed me & presented me with, a
good deal of his, none of which I regard as showing
any promise at all; but I didn't feel equal to giving
him any advice on his view philosophy of life. Anyhow
he is quite satisfied with it, so why worry? As I re-
to myself as I retreated to my sanctum full to
the neck of with helpful constructive criticism & with my
pockets full of the Wayside Pulpit series, a three act
play of about the standard of Sammy Palmers only not in
his inimitable blank verse & other literary treasures.
I see that in Who's Who he doesn't describe himself as a
parson but as "author & literary man" or words to
that effect. So that's that.

By the way they were all very lucked here to get
Daddy's letter a couple of days ago — Father J trotted
page 5 all round the house with it yelling for Gertrude to come &
look. Such a nice letter from Mr Beaglehole! Which
of course I read in my turn & said oh yes, not so
bad, not so bad, in the manner of one who knew. Mrs
is of the opinion that all the Beaglehole's write
good letters, so love has apparently developed Keithles a
great deal. Father J. also expressed the utmost gratifica-
at the extract from H Martineau, which he didn't know,
& proceeded to read same out to me with great satisfaction,
not to say unction. So I agreed it was very kind & thoughtful
& nice of the Beaglehole family, & thought how a little
oil d occasionally does make the engines go smoothly.
I gather that he is really pretty cracked where Iona is
concerned. I wonder that Frannie never gets on that lay
when she is prying cash out of him for her married
life. There was a great scene yesterday when the grand
assault took place, Mrs J and F versus Father J. I gather
that after considerable argument, putting of plain state-
, making of lists, Father in the seclusion of his
study caved in & signed a comprehensive cheque for the
required amount; which was a very creditable affair
for all concerned. However on these occasions I
generally buzz out into the kitchen & make myself
useful with the washing up & Father J's cigarettes.

9/1/27 Sunday morning. I meant to go to church this
morning to avoid the long sermon at night, & in fact was
requested to do so by Frannie, who has a high sense of the duties
page 6 of guests to their hosts in this particular, though not particularly
of children to their father. Otherwise she isn't speaking to me
just now having quarrelled with me vigorously over some-
or other, I don't exactly know what; but she is always
going off pop at me, mild inoffensive cove as I am. I gather
that she does not suffer gladly those whom she considers to be fools.
However no doubt Keithles can give you a more accurate
account of her character than I can — she informed
me that they knew each other through & through; which
I thought was highly gratifying. The extraordinary thing
is, the entirely novel (to me) view she seems to have
of K — I gather he is a combination of Sir Galahad,
King Arthur, Lancelot, Albert the late Prince Consort, John Stuart
, Achilles, Einstein, W. G. Gladstone, & the Prince of Wales.
All I can do is to murmur, Well, well, he never struck me
like that. Granted that starting with extremely unpromising
material the combined efforts of his family have turned out
a not entirely unsatisfactory article in some respects —
eg. his Mother has given him rational views on diet, his Father
reverence for the intellect, I musical taste, & Ern a love
for the good & the beautiful — yet I have difficulty in conceding
all the attributes you have mentioned. However she in-
me that Keithles had his faults, which however
she did not specify, but of course with the general
nature of the statement I was in cordial agreement. Of
course she is very young. We generally argue about marriage
during the washing up; she hasn't any doubts of the success
page 7 of hers.

I thought I should be able to do a lot of reading these
holidays, but studying the bourgeoisie takes up all one's time.
I read Inge's England, though — perhaps I should say [unclear: Inge-
he is acute is some places but in others extraor-
prejudiced or extraordinarily ignorant, & now &
again both. Very rocky on imperial problems and the domin-
. However he explains that it's really a compilation,
& indeed anybody could have written it who had a fair
amount of general reading & Oxford prejudices. Instead
of reading (& managing to sidestep W. Whitman & the rest of
the stuff Father J piled on to me) I have gone to a fearful
number of parties & yapped to a fearful number of people;
even going so far under moral compulsion to learn
whist; at which on one occasion I won the booby prize.

The suppers are have been generally good though; but of course
working at such high pressure one really can't appreciate them
individually. I have got to know some interesting people
over the road, bosom friends of the Js. Orton by name —
a much more intelligent family generally than this one, with
an interesting son-in-law & family staying with them at present;
a schoolmaster — maths his subject — member of Psychical
Research Society
, a sceptical cove. We had a séance the
other night, but the spooks didn't turn up, & finally
with the heat in the room one of the lasses fainted, so
the meeting adjourned. This country would suit Daddy
they close the doors & the windows & all sit round the
page 8 fire, & in about two acts you are streaming with perspiration.
Same in a railway carriage — & if you open a window
you'd think you had committed the sin against the
Holy Ghost. These people arranged a tramp last Sunday,
we went into Derbyshire into the Peak Country — bleak
but very interesting in a way, & hills. Old villages, the
sort that grow out of the country, the Peak castle (Peveril's
I suppose. a Romantic Ruin — but everything commercialised —
weighing machines, slot machines for chocolate & cigarettes by
the side of the purling stream, large notices up all over
the place — this way to the bluejohn cave, or some other cave,
or barbed-wire gates, not open on Sundays, pay on weekdays.

What a country! They had a meeting a while ago at the
[unclear: Winnits], a sort of pass we went through of trampers from all
over the country, harangued by C.P. Trevelyan, the Labour M.P.,
on the Access to Mts Bill — to give free access to all country
over a certain height. A delightfully free country. But I like
Derbyshire. I was agreeably surprised at the number of trampers,
though there were really too many — it made a crowd on the
hills, most of them in shorts & girls in riding strides, as
rough as NZers. It quite made my heart glow. They
were talking of going out again today, but the weather hasn't
been too good, & they say it is dangerous, or muddy, or uncom-
, or something. There is a small lad in this family
3 ½ yrs approx, a great lad for playing tigers, as I discov-
that I was also; & to see [unclear: l] & hear these two enthusiastic
page 9 trampers romping around you would think the world had
come to an end & primeval chaos intervened. Whenever we see each other now we yell Hello tiger! & roar or
purr loudly, whatever a tiger does, so that there is great
amity & agreement in the jungle. Such are the excitements
of a tiger's life. It was in this family too that I came a
bit of a crash. Discussing with them & the Johnsons the
pictures we came to Harold Lloyd, & as they are running For
Heaven's Sake
here at present I said to the designer girl who
hadn't been, how about buzzing along with me tomorrow
night? And then recollected too late that it is the custom
in this infernal country for the gent to pay for the lady, even
to the tramfares. However I made her walk home. A
rotten custom — I shall have to explain in future as a prelim-
that my shorts are Yankee shorts; & then [unclear: fi] with the
full facts of the case before them, favoured ones can take
it or leave it. Otherwise it would put a man off the oppos-
sex altogether. Thank heaven I don't know any of them
in London. I went to the pictures again last Saturday
with the youngest lad of the J. family to see Aladdin & the
Wonderful Lamp
, a picture of great thrills, the theatre
packed full of kids, who received paternal advice from the
manager at the end about looking carefully before they
crossed the road. Which they all said in chorus they wd
do. Godfrey paid for himself, like an English gentleman ,
3d. He is the brightest of the Johnson males, a cheerful,
pugnacious young feller, who sticks up for his elder brother
page 10 Howard, & is exploited by the latter, a not very attractive char-
who grizzles & wails & is impertinent to his mother.
Not his fault perhaps, as everybody is thoroughly spoilt & al-
to do what they like — the dietitic habits of the kids
would give you a vicarious pain, & their remarks on
the food tentatively placed before them at dinner remind
me of the Osbournes ". A good [unclear: clump] on the side of the
head seems to be the remedy indicated, but there doesn't seem
any possibility of its application.

I went to see the Guilds the other night, a cheerful
couple, Mrs. G. full of reminiscences of Beagle & her own
young days as a bride — fair dinkum, nobody else got much
of a look in when it came to conversation. She reckoned
Keithles was a thin swipe, so we had something in com-
. One or two of Mr G's pictures aren't bad; a genial
philosophical sort of a bloke. They were good enough to
provide me with lots of [gap — reason: unclear] nuts, so I had a good chew
for once. However as I think I have remarked before, I
shall be glad to get back to my [unclear: sparer] London diet on
the whole, & our ascetic supper of milk & nuts. Also I
bowled along to see old Priestly Phillips the other day on
spec that he would be home & put in about 10 hours with
him. He seems to be doing pretty well, at a place called
Stand, a few miles outside Manchester. We fell on each
other's necks & he gave me lunch & tea & much conversation,
& music. Fair dinkum, he hasn't got a bad job. Bachelor,
with a big organisation to run, a parsonage, a new Broad-
page 11 wood
piano, & everything nice & cheerful like himself.
He has the best bathroom I have met in this country, the
size of an ordinary room, with a gas fire, & a shower. He has two or three of the rooms for himself & lets a woman
with grown-up family have the rest, who does his work
for him for a bit of cash extra, so everybody is pleased.
He seems pretty keen on music, & we even got on to
duets together. His church is pretty small, but with a
big gallery & all packed close with seats — he says it holds
400; or can it be 200? It is a pretty old place — about 200 yrs.

He has a big Sunday school building with all sorts of attendant
organisations — scouts, hockey & football & badminton clubs &
girl guides & dramatic society (& a flash stape & patent scenery
for it) & so on & so forth. Any club that wants a rook for
a meeting has to book it weeks ahead. They have just
bought a big piece of ground for levelling up & down for a
playing field, so everything seems pretty healthy & lovely in
that garden. His church certainly seems more of a commun-
centre than anything else I have met. He is a much
more attractive sort of a cove than Father J. Seems to have
a singularly high opinion of Rev G.E. Hale though. We
had a good yap about tramping, & he invited me to do some
with him in the Lake district at Easter, so if all
goes well the merry springtime will find us buzzing
around in the footsteps of Wordsworth & Co. However we
haven't fixed anything final yet. I must say I never
met a parson more like a human being than this cove; &
page 12 he is a broadminded all round, with none of the peculiar
kinks or the professedly omniscient knowledge of Father J.

Other places I have been to are the John Rylands
, which is a fine place, though I am not too keen on
the building itself; they had an exhibition of early paintings
& a few private presses which was most interesting, & everything
is very swish & flash; the University which we called
at one night, & mainly to see the Library — they have so
many books that they are overflowing all over the place &
are digging out a big subterranean stack-room; & they had
about as much many much stuff on history as we have in
the whole of our library. I feel a trifle embarrassed in all
these joints, as Father J. invariably introduces me to people
as Mr B, assistant professor in the University of Wgton
especially since the 31st Dec, when my job lapsed. I must
put in for my superannuation soon.

11/1/27 Back in London & feeling pretty flat. I came back
yesterday (Monday) afternoon; invited to go again whenever
I liked. About all I have done today is to buzz round to Bum-
' & spend your 30/- on Jane Austen & Housman's Last Poems.
I hope you approve. — I don't think I have mentioned the
Whitworth Art Gallery in M/C, where they have a glorious
collection of water-colours, Turners, Cotmans, Coxs, de Wints
right down to contemporary work. It is supposed to be second
only to London, so I must see London's collection sometimes.

I got your letter of Dec 6 the other day. You seem to be doing
a terrible lot of gadding about together; however as it speaks well
page 13 for your general spryness I have no objection to offer. I am
glad to see that Daddy is doing nearly as well as you in
the reading line — though of course if you go through Shake-
in such close succession to the Bible you will have
him well beat. In the matter of food; Dr Bennet seems to
have been pumping a terrible you full of weird ideas about
London. I don't know anybody who works on her “usual thing”
plan. I think you know all about our system by now, so
I needn't it elaborate the point again. I should like to
read Bohun Lynch's article — does he mean it costs you a
bob in an eating-joint? If so, I have yet to strike the
joint. outside Our dinner costs us 1/2 - 1/6; breakfast &
tea about 6d on the average, sometimes less. I dare say I
could cut it down a good deal if I had a gas range to op-
on & a bag of lima beans; but of course gas would
be a consideration then. — Mr Duncan & I recognise no
liability whatsoever towards his erstwhile landlady. We were
very careful both with her wallpaper & her carpet, such as
it was. — I fail to see the point of your reference to my coming
round to your way of thinking about Handel Beethoven etc
& your jeer at the moderns. All I ever pleaded for was
fair play & a chance to hear the moderns; but your attitude
to them was one of complete & devastating intolerance. Anyhow
give me Bach. — I have received Auntie Win's ginger at
last & will thank personally in due course; in the
meantime you might put in a word for me, as to Auntie
& Alan from whom I had notes by last mail.

I now cease.

With love from