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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 10 April 1927

page 1
21 Brunswick Square
London W.C.1

  My dear Mummy,

Well, I have remarkably little to
chronicle in this letter, which is not perhaps strange, as I only
posted the last one five days ago. So I hope you won't be
aggrieved at getting only a note by this mail. But I am
going up to Derbyshire on Thursday, & as the mail closes the
following Tuesday & I shall be on the move the whole time, there
won't be a chance to write round about then; & as I am going
out to play the piano on Tuesday & we are having visitors on
Wednesday, that leaves only tonight & tomorrow. I have been
to no concerts, no lectures, & only one play. The only reading
I have done outside govs' instructions has been the last chapter of
the Dance of Life & a few of W. de la Mare's poems. The only
book I have bought is a 3/6 selection of Flecker's poems. So you
can see that in the region of the spirit there hasn't been much

I am going up to Derbyshire on Anne Mary. Anne
Mary is my bike ; but how long it will be before that name
lapses & is succeeded by a series of ––– & !!! I don't
know — probably, as I am going to a hilly country,
not long. I think I told you I had a note from
Lorrie Richardson suggesting a bit of a tramp in the
Peak district ; which, after due consideration, I thought
would be an excellent idea ; & as he was in London on
page 2 Wednesday he blew along to the P.R.O. & we had a crack
together, followed by lunch, & resolved to turn partners. We
are going to borrow Jack Yeates' tent, & his sleeping-bag for
me :(I'm sorry I left mine home now, & it's probably
not long enough for a lanky swab like Ern; [unclear: learnt] [gap — reason: unclear]
I couldn't get it in); I am starting bright & early on Thurs-
morning on Anne Mary, & pickup up Lorrie at Harpen-
, about 25 miles north of London, where he works,
& we proceed merrily on our way together. He has done
pretty well; got his PhD & a year's scholarship at an Agricult-
Experimental Station at Harpenden, & now he has been
offered & accepted a permanent job there; pay not very
flash, but it is a good jumping-off place. I wouldn't mind
putting in 4 or 5 years in England myself after I get
my degree; but I doubt if I shall get the chance. We
are going to sleep out as we can't afford pubs; as there is
nothing in this country to make a fire with, & no water to
boil on it if you had one, we are going to patronise
the pubs for the main daily blow-out, & feed on fruit etc
the rest of the time. This L. reckons is the best way, having
tried various ways since he started roaming the country.
He has done about 6000 miles on his bike. We don't know
yet how much riding we shall be doing & how much
tramping: when we have had a good look at the
place we can decide that. Anyhow it will be a
pleasure to get under a tent again & into a sleeping
bag, as long as the nights aren't too much on the
page 3 chilly side.

I think I revealed the purchase of a bike in my
last letter, & possibly before. MacG & D & I had frequent &
long discussions on the subject, & I got some catalogues from
Lorrie ; & it appears that a good bike is a damn expensive thing,
& a really good bike costs anything from [unclear: 14] guineas up.
Anyhow on Wednesday Mac & D decided they would do something
& trotted round the town looking at various mangles, finally
landing in Selfridges, which Mac had before characterised
with true indignation as vulgar inside & out. And there
they found the article. So after a nights' meditation & a
comparison of prices I buzzed down there next day also &
after searching hither & thither & asking various people &
taking a ride in a lift run by a girl in riding-strides
& a peaked cap I found the bike department. And
deciding as I had to fall low to fall as low as possible I
paid £5-7 for a mangle painted green, weighing ½ ton,
complete with bell, carrier, oil-can, pump, lamp, [gap — reason: unclear]
insurance-policy & guarantee for 50 years. When we have
finished with them we are going to chuck them over the
Embankment & collect the insurance. What I really
wanted to do was to pick up a 2nd hand article some-
, which would do me for 18 months or so; but
there doesn't appear to be a place in London where you
can get a 2nd hand bike — or anyhow nobody seems to
have heard of it. But the Selfridge article at least
looks like a thing you can kick, curse, or otherwise
page 4 maltreat without any very serious consequences, & if
I don't get tired of pushing it up hills & the front forks
don't break & the brakes don't fail to act at a crucial
moment I dare say it will do. It has to do. We
all went out for a trial run yesterday & of course it
rained hard for ¾ of the day, & developed into a
regular thunderstorm at lunch-time, by when we had
got no further than a joint called Swiss Cottage — mainly
through [unclear: to] making various detours round about Hamp-
, not all of them intentional (but one of them
was, to see Keats' House, which is out there). We then
changed our direction & set out in earnest to find the
English country-side & striking the Edgeware Road &
pedalling solidly for hours til we nearly fell off our
bikes for various weariness (& here let me say that
the bloke who said there were no hills in England
was a liar — you've only got to get on a bike to notice
them — but I suppose he walked) we found it at
length & a rather charming village called Elstree. And
at Elstree, which was at the top of a quite consid-
hill, we dismounted & entered the tea-room
known by the name of the Cyclists' Friend, or some
such, & there polished off 2/5 worth of scones, cakes
& tea in an infinitesimal period of time. After
which we discussed the universe & the various
universities of the Empire & free-wheeled most of the
way home, Duncan being told off by a taxi-driver
page 5 on the way. I don't suppose we went more than about
25 miles altogether, but after not being on a bike for
about ten years that's enough for a start. Of course today
turned out to be fine & mild & sunny ; but the flesh was
not equal to another burst; so I merely rode round
& round Regent's Park [unclear: &] looked over the fence at the monkeys
climbing on the artificial cliffs: they have red bottoms
(the monkeys not the cliffs), & so no doubt when travelling
need no other rear-light.

The country now looks as if authentic spring has
arrived. The trees are all bursting into their first green & the
smaller ones & the bushes have already bush; the crocuses
in the parks have come & gone (a very nice patch we
had of them in front of the P.R.O too) & the daffodils are
all coming out. Primroses are coming out on the
fruiterer's stalls, & for quite a while past the plaintive
cry of Violets! (has gone up from battered old Cockney
dames on the Strand. Devon is the place at present for the
eye, a girl told me who has been ambling dow around
down there while MacGrath who has just had a week
in Cornwall is li likewise enthusiastic about Land's
End. So it seems as if Anne Mary is coming in for
a lot of work. The country outside London is very
beautiful too, when you get to it; I must say I like the
English civilised type of beauty very much, as contrast to
the ruggedness of NZ.; but the trouble is that London keeps
spreading like a cancer; out past Edgeware now they are
page 6 cutting up estates, & enormous hoardings announce a new
row of shop-fronts, or factories to be built to suit tenants.
What the place will be like in another 100 years God
only knows. It will probably take a man about two
days hard riding to get to the country at all. There's
no reason out there, anyhow, why they shouldn't provide
plenty of open spaces, & keep it reasonably clean & green
& fresh.

The play we went to — we being Duncan & Fortune &
I — was Professor Tim, by an Irishman called George
Shiels, & acted by the Irish Players. The play itself is
pretty punk, nothing but good straight impossible comedy;
but the acting is superb. These birds are all first rate
in their own lines, & work perfectly together. It's a pity
they can't tour NZ & show you something really good
for once. I repeat, good stuff. Fortune is putting in
the vacation in London; he is going out to Melanesia next
year, or possibly before, to work under Brown, the
new Prof of Ethnology at Sydney, & has persuaded
old Joynt on the strength of that, to part up with the
whole of his £400 scholarship money. And as appar-
Sydney is going to provide him with outfit &
maintenance while he is among the niggers, & F expects,
a job afterwards, he appears to be on a good wicket.
He also announced tonight that Kegan Paul is bringing
out his book — I gather an article he had in the
Journal of the A.A.P.P. padded out & revised, [gap — reason: unclear] printed in
page 7 large type with wide spaces between the lines to make it
look big enough to sell for 5/- ; so at present the lad
is on very good terms with the world.

Last night I tottered down to Chelsea again with one
or two others to the digs of this Yank girl I mentioned
before to yarn & criticise England for the benefit of Ross &
a compatriot present; I also got in one or two tinkles on
the piano & made an appointment for Tuesday solely
for that purpose. I don't know if you saw a review
lately in the Literary Supp of a new life of Poe by
a cove called Hervey Allen — she is his sister, & not
without charm. However she can't make (a) coffee s or (b) sand-
. Apparently it takes a genius of the profundity &
breadth of the Mother of the Beagleholii to combine
in her own person all the virtues, intellectual,
moral, & culinary. Anyhow she seems to have them
blended & balanced in a manner quite exceptionally
delicate. I think this concludes the business for the
evening; in case I have nothing more to add before I
post this I note that I enclose cuttings (a) Gorse (b) on
reverse of same, E.Newman (c) Community singing (d) Brit-
Library (e) one of Selfridge's ineffable advertisements.
14/4/27 Well, one or two more things have happened, but I
haven't got time to write them down. Give my love to all, &
hoping this finds you as it leaves me,

with love from


P.S. I suppose it is all over with Keithles now.