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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 3 May 1927

page 1
21 Brunswick Square
London WC1

   My dear Mummy,

Well, this is no time for writing letters,
with so many things to do, & so many books to read (me
little friend Harold has just brought out a new book on
Communism) & one of the greatest fights in Trade Union history
on at this moment. For you must know that Mr Baldwin
in a laudable endeavour to further Peace in our time, O
Lord, has brought in a Bill calculated to make every
labour man in the country see red; & as the Times report
of the first day's struggle (yesterday) took up about three
pages of small print, it took some reading. Of course the
Bill is sure to get through, but it is a pretty brummy thing all
the same. Still, I don't suppose you're interested, & Daddy knows
all about it already. So I shall proceed to answer your two
letters of dates March 27 & March 13, duly received & held under
consideration. I have also had a charming letter from
Auntie Ada which ends with the noble hearted injunc-
"Please don't bother to answer this just tell your Mother
if it reaches you." So you might convey the desired in-
, & say I was very glad to receive same, & find
out the address of Alan's brass shop, which please transmit.

  She also says “Has anyone told you that the Beaglehole grandchild
is very like you its [sic: it's] true I saw her photo yesterday” Well, I
ask you. “Has anyone!” What strikes me about this
page 2 chorus is its obvious foolishness. If you must have children, why
not strive for individuality in their appearance. Handsome as
I am & lucky as the child is to look like me, if it must look
like some-one, I think it ought to be encouraged to cultivate
a face of its own. Anyhow I looked long & intently at the
photo you sent, & I'm dashed is I could see any resem-
in the kid to anything at all except other babies. Which
doesn't seem to be much of a distinguishing mark. It was
a good picture of you though; I must say you look healthy
& merry & bright enough, as if the arduous study of modern
languages weren't bearing you down too much. You
would have got some good practice at University College
this afternoon, when one of the historical mobs from
Paris gave an address on Historical education or metho-
or something. It lasted for more than an hour
& I made out about four words, not counting repeats.
However that's by the way.

What you say about the French dictionary is all
bosh. I distinctly remember that one cover was only hanging
on by a very tenuous thread — You needn't think you can
put anything like that across me. I note your
remark about argument & K's wedding. The trouble about
that sort of thing in our family is, everybody gets so
excited; now [unclear: &] all you want is a little calm & silence &
deep thought & organisation, & then you can do things in
the minimum of time when they're wanted. In short,
I can see that you felt the need of my presence very
page 3 deeply, but no doubt you have got the Unhappy Couple
well married by now, & I am all in a froth to hear
full details (I don't think). What do you want to go
round inspecting churches for, anyhow? What's wrong with
the good old Full Gospel Blood of Christ Mission, late
Unitarian church? Still it must have been a great day
for old Jim Thawley, the [unclear: Kitten] on the keys. No doubt
he chucked it in as discount on your month's bill. Or
why not get married down the garden, the scene of so many
happy hours & heroic contests, or the in the front room,
which was good enough for old Joe, or even in the tool-
shed. Or you might have had it on the front lawn & given
the [unclear: slums] a treat. — My word, if Auntie thinks your
frock too short she ought to see some of the frockettes here;
she would just about turn up her toes. I think personally
it is no more than hygienic & you could do with it a lot
shorter — why not show good legs if you've got 'em, as you
have. I don't think Auntie's frock ought to be more than
two inches below the knees, anyhow, if that.

Now I ask you what's the use of my getting off
good sterling jokes if you're going to take them seriously?
Daddy had me quite bogged for a while as I cast my
mind back over the pre last three months to see what he
was driving at. WEDDING PRESENTS! Cripes, don't you see
the whole point of the business? "Mother reckons it
might go in beautiful editions of books" etc — Well, what
else would it go in? While if you wait, & some pred-
page 4 atory
woman gets her hands on the cheque, devil a bit of it
I'll ever see, & little enough will be put to any really
useful purpose. Of course if by the usual necessaries
of a home you mean washing-boards & sewing-machines &
mangles & doormats & bootscrapers & stuff for me to clean
the windows with & bootpolish for me to polish the boots
with & brasso for me to clean the taps with — well, there
you are & if you want to promote efficiency in the house
& victimise me go ahead. But remember that a thing of
beauty is a joy forever; & wives however much they
pull faces at new books have been known to read those
same books in the past with considerable enjoyment, &
even to kick up a fearful row if there's nothing in the
house for them to read, except Gibbons Decline & Fall;
& what wives have done in the past, they may do in the
future. I do not particularise, either on the past or the
future. Daddy's book of NZ girlhood duly noted.
Thanks for postal notes. I am sending out Walton's Lives
in one vol. I remember Daddy was after a handy copy
of that a good while ago. 4/6 this cost, Methuen 1895. Books
read duly noted. The R.H. Murray Daddy mentioned has
written on political theory — he is a bit muddled-headed,
in my opinion. The colour of the house sounds all
right, if it can stand the W'gton air. I think you
might have tried a bright red all over, as a method of
heralding the Revolution. Still failing that, white & green
is a nice respectable combination. I was very pleased
page 5 to see you had a visit from Mrs Lysaght — she is very decent,
I think; I had a letter from her a week or so ago about her
Xmas card. Those cards have been a great success all
right, I must tell Berrie. But it isn't an original; it
was the same sort of thing as yours, a printed reproduction,
very like a woodcut. I had a letter from Mrs Hooper
last mail too — please tell her, & that same will be answered
in due course, which means anytime in the next 6 or 8 .

Well, about our trip to Derbyshire. We did about
375 miles on our bikes & got in four days' good hard
tramping — we were away eleven days in all. If you
deduct about 50% from the descriptions in that L.M.S. book
I have sent you for literary style & 50% for lack of propor-
& 50% more for general cussedness you will get a fair
idea of what the country described there is like. For “magnif-
” read “pretty”, when it says “wild” think of Happy Valley & you will have a scale of values to go by. I have
sent you a swag of postcards too, both of what we saw & didn't
see, & a few snaps, the product of my skilful hand & that
of my companion. I left here on Thursday April 15 & cycled
out to meet Lorrie at Harpenden where he works at an
agricultural experimental station, 25 miles north of London.
We then rode up to Buxton, which we reached after a
cruel ride against a head-wind most of the way on
Sunday. We left our bikes at the Railway Station there
& put in our four days all over the Peak District, in
page 6 Derbyshire, & Yorkshire I think, arriving back at the Buxton on
Thursday; whence we came back to London in a pretty
wide sweep, putting in an afternoon & evening at Cambridge
on the way to have a look at Jack Yeates & the place gen-
, & arriving here on the Sunday. By jingo! it
was a good trip, & a great relief to get into the open &
look rough again. London is all right, but a terrible
place for getting soft in, especially in the winter; but
by the time I got back I was feeling pretty fit, & have
been the subject of universal admiration ever since.
You will see from the my snaps that I am not exactly
fading away. We slept out every night in a dinky little
tent of Jack Yeates, for which see photo; it is just 6x6,
& holds two comfortably, three at a squeeze; the poles come
apart into two sections each, so that you can strap them
on to a bike or shove them in a swag, & they are very
light bamboo; the pegs are aluminium, & there are only
two ropes. So you see that the torte ensemble (Fr)
is about as handy as anything could be. The
trouble about camping out in this country at random
is that there are is hardly any running water — we
were lucky on the whole, & got some very good spots,
but several times the only moisture we got in the
evening & the morning was from oranges & apples.
(You will be pleased to hear that it was largely
a fruitarian trip). This may have been the real
reason for the terrific speed with which we hiked
page 7 into Nottingham one morning, which city will in the
future base its chief claim to fame on the fact that we
consumed several cups of liquid in rapid succession
at a coffee-stall in the square there on our way to Mel-
Mowbray, famous for its pie, where we had lunch.
But what chiefly impressed us was a magnificent
custard tart, on which we made considerable inroads.
We did a good deal of trespassing, partly necessary,
partly on principle — in fact whenever we saw a
signboard saying Trespassers wd be prosecuted we
hopped over the fence. So that we got more or less
used to interviews with keepers or other hirelings in
the morning as we breakfasted or packed; but as we
were extremely, nay exceptionally tidy trampers &
also very well-spoken lads we didn't come into any
violent conflict with anybody. In fact one bird (I think
a minion of the Duke of Norfolk) finished up by telling us
all his troubles, with which we sympathised with our
usual open-hearted camaraderie, & then went & disturbed
all his blooming grouse. Grouse appear to be the most
important thing in England, the peak & apex up to which
the whole of western civilisation works; so it was a pity
that the only time we got near a sitting bird & found
stones handy we couldn't get near the brute. There are
miles & miles of moors with nothing but heather & grouse
(much as that ass Cullen wants to see the National
Park, I suppose) from which everybody is strictly
page 8 warned off. There appears to be a Tramping, or Ramb-
, as they call themselves, Club at Sheffield which
tramps this country a lot, though — I have seen their sylla-
, a most flash affair, a regular little book, which
contains some good dope on trespassing & keepers &
so forth. We seem to have touched on most of the
ducal properties in that part of England. But says our
keepers, scarcely a gentleman shoots his own [unclear: sho] moors now;
Oh, its terrible; they let them out to rich men from
Sheffield & Manchester — just workmen, as you might say.
So apparently there is still a considerable difference
between the landed gentry & the lower orders, when the
cotton & steel-kings are classed as “just workmen”.

There are a few other things on the moors except grouse —
one or two footpaths over which the public have a right,
& on which a footpath preservation society has to put a
notice-board to say so, lest the dukes grab it them again, &
Druidical circles & cairns & rocking-stones (so-called) &
entrenchments (marked on the map, but somewhat prob-
) all of which are classed as ancient mounu-
& all of which we pursued with unwearying
enthusiasm. We finished up our first day's tramping
by climbing Kinderscout, the highest hill in the district,
(see C. E. Montigue's The Right Place) mainly in mist;
on top it is the funniest hill I ever saw, all peat-bog
of various softnesses, split up into big hummocks & islands
of all shapes with canals of soft mud between them.

page 9 Otherwise it was mainly heather. We got down about 9
o'clock as it was getting dark, coming down through a
gully that was pretty well as good as parts of the Tararuas,
& passing an empty keeper's cottage or something, we
put a brick through the window on principle (but don't
get alarmed, there was a hole in it already). We had
a very good camping-place that night & were awoken
next morning by a Here! what are you dong there!
though you might have thought it was perfectly obvious.
This day, being Easter Monday, we crossed over the Hope
Valley, through Edale, up another hill, Mann Tor & down
into Castletown, where we investigated some celebrated
Blue John Caves (Queen Victoria visited them twice, with
great admiration) — charge one bob — through the Winnats.
You may remember I was here before with the Johnson
gang in the New Year. The place was black with
trippers, a large proportion of whom were doing their
courting in public in the happy care-free English
fashion, so we bought our postcards & I wrote one to
you, showing the highly romantic castle, got a good feed
(the lady who supplied same being remarkable on
our trip for inviting us to name our own price — so
we gave her two bob — each) & moved on; over Win Hill,
another of their stem hills & up past the Derwent Reser-
. This was where we met the keeper who proved
chatty. Next day we crossed the moors & came
to a very good village for tea (I don't think I explained
page 10 we pa got our lunch & tea in villages & bought stuff for
breakfast & supper) called Bradfield. A Mrs Glossop née
[unclear: Jillett] gave us bacon & eggs & home-made bread & cake & a
good deal of chat here — her father & paternal ancestors,
she told us, had served the village church as sexton & verger
etc in an unbroken line since 1300; but now al-
she had three brothers & the old man (who is was also
village postman) was breaking up none of the lads seemed
too keen on the job. We asked how old the church
was (“Oh, its a lovely church!”) & her husband
said Well, he didn't rightly know, but it was renovated
in 1500. So that seems satisfactory.

We came across a good many village churches,
as a matter of fact, some of them very good & most of
them interesting, generally done in two or three different
styles of architecture, Norman one side, Early English
the other, & so forth. One at a place called Bakewell
had a crowd of Vernon tombs — but personally I
prefer Mary Pickford's presentment of the celebrated
Dorothy to the Tudor artists. Haddon Hall was a
washout. I bought a swag of postcards at Buxton to
send to you to show you what I had seen & we
came pelting down the road in the great state of
excitement; & lo! behold! in spite of all inform-
ation given in the guide-books, the Duke of Rutland
on signposts stuck up in various places, announced
that the place was closed, finally & indubitably, both
page 11 outside & in, & suitably warned off the [unclear: castle]. So as
they [sic: there] were gardeners & keepers in sight we blasted all
dukes, hung over the wall a bit, & moved on. I have sent
you the postcards, however, to show you what we might
have seen if we had been able to get in. It would
have been 2/- in the ducal coffers too, according to the
scale of fees given in the guide-books. Curse the Duke
of Rutland — I wanted to see that place. We saw some
very beautiful country that afternoon, though — there is
nothing in NZ like the spring here; the country is a
dream of loveliness & even the Bloomsbury squares almost
go drunk with joy. They now somewhat resemble the
pictures in the pamphlets I have sent out to you.

One place we called at on the way back was Peterbor-
to see the Cathedral — a great place; all light & air,
& clean of the disgusting heaps of stone & bric a brac that
make Westminster Abbey so disgusting. We camped
outside Peterborough in a rook wood — it was funny
how we kept running into the traditional things —
rookeries, & rooks following the plough & blackbirds
with their yellow-bill, & skins of stoats & weasels hung
up outside farms & so on. We got the wind behind
us for a few miles (of course it changed to a souther-
the very day we left b Buxton to come back) & had
a great run to Cambridge. No wonder people get
to love the old Universities — I never saw any-
more beautiful than some parts of Cambridge.

page 12 We had a good crack & two meals with Jack Yeates,
who is going back home in June — he doesn't like
the country; we did our best to convince him that
he was committing intellectual suicide, but in
vain; we camped at Grantchester, near Byron's Pool, &
next morning had a look round the Old Vicarage. The
photo I send is one of the garden & the back of the house; &
if it hadn't got on to an inclined plane it would give
you a fair idea of the place; it runs down to a bit of a
river at the bottom of the garden, bordered by willows; &
altogether is a place where you might live very happily.
That same day we pushed against a cold wind & rain
b on our last 50 miles to London. And believe me, the
contrast between the English country & the average English
town is appalling.

Since then I have worked & bought a book & been
to two or three shows — Cosi fan Tutte (comic opera
by Mozart). The Beaux Strategem at the Lyric Theatre
Hammersmith, good racy scandalous 1707 stuff; & a
violin recital by a May Harrison Mozart Bach [unclear: Riger]
Delius, & Arnold Bax's 1st violin & piano sonata, with
A.B. himself playing the piano. There's something for
you. I am going to Hamlet at the Old Vic tomorrow.
There is grand opera on at Covent Garden too for four
or five weeks, but I don't know whether I can
afford any of this. Went to Hyde Park for May
Day celebrations on Sunday — rotten. Well, 11.30 pm
as usual on mail-nights. I cease, but not upon the

       with love from