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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 31 May 1927

page 1
21 Brunswick Square
London W.C.1

My dear Mummy,

Your letter turned up early this time,
dashing across the Atlantic in the Berengaria at a dizzy
speed. I gather that the reason for the irregular mails is
that they are put into all sorts of boats & come across the
final stage; some cross in 5 days, some in 10. The Yank
mails are about the last thing on earth & are run on the
same system. There are speedy boats crossing every
week, so it's about time the NZ govt woke up & insisted
on something a bit. It might mean a vote or two more
for Coates at the next election. But then he is to be bumped
out anyhow. I see old [unclear: Guthrie] has kicked the bucket, so
I suppose you have had another scramble for the vacant
chain, & that Coates has put in some ghastly dud ; or more
likely is still thinking it over & can't find anyone bad
enough for the job, his party presents such a galaxy of
stupidities. I was sorry to read of your singular way
of having a bath, but I trust you are jakealoo now; fair
dinkum you're a distressful sort of person. No doubt you
needed a good rest after struggling so hard to get Keithles
off your hands, but I dare say you only had to ask for
it to get it, & that there was no need to go to such hectic
measures. Still I suppose you know your own business best,
& it is not for me to give you advice on the conduct of life.
page 2 As for Ern, well I always reckoned he was a bit weak in the
brain, & it was a perpetual wonder to me, & remains so, that
he didn't fall all over himself & the country long ago; I don't
reckon any bloke has a right to walk all over N.Z. a country with

feet like that. A damper to himself & all his companions. Of
course it's one way of getting your name into the papers but my
advice to Ern is if he must get publicity to follow my ex-
& become a great man. It's slower but less painful in
the end; at least physically; of course the mental strain
varies for different people. Harold Holt on reading the
scare paragraph in the paper describing the business seemed a
bit worried about the reputation the V.U.C. Tramping Club
must be getting for itself what with search parties & doctors &
birds like Ern wandering about; but he is a bit naive yet &
doesn't realise that it is the character of all human institu-
to degenerate & even to go to the deminition bow-wows.
With the men who made the thing scattered all over the
world, it's all you can expect. Still no doubt Ern enjoyed
the notoriety & the psych-lab. held a new thrill for the [unclear: flappers]
for a few days. I hear a couple of other blokes got lost in
the Tararuas about the same time; seems to have been a
hard time for trampers lately. Some of them seem to have
such darn little sense, even apart from exceptional ec-
like old Sammy. Well, well, you've got to look at
it philosophically, I suppose. Blast Ern & his blooming
thesis, while I am on the subject of weak intellects. I don't
know whether I shall get his article abstracted for this
Also it seems a bit drastic as a way of getting
rid of your swag. Why not say frankly you're fed up
with carrying it & load it on to
some other poor cow?
page 3 mail. It seems pretty fair [unclear: bunk], anyhow, the Yank who
wrote it seeming to be a pretty complete victim to propa-
himself. Most Yanks seem to be.

Both of you seem to have got rather wide of what my
thesis is — it is on neither on Jamaica or New Foundland, or rather
on both of them & a lot more, being a study of Colonial
Governor's Instructions [unclear: 1786]–1854 as an investigation into
British colonial policy from the loss of the old Empire to
the appearance of Responsible Government. It is about the
whole blooming empire, including N.Z. Hong Kong, & the
niggers of Ashantee (I believe, but I haven't come to them yet)
You had better file this for reference; or somebody will
be asking you some body day & you will get into a fierce argu-
about it. Not that I suppose it will convey much to
anyone, but it sounds all right. I am glad to hear that
Stephen is getting a bit more mobile on his pins. Also thank
you for the articles. Daddy mentions remitting for Tchekov;
you'd better work out how much I owe you for various things,
wedding-present etc before sending any cash home. It's
very pleasing to read that Frannie is winning cripes! has
won all hearts. You might tell her to start on mine mine
next. That I think concludes my notes on your letter.

The summer seems to be coming along with great
strides now; the weather is warm, quite frequently sunny;
I have discarded my overcoat & hat for quite three weeks
(luckily I am not in Manchester); the sun comes in the
window in the morning & it doesn't get dark till ½ past
page 4 9 at night. The dead-beats emerge from their holes & sun,
themselves in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where I pass them every
morning, a melancholy sight, & an amiable witness to the
glory & might of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The opera
is in full swing, there are two or three new plays coming
on, the world is full of very pleasant people, the Republic
of learning is full of laughter & song & tolerance & sweetness &
light, & altogether life is not so bad. I have been able to
buy a couple of books & am going down (or up) to the Cotswolds
next weekend with Lorrie & perhaps Harold, being Whit-
. Last Sunday D & I hopped on our faithful bikes
(mine beginning to groan a bit as I go up hills) & rode
down into Surrey, which in the part we were in is
much like Kent, & indeed just over the border. It's not bad
to get down a side road into a lane & turn out one's
trusty swag to get at the grub & then lie under a hedge in the
sun; the trouble is that the country is so thickly popu-
that someone always comes ambling past in best
Sunday clothes swinging a walking-stick or pushing a
pram or taking the wife for a walk. You can't really
get away from people. Still as far as it goes it's all right.
We struck some more decent avenues & villages & got a
good tea for a bob a/head at the Queen's Head, in
the picturesque & perhaps historic village of Nutfield. Then
we did a good 20 miles back to London in two hours,
which wasn't bad considering the amount of traffic
on the roads th & that we had to push up two long hills.
page 5 You can go a good way on these roads without feeling
tired. We didn't start till 11 & had a long loaf after
lunch & yet we did 50 miles before dark. No altercations
with cops this time.

The Sunday before we rode to Richmond & at
the Bridge hired a boat for the day in conjunction with
McGrath & a couple of Sydney architect cobbers of his. We
rowed away up & away down again with considerable energy
& mutual good advice, leaving one another on the bank at
intervals (having got out to look over a fence to see what was on
the other side) to walk a mile or so. So what with riding,
walking & pulling it was a day not devoid of interest or exer-
. It would be a great scheme to have a house on the
river a few miles up from Richmond; we saw some
good gardens with lawns coming down to the water & the
family punt moored alongside. If I had cash that's where
I [sic: I'd] live in London for the weekends in & in summer,
with a bright little flat in the middle of things for the
rest of the year. Still I suppose the river gets pretty
crowded too later on — it's a pity some philanthropist can't
devise a painless scheme for getting rid of about half the
population at one go & cut down the birthrate for the other
half. Then the remainder could lead a decent sensible
[unclear: happy] life, & not be worried by the ceaseless intervention
of their fellows in the view. You can hire camping
boats; & I shouldn't mind spending a fortnight or so
with a sleeping-bag & a Primas & a few books meandering
page 6 round the upper reaches of the river. We are thinking of
arranging a river picnic for the a our select seminar-
group now; I mean the little crowd that exploits the
hospitality of one another. We had a very cheerful
evening at the girls' flat a week or so ago; & next
Saturday de Keivriel does the host. Time after that we
exploit the Rosses, when the wheel will have come
full circle & it will be our turn again, unless the
term comes to an end before that.

As for the opera, I have been to Fidelio & Der
Rozenkavalier, of which I [unclear: transmit] the programmes.
Fidelio has some great moments in it, but a lot of
it is spoken, & in German that is not too comprehen-
. The setting was not as gloomy as it looks in
the programme ; the dungeon was suitably mouldy, but
the prison-precincts generally were cheerful & hygienic &
well-lighted. Der Rosenkavalier is a first rate
thing, & I must see it again next year; full of col-
& movement & tunes & cheerfulness ; some glorious
concerted singing in the last act, particularly a [unclear: trio]
for three women's voices, & a joyous waltz ; a pleas-
change in the way of a musical comedy. Beg
pardon, comic opera. Op Or perhaps that's hardly the
designation either. Anyhow it's good stuff. They
have got through their orgy of German opera now &
are [unclear: bagging] into Italian. Aida & Otello I must see,
but I don't know what else. It will be a curse if
page 7 if [sic: delete] they do anything decent while I am away in July.
I haven't been to any plays lately; but Ross & I are going to
the Constant Nymph tomorrow night (it was one of the
things I meant to go to first when I got here) & N. Playfair
is putting on a Vincent Crummles entertainment at the
Lyric this week. The Irish Players are doing another
play of Sean O'Casey's & Riders to the Sea at the same
time, & I believe there are one or two other things worth
going to. I don't suppose I shall be reading much for
a week or so. That bird Marais' book on N.Z. is out. I
got a copy on appro from [unclear: Bumpus] but I haven't looked at
it yet. The pages aren't cut, either, curse it. I don't
think it's as good as my book would have been though;
but of course that's asking a lot of a bloke.

Which reminds me. I bowled into Laski's to
meet a cove L said might give me a job some day,
going out to Australia as [unclear: govt] archivist. He didn't turn
up, but I had some very informative conversation with
Laski, who had just finished reading my thesis.
He said Why don't you publish it? I said it wasn't
good enough & wanting wanted revising etc.; but he reck-
it was good stuff & told me to send it across to a
bloke called Professor [unclear: I.B.] Fay, Smith College, in the
States, who ran a series for which this was just the
right length; my thing he said was a prize compared
to the stuff they he generally published. I said I would,
but was a bit apprehensive of to [unclear: treat] Newton in the
page 8 matter, he being my Director of Studies & a bit of a stickler
for etiquette. However he was in a very beaming temper
at my interview yesterday afternoon, & I broached the
matter which he received quite favourably. So as Laski
told me to use his name the blooming thing has a chance
of being published yet, which will mean a bit of publicity,
& leg up for a job, I hope. I believe you get about
50 free copies to spray around. Still we shall see. Newton
reckons I could get a job easy as pie in the States
when I have finished here, but I don't know that that's abso-
accurate. I wouldn't mind putting in a couple
of years, though. However that's a good way off yet.
Getting the thesis published separately, if it is published, will
be better than having it stuck in the Proceedings of
the N.Z. Institute, which was my original ambition.
Well, well, N.Z. never knows what it has lost till
it's too late.

Harold Holt turned up a ten days ago from the
States, looking much the same as usual, & informing
me I hadn't changed a bit, which ought to cheer you,
unless you expected me to have improved a great deal.
He put in about a year working in California as a
lumber hand & then roamed over the country by a
roundabout way working East, acquiring a knowledge of
Chicago & other modern efficient godless & therefore doomed
cities on the way. He is now looking at the
sights here & making up his mind what to do next.
page 9 He is an excellent fellow & a very reliable tramper with a
fund of resource in need of which the club apparently
stands badly in need at the present time; but not having a
great fund of general ideas & not being a reader he is
rather a heavy weight to entertain. However it was
very pleasant to see his genial mug come through the
gate at Waterloo, where I went on the off-chance of meeting
him. He cherishes an immense admiration for Alan,
having worked in the same office with him, & apparently
having an artistic soul. One or two of the [gap — reason: unclear] cartoons
you sent over weren't bad; the University debate one
& some of the drawings in the marriage one were
quite good. What he wants to do now I should think
is to come over here for another spell & do himself
properly. Unless he too has fallen by the wayside &
been picked up by some girl.

I see that the N.Z. govt, going mad as usual
at the mere mention of the word Communist, has banned
Communist literature. I have a jolly good mind to send out
a parcel of the stuff to Daddy, just to get a good old
row going. But I suppose he would deliver it up to
the cops like a lamb & pay a good stiff fine & a bit more
to keep his name out of the papers. God! that govt does
make me sick. As for the fools here, they blow open
& drill open safes & God knows what & kick up enough
to start another war, & publish a white paper to
show what horrible inroads Communist propaganda
page 10 is making on the heart of the Empire, & lo! & behold!
it boils down to the drunken adventures of three or four
beery sailors on a Rus Soviet line of steamers who get
sacked for refusing to do their work. Pathetic
nonsense. No one doubts the existence of stupid Commun-
tomfoolery, but the stupid — (fill in to taste)
tomfoolery of this govt is a thing that which must be
seen at close quarters to be believed. Jinx Jix seems to be
an amiable muddle-headed unbalanced scaremonger, & Birkenhead
a ferocious & clever blackguard; & these are the people who
run their party. Baldwin & Steel-Maitland were against
the [unclear: I.O.] Bill; but the thing goes merrily through with
[unclear: changing] mechanical majorities, in hardly so fatuous
a shape as it first appeared, but still stupid & vicious
enough. If they'd only get on t with something that
really needed doing! And here you get NZ & Canada
rushing in & making fools of themselves — why in blazes
can't they get on with the business of the world? However
perhaps that's a bit too much to ask of any fool that has
a chance to mark time & make a stupid noise. It is
very depressing though.

On this gloomy note I shall close. Give my
love to Auntie, who I hope is bearing up bravely
& all other aunts & relatives, nephews, nieces, grand-
daughters & godsons etc. I trust Auntie Win is enjoy-
her usual health & resilient spirits. I don't
think I have any message for Frannie this time.

Yours with love