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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 16 June 1927

page 1
P.S. My blazer bust under the sleeves
& I had to get it mended — 2/6: pretty
stiff! Could have done it myself
as well, too. This bleedin’ city.

My dear Mummy,

Your letter to hand, for which many
thanks; likewise a letter from Auntie & a highbrow production
from Ern. I got the wind up about these two, as they both
referred to cash herein enclosed, which was conspicuous
by its absence. However, when I opened yours, all was well,
& the world smiled once more. The difficulty in this
blooming place is to know what to spend 35/- on. Cutting out
ties, as which you suggest, as blasphemy, if you buy one book
you cut yourself out of about 2000 more; so all I have
got so far are three or four Travellers’ Library & such, which
don’t make up a very large sum, even at 3/6 each. All the
first rate things are about 21/- each, so the embarrassment
of choice is very painful; as a matter of act I shall prob-
arrive home with the dibs still tied up in a corner
of my handkerchief. For Christmas if you send me anything —
you imply you will — send Cash. That’s all I want, Cash. I
don’t suppose I’ll be able by then to send anybody anything,
so if you spread the news now it may save many optim-
souls from future disappointment. I duly note the
remarks on Mary, likewise on Peter — I was wondering how
he was getting on, or whether he had shook off his mortal
coil like his predecessors. No doubt you are feeling extremely
pleased with yourself for curing Old Hughie Mac in that
page 2 masterly fashion — it might have been better in some ways
if you had killed him off. But doctors are notoriously in-
of discrimination, especially quack ones. I don’t
want any of the cuttings kept — I send them out for your
delectation, & you can do what you like with them. Hang
on to all the programmes & such-like, though. Put my
letters in the copper if you like. Thanks for the cuttings
you have sent me. I’m sorry Daddy’s request for the
[unclear: Enemy] came too late — out of print & unobtainable so far.
Mac was very enthusiastic about it but I was unable to
afford it at the time; if I can get hold of one I shall
send it out. You will have seen by a previous letter
that I sanction the expenditure of 10/6 on my account in
memory of Sammy Palmer. I am glad to note that Geoffrey
& Theo are at last learning what it is to have a
University education. You never know when it will
come in useful. Now I with my extraordinary exper-
will be able confidently to turn out any number
of children as rapidly & confidently as newspaper articles,
but fair dinkum, if I were in their position I’d blanch
at the prospect of rearing one. You say it was the
Psychological aim — I suppose Ern read one of the
papers, being an expert. The whole three, more likely.
I should say with a bloke like Ern in the family you
ought to have a perfectly marvellous collection of grand-
. No doubt any he produces himself will perish
as little victims to the experimental study of genetic psychol-
page 3 ogy
; but if Keith & Geoffrey keep their kids at a safe dis-
no doubt they will be able to profit in every possible
way without running any of the dangers of research. I suppose
if Mary turns out as exceptional in her development as
you think I may expect to fail her in history at V.U.C.
some day. You’d better tell her to start now if she
wants to do at all well. If she has such a winsome
smile as you say you might take her up to J.P. right
away, & get a pass for her in advance; nothing like hopping
in while the going’s good. I’ve written that cow two
letters of valuable information & advice, but he hasn’t had
the decency even to thank me yet. Well, well, I think
that’s all I have by way of comment on incoming mails this
[unclear: trip]. I didn’t get any fruit-salad on my birthday, but I
did get a bit of chocolate cake & some coffee & a pansy
each from two charming lasses cobbers of mine whom I
was writing that might [gap — reason: unclear] to play the piano. Tell Frannie.
I notice she didn’t even send me many happy returns
of the day — a bloke doesn’t expect much from his sister-
in-law, but he would appreciate a civil word now &
again. As you don’t say anything to the contrary, I
assume she is still finding marriage a success; & I sup-
as long as she can keep Keithles well-pinned down she
will be satisfied. Feed the brute. Of course if she ever
wants any advice on one or more of the many aspects
of married life, which is really a difficult business, she
knows whom to come to. Tell ‘er. Every problem solved.
page 4 No cure, no charge. Compromises arranged. Trial marriages a
specialty. The Beaglehole Matrimonial Solution [unclear: Berean],
Brunswick Square W.C.1. Write Overseas Branch. Chronic cases
treated by Radio. Inclusive fee. If your marriage is a mess,
Come to us, we spell Success, Wives & husbands reconciled, Many
testimonials filed, Do not fail to try us, we, Are experts in
fei felicity. Tell ‘er.

I have now to discuss the fortnight’s activities, but after
that effort that seem [sic: seems] to be lost in a golden haze. The weather
has varied, but has been on the whole good, today really
hot, with a good old sun streaming down out of a clear
sky. There was a sort of [unclear: tramping] feel in the air & this
& the fact that I said good-bye to Jack Yeates yesterday on
his departure for NZ made me feel I wouldn’t mind
taking a trip out there myself for a visit. Still there is
plenty to do here yet. I suppose it will turn to freezing point
& rain like blazes tomorrow in the delightful way the weather
has here & do for our river party tomorrow. Our
private little international push who [unclear: trade] on one
another’s hospitality are going to conquer the Thames or
drown — a bright idea of mine, I may say. Then on
Saturday night we finish up our cycle of parties by
invading Ross’s & [gap — reason: unclear]as he has a mother & father in the
great tradition it ought to be a great occasion, to judge by
what we solitary colonials & Yanks have done off
our own bat. With this weather a bloke doesn’t feel
much like work, & indeed the summer term is near[gap — reason: unclear]ly
page 5 at an end, so I expect I shall be taking 6 weeks or
so off in the near future; but whether to hope [sic: hop] over to
France or knock round the British Isles exclusively I’m
dashed if I know. Life is full of these nuisances. You
could certainly put in a good while in England etc
seeing without things repeating themselves. A fortnight
ago was Whitsun weekend. We were going up to
the Cotswolds for a 3 day cycling trip, but I had to
buzz along to de Kiewiets on the Saturday night, so
we made it a Sunday & Monday affair only, &
buzzed down into Kent again. We, i.e. Lorrie
Richardson & I took Harold Holt, who borrowed
Duncan’s bike for the occasion, Duncan being on a
walking trip for a change (not from necessity,
but from choice). Harold hadn’t been near a bike for
about 10 years, & as we did about 150 miles or more
in the two days we nearly killed him. So he is
now on the point of buying a motor-bike from
which to see the country. He picked up L. at Grave-
& then struck south to Canterbury, which would
be a suitable place to retire to in old age or if you were
a parson. The old town gate is still standing, a
very hefty affair, flanked by solid stone towers, but
of course the Cathedral is the star item & we
walked all round it outside & inside as soon as a
Boy Scouts Church parade had got itself out of the
way. It is a good Cathedral, with some very beautiful
page 6 early stained-glass — one lovely round blue 13th century
window in particular. Also various tombs of big nobs
in days gone by; Archbishop Lanfranc (or it may have
been somebody else) q.v. in D.N.B. & Edward the Black
Prince, a few of whose belongings on exhibition looked
as if they would not be the worse for a dust up.
Also the spot marked with a special stone for the morbid
to stand on where the late à Becket bit the dust , as
every bloke who flouts his monarch should. You can
still follow up most of the old Pilgrims’ Way if you
want to; & I must do it some day, but this time we
kept to the roads. Just as we were finishing up a
service started, & Harold, who is unfortunately a
bit of a Y.M.C.A. lad, got bitten with a romantic desire
to hear it — the dinkum thing in the dinkum surroundings.
Naturally it was a dreadful affair — Church of England
in extremis — interminable chants & a young bird from
Oxford doing his best to impress the Archbishop with
his star sermon on the Holy Ghost. Being a polite
cove & well brought up I gave him five minutes to
elaborate the meaning of Holy Ghost & inspiration,
but he broke my spirit easily in that time & I was
driven to the guide book. However as the collection
was for the Society S.P.C.K. of which I disapprove, I didn’t
put anything into it. The collection We were very scantily
garbed too, & the breath of the Holy Ghost was pretty
chilly. However we got blessed in full state by Randall
page 7 # Organ was jolly good though — preliminary recital.

Cartman, & a grim old man he looks too, though pretty dodder-
on his pins. # By the time we got out of that church,
it was pretty near 8 o’clock & we were famishing. So
we [unclear: bogged] into a good tea at some temperance hotel joint
(girl who waited on us in charming black evening
dress — charming ensemble indeed; too good for a temp-
hotel) at the end of which it had started to
rain & was getting dark. But we sprang on our
bikes much revivified & got some miles from
Canterbury before it was properly dark, & hopped over
a fence & camped in some bird’s park under a
good widespreading tree. In the night the rain stopped
& it blew for a change, so we got cold & couldn’t even
wash ourselves. In all the miles I’ve been in Kent
I think the only water I’ve seen is the sea — no,
we did see a sort of miniature lake or large
pond coming back to London, but that was private
property, being the backyard, as it were, or perhaps the
front garden of a castle called Leeds Castle. Funny
sort of country. Not at all dry, either. Plenty of green
grass, & fine trees & hops & corn & all the usual ingred-
of a prosperous & cultivated landscape. In the
morning we saw that there was a cottage near & just
as we were leaving a small girl, about 2ft, tripped
over the meadow & piped up an invitation from mummy
to have a cup of tea. So we thus met the local
postman & family & had a moistener as well as some
page 8 improving conversation on the level of wages in the govt &
the 7.0. Bill. (Which reminds me that the latest
thing this godforsaken govt has done is to refuse passports
to a part of Communist (Br) kids to visit Russia —
which will neither keep them out of Russia, though it will
[gap — reason: unclear] make them late for the conference they were going to, nor
give them a more favourable opinion of the bourgeois
conservatives. Granted the Communists are mad, it does
seem a pity that these stupid colossi of malevolence & stupid-
, Birkenhead Fix & Co should turn England into
a lunatic asylum for themselves. Do you wonder
with raids & prohibitions & assassinations of ambassadors
& what not that the Bolshies get hysterical & kill off
their prisoners. What a blinking world!)

Anyhow we parted with the postman, who is
of the right colour, & had a great 8 or 9 miles to Dover.
Dover is a rotten place, with a notice on one side of a
pier Bathing Males Only same the other side Bathing
Females Only; so we spat on it & left it. Even the
cliffs were dirty. No wonder people even take to the
water to swim over to France to get away from it. We
then went to Folkestone, though we circled round & only
passed through the outskirts of that, close enough to get a
feed at a fish & chip joint (though as a matter of fact
we had egg & chips). We then found that having
already done 22 miles & stopped a lot it was about
½ past 1 & we were 68 miles from London. Well, we did
page 9 it all right, though I don’t believe Harold knows how;
indeed at Brunswick Sq Lorrie borrowed my lamp
& set off for the remaining 25 to Harpenden, where
she hangs out. We only made two or three stops, too;
once for cider at a wayside pub, once to revive
Harold with oranges & with a sight of the motorbikes
tearing past, & again for tea. You can travel a long
way on these roads without getting worn out if you
are in training. What get [sic: gets] me down are the blooming
cobbles in some parts of London, especially south of the
river, & in the provincial towns — they jar you to the
very teeth — I’d rather do ten miles in Kent than
one in Southwark. It started to rain in the middle
of the afternoon & increased steadily so that as we got
into London we nearly got swamped & washed away in
the gutter. A good trip though, to celebrate which I had
2d of [unclear: geyser] & a hot bath almost worthy of a civilised
country (I mean in bathing matters)

I think the other event of greatest note has been
Duncan’s Cake. His mother had a friend coming over
(this is a handy hint for you) & seized the opportunity to send
a magnificent cake about 3ft round, stuck full of
fruit & full-size nuts & with plenty of [unclear: dope] in it to
keep it fresh; & while it was on the way we spent a
very anxious time looking up the movements of shipping
in the paper & calculating distances run & time passed.
It got positively painful when the old girl failed to turn
page 10 up with the goods at the appointed meeting place, & D came
home a pale man. However it did turn up & I had to
carry it home from the School. After which D pro-
to collect some booze & a crowd of the lads, to
which I added some more of both & we spent a
wild hour or so at supper. It would have done you
good to see me toss off a 2lb jamjar full of cider.
The cows got through about 2/3 of the cake in the first
onslaught though, so we have been going steady to
make it last out ever since. The tragedy of the
business was that de Kiewiet brought his breakfast with
him, a bag of fruit which he chucked idly on one of
the beds, & tore back after he had gone cursing
like a trooper & turning the house upside down looking
for it. But alas! apparently it had gone west in
the general massacre, for no man ever found it.

I haven’t been out at all this week; I went to
Aida sometime ago with de K. Very good. Ingrid
Onegin singing one of the chief parts. There are a
good many things on just now, so I shall probably
be having a debauch next week, with no mail
[gap — reason: unclear] my hands. I am sending out by this mail some
B.M. postcards to Auntie Sis for her birthday — I’m blest if
I know what else to send Aunts — if they would come
over & choose something out of Peter Robinson’s or Liberty’s
it would be all right, but I am aghast at the
idea of picking out anything. It would have to pay page 11 duty in N.Z. too. I am sending them c/ of you, so
you might send them on or let her know

I have not read much lately — too many
visitors; I am writing this at the Institute to avoid
one now. And Harold comes & has lunch with me
every day now, so I can’t read them, he not being a
lad you like to treat cavalierly. I bought Maurice Baring’s
Lost Diaries the other day, as it came out in a cheap
edition, & I have read such a lot about it — 3/6 but not
worth more than a bob. That mild cultured humour.
Some of it very good, mind you e.g. George Washington &
Mrs John Milton. I have been reading Harrop’s
book too. He got hold of some good stuff all right,
but has not worked it up more than competently. From
the point of view of research however he doesn’t
seem to have left much to do that would be sig-
. I have got [unclear: Marais’s] book, which I have
not yet read, de Kiewiet collaring it as soon as
I had out the pages; so between them they ought
to about clean up the period. I may give my-
the pleasant task of writing up a history of N.Z.
from the monographs some day. My boss reckons I
am getting on all right, not that he knows much
about it, but even an ignorant favourable opinion
is cheering. It will be a damned hard thing to make
interesting, I think — not at all the appeal to the
general cultivated reader there is in the mud-
page 12 slinging
of the NZ [unclear: Coy]. However, we shall see.
A romantic imagination can do a lot with the
most unpromising stuff, granted examiners who
don’t peer to closely. And just remember that
even now I am the greatest living authority on
Colonial [unclear: Governors' Inductions] in the last ½ of the
18th & the first ½ of the 19th century, even if to be
such is of no conceivable use whatever. Still if
it extorts your admiration that is something, I suppose.

That is all that strikes my mind at present as
being worthy of record. Oh, I forgot to say that I was
driven by a positive craving for the Bard to buy a
complete Shakespeare the other day; since when of
course I have had no desire to read him whatever.
Cost me 10/- too. Still Duncan wanted to read Hamlet.
I will give you a race at reading him all through,
if you like. Also I am on a committee to run an
affair by way of pushing off the Sec. of the Institute,
a genial Scotchman called Meikle, who is going up
to Edinburgh as keeper of some collection or other, so
you see I am getting on in the social world [gap — reason: unclear]
as well as in the other departments of activity.
Ross’s fault, curse him. Still he has a very
decent mother. Well, good-bye. Give my love to
Auntie, to whom I shall try to write soon. Like-
to all other friends & dumb animals in the family.
And the same to you both.