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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 29 June 1927

page 1

My dear Mummy,

About the most salient thing to record this
trip, anyhow the one most immediately present to my mind, is
that I am in a bad temper, having spent the last three days in
trying to bring up the notes to my Captain Hobson thesis to the require-
of modern historical research, & being still some way off
fixing them. 195 of the cursed things, the place of origin of which
I had to find all over again & put on record. If that silly
ass F.P. knew 1/10 of what he ought to know I should have
been saved all this mucking about & probably got a good
many more marks from old Grant for the thing. Cripes!
if I had a student who gave such rotten references I'd put
in the boot good & hard. And after doing all this
messing round I'd [sic: I] don't suppose the blooming thing will
get printed. There are some good jokes in it, though, which
puzzle De Kievriel sorely, as he doesn't go too much on humour.
Blast F.P., I say. I had a note from one of the girls who got
honours in the last exam. — she said he put it all down to
his own efforts; said he was very pleased when he saw the results,
but rather surprised, as he didn't think they took their work
seriously enough; which coming from him was pretty blatant.
She got her highest marks in Political Theory, too (which I
used to teach); if they all did the same it would be
considerable satisfaction. Gosh, he makes me sick.
page 2 Your letter of May 22 to hand, describing the virtues of
Mary, how Daddy took Mary out for a ride in her pram,
Auntie's admiration for Mary, Mary's drinking of bath water,
Mary's teeth (2) etc etc etc., all of which is duly noted &
card-indexed for future reference. While we are on the
subject of relatives, I got 5/- from Geoffrey & a letter from
Keith, which I was sorry to note contained no cash, or if
it did I have since spent same & forgotten all about it; you
might thank all concerned. You say you think it would
be a most wonderful thing to have the faith that the S.A. Booth
tribe have & had — Why? Any damn fool who cares to
dope himself can have it. Anyone would think you were
a whited sepulchere [sic: sepulchre] of scepticism to hear you talk. Gosh!
The faith you've displayed in all sorts of things even
in my experience I bet transcends any thing merely
religious & Booth-like. Ordinary good Christian religion's
not good enough for you & Auntie & Auntie Nancy — you've
got to nail your beliefs to whole-meal bread or a new
Bible or a patent way of saying your prayers. The trouble
with you is that the river of your faith is always at
flood-tide & keeps overflowing its banks, like a Mississipi [sic: Mississippi]
perpetually in the rainy season, so that you're always
breaking out in a fresh place. You're the last person
who should lament your lack of faith. So why get so
mournful just because you can't get washed in the blood
of the lamb.

What's all this about a red birth-mark? More faith on
page 3 your part I suppose, for I never knew I had one & I can't see
it yet, though I did have my haircut on Saturday. Thank
you for the hints on visiting Southampton, correct party conversa-
on ailing uncles etc; I hope to get down there sometime,
but I don't know when. We get our washing done by
taking it to the Laundry, or letting the laundry come for
it. It only costs 2/- – 2/6 a week, but they are death
to socks & shirts. After about two immersions the
best & longest sock hardly reaches up to your calf,
while shirt-collars are always starched to knife-
board stiffness. You generally cut your throat
every Monday morning. Collars break up pretty rapid-
, too. God knows what they do to them. Suggestion
re Xian Science Monitor duly noted; but I never have
time to write anything at all these days except history
notes & letters, so you needn't expect a source of revenue
or fame to open up there. One of the few advantages of
living in N.Z. is that you'veyou're comparatively free from
watching the mails. Thanks to Daddy for worrying
about Times cash; let it slide if too much trouble. Very
gratifying to hear that A.M. has now changed her appearance
so completely. Stupid extravaganza fiasco also noted.
Thanks for cuttings, tragic & otherwise. Seem to have been
a lot of coves counted out round about Easter; ah, well,
there's worse ways of pegging out.

Heaven knows what I've done the last fortnight,
so I'd better tell you what I'm going to do. The
page 4 summer term is over & I'm taking about six weeks off.
These two girls Ross & de K & I have been buzzing
round with lately were going to Europe for a month,
starting with Holland, & as de K knows Holland
pretty well & has people there he said he would
take them round for a week. I was going over to
Paris for a while to see my cobbers there, so de K.
said why not come to Holland too & go to France
via Belgium? So we settled on that. Then we
were fixing up the Holland itinerary one night & I
mentioned that [gap — reason: unclear] Pope had recommended me
very enthusiastically to go to Vienna, at which
Helen (Allen) said, well, why not come? So
de K gazed at each other & our bank balances & scratched
our heads & said Well, anyhow, why not? So we
straightaway got a Continental time-table & worked
things out till 1.30am. We are going over to Rotter-
on Saturday night (July 2) & picking up de K there;
making the Hague or Amsterdam our headquarters &
bugging over the country day by day for about a week,
then going to Brussels, then to Cologne, thence up the
Rhine to Coblenz, & by devious ways across Germany
to Vienna, where we are staying for a while, then to
Budapest for a few days & to have a squiz at the blue
Danube, then back to Salzburg to get to the musical festival
if possible, then to Munich to hear Tristan & Isolde
without fail, then to Paris where the party breaks up &
page 5 as at present planner planned I put in about a fortnight
with Espiner & Henning. I may go over to Paris again
at Christmas. One thing I'm certain of I won't spend
it listening to Father Johnson, or wasting good argument
on Manchester either. Old Espiner is getting a bit home-
, I gather. He has got a job as lecteur d'Anglais
at the Sorbonne. Of course you will know what that
means. I may pick up a collection of up to date
French literature for you while I am there. Time you
had a change from Jane Austen, I think. You might
think this trip would bankrupt anyone, but the
beauty of it is, that the whole af fare from here
to Budapest & back amounts to no more than
£13..6..8. Of course that is third most of the way,
second for one or two long spells by night only. Also
it doesn't include side-shows. But we reckon we
can do the whole month (scheduled to reach Paris
on July 31) for £35 at the outside. Then back to
London to gaze hungrily at books for a year, I suppose.
I don't see myself going up to the Lakes with old
P. Phillips in September, though. I think I'll go &
sponge on Auntie Jeanne for a week too, & take some books
down. Well, so much for holiday plans. It's a bit
stiff for a bloke to have to become a tourist in his old
age, but beggars cannot be choosers, & if I'm only to be
here for two years I'll cram in every darn thing
I can digest. One long English Christmas. One
page 6 thing certain — plenty of time to recuperate. By the way
I shall probably refer to these people in the future, for
brevity as H, A. (Adelaide MacDonald) & de K or Dicky,
(though his name is Cornelius William). Ross being merely
an Englishman who lives here isn't able to come, much
to our sorrow. Still he's got a lifetime to wander round
in. If you don't hear from me for a while you
will know what's happened, though I shall do my best
to catch some sort of a mail sometimes. It may go
via Suez though, in which case there will be
some irregularity. You can resume addressing letters
to Brunswick Square, as we are not leaving the room.
Negotiations with our landlady ended in her knocking
it down to 25/- a week for 6 weeks, which is about
5/- too much anyhow at any time. We save a
bit in time & trouble if not in cash, & perhaps in
cash as we would have to store a good deal of stuff,
& she makes a jolly good thing out of us (as she is doing
all the while) for her rooms are emptying now for
the summer & if we left 50 6 1 she wouldn't get in
anybody else. She thinks we're nice boys & boys;
which maybe (a) diplomacy or (b) evidence of good taste.
A hard old cow.

I have been to no concerts & no plays; the only show
I have been to was a marionette show which was good
stuff; run by Dagos who have had the business in the
family for about 300 years — anyhow they're pretty
page 7 clever at it. Opera, vaudeville, highbrow concert going[gap — reason: unclear]
ballet dancing, you get it all in the same g programme
I think our most exciting day was that of our river-
party — one of my brainy suggestions (the party, not the
day) We had it a couple of Fridays ago, picking a Friday
so as to get the river to ourselves. Thursday of course was
a perfect day & Saturday very passable. Saturday broke
very gloomy, but & the only one of us who took the trouble
to dress up in whites was de K, who wore a beautiful
cool Johannesburg summer suit. However on his way
down to the station a small yelled "Optimist!" to him
& he turned into a shop & bought a mackintosh. It poured
all through the morning, but we took shelter in tubes
& trains & by the time we got to Hampton [gap — reason: unclear] we thought
we might as well be mad so we sniffed round a
boat shed for a boat. They didn't have a boat with
a cover, & as Ross said he had been in a punt once
before we tried a punt. Well, a more stupid thing
I never struck before in my life. The impossible to steer,
impossible to paddle. I didn't try the pole myself, after seeing
a strong man like de K struggling like a child or a lunatic, but
after trying to keep the blasted thing in a straight line with a
paddle from the rear (I am having a pretty hard time writing
this letter as Duncan has just got intoxicated on Georgian Poetry
& is roaring like a bull & banging the table at intervals, blast
him ) — what with punts & drunken sociologists life can be
very difficult) Anyhow we got the punt round the corner
page 8 from the boathouse, narrowly escaping death at the hands
of ferry-boats about 4 times & then pulled down the roof &
put in the rest of the afternoon feeding. By jingo! The
Canadians & Americans know a thing or two about sandwiches.
What they provided were pretty exciting, but to hear them
swopping favourite combinations you would think the
elaboration of sandwiches was the ultimate end of man.
Then I took a large quantity of the very best cherries, &
Dicky bananas & Ross a pile of apple turnovers his mother
contributed, so on the whole we did pretty well. Then
after swopping lies for a while we came back & had
tea at a 14th century shop, missed a train, & got back
to London to find it raining again. The night after we
went out to Ross's for a festive evening & it rained again.
And yesterday & today it has been raining again with una-
vigour. Such is the heart of an English summer.
It will be a pity when this crowd of ours breaks up; but
de K has got a job in Johannesburg, & G. at [unclear: Torants] & Ross
is going to a Training College next term; so existence will
be darkened for a bit. Still you never know — a man can
always do a bit of work if the worst comes to the worst.

Did you ever read any of Henry Lawson's stuff? I have
been reading While the Billy Boils lately & it's good stuff.
There are two series just come out in the Traveller's Library.
Only colonial writing I ever read that got there; no waste
words, no padding. not much description; but it couldn't
have been written anywhere but in N.Z. or & Australia. A far
page 9 cry from that to K. Mansfield. I have bought Ludwig's Napoleon too —
or rather I have got it from [unclear: Bumpus's] on appro, so I suppose I
shall keep it. I reckon I deserve a birthday present from myself
anyhow. He is turning out good stuff, that bloke. £1000 a year
is the minimum they ought to allow travelling sho scholars, though.

I have been to the Tate Gallery again. G. F. Watts ought to
have been drowned in his bath at birth. Monstrous that a man
should have been allowed to go on painting such drivel into such
extereme old age. And to get the O.M. into the bargain. Well, I'm
dashed if I'll accept the thing after that. He ought to have been
a house-painter. Turner is another cove who ought to have
died the death. They have some good sculpture here, though; & I am
getting a liking for Blake.

Barker is leaving King's College & going to Cambridge
as Professor of Political Science. Good man, I should have liked
to have known him better. Generally the way, — you get bored with the
duds from everlasting association, & the good men get shifted

The Government is doing batty things again. They're
about as silly as the silliest crowd you could meet in the N.Z.
parliament. They're bringing in a House of Lords reform Bill
now as a bulwark against the Reds which is so farcical
as at to get below laughing point. Also pretty dangerous if it
gets through. I may send out an Observer article by Garvin
for Daddy's benefit. They seem to be like Coates (as I am told
Coates is) — fiercely determined to get pushed out of office as soon
as it is humanly possible to do so. Another little stunt was to
page 10 refuse passports to a party of little Communists to go overland
to Russia to inspect the wonders of Bolshevism; so that they merely
went by boat. Of course it may have been some satisfaction to
Birkenhead & Co to make the kids Communist kids sea-sick;
& no doubt that is a considerable triumph of the forces of law
& order in Western civilization. But I believe I mentioned
this in my last letter. Pity they can't do something that
really matters. Other events we have had recently have been
the return of the Dook [sic: Duke] & Duchess of York & the eclipse of the
sun, neither of which I saw. The D & D came back in
pouring rain, & as soon as they hove in sight every umbrella
in a crowd of heaven knows how many thousands outside
Buckingham Palace & their town house came down amid
cheering & torrents of water. What a mentality! N.Z. has
nothing for loyalty on the millions of mutts who live
in this blooming place. If God the Father drove up
Whitehall in a thunderstorm they couldn't display more
reverence. I hope a lot of them got pneumonia, that's all.
They cleared the road outside the House of Parl. & some
rough Labour member couldn't get past the police into
the House. He said (in asking the speaker to look after the privileges of M.P.s) he wouldn't have minded walking
around the block if it had been for anything import-
& the roof nearly fell in on him — amid loud
cries of Order! Order! Well, well, blasphemy will get
its reward some day. England will go red on about
the year 7,551. Tell old Geddes that Old England is
Sound at the core & will Pull Through. I now go to bed.
page 11 July 1. Went to a couple of Strindberg plays last night —
The Stranger & The Spook Sonata. I rarely if ever have
seen anything battier than this last in my life. Very in-
though. I suppose you will read about it in
some of the reviews, so I need say no more. You never
felt that it was merely silly though. Tell Mrs Hannah to
get the Repertory mob to turn it on next & make a name
for themselves. No good being a Repertory theatre if you
don't do batty things occasionally as well as milk & water
Shaw & Co. And I have spent most of today tearing round
getting visas & having my passport endorsed & so forth, at
a cost of 4 hours solid hard work & 33/-. Haven't had
any lunch yet & it is 7pm. Wrote a new introduction
yesterday to my Hobson thesis which contains several jokes
destined to become immortal & is not on the whole un-
I flatter myself of the pen of the greatest English
prosateur of the century. I now copy out to full fill up
space, my great poem on Salad, which ought to please you for
its sentiments, even if not as a work of art.

Fragment on Salad
Of all the foods the earth produces
Each has its own peculiar uses
Spuds are excellent for starch
Beer is good for throats that parch
Eggs are specially rich in protein
Cherries good when taken boatin',
Apples, so the wise men say,
Keep avaricious quacks away
Bread if whole-meal has its graces
And should be eaten in all cases
page 12 Cheese & jam in various fashions
Minister to human passions
Carrots & the Brussels sprout
Are comforting without a doubt
But when we come to think of what
Is really good & what is not
There is no food for man's inside
To beat a salad in its pride.
Consider how the salad grows
Into dark earth it digs its toes
And in due time the urgent spring
Brings the young lettuce glorying
With red tomatoes in their prime
To greet the joyful salad time
And all the other things which may
Be thrown into a salad, they
By kindly action of the sun
Appear in beauty every one,
Into the salad bowl they fall
And golden dressing crowns them all.
And what the beneficial task
Of salad? we may justly ask
It clears the blood & gives the prize
Of merry sparkle to the eyes
Presents the happy glow & bloom
Of health to cheeks long lost in gloom
Inspires the step & tilts the chin
And makes the works go well within.
The virtues of the salad I
Could duly instance & apply
Till all the vault of heaven rang
Loud with the epic song I sang.
Enough! What [unclear: boots] it? 'tis enough!
And * *'s salad is the stuff.

* * fill in to taste with the name of maker of salad.

Punctuate & recite to
Gramaphone [sic: Gramophone], musical,
Health week &
Broadcasting Rights

The rain is

Well, so long. Dashed if I know when I shall be able
to write to Auntie to wish her many happy returns. You might
do so for me in the meantime.

Love to all &
especially to yourself

from Jack