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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 9 September 1927

page 1

My dear Mummy,

Not much to make a letter of out of
this trip, so be prepared for a short one. Anyhow I am
thinking of chucking up the writing of letters altogether, after
seeing that ghastly thing in the Spike. I thought I was sup-
to write good letters, but this is the sort of thing that
takes the skite out of a man. In future I can see my-
sitting down & putting in a week polishing up a
couple of pages. The Spike on the whole seems pretty poor
to me, the printing absolutely rotten for a start, & the proof-
reading if possible worse. And too much Fain; why
didn’t they put in one, or two good solid things about him
instead of maundering for pages in that hopeless 10th rate
sunday school way. He may be a silly goat, but there’s no
reason why the Spike should fall to the level of the Council,
or even the Professional Board. The foregoing sentences
I would not mind being printed. One or two fair
bits of verse I noticed, including one of Sammy Palmer’s
that I printed three or four years ago. I gather from
indications generally that V.U.C. is getting to be a pretty
poor place. I suppose Ern is doing his best to hold it
together. It’s a pity the Spike has to go off in the general rot, though.
The printing & get-up is really about the worst I have ever seen
page 2 I will now proceed to a more pleasant subject & answer your
letter. A. Wilkie seems to be going pretty strong, from what
you say. They are altering the Old Vic. at present but are starting
off their season at the Lyric Hammersmith next week, with
the Taming of the Shrew & Sybil Thorndike. I must buzz out
there. There is a Strindberg thing running here at present which
I must go to also — The Father; said to be exceedingly gloomy
but exceedingly good. Like other fathers. They run some tripe
of Barrie’s as a curtain raiser. I wish they would turn on a
season of good Barrie. Also some more Shaw. I like
the way Daddy spells Chloral Society — he’s not far wrong
either. As for their doing Aida — fair dinkum, they beat
me - which lower depth of half-wittedness can they possibly
touch? They’ll be going on to Tristan next. Why don’t you
write to the paper & suggest it? That eliminates the chorus altogether
except for one brief spasm in the first act. It ought to make
a strong appeal to the committee. My oath! are they under
the impression that after Elijah the world came to an end?
Wonderful, wonderful Chloral Union! And what are they going
to do now that old Temple White washes his hands of them? Get old
[unclear: Porter] back again, I suppose, & do Elijah once more. I have
now worked myself up to a point where no language I can
use to my Mother is adequate. — The reason that I am
the greatest living authority &c, &c, &c is that though I may
know damn little about the subject, nobody else knows
anything at all. The is how PhD’s are manufactured.
page 3 It is called widening the bounds of knowledge & I am a widener.
It doesn’t much matter whether it is worth while or not. You
just go on widening, & the university collects your money. If
Ern has any sense he will stay in N.Z. & marry a nice
girl like Frannie & teach experimental psychology in a kinder-
. Much more profitable & comfortable than research;
& think how much better a comfortable married life at Karori
is than the unhappy celibate academic one, with no one to
darn your socks or make tea for you! I didn’t mend my
blazer myself because I wanted it done carefully & proper-
& permanently, & though I do not doubt my capacity to sew up
holes I thought I would treat at least my blazer with
reverence. Of course the whole thing was a washout; the fabric
seems to be quite rotten; added to which I lent it to de K while
we were away, with the result that it got a terrific vent on each
side. He is a bigger cove than I am. Yes I do darn my
socks, though there is more darn than sock to some of them by
now. I’ll have to be biffing a few of them away soon.
Wotcher getting at? — not passing on any of my remarks on to Frannie
in case she gets her back up? I never heard of such a thing.
You’ll be telling me next she hasn’t got a sense of humour.
To think of the pearls of wisdom I have strung for that girl, &
you don’t even pass them on. Its not every bloke who would
go to all that trouble to look after the welfare of his sister-in-
law. I think I’d better turn my attention to Theo, a fine
pleasant girl with no nonsense about her. I am really pretty
page 4 disappointed in Frannie — I had a letter from Mrs Johnson
some time ago in which she said inter alia, “I suppose
you hear pretty often from the newly married couple”. Now I
ask you how many times Frannie has written to me since she
left London.[gap — reason: unclear] Has she written to me at all? I doubt it.
As a matter of fact she doesn’t seem to give two pins for my
existence, & here am I always thinking about her, always
writing about her, always striving [gap — reason: unclear] in some small way
to make her life brighter & better & more improving. And
you don’t even pass my messages on. If you only
realised how deadly boring married life can get you would
not abstain so carefully from introducing a little bit
of variety into the girls existence. It must be pretty ghastly
to have to come up to scratch day after day with a bloke
like Keithles. By the way I recommend Mencken’s In
Defence of Women to Frannie; it (a/ elevates women at the
expense of men & (b/ qu says a very excellent thing about profes-
of history. Or have I recommended it to her before.
I would send my copy out to you, only it still has to
go the rounds a good bit here; b by the time it is finished
with it will be pretty well worn away, I’m afraid, as
it is only a Tauchritz edition. He has a style that goes
round the corners on two wheels. I quote my young
friend W.M.A. — The household & large & variegated fringe of
friends are stirred to [unclear: amounted] excitement as Campbell’s boat
approaches. We don’t know what the boat is, so we can only
wait in breathless excitement & hope the Parcel hasn’t gone
page 5 west on the voyage. It was indeed a noble thought on
your part & noble work on Auntie’s, dangerous as it
may be to make such a statement previous to consumption.
I hope she put plenty of dope into it to keep it good & moist
over the intervening six weeks. — I regret to hear that
you have taken to your bed again. I was going to say
you had better stay there for the whole winter; but of course
by the time you get this you will be emerging from that state
& we shall be getting right into it. The trees are starting
to turn brown & the leaves to fall, & in a few more weeks we
shall be sticking on our overcoats for the six months spell.
I have not been to see JMR. yet, but I dare say I shall
be doing so soon. There is so much to do ,you understand.
I shall not go to see Miss Richmond, nor would I go near
the Unitarian hqs at any price. Once is quite enough. Except
of course for a Fabian lecture. There is another course
coming off soon. — I has a letter from Auntie Sis
reporting all well & blooming, including you, so I gather
you can’t be too bad. Please thank Auntie Sis when
convenient. I daresay she & all my other confounded aunts
will hear from me again at Christmas. That is, if
Berrie does any more Xmas cards. If not they will just have
to assume that I am thinking of them. Well I think that
that has answered all your numerous queries about socks
& so forth.

And now to give an account of myself. During the
page 6 last fortnight I have been (a/ working (b/ sleeping (c/ other-
enjoying myself. As you are not interested in
Canadian constitutional history, or lord Earl Grey’s defence
of the colonial policy of Lord John Russell’s administra-
, however initially important a landmark such may be
in the history of life & thought, I pass over (a). Likewise
I pass over (b) except to remark that like others of this
world’s good, I never seem to get enough of it. As for (c)
I now proceed to elaborate. The Proms have been going
steadily along with great success & biting criticism from
Earnest Newman, & I have been there off & on. — Not much
these weeks, owing to letters & other nuisances to be settled.
They played three of the Planets the other night — Mercury,
Saturn, & Jupiter; my word, they are good stuff. Our records
are pretty good so far as I remember. I have also heard
Brahms, Beethoven, Bach, Wagner, Mozart, Haydn, Handel,
& all the other [unclear: duds]. Symphonies, suites, concertos, & noisy
excerpts. The place is so crowded on some nights,
particularly Mondays when they do Wagner, that there
is a continuous stream of fainting people moving
or being moved[gap — reason: unclear] out of the prom part of the hall. It
is wretchedly ventilated. How the poor cows upon the
platform, who have to wear evening dress, get on I
can’t imagine. Let alone Sir Henry, who has to put
in more work than any of them. The Proms are
the only The concerts that have been going so far, though
the other orchestras are beginning to wake up & issue
page 7 their programmes for the season; & soon we shall be
in the midst of wild excitement again. Thank
heaven it won’t be as wearing as last year was, though,
the theatres are looking up to [sic: too], though most of the stuff they are
putting on at present is tripe.

Lorrie Richardson was down here last weekend
& we put him up on our floor overnight, after a long
& merry evening. He was going to Oxford to see Vera
Birdie Teader (from whom I had a visit at the Institute
by the way, during the week) about fixing up his brother
& somebody else som from V.U.C. coming over to London,
so he took in London on the way. I went to the
Wallace Collection on Saturday afternoon with H — they have
got some good stuff there, also some rotten stuff; my
little lace-maker is one of the best. Here I must diverge
to say that was the best thing Netscher ever did. I have
seen stacks of his stuff & it is very trivial & feeble compared
to that. After which she came to our place to tea,
plus Harold & Lorrie & de K. After which lengthy
meal we adjourned to her place where I preformed on
the piano with great vim. The only disadvantage there is
that you have to stop at the incredibly early hour of 10 p.m.
when the night is is so young as to be hardly born & people
are just warming up to pulling themselves together for the serious
business of the evening. The piano is quite a good Bechstein.
We swopped travel yarns & sociological & political dis-
page 8 cussion
& jokes & other lies. After we were thrown out we
came back here for a discussion on type-writers with practical
demonstrations by de K who is just now typing his thesis.
After which we threw him out & his type-writer after him
& went to bed. L. got a wire from V. Birdie putting
off the Oxford visit, so we hopped on our [unclear: marples] &
blew down into Surrey for the day — a very pleas-
place, once you get out of London — This of course
takes about 8 hours out of [unclear: G]. He is coming down again
tomorrow to say goodbye to Harold, who is hopping it
next Tuesday. You wouldn’t know the change in that
cove’s mentality since he struck London & (modestly) us.
He thought he would put in about a fortnight in London
& give England a brief lookover & then shake it’s dust off his
feet & depart for N.Z. home & beauty. And here he is after
three or four months cursing his fate & his lack of money,
hurling such biting criticism at N.Z. as I never thought
could come from the lips of man, & altogether cutting up
rough. A pity he can’t stay to pass the time of day
with Bill Jelliffe, but like a dutiful lad, he is putting what
little cash he has to spare into presents for the old folks at
home. I may say that if the little cash I have to spare
at he end of my time means a choice between an extra
week & the gratification of said old folks, they had better
not look forward with too lively an anticipation.
Luckily there is Woolworth’s, an admirable place for
household goods & artistic souvenirs alike. A great
page 9 feller Harold. Do you remember the lack of enthusiasm he
displayed at the party at our place when on the point of hopping
off? He has undergone a considerable change since then.
However, he’s he sort of cove who should settle down pretty

By the way, I owe the Hampstead Heath & an apology.
H & de K & I got fed up with work last Wednesday, the only
fine day of the summer, [gap — reason: unclear]hopped on a bus bound that
way & actually finished up by going to sleep in the in the sun
on some real grass. The place is bigger than I thought —
last time I was there half of it or more had skipped down
behind a bit of a hill & got lost. As it was a weekday there
were not so many fat men snoring in deck chairs, & as
the trees were still in lel leaf it did not look like one of
the less attractive suburbs of hell. It must in fact have
been a quite admirable place in the middle of the 18th
century or even later. It’s thoroughly enclosed now of
course. London will be reaching up to Manchester soon.
While a I am on the subject of the English countryside
I add another excursion, the Sunday before last, when Dun-
& I after a long spell away from our bikes buzzed
out to St Albans to see the abbey church. An interesting
place, but we nearly killed ourselves over the paltry 40
miles there & back. However I am thinking of riding
up to [unclear: Trimley] for the last week of the month of the vacation
& sponging on my relatives; or Auntie Jeanne will be
page 10 getting the impression that I don’t like her. You haven’t said
whether she has told you yet that I am a dear boy or not.
Not that you want telling, of course, or I for that matter.

I have read Katherine Mansfield’s Journal, just
published. There is some very good stuff in this. Also
one or two things about the Beauchamps which made me
chuckle evilly to myself. I gather that she would be not
at all the sort of person for the Beauchamps to be proud
of having produced. The introduction is rather interesting.
The fourth sentence could have been written by no one
but an Englishman. What a utterly wrong impression it
gives of N.Z. in five lines! A rotten shame she died
I really would like to know what the Beauchamps thought
of her. I see there are two vols. of letters to come out also.
I must get hold of the stories again. The only other
thing I have been reading is Havelock Ellis’s Impressions
& Comments, about which I am wildly enthusiastic.
My word, he can turn out beautiful prose. What a
wonderful even flow he has! And how he can use

I send Daddy fle felicitations on his birthday.
In the excitement of tearing round Europe I forgot your
32nd wedding day. I suppose you feel pretty experienced
married people now. Do you reckon the game is
worth the candle? I have also sent Daddy a small
book, hoping he has not been so tactless as to take my
previous advice & get it himself.

Love to all & sundry &
especially to yourself.