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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 17 October, 1927

page 1
21 Brunswick Square
London W.C.1

My dear Mummy,

The mail has been closing on Friday
for a long while, but this week it apparently closes on Tuesday,
so here I am on Monday night, having just woken up to
this fact, writing for dear life, & with only 10 days to
write up, so prepare for a short letter. I was of
course very glad to get yours, to see that spring was arriving,
& that you were feeling a lot better. You seem very pleased
that I took in the Musée Plantin, which is not in
a Wanderer in Holland — this however is hardly E.V. Lucas'
fault, as the Museum is in Antwerp, which is in
Belgium. Of course he might have put it in the same
book, but then either the Dutch or the Belgians would
have taken it as a national insult & there would
have been a war. Still I saw it all right. I was
glad to see you had a visit from Marjorie Wiren — why call
her Mrs Archie? One does one's best to forget that she has a hus-
. Frannie seems to have a lot of my cobbers visiting her —
you say that May & Elsie Holmes were going — I hope they
are all speaking up for me in my absence & doing their
best to inprove the impression I made for myself. — As for
those blooming socks, yes I collected them (& a fat lot of good
they are to me, too thin to wear) & wrote a most thankful letter
page 2 to Auntie Laura for some about 9 months ago or more. To
you, I believe, as I couldn't remember the address. However
if you or she never got it, I suppose I had better write
another, as I gather the family is feeling sore about it. Though
I'm sure that if I waited till January both socks & the
letter would do for next Christmas, & save us both a lot of
trouble. By the way I sent Auntie Laura a Xmas card.
(or was it a calendar?) so long ago as last November, for
which I have as yet received no acknowledgement. Noblesse
oblige. — I am glad to see you are getting some new
records. I enclose a little cutting which may cheer you in
this respect. How is Dick getting along in the gramaphone
trade? Auntie Jeanne was telling me the Patersons were
thinking of giving up the picture part of their business, so I
gather he is getting along all right. — Your Tibetan tea sounds
worth trying & I may do so some day. As you request I
studiously refrain from commenting on Auntie's adventures
in practical psychology. Though I should have thought she
could have got a good many buckshee hints from Ern
to be going on with. I hope she won't greet me with
one of these overpowering personalities if I come back, &
knock me off the end of the wharf with the high-gear
warmth of her greeting — this would be an additional reason
for staying away. I am also glad to hear that Auntie is
giving the piano some work to do. I shouldn't mind
getting at that piano for an hour or two myself.
I see Daddy has been going back to work at night — I thought
page 3 the Doctor said he would have to cut it out? And that he had
a new cove to help him? He will be having another crash if he
isn't careful. You seem to be getting a good many fine
weekends — what's happened to the weather? It hasn't rained
here either for more than a week — I suppose a sun spot has come
loose somewhere, with happy results to the rest of the solar
universe. — I hear from Bill Jolliffe that Keith's flat isn't a
bad joint, so I dare say they will do all right there — Mrs.
Jolliffe is a very good sort. It will be a pretty small flat,
though as I remember it — still Bill says they [unclear: th] have built on
to each end. Hell, I might be coming along to Frannie's back
door cadging a shake-down myself one of these days, so I
hereby give her fair warning. Many thanks for Daddy's descrip-
of Machen's book, which seems to hit off the matter pretty
well — what do you think of his classing Vanity Fair as "artifice"
only? Of course it is one of the classics I haven't read, so I
can't say anything. — I am very glad you have chucked in
your Aged Needy job, & I think this concludes my notice
of your letter; please note same is less facetious than
usual; so I dare say it may be put even in Frannie's
hands with safety.

Well, as you ask after the cake, I must thank you
again for that noble article, of which there is still
a little bit left. We have found three 3ds so far, but please
note that Australian 3ds are no good in this country except
to give to pavement artists, which is adding insult to injury
page 4 in a capitalist country. The biscuits turned up with
Bill Jolliffe last Friday, & a refreshing sight it was to
see both. Bill was only in London for a day, &
went straight up to Edinburgh; however he looked
me up in the P.R.O. under the guidance of Mr R.M.
Campbell & I took charge of him for the rest of the
afternoon & evening. He is a bright lad, & I gave
him much good advice for the advantage of his soul,
whether or not it will be required in Edinburgh.
So that's the last cove I shall have met for a few
months. If all the N.Z.ers you meet were like the
last two, it would be a pleasing thought; but whenever
I go into Jimmy Parr's I run into a crowd of low-brow
tourists with fur-coats who have just got back from
Surrey & had a lovely time, all on the look out for
tickets for this or that, or waiting to shake Jimmy Parr's
sacrosanct hand. The place is full of what I will not,
for politeness sake, call lying circulars, but may perhaps
describe as publications projecting a rose-tinted view of
life in the Britain of the South for the emigrant & retired
army officer. "Yes," says one of the lady staff in my
hearing to an anxious enquirer, "You'll find that every
town has a first-class girls' school — absolutely first-
class." At which I said to myself, My oath! &
left. However all this isn't of much account as I was
really talking about Bill & biscuits. I must write a
special letter to Auntie to thank her for her considerable
page 5 share in this magnificent enterprise, & to hint that she find
a suitable traveller every month. By the way, both the
cake & the biscuits arrived as good as new — I could almost
taste the gas out of the oven in the biscuits. They go down well.
Our co-op cobber from Durham, Joe Goodwin, insisted
that the biscuits were bannocks but finally compromised
& gave it his considered opinion that if they had a
little bit more milk in they would be bannocks. So I
let it go at that. Anyhow he thought they were very fine.
The socks also that arrived with the biscuits were thou-rough
satisfactory also, & go very well with all
my trousers. I felt impelled on the strength of them to
go out & buy a new tie, which I did on Saturday at the
cost of 'arf a dollar, a very charming brownish confection
London must admit that at least I look chic round the
angles & below the collar, however the rest of me faces the
world. I think I mentioned the cardigan in my
last. I thank thee Lord that my Mother is not as other
Mothers but a considerable step above them.

I broke off just these to have a few biscuits &
some milk, as the hour grows late & midnight has just
[unclear: tinkled] out from the old church tower, or wherever our
chimes tinkle from, & I've a good way to go yet.

Three of us went to the Taming of the Shrew last
Monday at the Lyric Hammersmith, where the Old Vic
Coy has emigrated while their own place is being fixed
page 6 up. Not a very pleasant play, I think, but very well done.
Sybil Thorndike as Katherina & Lewis Casson as Petruchio.
They are doing the Merchant of Venice now; & as I have
not heard the quality of mercy strained or [gap — reason: unclear]
strained since Frediswyde Hunter Watts did it in my
learning I think I shall go some time. The London
Symphony Orchestra gave a concert tonight, but I was
not there. [unclear: Chalisgiven] was on in opera at the Albert
Hall last week, but I was not there. There have been
numerous other things lately, & I have not been there;
but the Leuen Quartet are starting a series of six
historical chamber-music concerts tomorrow night, &
I shall be there; as a matter of fact I have blown
19/- in on a season ticket. Two Mozart Recitals, one
Beethoven, one Schubert, one Brahms, & one of César Franck,
Debussy, & Ravel. They are getting in som the piano & some
wind-instruments for quintets & a Schubert octet too; so
things are looking all right pour moi till the end of Novem-
at any rate. I don't think I have been to
anything lately besides the play, except the first
lecture of a series that Graham Wallas is giving at the
School on Conscious Purpose in Society. So far
he has been very good without being exceptionally
brilliant. However he's getting on a bit now — He is a
humorous bloke, & doesn't seem to care for bishops
much. I think I shall hop into bed for a short
period now.
page 7

19/10/27. Well, the blooming mail didn't close yesterday
after all, so I seize an hour which is empty by some curious
chance to continue. Though why I should continue at all,
having written six good solid pages I don't know. Anyone who
wants more than six pages in a letter ought to be thoroughly ashamed
of himself & or perhaps I should say herself.

I went to the Leuen Quartet last night, & pretty good it
was. — tho two quartets & a clarinet quintet. The bloke who played
the Clarinet was Charles Draper, who plays on in the Brahms quintet
we have got on one of the records at home; & if you want to hear
the slow movt you can hear it, I think on about the first record
I bought, played by Casals & some other group, cello taking the place
of the Clarinet. You wouldn't know the clarinet as this cove plays
it. To-night I think I'll buzz down to the Kingsway Hall & hear
Laski start off the Fabian ball with a lecture on Victorian Democ-
. To-morrow night, God willing, if I don't go to the theatre,
I shall do some work. On Friday night I have a musical
date of some sort. While I am talking about music, I may
as well inform you, no doubt to your great delight, that I
went to church last Sunday. — [unclear: in] to the Temple, to hear the
music. Some wasn't bad, though the Anglican chanting gets
on my nerves badly; I left before the sermon & the
collection & wandered round the place, which looked extreme-
beautiful, as there were still almost as many leaves
on the trees as there were on the ground. You would like
King's Bench Walk & Fountain Court. I thought I might
page 8 go & live there, but unfortunately it is the dearest place in
London to get rooms in, so I hear, leaving Park Lane
panting hopelessly in the rear. So I dare say unless the
next Labour Govt makes me lord Chancellor I shall be
sticking in Brunswick Square.

I got another book by H.M. Tomlinson the other day
in a rather good little pocket library Heinemann have started —
the place is lousy with pocket libraries these days — Gifts of Fortune
by name; he seems to be getting better known by now. Though
I may say I was surprised to find out how ignorant most of
these English people over here are of their own literature. I am
always lending people things they've never heard of. I
also bought yesterday afternoon on the strength of your
recommendation, Bucolic Comedies which however I
have not read yet so I don't know whether your ecstasy
over "I had a mother-in-law" is justified. No doubt you
apply it to your own case & think that anything about
mothers-in-law must be good let alone grandmothers
of a few month's standing.

I had a yap to Newton the other day on the prospects
of jobs. He reckoned that 2ndary school teaching in England
wasn't a bad business, & gave you time for research; but I
am not to [sic: too] keen on kid-whacking. Also that the Colonial
Education Service was a good thing; it it would prob-
be in Africa somewhere, looking after the education
of the little niggers — organising, not teaching, except
native teachers. Rise to about £1200, retiring at end
page 9 of 20 years on £ 600 yr. And of course a cove would have
the opportunity of getting well browned up & wearing dinky
white clothes & a sun-helmet, or shorts; but somehow I don't
think it's my line. He told me to write to [unclear: Hight] & see if
he can tell me anything about N.Z. prospects. Which
doesn't seem much use, but I will do it. Of course, once
in N.Z. you're dead so far as history is concerned. On
most other things except books & tramping, as far as that goes.
I won't ask any of you to look for a job for me — seeing the
effect such had in Keithle's case. Though of course if
anything over £1500 falls vacant you needn't scruple to
cable. I had a letter from Espiner just now to say that
B-W had offered him a full-time job in 1929 at £400; but
he would be a mug to go back to N.Z. for a job & he knows it.
So I don't see much chance of B.W. getting him, unless every-
else falls through. I hear that bloke Strong is trying
to run the University now as well as everything else educa-
— the N.Z. education system, by the way, hasn't got
too good a reputation over here nowadays — too department-
, according to Newton, but I don't know much about
it. If Strong gives me [unclear: F.P's] job, I am prepared to stick
up for him once, although probably not twice.

Newton, curse the man, had a brilliant idea the other
day. I don't know whether I have ever told you that he
is inordinately proud of the fact that his seminar comes
from all over the world, that everybody in it knows
page 10 everybody else more or less familiarly, in contrast to the
other non-Imperial bodies in which the [unclear: frigid Englishry]
prevail. He got an enormous kick out of our summer
loaf through Europe & no doubt put it all down to his own
good influence. That's all right — but now he wants to
have a seminar dinner, & as he didn't want the idea to seem
to come from himself (so he said, though anybody could
see from the way in which he regarded it as cut & dried
that it did), he got me to propose it, which I did in a
nice little speech, carefully guarding myself from assault
however by saying that it had been suggested to me. So I
& three others were apptd to run the damned thing; luckily
we couldn't get hold of King's refectory where N wanted it
at first; so now we are going after a dago joint in
Soho somewhere that Helen A. knows — a bit flasher than
Paggioli's or Bertorelli's though. It seems a bit ironical
that I of all people should have come to this; but seeing
as how it has, it will go [unclear: hard] but we get a good feed
out of it, at any rate.

You will no doubt be pleased to hear that I have
lately been taking the mid-day meal at the Food
Reform Restaurant, Furnival St, near P.R.O. good & changecheap.
you can get full for [unclear: 11d].
Friday: Nothing much to add; we are all working like
horses getting de K's thesis in for him. A few cuttings

[unclear: With] love to all & especially yourself