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

page 1
21 Brunswick Square
London W.C.1

My dear Mummy,

Well, well, Christmas is coming & the
goose is getting fat Please put a penny in the old man's hat If you
haven't got a penny a ha'penny will do If you haven't got a ha'penny
God bless you ! And so say all of us. Here's luck & happy days
& such like greetings & a merry Christmas ball. I put in a
laborious morning task Saturday at Bumpus's getting getting you all
fixed up, except Auntie; now Auntie really is a problem; I
think I'll just have to send her out a postal order for a bob &
ask her to buy something expensive for herself. Go the limit, Auntie!
I'll say. I doubt whether you will get these books by Christmas
by the way, although they were posted last Monday — I hear they
go by parcel mail & I may have missed that — in which
case you will have all the joys of anticipation for a
week or two, & a sort of extra Christmas at the end of it. I
shall also be sending out sometime in the future for Daddy
a couple of pictures of his cobbler Erasamus, which I picked
up in Germany last time I was there, & for yourself a picture
by J B. Yeats, published by the Cuala Press, which gives an
authentic prophecy of my future. I made up a bit of poetry
to go with this    it goes thus:

Some coves grow up for to be Prime Ministers
And some, among whom I may cite Geoffery & Keith as
conspicuous examples, take up the load

page 2

Of marriage; but I will be a bloke that writes poetry
And walk along the road.

After all, there are few lives as happy, & after my time
here it will do me to retire for a while close to the breast
of Mother Nature (Jas Shaw Brown) or into the great stillness
(Rev J.E. Hale) & loaf & invite my soul for a bit. And a bloke
who can read his own poetry to himself need never be at a loss
for a source of innocent interest, amusement, & instruction.
While I am on that subject I hope you will like my
Christmas card of which I am also sending you a specimen.
The idea struck me all of a sudden like one night & I said
to Mac next time I saw him Mac, what about doing me
a little pickcher for this here poem? And he said Yes,
captain. The printing was done by the Cambridge Univ-
Press, McG. now being at Clare College & having them
well under his influence; the paper is a sort of Austrian
semi hand made, to find which we had to comb out London;
got it at Selfridge's finally. White paper doesn't look any
good & we wanted one that would give a good impression
of the bloke. He did a stunner one for himself too, a
reminiscence of his Spanish tour; I'm sorry I haven't one
to send out. There's no doubt that he shines at these little
woodblocks. I am sending out some of Berrie's
cards to Aunts, to. The people who published them
for the last year did not do any this time; so she only
had three designs printed as line-blocks, & has hand- page 3 coloured them. I am sending one to Auntie which you
will see. The other two were the usual child with cradle
& Flight into Egypt, which apparently command a greater
sale than charming little things like this, but then, as Sir
John Reith said in the words so much applauded by
Daddy, I am convinced that England is a profoundly
religious country. Anyhow the old ladies in the Trinley-
Felixstowe district appear to be. So much for the Yule tide
season. I hope I have not ommitted to notice anybody in tangible
form but then I at this distance of time & space I am getting
a bit mixed as to how many relatives I have & how they
are distinguished. As for nephews & nieces, I had to miss
them all out, for fear of noticing one & ommitting another, &
causing thereby ferocious pangs in the hearts of fond parents;
but if you send me a list of them, names, ages, sex, & all
other general information before I come home, I shall try
to find something for each & every lad & lass, in due order &
propriety: I suppose some of them are going to school by now.

I got a letter from Fay yesterday, saying he would pub-
my thesis with some excisions. This is what the cow says
“I think we should be glad to publish it, provided you are
willing that I should cut out a few sentences here & there which
are perhaps of a facetious nature & seem not quite appropiate to
me”. I'll say these blooming profs have a fine sense of the
dignity of history — here's a cove spends his days & nights in
labourishly thinking and humour & they want to cut it all out & say
page 4 it'll be an improvement. I've half a mind to tell him to go to
blazes & say no! I will not stoop to this! I'll go to the O.U.P who
have been bombarding me for months with imploring inquiries.
In any case, as he is going to send it to the printer as soon as I
let him know definitely, you can expect a presentation copy
in three or four months. I forgot to say there is to be a special
edition of 50 copies on Japanese vellum number & signed by the
author with a picture of him in the act of composition; it has
not yet been decided what the price will be but it will be some-
pretty big & orders will now be received by the under —
signed. By jingo : I must get them to send out a few copies
to W & T's & try to work off same on patriotic NZ students of
their country's history. Or perhaps it would be better to
send them to McGregor who caters for the high-brow popu-
. We shall see, & I had better have a yap to my publishers about
it. This Imperial studies series seems to be a bit of a washout,
Newton wants de K to fork out £150 to have his thesis published
in it — or perhaps he is only seeing how much he can take
him down for. If he gets 150 out of me he will do a
darn sight more than he's got any chance of doing. I think
I'll keep on sending my historical writings to Fay in bundles
of 100 foolscap pages & get them all published buckshee. Well,
anyhow that & the Xmas card comprises all our adventures
in that line for the last few weeks. Here's something
else though. I borrowed a Hansard (N.Z.) from Campbell
& read the report of the 2nd reading of the War Disabilities
page 5 Removal Bill which made me so fed up that I sat
down and wrote a long letter to the Post, about two columns
of it. I don't suppose they'll publish it, but there's just a
chance they will, as it will arrive somewhere about Xmas &
the Editor may feel sentimental. I want it to get into the
Post as their printing is the best; but I am asking the
Editor if it is no good to him to send it to Daddy; will
you therefore is [sic: if] there is nothing doing there send it to the
Dominion; if they also turn it down & you think it try
the Auckland Herald; if no good try any one else you like:
but a Wellington paper would be best. If no one will take
it give it to the Spike, who will be glad to get it; I should
like it to get into the Spike anyhow, & they wouldn't mind
reprinting it. If Ern is sub-editor he ought to be able
to fix this. Nobody gives a darn what a legislative Council-
says anyhow; but I dare say these aged half-wits are
representative of a few thousand NZers; so do your best
for me. I send out another copy of the letter to you
direct in case anything goes wrong with the one I send to
the Post. I might have made it shorter, but couldn't have
done so & got the effect I wanted. No bread would have
been better than half a loaf in this case.

I have been offered the chance of a job in a tentative
sort of war in S.Africa. A bloke is getting two years leave
from Rhodes University College, Grahamstown, so there is a two
years job going, which might become permanent. Newton has
page 6 something to do with it & offered to mention my name in
answer to an enquiry from the prof. So I said all right.
I don't know anything about it yet, screw, what I should
be teaching etc. But I hear that Grahamstown is a decent
place, small, but capital of the Eastern Province of the Cape, &
centre of education there; the Univ. Colege is the best in
S. Africa after Capetown. I shouldn't mind going there
at all for two years to see S. Africa & get first—rate
experience; I might be able to hop into F.P.'s job after it.
The catch is that the job starts next July; if I went
out then I should lose a whole summer & half a winter
here & in Europe; & I'm not so sure that I wouldn't
do better to knock round France in that time. I should
have to get my [unclear: t] my [sic: delete] thesis finished for certain by June, too.
I want to do this anyhow if possible; but I'm not shook
on rushing off immediately into a whirl of lectures, with
no time to prepare anything. If I could go out at the
end of the year it would just do me — that is, if I can't
pick up another schol or one of those Yank grants here.
I ought to stand a much better chance with something
published. What I should like to do would be to get a job
or a schol. in the States for a couple of years. I'm
sick of these cheap English sneers at Americans; when
it comes to a choice between interesting people give me
travelled colonists or Americans every time eg. McGrath,
Duncan, Helen. The average English male or female gives
page 7 a man the dingbats in comparison. I'm coming to the con-
that the States is one of the most important things to
study in this here world, [unclear: Babbilt & Elmarfanky] ridden as
it may be. It might be pretty batty in some ways, but I
doubt if on the whole it's worse than England or N.Z. I under-
the Foreign Relations Committee of the legislature is about on
the same level as the NZ leg Council. Well, I should like
to know what you think of all this business. Can you stand
my absence for a while longer? Or not? Put in the boot
if you think I ought to come back.

The foregoing seem to have been the most important
things that have happened recently. I haven't been for a single
concert this week owing to Xmas mails & such-like. There
was a first-rate Leuen concert last week, Schubert, including
an octet — string quartet, double-bass, horn, clarinet, &
bassoon. Well, you couldn't ask anything better than this.
One of the good choirs here the St. Michaels' Singers, was
having a four days orgy at the beginning of the last week &
finished up with Bach's B minor Mass, so I went to that &
dragged in a couple more. Then the Armistice night con-
was good — choral works by Stanford & Parry, & Elger's
Spirit of England, which he conducted himself; & it went well.
Then Sir H. Wood conducted Chopin's Funeral March — it sounds
better on the piano & the last movement, the choral part,
of the 9th Symphony. Balfour read Rericle's Funeral
Oration poetry well, except for falling over himself in
page 8 the middle & getting into a frightful mess, from which he
extract extricated himself ungracefully. An old codger he's
getting now. Sir Ian Hamilton [gap — reason: unclear] is a funny bird, with
a high pitched parade-ground tenor bark; quite the opposite
of anything I ever expected from him. He might with
advantage put in a bit of time polishing his voice as well
as his sentences. I think I said in mylast letter that he was
to read let us now praise etc. He snapped it. Funny
coves you meet over here. On Saturday afternoon I went to
St Martins & heard some good Bach stuff — they have
started their Saturday afternoon concerts again.

On Tuesday night we had this much heralded Seminar
diner, a flash affair, 4/- each. I you will be
pleased to hear, did all the secretariat & finanacial work,
sent out notices, collected the dibs & handed some over
to Madame with many flattering remarks. Besides
manhandling the piano for a while & the tune of swing
low sweet chariot & Johnny came down to Hilo, & telling my
famous joke. We had it in a little place off Soho Square
& went right through from Hors d'oevures via roast chicken &
coffee. You will see if you want to do a thing well you
can't do better than place it in the hands of me & my
young American cobber — she arranged the sequence of food.
Curse these things though — 4/- [gap — reason: unclear] would cover 4 days'
lunches at the Food Reform joint. I generally get a meal there
for 4d these days & spend what I save at Bertorelli's on
the evening meal. The soup there is the best I've tasted
page 9 since I left home.

I haven't read anything lately beyound a couple of things
in Garnett's “Twilight of the Gods” which is now out in another
of these 3/6 editions, Did you ever strike it? Some of it is
jolly good stuff. The Brook Kerith is out in a new edition,
extensively revised, according to the cover flap, or re-orchestrated,
according to George Moore, which I suppose means that about 2
words have been changed. Only 10/6 this time. I have at present
a copy on approval but haven't looked at it yet. except to see if
the type is straight on the page, which it isn't. W.H. Davies
has a new book of verse out, which is tripe. By a natural
transition of course I come to Govs' Instructions — I came to the
last one of my lot the other day bar one or two I haven't been
able to find, but I am still fishing for stuff I want & which
ought to be somewhere, though I don't know where, so far
without success. This is the sort of thing that annoys a cove. — I
got an invitation to the private view of Alfred G Hopkins' pottery
this year & went today at lunchtime. I haven't bought any
thing yet so cheer up; I may back on Saturday & blow in
a quid or two. He has evolved a red glaze, the first in the
history of salt-glazing & wanted me to fork out £100 for his
star specimen. No Alfie, I said, not today; but I shall write
home tonight & perphaps me Father will buy it for me Mother.
Well he seemed quite grateful for that, so if you want
it you had better send a cable. Tragic to be hard up in Bond
Street, ain't it? I think I might anticipate my Xmas mail
page 10 a bit. It's a thing I know I am safe with, with you anyhow, as
you don't mind a cove spending his money on anything as long
as he doesn't spend it on books.

I'm glad to note a pretty cheerful letter from you both,
I must say you displayed excellent taste in your birthday present
to Daddy; couldn't have given him a better thing. May it inspire
him & led lead him ever on to greater heights! Footprints or
face-prints) great men leave behind them etc. Your half of the
letter starts very characteristically “After Daddy's screed, there doesn't
seem much more to say.” Whichever of you starts second invar-
says that. You say also that you are astonished at
the amount of intoxicating liquor "all sorts of rubbish" I
have been absorbing. Wotcher getting at? Nothing that
wasn't of the best quality went down my throat; & my
dearest wish is to get back to Paris & Munich & get some
more of it. Never been drunk in my life. Always a
moderate drinker & know when to stop (NB. let this
get into the hands of the Dentons) Nothing doing with
Mrs Dr Bennet's cobber unless she forks out a good bit, me
being a busy man & a historian, not a mere [gap — reason: unclear]
(blast the word!) [gap — reason: unclear]. Anyhow she hasn't writen
to me yet. I am glad you are getting out into the
sum & that there is some sun to get out into — you seem to
be having a pretty good spring from all I hear.
The weather here varies from bad to worse with occasional
incursions into worst. Not much rain so far, but
the water in the morning pretty well gives you the
page 11 rigor mortis in your bath. It snowed in some parts of London
twice last week & this morning we had an excellent fog.
Still as long as it doesn't rain its all right. I shouldn't
mind hopping down the garden & looking round for a bit, or
having a sun bath of a Sunday morning. Not for the
dweller in Bloomsbury. Which reminds me — you say that
if I read a book on NZ by Pember Reeves I should want
to go back straight away. Funny thing he doesn't go back
himself, isn't it? He must have some objection to the coun-
he doesn't let escape into the book.

I tender special congratulations to Daddy (1) for taking
to shoes (2) for being elected a vice-patron (aof the
V.U.C Dramatic Club (this is a new subdivision of honour
to me — I suppose it means a bloke you can cadge books
from when you're too mean to buy them yourself) (3) on
being asked to join the Historical Society. He might like to read
my thesis to it, in sections, à la his old Sunday morning
sermons. Miss Newton would admire, anyhow. You
might give her my kind regards by the way. — I gather that
the kid who gets more like me the fatter she gets is Anne
Mary. It will get a bit embarrassing if any more of these
bear such a strong resemblence to their uncle.

I think I shall now stop, tendering the usual Yule tide
greetings to one & all, as I started off by doing. And espically
I send my love to you. Well, so long


page 12 P.S. Smashed the frame of my horn-rims last week. Four
days after smashed pince-nez. 12/6 for new hour-rims
frames, but a flasher pair than the old ones. Happy days!

   Space left here for the Reader to
   add her own notes. No, I'll
   add a bit of verse for you, not
   much good, except as a filler

   In all the squares the leaf-fires burn & burn;
   Among the trees the smoke drifts & is thinned
   While these brown multitudes are raked & turn
   To nothing but sweet smell, & haunt the wind.

   Spring, summer come, the town is bravely dressed
   In her new green, & shakes her lovely head;
   But now in autumn's mists that clothe her best
   She floats, & soon will be bereft & dead.

London, October 1927. Two blue identical German postage stamps. Handwritten text appears underneath "Illustrations given for mix." Illustrations given for mix.