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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 23rd January, 1928

21 Brunswick Square
London W.C.1

My dear Mummy,

   If my writing is a good bit wonkier than
usual put it down to the fact that I have been writing for a good
deal of the last few days & typing for about a week before that.
For the same reason if I seem off the rails completely before I have
written more than 2 ½ pages you will know what has happened.
First of all, I was very much bucked on Saturday night to
get your letter & to find that you were so much better – that is
cheering indeed; & I do not doubt that by this time you are bug-
around in your trolley & the sun good-oh, complete with Paris
scarf, vanity-bag, & all other appropriate fal-lals, with panting
nurses tailing after you in vain. It was indeed a pleasure to get a
letter from you again, written moreover in ink; even although it
did look as if your nurse had restricted you to one page, & you
had determined to outwit her to the extent of getting more on one
page than had ever been got before. From all Daddy says I
gather Joan is a very efficient nurse indeed, & to her, for & on behalf
of the Brunswick Square branch of the family, I should like to ex-
my best thanks. Thank you yourself very much for the
Jane Austen quotations, which I am passing on to the proper
quarters — there are quite a number of them. I think you ought
to have kept a commonplace book – you'd have a nice lot of
tit bits to write in it – à la Emma's young protégée; I dare
page 2 say I might be able to compose some acrostics for you if you
did. I think I told you finished Emma; likewise Sense & Sen-
; & when I have finished the Mayor of Casterbridge & one
or two more things for a breathing-space I shall advance to Mans-
Park. Rotation of crops, as it were. No doubt Jane will
have a good deal of influence on my style, as you will see
when my thesis comes out. Jane Austen's Jurisprudence. I'm
glad you liked the scarf; having made such a great success
of that I of course feel impelled to rush over to Paris again
& buy something else. Still work being work, I'll have to
put it off till I'm over there in the natural course of events,
which won't be till the summer, I don't suppose. If you
don't wear it down the Quay for a while you can always
receive your visitors in it in the garden, of course. It is
rough luck that your weather has been so bad — you must
have had a Christmas something like ours, bar perhaps the
snow. I duly note Auntie Laura's & Uncle Ted's views on
the subject of eligible young men for their daughter &
quite agree that a Doctor would be a very nice cove to have
for a son-in-law. Why not a Doctor of Philosophy? But
perhaps they are too common these days. And of course a
job is an advantage for a cove to have in a way; but then
jobs are hard to come by these days; & anyhow on second
thoughts I don't know that it isn't a disgrace more
than anything else to have one. Look at me — I haven't
got a job, or any prospect of one; in fact whenever one's
offered I turn it down — & yet wouldn't any woman
page 3 be glad to have me marry into her family, if she
could get me? I tell you what Joan ought to do — she ought
to look around for a Mr Knightley, or even an Edward
Ferrars, some cove with the dibs, anyhow ; & then sedately angle
for him – why she might even get a Bill Small if she goes
at it hard enough! Look what Winnie did by just going
into the country and trimming hats for a while! And
surely there are rich birds just lined up in rows waiting
to be nursed back into life & love & happiness. But apparent-
these girls always go for the wrong cove, by a sort of instinct,
some dud who wants looking after & having his tie put straight
for him & being made presentable before being presented to the
family. Anyhow, I think Joan ought to go to Frannie & get
a good straight line of dope on the subject; she ought to know
the best & worst there is to be said on the subject, as she will
have been hitched up to Keith nearly a year when she you
get this — & God knows he was an unpromising enough
cove to take for better & for worse. Talking about Frannie
reminds me to suggest to you that you suggest to her that
she read Sense & Sensibility if she hasn't done so —
there seem to be a reflection of some of her own ideas on
Life, Love, & Marriage in the character of Marianne. I know
my mind was carried back irresistibly to some of our
family conversations in the kitchen at Cheetham Hill
last Christmas. There is of course the cardinal difference
that Frannie picked a young 'un, while Marianne had
page 4 an old 'un picked for her. But still, they both got married
in the end; & upon my soul, I doubt whether F. is any
better off than M. was. But of course, you'd better not sug-
that to Frannie. However my advice stands — trot
Joan along to her, & if possible Auntie Laura & Uncle Ted
as well, & I doubt not that some real juicy advice will pour
forth, straight from the cocoanut as it were.

As for Daddy's letter, I counted the pages & blinked,
& counted again: I handed them over to Duncan with the
simple remark, Count these, please, my boy; which he did, &
we both arrived at 5; after which I scratched my head &
whistled & opened the window & counted them again. But
it was 5 all right. So apparently the fountain-pen is sliding
over the paper a good deal faster these days than it used
to do. Glory be to God, however, whatever the reason. I
duly note his prophecy on the connection of the Rockefeller
fund & limited editions; however it would take the Rockefeller
fund itself to buy limited editions these days; at present I
am hesitating whether to buy a hefty tome, strictly unlimited
to as many copies as can possibly be sold, no doubt, on Karl
Marx's Interpretation of History. What a cove wants to do is
to come over here with about £500 ear-marked for books,
& then he could play around a bit on a few simple little
things. But by the time you've bought the daily spaghetti &
paid your fees & forked out 2/- for a World's Classic you're
pretty well up the spout. I might of course follow D'Arcy's
example (not Jane Austen's D!) & pawn my even dress- page 5 dress clothes; but then I should be out of it when Newton's annual
evening party for his seminar came around, unless I could
borrow enough of the dibs to get them out again. — I was
interested in Daddy's remarks about Barnes & the Bishops — he
is in trouble again, I see by the Times this morning, & the
other birds reckon he ain't played fair by them; he takes
things out of their context & lets the world into the things
the Bishops say when they are on their own, apparently;
Which you must admit is a dirty game, & one which no
Bishop should be expected to stand. They are trying to
rush the Prayer Book through Parliament again, with one
or two tin-pot alterations; it'll make me laugh if old
Jix gets up & stampedes his cobbers again. I can't see much
intellectual difference between the Anglo-Micks & the Protestant
Revolution die-hards myself — they're all morons. Talking
about Micks, it's rather ironical that old Macgregor should find
himself in a Methodist Book-Room, of all places. He was
the bloke who shocked Coventry & the vitals by turning Catholic
for love; & then going out & getting married in the lunch-
hour, to add to it. Some blokes will do anything for a
girl, even to hopping straight into hell.

A bit stiff about the library job, wasn't it? but I hope
something better will turn up. I don't know that it would have
been much of a catch in some ways — too much re-organ-
to do — about five years' work before a bloke could
sit back & go easy. What they ought to do is to put Miss page 6 Isaacs on to re-classifying it on the Dewey plan —then I
might come back & take it over myself. I don't doubt that
Daddy would have made a first-rate librarian. Anyhow
I noticed in a Dominion the other day down at Jimmy
Parrs that old Herb Baillie had pulled out of his job –
why not give that a go? But I suppose that'll go
to some half-wit out of the City Engineer's Office, or one
of the sub-assistant [unclear: wharfingers], or some the Superinten-
of the Timaru Fire-Brigade. — Well, well, & so poor
old gal Mrs Philp has cashed in too! a merry old soul she
was, & no mistake, with her grand piano & love for the boys.
Not too sorry to join Father Philp, perhaps. R.I.P. She had
one daughter off her hands, anyway, & I don't suppose it will be
long before the other finds a suitable harrier for the Great
Cross-Country Three-Legged Race. — As for Wgton College:
Creswell seems to have had a rather short spin ; but I dare
say old Uncle Charlie is about fed up with teaching blokes like
me this sort of thing three small line drawings
I asked him once what was the use of learning
maths, anyhow, and he said, well, if I didn't I might be a
roadmender; which was indubitably true; but here, apparently, I
have turned out an artist. I suppose he will be able to
devote the whole of his time to stargazing out of his little
observatory now; or perhaps writing his reminiscences.
Chapter I How & What I Taught the Beaglehole Family.
Chapter II Mathematical Principles of Stone-Breaking, or
Euclid & the Higher Life. As for Fritz, any college that
page 7 has lost him can pat itself on the back & Heaven help any school
he head-masters. God 'elp 'im, I'd say too, if he wasn't
past all help or hope. Let us turn to a pleasanter subject — perhaps
the Labour party. I hear from Tommy Hunter that they
would fly in at the next election if only they played their
cards properly; but apparently they are just as much duds
as the rest of our representatives. He says the trouble with
them is that they make their leaders follow them instead of
following their leaders, which is a pretty damning thing to
say about a modern politician. I dare say that if
Harry Holland got in & had Campbell for a private sec. he
would pull himself together a bit. I should laugh to
see old Peter Fraser take [unclear: Monkey] Wright's place as Minister
of Education, too. I was also interested in the jubilant
Post leader on the Samoan inquiry too; after discounting
the jubilation, however, it is pleasant to see Richardson come
out of it so well. You might send me over a copy of
the report, if it is printed. I dare say the business will
have given them all a hint to wake up & not talk through
their hats, Reform as well as Labour, & Liberal, if the
last Liberal hasn't got caught in the door & been squashed as he
walked out. I was glad to see that [unclear: Amery] put in the boot to
the Tourist boosters; a few more such speeches from [unclear: big] [unclear: lugs]
in the tourist line might do them good. I read an article
by Harper in the N.Z. Alpine Journal that [unclear: Rich Wiren] sent
me that seems to imply that the Hermitage people have gone page 8 to the pack completely, which isn't surprising, considering
what it was like when I was there. Get some of these
Tories off politics & they talk quite sound sense. [unclear: Amery]
seems one of the least bone-headed of the bunch, however. He
has also the acquisitive instincts which appeal to a [unclear: tramper]
de Keivriel was at some colonial dinner with him once; & when
the cigars were passed round he grabbed a whole bunch
& put them in his pocket to take home — for the butler &
his little boy, I suppose. — The University Club is rising
in the world, too, to entertain such coves. I suppose the
duds were well to the fore, too, our Arthur Faris K.C. & so

There hasn't been much doing here — not even much
rain — except of course the death of Hardy. I enclose a
few [unclear: ramblings] on same, & a copy of the Funeral Service which
you may like to have. Helen & I went to the service & by a
great stroke of luck got in to the Poet's Corner all among the
nobs. It was quite a simple but very impressive affair, &
any cove ought to be glad to die to have such pall-bearers.
A fine-looking bloke is Galsworthy, likewise Ramsay Madonald &
Baldwin short & ugly —perhaps I should say [unclear: excessively] homely;
Low gets him well in the Evening Standard. But Shaw looks
as impressive as anybody I've seen. Barrie a wee little cove.
I thought of doing an article for one of the W'gton papers, but
couldn't be bothered, thinking (a) that they wouldn't print it
(b) wouldn't pay me if they did. Also I haven't had time.
Might do it yet & send it out to C.Q.P. as you say he is now
page 9 on the Dominion. The Abbey was full & the choir & organ first-
rate; one of my favourite Bach preludes on the organ but
played too fast. I stood, of all places to stand at the burial of
Hardy, under the bust of Longfellow. Now people are writing to the
Times to complain of the inscription on the temporary stone “Thos.
Hardy O.M.” instead of “Thomas”. Which is just about what you
might expect of the Abbey people. Gosse had a good article
in the Sunday Times about him, which I lent to somebody; but
I will try & get it back before the mail goes. Squire also
had a fairly good article in the Observer, a copy of which I
shall try to get hold of for you some time. I don't know whether
you had the list of pall-bearers cabled out to you, or even
the news of his death, as he wasn't a murderer or a second
cousin of the King's, House guards retired — Gorse, Galsworthy,
Shaw, Barrie, Kipling, Housman, Baldwin, Macdonald, & a
bloke each from Oxford & Cambridge. Still it's all in the
cuttings. I got down on a few of the programmes, thinking they
might be acceptable bibliographical curiosities to some of you birds in N.Z. The
Turnbull Library might like one. It is not over-well printed,
as you can see.

Apart from that, there hasn't been much doing. Didn't
go to a single concert last week, & I can't remember any
the week before. Tried to get seats for the big performance
of Man & Superman & couldn't — booked up three weeks
ahead. A small crowd of us are going to see Lilac
Time next Monday — it is being revived here for a couple of
page 10 months. The new term has started — time does flick along.
I collected my last instalment of schol-money off [unclear: Joynt] on
Saturday — minus 25 quid which he hangs on to till I
put in a final satisfactory report. God bless 'im — he's a
gentle old feller, & invariably asks me the name of the
prof. I am working under & und unburdens his soul
about the business of getting the exam results fixed, what
with delayed mails & forms that haven't arrived to be
filled in & so forth. Had a letter from Fay saying that
the titles of my chapters were a bit too “poetic or dramatic”
for a series such as the Smith College series; so he had
altered them a bit. So he had, & cut out about three words.
He must be a bit of a goat. And perhaps thinks the
same about me. However the thing had gone to press all
right & I am expecting the proofs any time now, curse
them. I only get ten free copies; but can have as many
more as I like at cost price, about 2/- each. I am trying
to get him to unload a swag on to the N.Z. market — I
daresay W&T's would take them on if there was no con-
risk attached. He also said I could have a
separate cover for my copies if I took a lot & cared
to pay for it myself — about 8 or 10 dollars; so I told him
to go to blazes. The sample cover he sent over to me looked
all right; & the type very satisfactory. I dare say I could
sell 20 or 30 copies straight off if I was back in Wgton.
Might get Daddy to do it for me yet, & split the profits
with him; still we'll see what Fay says before we
page 11 embark in the retail trade ourselves. Too much bother
attached unless you have to do it. Still, I don't see
why I shouldn't plaster my name over the N.Z. firmament
for a bit — though it may not be worth plastering by the
time my jolly old editor is through with the poetic &
dramatic bits.

I am getting on with the writing of my thesis a bit.
And have taken to typing. I have typed out my intro-
, or rather a slightly amended version of the 3rd
rough draft of it, a carbon copy of which I send out for
Mummy to [unclear: try] over when she has finished with Mark
Twain & the older classics. It is pretty rough in patches
yet, & some of it may ultimately be thrown out; but I thought
you might like to see the sort of tripe I am turning out these
days. In any case it will be the only part of the
thing worth reading. I have nearly finished writing my
first chapter now; it is a good deal longer than the intro-
, so it looks as if the whole thing will be a hefty tome.
Any criticisms & suggestions will be given full and careful
consideration, but will not necessarily be adopted. I
dodge il them , anyhow, by admitting , as above , that it's still
pretty rough. More amusing to write than the rest of it will
be, anyhow; & I bet old Sir Charles Lucas will have to wear
a wet towel when he reads it to calm him down.

Well, this ought to get to you a few days after your
birthday. I wish you very many happy returns of same,
page 12 on account of which I send as much more love than
usual as will get into the envelope. Also I send you a
variety of small things, as I can't think of any satis-
big one, to mark the occasion, including the
picture Berrie done of me. I don't know if they
will all get to you by this mail; in fact, I have my
doubts of it, but this will let you know they are on the
way. I think I explained I don't wear my horn-rims
nowadays so black as they are in the drawing.

With that I will close, unless I think of anything
else tomorrow. Oh, you might tell Uncle Kai that my
suit is wearing it out, & that I do not think much of him
as a tailor; how about sending me a new one. Or if
I send it out will he repair it buckshee & send it back
while I go around in my pyjamas. Auntie Ada's cake
hasn't turned up yet; but we are looking forward to it
in a very salivary way. I shall take Daddy's advice
about Tristram Shandy as soon as an opportunity offers.
The maid told us a yarn about her husband this morning
that made us laugh. He got drunk one night & went for
a ride in the a taxi. Says he, on parting from the
taxi-man – “Do you like champagne?” Yes, says the
bloke. “Well, here's sixpence to buy a bottle with.”
I must now make some cocoa for the troops, as it is
1 minute to midnight. With much love to everybody, &
especially yourself