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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 6 March 1928

page 1

My dear Mummy,

Letter, enclosures, postal notes &c. &c.
to hand, for which many thanks, & in reply we beg to state
&c &c. Also a letter from Ern, of considerable length,
for which many thanks again; as I wrote him a long
epistle by last mail, I do not feel called upon to answer
same in the immediate future. If he gets a Travelling Schol.
I may come forward with a few well-chosen words of advice
& exhortation on what not to do. Old Joynt said to me
that my Farther & Mother must be proud of two such sons;
I told him I didn’t know about Ern, for whom I had
never been able to stimulate much admiration myself; but
on the whole I did not doubt that the world was rarely
blessed by the advent of a family such as ours. He admitted
that that was so, & added that if Ern grew up anything like me
he would be a great & good man; I agreed that that was so,
but regretted that I could not see much prospect of Ern’s
evolution that way as yet. He said, No, but we must not lose
hope, so I let it go at this.

I certainly am pleased to hear of your progress
towards a healthy athleticism, & the advent of Mrs. Clark &
the Higher Life. You seem to be the only person who gets a
fair whack at spirituality these days; I should have thought
page 2 that at least you would have gathered Auntie & Auntie
Nancy round you of a fine afternoon & had a little
Service of Song. A few Deep Thoughts by Captain Beaglehole.
Rescue the Perishing, solo with accordion accompaniment
by Major Osborne. Snappy Excerpts from the Bible
I Catholic II Protestant by Lieutenant Clark. My Rise
from Sin by Bandmaster Beaglehole. The Auntie might
[unclear: hot] the hat round to Daddy & Ern & over the road to the
grocer’s or greengrocer’s or whoever runs the place now & you
could all have a bit of afternoon tea on the proceeds.
But you never seem to rise to the height of your opportunities.
Many a chance you’ve had down in the sun down the
garden & in the garden of the soul to cultivate the fine
flower of a spiritual life, & the poor little blossom seems
to have withered & kicked the bucket with a minimum of
effort. Long before now you might have evangelised Hopper
Street with the influence you possessed over the Campbells &
the Porters; while the change Auntie Nancy might have worked
in Newtown is prodigious; but I haven’t heard of much altera-
for the letter, closely as I study the N.Z. news.
You might have thought I would have put Auntie Win
& Auntie Ada into your Army circle; but the one is too
much tarred with orthodoxy & respectability & I suppose
is too much worried about the Prayer book these days for
anything else; while the other is too far gone in sceptic-
. No use planting good seed on stony ground. Do
you know what I think you ought to do in between Prayer-
page 3 meetings
& Testimonies & the Mercy Sect? I don’t see much
point in lying down the garden in the sun covered with bed-
— I think you ought to skip off & have a good old
sun-bath. I dare say Lieut Clark might take on bare-
dancing in her [unclear: shimmery] too if you waged her, &
pointed out how much freer the spirit would fly under
that physical impulse. Here on looking at the phrase in your
letter “forty years or more a salvationist” I bust out laughing,
& looked round for a bit of lawn to roll on; but found
none, bar the square, which is rather damp & misty just
now. I was forgetting all about the cornet too — you
had better substitute that for the cor accordion in Auntie Nancy’s
solo. Now I come to think of it, it would sound much better.

I suppose I must agree that Mary is the last word
in infantile accomplishment; what with playing the piano
& sleeping 17 hours she does indeed seem a prodigy. I
suppose you are all waiting in breathless anxiety to see if
Frannie’s nipper takes after her father or not; a hell of a
time Mrs Jolliffe will have if it yells with anything like the
intensity & duration of the record that Keith established. Fair
dinkum, I don’t know what Auntie will do between Kelburn
& Wanganui; she’ll be spending all her time dithering round
in a frenzy of uncertainty which kid needs her attention
the most. I seem to remember some remark of Frannie’s
about hoping her sons would turn out English gentlemen;
so I suppose if this kid turns out a boy he is doomed. A
page 4 nice thing it will be for the family too, to have an English
gentleman in it. He may grow up like Austen Cham-
, the great big waxwork, when he went to T.P. O’Connor,
the great big half-wit, to put the kybosh on “Dawn” — “I went
to him as one English gentleman to another.” This is what
nearly made Duncan & me choke on our bread & raisins
the other morning at breakfast. I suppose Coates or
Harry Holland will be trotting down to suppress some
incident of the film version of the Great Samoan War some
day & explaining in the House “I went to the censor as one
colonial rough to another.” These so-called statesmen
give a man a pain. Indeed their chief use & glory is
in their provision of figures for Low. I must send you
out a swag of his cartoons some day. He had one last
night that nearly knocked me out with laughter.

As for your Rhodes Library question & three question
marks, I’m afraid that’s out of the question — I haven’t even
bothered to apply for it. The cove I was told it was reserved
for carked out suddenly, but there are plenty more
blokes like him in Oxford, married to [unclear: masters’] daughters
& fellows of this & lecturers in that; so I [gap — reason: unclear]doubt whether it
would have been worth even Daddy’s while to apply for
it. Well, well, you might be coming over here to stay
with me yet, or even to the States. The last thing Laski
said to me was that he would write to Fay & ask
him to offer me a job at Smith College! This I find
and is the flashest girls’ college in the States; all the
page 5 New York shops keep special branches down there; the popu-
consists of about 2500 millionairesses. L. said I
ought to go there & marry one; so I said I would consider
it. — I told Smithie that you had warned me off
girls who wanted to sew on my buttons. I don’t know any
[unclear: widows], but Duncan has one or two of them down in Kent;
so I am going to type out Tony Weller’s remark & stick it
up on the wall for future reference. We both do our best
of course to prevent our visitors &f acquaintances from taking
an interest in us; but of course being the blokes we are this
becomes pretty hard at times.

Daddy’s letter seems to call for a few remarks (a) I
have not been to call on Lady Frances Ryder because when I waste
time I believe in doing it in a sensible way, such as yapping,
eating, cursing, chewing tobacco, indulging in [gap — reason: unclear]fights , or
getting drunk. (b) it is a pity Shanlands g.m. is such a
cow (c) Failing Daddy, I am glad Harold Miller has
got the library job; the next best bloke I should say. From
the point of view of academic experience & standing, it seems
a weak finish off, if such it be, to his N.Z. & Oxford
career though. About all a cove can hope for in N.Z., [gap — reason: unclear] I
suppose. I must write to him & get him to do something about
the history in the library. He will certainly be an acquisi-
to the college, that’s one thing. — (d) I found my fountain pen all
right, but have since had to fork out 3/6 for repairs.
page 6 I got through my Hobson proofs & sent them back. It was only
the beginning & the end that Fay really made a mess of, &
one or two choice bits interspersed; a lot of things I should
have thought he would have cut out he left in; so I found
out from Laski what sort of cove he was, boiled down
a bit in the middle in case of need, made a new beginning
& end & substituted them for his, wrote him a nice letter
ordering 40 copies, & left the rest to luck. By the time I
had finished the thing I was sick to death of it, & wondered
what was wrong with coves who wrote bulky academic
tomes of 1000 pages with 10 footnotes to the page. I don’t
suppose I shall see the page proofs, which is both a
relief & a nuisance; but I believe that thing is due
to come out in April. Fay bit a the prospect of selling
copies in N.Z.; so I sent him a list of booksellers &
papers who might review it; & presumably therefore, if
only WT[gap — reason: unclear] W & T’s do their duty, Daddy won’t have
to act as a book-agent, though he may possibly like to do
a bit of advertising. I shall certainly expect Keith & Geoffrey
to take ½ doz copies each; though I don’t know why I
should, as I won’t get anything out of it. On further con-
, I don’t give two pins whether they do or not. Yes,
I do, though; both Mary & the new nipper ought to have
it read to them from their earliest years, together with the
Bible & Ern’s masterly work on propaganda; nothing
like it for the inculcation of a sound historical prose
style & the acquisition of general education. I dare page 7 say the School Journal might like to pirate little excerpts too;
while the Post, having gone so far along the road of peace &
amnity, might like to give me a leader. Talking of
the Post reminds me of the Worker. How is it you haven’t
seen my thumping headlines in the issue of Jan 4, with
preliminary puff by Walter Nash? I haven’t laughed so
much since I got to England — Jim Thorn the editor sent
me a buckshee copy. “Historian Neatly Skins Our Fatuous
Legislative Councillors” says Jim, in letters about an
inch g high. You can’t have seen it, or there would
have been sure to have been some cultured bourgeois guffaws
from Daddy. Fair dinkum, what a thing it is to get into
print. — Did I tell you that I gave a copy to Laski,
& that he sent it to a cove in the States? Delightful was
his word. But I get enough digs elsewhere to take the skite
out of me. I had another letter from Hunter today, very in-
— he seems to think the Post is coming on when it
publishes stuff like that. But doesn’t hope much for the
country as a whole.

As far as the Rockefeller is concerned; I am wangling
things thus. The University of N.Z., all unknown to itself,
is having the pleasure of nominating me, per genial old
codger Joynt, a man in a thousand; Laski is backing me
hard, & told me he wrote two pages to Joynt about me, though
Joynt said nothing about that, not wishing to exalt the boy
too much perhaps. He sent me his draft letter, which page 8 was pretty lurid, but I didn’t feel as if I had any
right to delete complimentary references. King’s is also
backing me officially, & I had a yap with the new
Principal, Halliday, [unclear: late] of Liverpool, & genial & cynical
cove. So as far as that goes, all is all right. But
I don’t know what the chances are, or when anything
will be decided; or even what the screw is, as a matter
of fact. £300 year, I think, & they like you to take at
least two years over it. If I don’t get this, I don’t know
what I’ll do; stay here till Christmas anyhow, if I can.
Thank you again, & very much, for your offer of dibs;
but you will see that if this comes off, all will be well;
if not I may be singing out for a return passage or
the price of a coffin yet. But I doubt it, with such wizardry
of finance & masterly caution a is my ban bank-balance

You will be startled to hear that I bought a pair of
shoes on Saturday; a brown pair, very chaste & simple, which
set me back 32/6, quite a large sum for this here
country. But I was getting sick of mending my socks,
& of the look of my old shoes; so it may prove that their [sic: there]
are limits even to my endurance. I am thinking of getting
a new pair of flannel strides too,[gap — reason: unclear] as my last Uncle K
suit is busting round all the cuffs & turn-ups, & in
even more vital spots,[gap — reason: unclear] so for & I am informed by
the best opinion that when a suit gets like that it is a case
of R.I.P; so for the general welfare & reputation of Great
page 9 Britain something will have to be done. The pace is getting
a bit too hectic though; it means now
                  1 new overcoat
                  1  "   hat
                  1  "   pair shoes
                ?1  "   trousers?
& my word yes, a couple of Saturdays ago
                  2 new underpants.
So far the singlets which I brought away from home have
survived; ditto handkerchiefs & pyjamas, less those that have
been pinched & otherwise faded away. This is a stern life.
I much regret also to report the passing of Auntie Ada’s blue
shirt; it gave at the shoulders, after 18 month’s heroic service,
being quite sound elsewhere, & as there was nothing else
into which I could convert it I turned it into a floorcloth,
an article which we previously have not had in our house-
stuff. And now I belief [sic: believe] that Ada the servant wench
has pinched it. An immoral country. The tragedy of
this matter too, apart from the falling apart of the shirt itself,
is that only a fortnight ago I purchased
                  3 new blue collars
to wear with same, 8½d each, 2/- for three. This now
represents a dead loss, unless I buy another blue shirt to wear
with them. Birthday —; Christmas — 10 months —
hardly worth speculation.

The household has also acquired two new bookcases
page 10 from de Kiewiet, who has hopped it to Paris to keep down the
cost of living pending the result of his Rockefeller application.
We are all after the darn things — Helen Allen has applied
for a special Yank w variety too. If we all get them
it will be a bit of [unclear: all] right. Smithie if is after a thing
to get her to the States too, for a post graduate course in
the art of becoming a human being after graduating in
our school. You would be surprised in the difference there
is in that girl since passing through the fiery furnace.
The bookcases were much needed & I have got most of my
books on display now, but Duncan is just as bad as ever,
with no fewer than 9 separate piles on top of the chest of
drawers, ranging from 2 ft 6 to 4 ft high, let alone what
he’s got in trunks under the beds & elsewhere. I must do him
the justice to observe that he gave me 3 shelves in a 4 shelf
bookcase on condition of having the chest of drawers to him-
. But of course he’s one of these coves with no blooming
sense of proportion where books are concerned; & when you
ask him what he’s going to do with them, or if he’s read them
all, he rarely succeeds in giving a lucid answer. Such
coves should be in an asylum, that’s my opinion.

While on the subject of books, let me announce that
I have this evening posted 1 London Mercury, not a very
flash number on the whole, but good woodcuts (3/-) &
1 N.Z. News, Harrop’s mag. with Very Interesting Information
duly noted inside. I didn’t buy the thing, so charge you
nothing. He sends me copies, evidently thinking that if page 11 he keeps on long enough I may pay him for them. He little
knows me. I send you no [gap — reason: unclear] cuttings this time —
we are getting sick of the Sunday Times & old [unclear: Gosse], & are
thinking of switching over to the Observer; but that unfortunate-
means losing Ernest Newman. The Observer’s review-
stuff is a lot better than the Sunday Times’, & it is
at least liberal, while the S.T. politically is a [sic: as] stodgy as the
Times itself. — I haven’t been reading much lately, but
I have finished the Education of Henry Adams. I don’t send
it out, as I said I might, because most of the middle of
it is political, & I daresay wouldn’t interest you hugely;
but the earlier chapters & those on 19th century thought would.
So I think it would be well worth your while to get it
from one of the many excellent circulating libraries with
which you appear to be supplied these days. I am going
up to Cambridge for a week in a couple of days & hope
while there to get through Mansfield Park. Must settle
Jane before the Spring is properly with us, & it is tenta-
budding already. Crocuses are out & daffodils, &
daffodils & violets & primroses & tulips brighten up the streets con-
. This is my long-announced Cambridge visit
which I heralded before Christmas, & it will have to do me
till the long Vacation. I must go down & have a look at my
bike soon though, & trundle out on some of these fine
Sundays that may be expected to appear in the fulness of
time. page 12 I have been to a few concerts but not many; I heard the
Dream of Gerontius again on Saturday afternoon with
Smithie, & afterwards went & gazed at the Serpentine, quite
forgetting to take her out for afternoon tea. She did not,
but was too polite to mention it. I went to a concert for
brass instruments, trombones & trumpets, & drums & organ &
voice last Tuesday, mostly old English stuff & Bach, & a
bird called Schutz, earlier than Bach — very interesting, & full
of bright tunes you would have liked. The Tuesday before
that to a harpsichord recital by Mrs Violet Gordon Wood-
whom you may have heard off [sic: of]. I should have
liked you to hear this — she had your favourite quality
of crispness in her playing. I liked the harpsichord too.
I missed Romeo & Juliet — couldn’t get in the night we went
out; & Macbeth, which wasn’t up to much, according to the
papers. Went to parts I & II of Back to Methuselah last
night though; Gwen Frangcon Davies as Eve, Edith Evans
as the Serpent. Good stuff. Parts III & IV next week. Part
V week after. Gimme me Shaw every time — There is a
lot of [unclear: Shaw] coming off at the end of the month in honour of
his centenary — Mrs Patrick Campbell & other nobs are going to
perform. Hard going getting any work done. Hence no
Easter holiday.

Well I think this is all for this time so will now
close. Will you ring Mrs Hooper up & give her my love &
say that I shall be writing to her at an[gap — reason: unclear] early date? With
very much love to yourself & the rest of your family