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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 17 April 1928

page 1
P.S. And to [gap — reason: unclear] your letter, see you don’t
take any liberties.

My dear Mummy,

Your letter to hand, which caused me
to larf a great deal. For same & enclosures, many thanks. Yes,
the Rhodes Uni College which advertises the English job is mine,
or the one that might have been mine. Me cobber Ross has got that
job now; just the thing for him too; it will make a man of him to
get out of England for a few years. He talks of going on to N.Z. &
Australia afterwards for a year or so more on a sort of Empire
tour; so you may be getting letters of introduction from me yet.
He has to leave here on July 2, so that would have been no good
to me. The Post on B. Page just as fatuous as usual. Alan’s pic-
pretty good, I thought; but he crowds his page up too much
with letter-press. They generally make people laugh over here — he &
Low. — I am glad to hear you are getting on so well; what
you want now, it seems to me, is a car of your own — what
about the new Ford? I think Auntie or Auntie Win, or both, ought
to take up driving, & then you could buzz around all over the place,
up hill or down, as happy as Larry, scarf & vanity bag complete. I’ll
have to be looking out for something a bit more flash still at this
rate. If I’m in Paris in the summer I’ll have to have a look
round & see what’s to be had. Or if you have a penchant towards
anything special Parisian you might let me know. I’m glad
also you liked your birthday presents; but you spent so much
page 2 time telling me what you got from me that you didn’t say what
you got from anybody else. Surely Auntie made you a fruit-
salad & brought home a couple of bottles of beer! Or if she iswas too
busy rushing round in circles about new babies, Auntie Win, as
she is your nurse. But perhaps when you said you had given up
birthdays they took you seriously. as you say the lord did. But then,
as Duncan says, or it may be me, I have forgotten which, (& we
generally maintain a joint proprietorship in witticisms & blasphemy),
God doesn’t play fair. I shall pass on all out-criticisms to Berrie,
she may do better next time. For purposes of comparison with
her [gap — reason: unclear] I enclose one of the photos I had to have took for
the Rockefeller gang — fairly good for the price, I think, & for a
Tottenham Court Rd joint — 3/6 for ½ doz; but I couldn’t afford
anything flasher. By the way I haven’t come across any of
those peculiar birds who took Frannie’s photo with her head in a
[unclear: vice]; but I dare say she was all shook up & nervous at
the prospect of appearing before her prospective mother-in-law, &
the cove had to fix her somehow. — I certainly can’t under-
your feeling too old to get birthday-presents; now I don’t feel
like this in the least (you might let everybody know that);
though I do feel a bit too old to give them now & again. I suppose
really you are just getting bored with receiving the same old things
year after year; if I were you I’d have a list printed of
things you do not want, & then people could start thinking well
in advance & all would be well. I don’t want any more ties,
myself; & I’ve got a book. Uncle [unclear: Ky] can send me a suit
if he likes. I don’t think I’ll buy any more suits — a bloke
page 3 can always buy a new pair of trousers cheap here, & a coat
every few years, & what more does he want? Why, I saw perfectly
good grey flannel strides the other day down Holborn for 5/7½.
Now the N.Zers may skite about their Prince rugs & Petone
mills & such-like, but they don’t turn out a good sterling article
like that. I reckon the price what you pay for clothes in N.Z.,
is ridiculous. On the other hand, shirts here are about the
same, & I unfortunately need a new one; & I think the
drapers must be in league with the laundries; for none of the
collars you can buy are reversible, & as you can’t wear a
white collar more than once, it costs you 7d a colla week
in laundry for collars alone, at the lowest. And then the
laundries rip your collars in two in about six weeks, let
alone pinch your pyjama strings now & again, just by way
of variation. In fact, I have a theory that the English character
is essentially mean, thieving, & conspirator-like. Look at Joe Cook &
the [unclear: miners], for instance. But of course they’re run by the Russians.

I gather from what you say about sewing that Joan is getting
married pretty soon — a terrible fate, though I suppose its all right
for the woman. A nice thing she’s done — got the country to train
her & pay f her for to be a nurse, & then rushed the first cove
who came along into marrying her. I think they might treat
nurses in the same way as they treat school teachers, — make them
do time on their job or make them refund what they’ve got
out of the country. I suppose Ern will be the next cove to try
& evade his obligations at that game, à la Fortune. These
page 4 psychologist-birds seem to do nothing but batten on the tax-
, under the excuse of dreams, or industrial psychology,
or some other [unclear: bunk]. Anything but get down to work & teach
kids, as they’re supposed to do. Now look at me, I’ve never
been like that — in fact I didn’t even get trained as a teacher,
& so [unclear: rook] Jimmy Parr, but nevertheless I taught for three years, &
a nice lot of morons I had to struggle with too. But some
coves, they’d rather lean against the back door & chew peanuts
than take a hand in good hard honest work for the future of
their country & civilisation. It fair gives me the pip; in fact,
I might write a letter to the Post about it some day. I notice it’s
mainly Hunter’s students who try to work this gag, with his active
connivance; it’s about time that cove was exposed, & I’ve half
a mind to do it as soon as I’ve got this thesis off my mind.
“Insidious Psychology, or Hunter Betrays his Country; the Modern
Judas” might be a good title for a series of articles. It’s about
time it was stopped anyhow, & Marsden was left to waste his
money in his own way, instead of having it wasted for him.

I hope Stan is restored to perfect health by now, & that
[unclear: Kay] will get through his exams sometime. Margaret made
me larf more than anything else, though — I larfed & larfed.
It’s the first time I ever heard of a university student crash-
because she couldn’t write fast enough. You would
think that[gap — reason: unclear] the effort to take down lecture notes would
develop her speed all right. It must have been a shock to
some pore [sic: poor] examiner bird to come across two lines
quite legible signed M. Beaglehole instead of two pages
page 5 illegible from someone else. Well, I must say it makes
me larf. Why doesn’t she start on a type-writer? Still I
dare say she won’t need to keep many terms, — she has only to
follow Joan’s example & take the social course for a bit, &
she’ll be all right; & Auntie Laura will be able to follow
the examples of the matrons in Jane Austen, & sink back sighing
Thank God! they’re off my hands. Well, I wouldn’t like to have
the job of managing one of those girls, anyhow; my word,
it would send a man off his block in three weeks. I must
say it was a good stroke on my part to get away from N.Z. &
enjoy myself while the going was good. A bloke like me on
£200 a year, less fees, presents no attractions whatsoever to the
sinister-minded & designing, & all goes well indefinitely.

Another thing that makes me laugh is Daddy’s going to
Adamson — I suppose you offered to pay half the bill. I was
very pleased to get the pictures of the Library; I see Daddy
has pinched my Apollo Belvedere, no doubt to keep it from
getting too dusty. I was quite surprised to find what a
fine mantelpiece it is in that room — it looks first-rate. You
could sell it at a good price here to a Yank millionaire, so
if you are thinking of tearing it down & substituting an oiled
rimu atrocity don’t chuck it away, but pack it up & send it
over to me & I will see if I can’t make a deal out of it.
I see that there have been a good many books piling up since
I left — those shelves over the fire-place weren’t there then, & I
am not able to identify a good many of the books, so Daddy
page 6 must have got on the loose some time. That’s the best of
having you permanently down stairs, I suppose — he can
fetch home what he likes, & you can’t nose around &
suddenly say “Hullo! how long have you had this book,
Father?” Heaven preserve me from a wife who will
play a dirty game like that after I have carefully arranged
the books on the shelf so as to leave no trace. Another
thing that makes me laugh is the way the books are getting on to the
tops of the shelves again. The table looks pretty good; & I
like that chair with the spreading wooden back too; in fact
now I think of it, you have some good bl bits of furniture
in that house. The room is much admired by my cobbers;
& the girl in Bertorelli’s must have thought I was balmy — I
put in nearly the whole of two consecutive meals gazing at
the pictures. What are those books over the mantelpiece at
the right end of the bottom row? — they seem a pretty flash
set of something. I see you have recovered the Morris chair too.
The snaps aren’t bad for Keith, & him all excited about
having a daughter.

As for the draft introduction, I was very glad & interested
to have your wet towel criticism [unclear: &] Daddy’s more precise
ones, which will receive due & careful consideration. I
might possibly expand it a bit (for about the fourth or
fifth time) — in fact, I think I will have to , by the time
I have finished the rest of the thing; because some of
the remarks I made I have since prosed wrong; which is a
very embarrassing thing for a cove to do. I agree that it
page 7 would probably be better divided into sections, as I am having
to divide my other chapters — this is a terrible thing to
work into my sort of a unity — too many blooming colonies,
that’s the trouble with England. Daddy seems to repose a
lot of trust in Ern’s intelligence, discussing it with him — fair
dinkum, I can’t make out how Ern manages to put it across
people. Wonderful what some blokes can do with a minimum
to go on. Look at the mayors Wellington has had. There must
be an art in it some where, or it’s just blind luck & a face
that is a natural lie. Some things I can answer now, the others
I’ll have to chew over later. You will have seen that
Laski agrees with Daddy over the evangelical birds.

Page 3 line 7 “the new hunger” i.e. the Industrial Revolution[gap — reason: unclear]
left people pretty thin about the middle. vide Village Labourer &c.

Page 8 line 11 &c: it is a melancholy fact that the English
were beaten in the war of independence, by the Yanks on land, by
the French at sea. If they hadn’t lost command of the sea they
might have won the war. I ought to go down & tell Jimmy Parr this, perhaps.

Page 17 lines 13,14: imbecility applies to the conduct of the war. The
new view of the causes of the war is all right (if it is new — I have
got a cove thinking more or less on those lines in 1789); but it wasn’t
so much new ideas as economic & political fatality — or the ideas
that grew out of that — see my great forthcoming classic The Idea?

Page 19. In [unclear: loc] Greville just means in the paper of Greville, but
I suppose it is wrong, as nobody seems to understand what it
page 8 means. Thanks for all the criticisms; I was interested to
see how the thing struck a non-historian. Not much use sending
out the rest of it, I’m afraid — there will be about 400 pages
that size, not counting notes, at my present estimate — & it
is pretty finicking stuff. It may look all right in the mass
when it’s finished — I don’t know. Meanwhile my technical
cobbers over here will get it worked off on them. At present
they are working off theirs on me, as they are in more of a
hurry than I am. Butler the Rockefeller cove, by the way,
wanted to see my stuff — I quote from his note with duly stifled
modesty: “I very much hope that, in addition to the very valuable
detailed work of which the later chapters are examples, you will
fulfil the promise of your first chapter & deal some day with
imperial [gap — reason: unclear] relations in the large. I was very much interested.” I
was glad to get his opinion, as a bloke who didn’t know any-
about me, & a Cambridge [gap — reason: unclear] of some distinction at
that. I think I told you I had seen him down here.
I’ll have to flash this note in front of Newton, just to keep him in
his proper place. He’s not much use as a director of studies — he
makes of a point of never reading his students’ work till it’s presented
for examination — a nice lot of help to give them. However, there
are better blokes than him to take a hand.

There doesn’t seem to be much news to give. I am doing
a good bit of writing, & haven’t been to a concert or play for more
than a fortnight. Tried to get in to a Schubert centenary concert
last night, & every seat in the hall was sold. There is a great
dearth of orchestral concerts this winter, as a matter of fact. I
page 9 did see Charlie Chaplin in The Circus on Easter Saturday, &
pretty good it was — not so good as The Gold Rush, I don’t think,
& with a bit too much slap-stick about it, but still I larfed so
much that my goggles got all steamed, & I couldn’t see through
them. I went to hear the St Matthew Passion in St James’s
Piccadilly too, on Good Friday, but it was only selections, &
pretty poorly done at that, so I stuck it out as long as I could &
then left. I don’t think I’ve read anything, either, except the
London Omnibus [gap — reason: unclear] Blind Rafters, which I got on Daddy’s recommen-
— he can certainly write, this cove. Have you read Messer
Marco Polo? It looks as if I’ll have to put [unclear: Northough] Abbey &c off
till next [gap — reason: unclear] winter, at this rate; though certainly this one is doing
its best to hang on as long as possible. This blooming country has
a climate all its own, & no mistake — Easter was quite warm &
one day got up to the thrilling temperature of 67°; & spring looked
decidedly spring-like in the squares, with trees busting out all round,
& daffodils & primroses, & tulips; & then smack! down comes a
cold spasm & I have had to put my rug on my bed again & pour
shillings into the gas meter & go round with overcoat & scarf & even
sit & work in same; while feet are blocks of ice from morn till
eve. No wonder the people never revolt; it would take the spirit
out of anybody born to it. It’s even been snowing in parts of
the country; & all aeroplane services are suspended (except the
Atlantic one). Meanwhile I got postcards from all my cobbers —
McGrath in Italy, Duncan in southern France, Lorrie Richardson
in Norway, de Kiewiet in Paris — though he is there for the sake of
page 10 his funds, pending a job which he regards as good enough for him,
or a scholarship, or endowment by a millionaire or something. Helen
Allen, by the way, has pulled off a Rockefeller, American brand, so
there is much rejoicing [gap — reason: unclear] Bloomsbury. Duncan being
away, I can have the room to myself, as [sic: and] spread my work over
the table all the chairs & the floor & leave it there, which is a
great relief for a while. — I picked up a copy of that 20
Select Dialogues of Erasmus of which Daddy has a reprint the
other day 1725, a bit stained, for 6/- — generally about 15/-
or a guinea if perfectly clean; otherwise I don’t even seem to
have been buying many books. — You will be pleased to
hear that eggs are a reasonable price again, 1/6 a dozen, so that
the troops can once more get a few proteins in the morning for
a change from raisins & marmalade. And talking of food, I
think I must buzz along now & pick up a bit of it at some
rough Soho joint before my gas gives out the last of the bob
I put in it this morning — anyhow my feet are quite cold
enough for a walk.

Well, there don’t seem much more to say, except that I had a feed, &
that it hasn’t got any warmer, & that there are times when colonial history
palls on one. You didn’t tell me the name of Keith’s kid: there this
was a terrible blow after the fortnight of anxiety I had had; & here
I have got to wait another fortnight still — this is the sort of thing
that wears a man down. My candlesticks have just been polished
up (not by me) it’s a pity you can’t see them. I am afraid the
windows are just in the wrong place for taking any photos of this room
though. Well, give my love to everybody, but leave a fair deal over
for yourself — fair play’s a [unclear: job]