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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 15 June 1928

page 1

My dear Mummy,

Your letter received, also letters from
Auntie & Ern: for all & for all enclosures many thanks. Cash
I have not yet spent, though except for Auntie’s, which went to buy a
cheap edition of H.M. Tomlinson’s Tidemarks, which you will
remember. Macmillan Brown Prize Poem seems pretty fair
tripe. Richardson’s defence I have not yet read; but it seems
a trifle naive of the Dominion to head it “The Truth
about Samoa” even if it is. Still, who am I to want a
critical analysis by somebody else? I have also received
lately a pamphlet of Harry Holland’s entitled “The Revolt of
the Samoans”, so between the two of them I may get somewhere.
They all give you the dinkum truth. — I respect your
wishes in the matter of Emma, pausing only to say — no,
I won’t even say that. The bit from [unclear: Winteramoon] about
imagining you have beautiful things does not impress me in
the least. Why not live in a pig-sty & imagine it
is a palace in Park Lane or Hopper Street? Anyhow
I like showing things to my friends; & as I had the
candlesticks sent by post it did not add to my luggage
in the least. And I am glad I got them. My experience
is that if you don’t stretch a point & get things when
you have the chance you’re always sorry afterwards.
page 2 It’s often happened to me when I have frugally denied
myself books; & going through the German [unclear: pinte] the
other day that I bought last summer, I could only
ask myself why the devil I had’t bought a lot
more. After all, for the immediate purposes of life
you can always borrow ten bob from a cobber. They
quite frequently do from me. — Thank you for your
remarks on linen mesh singlets. I always wear cotton
ones myself & do not find them unhealthy. Probably
much cheaper too. You can always put woollen things
on top in the summer winter.

I must allay the anxiety in Daddy’s mind
about a visit to Oxford; I shall certainly go there
this summer; if I had any friend there would have
been before. You can get up very cheaply for the day,
but that is no good to me; I shall be putting in a
week there when I do go, & that will be little enough, if
it is anything like Cambridge. So I will duly bear
his injunction in mind, & see it for him as well as
for myself. — It shocks me greatly that he was so
appalled by the visit to the Cotswold; however it is through
these shocks that both parent & child learns the ways of the
world — “of the women of the world”, as the cove in the
play says. What is this Woman who Did, anyhow?
I’ve seen a lot of references to it — one by a lady who
said that she wasn’t impressed by it in the slightest — she’d
page 3 done it herself. I may rake it up & read it in the historical
spirit some day, as a matter of duty. Still, as Daddy says,
what is happening to the dear old land? — here is the Prayer
Book chucked out again in the House, & [unclear: Jix] thinking he’s a
great man, & Archbishops pleading for calm & patience & tolerance,
& the country stirred to its backbone — so the parsons say,
but it’s nothing you’d notice. It would give you the ding-
. About four solid columns pages of the Times, small print,
to report the debate — really you’d think it was some-
important. The country is going to the dogs all
right. And then these rumours of naturalised Americans! That
certainly is a thing to knock a man out flat with horror. How-
that needn’t worry you any more.

Books read duly noted, likewise academic adventures.
I should have thought the family would have known enough
of F.P. not to go to anything where he was killed as the
star attraction — Still, I was forgetting the supper — but why
not go after the meeting? I was thrilled to learn that Ern
was making a name for himself as a public speaker, even
on such a time-worn subject as Religion & Science — I
should think he might walk over to the Hist. Ason. & give
the same remarks there; they might go quite well with a
bite of supper. What a thing it is to have such a disting-
cove in the family. Now I thought I was a
pretty fine feller, but I never got as far as talking to the
public of Wellington in company with a parson; let alone
page 4 getting a Jacob Joseph or being one of Marsden’s scientific young
men. Fair dinkum, I don’t know how you bear the
strain. — The Rockefeller people have turned me down;
I had a wire just after posting my last letter to you. I
gather that Butler recommended me pretty solidly, & he
does not know why there was nothing done. Everybody
is pretty disgusted, but I have wasted no sleep on it. It will
be a fresh proof to Daddy of the perfidy of the Yanks, so I
should at least be pleased about that. I wonder who spun
you the yarn about the naturalisation? — apparently some
people will say all sorts of darn things without knowing
an atom of what they’re talking about. The grants are
really ideal things if you get them — no conditions at all except
that you shall do the work you want to do. However that’s
neither here nor there now. Butter wrote suggesting that
I should put in for a research studentship at Cambridge,
the thing Jack Yeates had, at Trinity College, so I am
going to do that. Maximum grant £300 a year but I may make
a do of it. Laski thrust a cable from the University
of Manitoba at me; they want an assistant prof there,
modern European history & British constitutional, of
which I know nothing whatsoever: £600p.a.
to start. I am applying for that also, though it starts in
September & though I see that R. Brooke in his Letters
from America calls Winnipeg a hideous place, & it
does not seem to be much bigger than Wellington. Still
page 5 it is a relatively near to England, & only 3½ weeks from
N.Z., so & the screw is a lot more than I could hope to
get either here or at home; so if I get the job I may be
bugging home for the holidays next long vacation. It
would mean shelving my thesis for a year, which would
be a nuisance, & a desperate rush to fix up lectures; but
what can you do when you are after a job? I may of course
pull off neither this or the Cambridge thing — or I may
pull off both, which would leave me in a bit of a quandary;
but in that case, I think I should take the Cambridge one &
stay here as long as I can now that I am here, & get all
the writing done that I can. I got testimonials from
Laski, Butter & Jaynt, & a lot of froth about himself from
Newton under the guise of a testimonial for me. Laski’s &
Butter’s were first rate; I had considerable difficulty in
recognising myself in Laski’s, but he said he meant
every word of them; he also shoved the whole lot on to his
secretary to type out for me in two forms, one for
Manitoba, one for Cambridge! Likewise my Manitoba
application. This is the sort of cove I like to deal with!
I haven’t met any other cove in my life who’d do as much.
What a pity he is a left-wing Labourite! It makes it
it very difficult to accept a favour from him. He reckoned
that to leave London for Cambridge would be to lay a sac-
on the altar of University snobbery that would be
worth while; apart from anything else, it would add [unclear: coop.c.]
page 6 to the value of any application for a job. Strange country!
So I may possibly be following in Erasmaus’ steps before long.
It would certainly give me time to finish my thesis & revise
it properly at leisure & perhaps to get it published, which
also would considerably increase the chances of a good job
later on. I may be in time for F.P’s demise at this
rate. I wonder how long they will maintain the farce
of keeping him on.

Interval after that lot to eat some of Auntie’s biscuits,
Auntie Win’s figs, & a banana I bought myself. The biscuits
arrived in excellent condition, but were kept back till my
birthday. Ah! I have often said to myself, it isn’t till
a cove leaves home that he realises what a lot of nice kind
clever aunties he has! And here they come up to the
mark, regular as clockwork, on every auspicious anniver-
; nothing omitted that could possibly be done to comfort
the inner man. Down go the biscuits, down go the
figs (also the banana I bought myself); up go my silent
prayers for the repose of the ladies & the souls of these noble
women. I shall be writing to them personally soon to
say all this again. I should add that I had a very
good birthday; the day was fine, & I tottered out of bed
& into the bathroom feeling that anyhow, if I was so distinctly
on the wrong side of 25 I could still wonder at the
sunshine & bath myself without assistance. I got a large
number of presents & one promise (from Ern; please note)
page 7 Yours I need not particularise, but thank you very much
again; I also acquired 1 cake best bitter chocolate; 1
box of finest selected pre candied fruits from S. Africa; 1
pair of choice pyjamas; 1 set of B.M. postcards of Dürer’s
drawings; 1 first edition of R Brooke’s Letters from America,
from the library of Sidney [unclear: Cohair]. Altogether I felt much
richer at the end of the day than I did at the beginning. We
organised a party too, to celebrate three birthdays, i.e. Kath-
McKay, which was in April while she was on the
boat, Helen’s, which was in May, & mine. Present:
H. Elsie, Kathleen, friend of H’s, B.M. expert on 16th
century music, de K., [unclear: Rors], C. Richardson & me.
Music on piano by me. Sandwiches. Cake with
coffee icing, very thick, & three candles. Very mild
punch. Coffee. Tork. Larfter. Finishing up
with invitation to go out to Lorrie’s place at Welwyn
Garden City for another party on Monday. You
can see from this that I have emerged from my
recent seclusion. I managed to get the girls a room
in this house for a month, & I have been showing
them round London a bit. We have been to Kew,
a nice bright sunshiny day, & to the Zoo, where I
had never been before. A first-rate aquarium
here (6d extra), ditto reptile house, quite one
of the shows of London; but camels in little 2x4
yards, & eagles drooping very sad — like in what
page 8 looked to me like very inadequate cages. The more
I see of zoos the more I dislike them. However
no doubt the animals like it. Free food & lodging —
& who wants more? I think though that if I were
a chimpanzee, or a polar bear, or a crane, or a dromedary,
I should get exceedingly tired of the asinine human beings
gaping at me from the other side of the cage, & trying to
ruin my digestion in between meals with peanuts & mixed
biscuits. Also I have been to the opera once to or twice;
I have heard Carmen & Otello & go to Aida to-night. If
I am out of England in three months I shall feel ex-
annoyed at having missed the Wagner again.
As I remarked before, it’s always the way. It seems to
me a voice needs to be raised to convince (if possible)
the Univ of N.Z. that the only scholarship worth handing
out is at least 3 years at £300 year. A bloke only
manages to get outside the hors d’oeuvres, as it were, in
a lesser time. Also they might pay his fees, which take
a very nasty lump out of the allowance. I may write
to the paper about this someday, or get up a petition
signed by travelling scholars for the benefit of their
successors. To return to things I have done; we have
also been to a revue, Clowns in Clover, some of it very
good, the first I have been to over here; & have two
down for future seeing. There are no first-rate
plays running now, which is a pity; & there is a terrible
(which ? I haven’t seen)
page 9 slump in dud stuff, which is a very good thing; most
plays nowadays seem to be taken off after a week’s
run. I make a start on the Victoria & Albert Museum
last Sunday, as a different form of entertainment, free;
there are some good pieces of 16th & 17th century furniture
there & some panelled rooms that you would like; also some
fine iron-work. We tried this on not being able to get into
Kreisler at the Albert Hall without buying tickets from profiteers
who go in buy a huge bunch of tickets & then sell them at
100-200% profit to those people in the queue who are thus
kept out. A beautiful system & a tribute to the
perfection of private enterprise in a free country. You
ought to have seen the faces of the scoundrels who were
doing it too! Beautiful — my word! Another museum
I have been to is Sir John Soane’s, in Lincoln’s Inn
Fields — he was architect to the Bank of England &
collected all sorts of junk into his house which he after-
left to the nation. Some very good things,
illuminated mss, books &c, but whole heaps of fragments
of classical sculpture; designs for memorials by Flaxman,
a huge Egyptian alabaster sarcophagus, a collection of
[unclear: Hogarth], drawings by Piranesi, chairs & table from
Tippoo Sultan’s palace of Seringapatam, pistol
captured by Peter the Great from the Sultan, [unclear: casts] from
the antiqua, books1st edition of Robinson Crusoe a [unclear: Regnolds] or two — you never
saw such a collection. Throw out three quarters of it
page 10 & you could make quite a good companionable livable-in [sic: liveable-in]

This reminds me that our happy home is on the
point of breaking up. Our landlady has sold the house
& is at present in the throes of moving out; Duncan is
leaving & is thinking of taking a room in her new place
if they can overcome their mutual disgust. We both
regard it as a miracle that we have managed to leave
live together for so long with so few bitter words &
never an action for assault & battery; but the time
has come to part. Where we will be after the long
vacation we don’t know. I shall probably be
buzzing off to Belgium or France in three weeks
or so with my young friends — it looks as if Italy
is fast receding into the problematic future; but
he will be in London for a good while yet. So
we part; but we really think that after such mutual
self-control no tribute to our amiability could be
more than hopelessly inadequate, so we just sit back
& gaze at each other in stupefied amazement. Two
years — & we both survive to tell the tale. What a
lesson for young married couples! — I must
now tear off to Aida & meet my cobbers in the
queue. With love abounding as usual to you both


P.S. What a tragedy — C.E. Montagne dying!