Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (digital text)   Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 12 July, 1928

Dinan — 12/07/28

page 1

My Dear Mummy,

Ah! [unclear: la belle France encore une fois!
Qu’elle est magnifique! le pays de vin blanc, vin rouge,
briere et champagne!]
But the cider is rotten. I think,
however, I had better answer your letter first. Same
received with thanks, ditto enclosed therein. Well, well, to
think you are spry enough to travel round the country &
stay with your daughters in law[unclear: -]again, not to mention
the Smith family! P.J.’s name is Patrick James
George — hence both the P.J. and the George. I always thought
Mrs. [unclear: S] seemed a bit overweighted by his eloquence, but a
very charming lady — of course if she has come to the point
point of yapping Jane to you & lending you Catholic books I
suppose you think she’s just all right. I larfed consid-
over the yarn of George being terribly temperamental,
unless what she means by that is that he changes his mind
terribly often. Likewise over the strain of melancholy in
his character. Still no doubt she knows more about him
than I do — I always thought, or someone told me, that
his father was a German & his mother Irish — Still you
hear all sorts of peculiar yarns about a cove of the genius
& temperament of P.J. As long as he takes Frannie out
regularly in the car I suppose he will be all right. I
always thought a lot of him myself. — Glad to hear
page 2
Father Johnson is coming along all right — the world can ill
afford to lose the services of one of its leading parsons, either
in rationality or in eloquence. — Who’s this Phoebe you
associate with Dick? The girl who lived out at the Hutt?
Will he have to go through another apprenticeship? — a bit stiff,
if so. Still, if it keeps him out of marriage it won’t be so
bad. That’s the worst side of the life of [unclear: photes] like Sandy
& Tony — they are whisked off in spit of themselves, Very
gratifying about Peggy King — I believe I did meet your
Uncle George Tiller once sic transit gloria mundis. A
terribly morbid habit you seem to have of listening in
to church services on your wireless, although I suppose
that if you switch off during the sermon it possibly is
not so bad. But then how do you know when to come
back for the last hymn & benediction? I suppose your
parsons vary a good deal — not like when I used to ho
down to the Times in old George Ernest Hale’s time —
I knew exactly how much time I had in those days.

There is so much to comment on in Daddy’s letter
I know not where to start. Very comforting it must have
been to him to realise that F.P. takes enough interest in
me to enquire after me — much more so to learn that
I should get my doctor’s degree all right. It is when
you get a word of praise from a leader of thought like
this that you really do blush with pleasure & realise how
privileged you are to live in the same world. Sorry that
page 3
Daddy has been entertaining doubts of my putting it off, but
now his mind will be completely at ease. Pity I wasn’t
at Scholefield’s meeting — I should have liked to have got
up & smacked him up over his “axiom’ that history is a
science & not an art. How a bloke of his age can argue
such a point beats me — I dare say because he is not
an historian. It makes me tired. However, God forbid
that I should hurt the feelings of a parliamentary librarian,
I merely remark that the controversy died about twenty years
ago, except among undergraduates & professors. Daddy will
be gratified to learn that in the main I agree with him.
See e.g. Trevelyan, Recreations of an Historian. A great
pity there wasn’t someone to slay Scholefield, though. —
Yeates seems to have fallen on his feet pretty will in N.Z.,
he never could understand how anyone could like [unclear: London]
& I believe it has been a mortal blow to him that [unclear: Lorrie]
Richardson does’t want to go back, & did not apply
for a job at the Agricultural College. — I am interested
to see you have had [unclear: Cuorzous] life; I have read a good
many reviews of it; I refuse however to bite at the
remark that he was an Imperialist, & therefore would not
appeal to me — I will not even reply in [unclear: smarty]
tones, à la Newton, that I am an historian. The
University (of N.Z.) seems to get battier & battier in their
mode of conferring degrees — apparently the univ [sic: university]
reforms haven’t been able to affect the mentality of
page 4
the Senate. As for the “Congratulatory Ceremony”, the
names [sic: name’s] enough to damn it. I was pleased to see however
that one D.E. Beaglehole & lady were invited, even at 21/-.

As for what I have been doing for the last fort-
, I am rather vague, I organised a small party
to go to see George Gee in The Girl Friend, which has been
much praised. It turned out to be a thoroughly feeble
thing, whose only redeeming point practically would
have been G.G.: & he was away, with an understudy
acting as near as he could get. A terrible washout,
more especially as I could have gone any time during
six weeks. Last Saturday however saw Justice, ac-
to St J Ervine not well done, but being a play
that is actor-proof, always able to get its effect. Cer-
Galsworthy can write. There are to be two more of
his plays revived, so I hope to see them both when I get
back. Even with a rotten slump in the theatre in Eng-
you can still see stuff like this off & on.
Russian Ballet also have seen again, including as
extremely poor new thing of Stravinsky’s, Apollo Musa-
. missed the things I really wanted to see, for one
reason or another. I have been turning my attention
more to galleries lately, for the benefit of my young friends,
& also for my own. I must also tell you one start-
piece of news, which will either wake you up or put
you to sleep properly — I bought no fewer than two
page 5
new suits. I went down to Banker’s sale & could’t see
one that would do for general utility, all day & evening
wear, so after much hesitation & confabulation with
the man I got two, one a very dark brown, & one
a lighter brown, pattern of which I enclose. I reckon
I am well-equipped for about five years now, come
what may. The cove said I would get tired of the
suits before they wore out on me, but he didn’t know
me. They had both to be brown, so as to permit of
my wearing my brown shoes. £12.5 this debauch
cost me; & lucky I am that I did not have in in N.Z.
where it would have been about twice as much. I enclose
the receipt, so that you can see that there is absolutely no
After doing this fell deed I had to go to the
Tate, to look at the modern French pictures, so as to rest
my mind. A terrible day.

We’ve decided to come over to Brittany for a
start to our holiday tour. There was some talk of
Bill Jolliffe’s coming, but he couldn’t get away till August,
& none of the coves I know could come at this time.
So as Elsie & Kathleen wished to delay no longer I agree
to act as sole escort, expecting to pick up Henning or de K.
in Paris to help steer through the perils of that great city.
I want to go to Mont St Michel & then through various places
in Normandy to Rouen, thence to Paris, thence to Chartres
& back; then if there is any cash left, we may go to
page 6
Bruges for a bit. But we have no fixed plans, & should
like to see a bit more of Brittany also. We left Bruns-
Square on Monday, after a hectic Sunday &
Monday morning’s packing on my part, having given notice
for then; but as the boat for St Malo left on Tuesday, before
the journey at Winchester for to see the cathedral & other things.
A very pretty little town it is too — the High Street full of
bow windows, or rather it was once; now they are coming
down pretty rapidly, the girl in a photograph shop told me,
as the chain stores go up. There is also some pretty bad
Victorian Gothic, but the place as a whole is charming.
I am coming to believe what a cove said in a book I have
been reading —“Good & Bad Manners in Architecture”— that the 18th
& early 19th century was the golden age of building in England.
I told you of th my pilgrimage to [unclear: J.A.]’s tomb & house —
the house is charming too, with a bow-window. Cathedral
very fine, College ditto, old hall of the old Castle, where
they used to have the parliament of England, not bad —
King Arthur’s Round Table hung up there, as large as
life — hills round the town quite hill-like — everything
very nice indeed. I should like to cycle all round these
cathedral cities one of these days; but I hope to God I
shall never have to live in one. Wool & politics were
once the chief pursuits of Winchester — the antique-industry
seems now to have taken their place.

The boat for St Malo left forfrom Southhampton;
page 7
but the train came straight in to the docks, & there was no
time to see more of the town. I must buzz down
there some day, however, & have a good look round; I got
quite an agreeable thrill from being for a whole 24
hours in Hampshire, the land of one branch of my
ancestors. It was a very smooth passage across, & the
Southern Railway are quite kind to you — they own the
boats — hot water for shaving & nice little separate
towels. Badly stung at breakfast, however, in the matter
of eggs, but one must take these things as they come.
You gain on the swings what you lose on the round-
. Got bed & breakfast at Winchester for 4/-; &
we are getting it here for 4/7 the three of us! Meals
dearer here than in Paris though. We came to Dinan
through reading a wonderful description of it in a
guide-book, not so infested with tourists as St Malo &c.
wonderful old houses & all the rest of it; but so far
we haven’t seen much beyond a mediocre modern
square & streets. But the surroundings are very
pretty — hills & almost bush; a beautiful river, the
[unclear: Ranche], up which we came from St Malo, & we
learn that we looked in the wrong place yesterday
for the wonders. So perhaps this afternoon will prove
more profitable. Yesterday afternoon as a matter
of fact I spent most of yesterday mostly in sleep in a
paddock, & afterwards had a bathe in the river. The
page 8
weather is glorious; even in England it has been almost
first-rate for almost a week. Wonderful what the
country can do when it tries; & the British were
even triers, as you will admit. The food here also
is excellent, though a good meal costs as much as
10 francs, namely 1/8 — but compare with th what you
get for 1/8 in [unclear: Angleteure]. In Winchester it was pure
robbery, apart from the rooms. But here you
get soup, hors d‘oeuvres, omelettes, artichokes, salad,
roast beef, cheese &c.&c.&c. all thrown in. My
word, the cheese is all right too — Petit-Suisse, a
white soft cheese something like cream cheese, which
you eat with sugar. I do think the N.Z. farmers
might turn their attention to producing something a
bit more attractive in the way of cheese than the tack
that you buy as best Empire cheese over here. The
Canadian stuff is far more toothsome, though of
course more expensive.

Well, this letter is something of a mélange,
& there is not much of it, but I must knock off
now, as I seem to have exhausted myself, & go out &
see something, preparatory to moving in. Pardon
the long series of commas & complimentary phrases — I
do not turn out my best prose on holiday, &
believe me, with much love, yours very truly