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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 8 January 1929

page 1
[unclear: Passagalia]
[gap — reason: unclear]

4x Beaglehole
[gap — reason: unclear]

[unclear: presents]

My dear Mummy,

A large number of letters N.Z. is
getting from me this mail, & I hope all my uncles &
aunts will rise up & call me blessed. You might tell
Joe when you see him that 4pp. are addressed to him
at the Public Trust; he doesn’t seem to have any fixed
place of abode, as one of his letter cards is addressed
G.P.O. & another Public Trust, so I hope he is not making
use of either of these govt institutions as a residence. Most
probably he sleeps at one of them. For your own letter
per last mail I thank you corporately, taking you &
Daddy as the same person, as you yourself were once so keen
on doing when you advised me to apply to him for 6d you
owed me. Thanks also for enclosures. Poor old Tommy
Hunter! he can’t be getting much pleasure out of his
family on the whole, but it is stiff to have one of them
peg out. However, why in the world they must call every
university student who does so brilliant I’m blessed if I
know. Judy was brilliant as a social light, but as a
student never more than dud. Why put metal polish on
the stars? Poor kid — she had her entanglements also.
As for the Challis Chair of History at Sydney, I give it the
page 2 go-by. I know where I get off, or rather don’t get on. There
is a good bloke at Sydney, Wood’s Assist prof. who will
probably get it, I’m told; & I suppose one of the bright stud-
will be promoted. It was a mistake to take to the
academic game — I ought to have stuck to bookselling. The
Atmore case is brightly amusing — dirty of his political
opponents to bring it up against him, though. After all,
what’s Shakespearian criticism got to do with politics?
The man’s a good liar, & what more do you want. The
mistake he made of course was to go to Ingersoll, which
all the cultured people know — he ought to have pinched
from Raleigh or Brandes or [unclear: Gewiners] or Dr Johnson, of
whom nobody in Parliament could have possibly heard.
— Thanks for the application for Auckland. You might
have enclosed also copies of F.P.’s & the Dean of the Faculty
of Arts’ testimonials, also. I’d be curious to see them. Who
is said Dean anyhow? You might send them over if
they are any good — they might just possibly be useful &
wipe out any bad impression caused by Laski & co. — Ern
showed me the picture of the “Chateau Tongariro” (my
God!!!) over which I have been acutely sick all day,
foaming at the mouth, & now almost afraid to write
lest I foam also at the pen. I really am quite incapable
of saying anything on the subject, for language adequate
could not go down in a letter which may possibly be
page 3 passed round outside the family. I shall really be
afraid to come back to N.Z. Is there any place where
they haven’t raised a large accommodation-house (I beg
pardon, Chateau) complete with bar & billiard saloon?
Can you still go to Gollans’ Valley without paying 32/6
a night? Is Central Park still free for the tramper?
May the poor man still climb Mt Victoria of a Sunday
afternoon without help from a syndicate? Is the wine-
hill yet free from the foundations of a CHATEAU?
Heather, grouse, a Chateau: & next I suppose spring guns
for trespassers, a funicular railway up Ruapehu, & a sweet-
stall on top with provision for taking your photograph in
a cardboard motor-car. On the architectural merits of
the Shatto I do not embark at all; as there are occas-
on which the best of sons is driven to words which no
mother should hear. Well, long live the millionaires! Long
live the [unclear: TH.] Cook Syndicate! Long live the de-nation-
park! Long live the tourist-traffic & to hell
with N.Z.! And then people express surprise that
travelling scholars don’t come back! Well, well, no doubt
there are a lot of other improvements we came [sic: can] make in
God’s Own Country. — These reflections stimulate in
me the further reflection that it wouldn’t be safe for
me to come back without at least a controlling in-
in some newspaper; I am so full in indig-
page 4 nations
as it is that I could write about 10 columns
straight off of letters to the paper; & look what hap-
to Henry Bodley! If only McEldowrey would
start another rag I could paint the country red with

Thanks for your opening remarks re applying for the
Auckland job — I do appreciate your attitude in the matter.
Naturally, there are some reasons why I should be very
glad to go back to N.Z.; but it looks at present as if I
shall have to go wherever I can get a job. If there is
nothing doing at all I suppose I shall have to utilise
my free passage home & trust to luck. That is about how
things stand at present. — The Great Weed Epic is pulsating
with interest for me. I am profoundly glad to hear
about Murray’s eyes, but doubt whether the weeds appre-
the renaissance. It seems to me that an active
young flunkey is called for, with the dual function of
springing hither & thither over the garden with a fork &
a tin of weed-killer, & of dashing backwards & forwards
with a barrow-load of bricks. Now Dr Johnson
was supposed to be dead [gap — reason: unclear] at tearing out the heart
out of a book, & scorned to read them through — but
here’s Mummy reads them all through in probably
less time than he took to find the title-page.
Good Lord, it looks as if my presence in Wellington
page 5 is urgently called for — nothing but a brand-new library
it seems will be enough to ease up the strain for a bit.
I’d better float a loan for the purpose & fix up an
arrangement for regular supplies from Bumpus. — I
suppose you have got last Sunday’s Observer (Jan 6th)
See therein articles on the year’s best books — have you
read all those Mummy? I regret to say I haven’t
read one, so far as I remember, though I got a couple
from kind donors at Xmas. You see that on general
knowledge of modern literature you are streets ahead
of me. That’s the worst of a poor cove’s getting tangled
up in colonial policy & Jane Austen & such-like.
I’m glad Daddy liked Fulke Greville & Erasmus; I saw
the other day that a very fine impression of the latter in
bronze atin the Wallace Collection. A more extraordinary
collection of stuff than that you never saw — however that
is beside the point. I thought you’d like Kathleen & have
a good chat with her; she is much missed here. I’m
very glad Mummy likes the bag too; my oath, it took
some choosing; as I told Auntie the great trouble
about this place is an embarrassment of choice. Things that
I would have leapt on in Wellington with whoops of
joy I now turn regard with an eye of glassy bore-
while I say H’m, not very interesting, & move
on to the next shop. I am saving up another wad of
page 6 Low’s cartoons for you — let’s hope the others have a vitalising
influence on Alan. What’s this little cherub in a
snapshot which Mummy talks about? — the only thing
answering to it that I can think of is Hemming. I was (still
am) going to send you out a collection of snapshots &
photographic studies (at (de K’s) taken on that trip;
but I never seem to have got them together yet. Hemming
borrowed Dickie’s negatives & got some quite good
results, I believe. — I am altogether unable to give an
account of the girl in the bath. It must have got there
by mistake. Are you sure it is not Murray lying
out in the sun on a sofa, or that it is a girl? The
only advice I can give to art-critics beyond this is
to use their imagination. — So Shaw’s Intelligent
Woman is now the subject of morning lectures in
bed — I’d better start to read it myself, I suppose, or
if/when I arrive home I shall find a copy stuck
full of bits of wool, hair pins & tram tickets all marking
little bits which I really ought to read.

[Beebe (as there seems to be some confusion
existent as to how it is spelt) is spelt Beebe.]
Good Lord! Fancy Tony married! What next? I
thought I might send a cable to Joan, but quite forgot.
I got a choice account (complete with psychological
explanations) from Ern about Auntie Laura’s behav-
page 7 iour
in the matter. She seems quite batty, like the rest
of the family. I feel very sorry for Margaret — why the
devil don’t they let her take to gardening or something, in-
of wasting her time & everybody else’s going after a
blooming B.A? Never did I know of a bigger case of
academic madness. Uncle Ted has been to more than one
university, & ought to know better. He certainly ought to
know the value of a degree got in Margaret’s way. Poor kid,
I feel sorry for her — let’s hope she meets some bloke at
college who’ll marry her before she wastes her life
at the game irrevocably. As if there aren’t enough
dud school-teachers. Isn’t she 21? Why doesn’t she
chip in a bit herself? I’d advise her to go to a dance &
get drunk or something, or give lip to a professor & get
heaved out. Gosh, the older I get, the more gratified I
become at having the father & mother I have. I’ve run
into, or heard of, some fair specimens, but the Auck-
B’s simply take the bun, fair & square, in one gulp.

By the way, while I remember! if I can get my
thesis published it will be dedicated to you & Daddy.
Would you rather have on the dedication page “To my
Mother & Father” &c or To J.B. D.E.B. &c
I think it right to
consult your wishes in the matter, though
without absolutely guaranteeing that I will pay attention to
them.[gap — reason: unclear] You might let me know by return post
page 8 though I don’t suppose anything will appear for a year
or so. Still it is just as well to be prepared for all
eventualities, & who knows what may happen in three

Fancy that Whitcombe’s haven’t got any of Capt.
Hobson. I hope Aubie Douglas will do his duty. I sent
him a Xmas card to help him along. Has C.Q.P. done
that article yet? Stir him up. Dam the W’gton
papers. The country doesn’t deserve to have writer —

Stiff about Daddy’s advt. What is the use of
this Savage Club, [unclear: Comm] Travellers Club, Chamber
of Commerce &c &c if they can’t do anything for a man?
What about having a word with Ross[ie], our tramping
cobber, who is in the auditing line, ([unclear: Meryies, Ross & Gibbs]) or
some such name) & seeing if he knows of anything in
the game. Can’t this swipe Watson put you on to any-
. By jingo, I reckon he ought to give you a pen-
on his own. The bank managers seem to have
the best of the game when it comes to retiring. I wish
to the deuce I could suggest something.

I must now cast an eye over the doings of the
last fortnight & see if any of them are fit to be told. Yes,
some of them are — a few. This afternoon I put in an
hour listening to gramaphone records with Duncan who
page 9 has a gramaphone, & was cursing himself the other day
because he has got to the point where he listens to Bach
with positive pleasure & is revolted by jazz. He had to
force himself to listen to jazz for a whole afternoon
till he recovered his sense of proportion again. He got
a killingly funny record of Aimee Semple McPherson,
the Yanke evangelist this time, in a sermon & a hymn
with chorus. Choice! — my word! — For Christmas
we had no general celebration, all the lads & lasses
being more or less scattered this year, in Italy, Paris,
Suffolk, Brighton, & heaven knows where. I stayed
in bed till 11.30 & then trotted round to see Elsie
Holmes, now in Helen Allen’s flat while H.A. is in
Florence with rich aunt. — Elsie kindly entertained
me to a magnificent blow-out by way of Xmas
dinner, balloons & red candles provided by me. I got 3d
in the pudding — had some more, but nothing doing.
Duncan was added to the party for tea, when a very
bright evening was spent by all, though the details seem
to have faded from my recollection. I provided
also a very fine bottle of sauterne. It’s a pity we can’t
afford to keep a cellar at home — it would be a great
acquisition at 49 Hopper Street for such occasions
as the birth of a new niece to Auntie & so on. Too
blooming expensive, though. France is the place.
page 10 Roast chestnuts & potatoes I find go very well together — ever
try them? I did pretty well in presents too, what with
N.Z. cash & books as follows: Lions & Lambs (Low &
Lynx, from Campbell) Blunden’s Undertones of War (Ern)
Nigel Playfair’s Story of the Lyric Theatre (Elsie H.)
Henry Taylor’s The Statesman (Molly Casey, girl in the
bookshop at L.S.E.) varied collection of 3/6 pocket editions
(N.Z. money & me), besides such things a post & Xmas
cards, cigarette box, tie (blue, Adelaide Macdonald),
calendars (including one from Tommy Hunter) 6d poets
(self) &c & so forth. I still haven’t decided what to do
with your £1. I may added [sic: add] 10/6 of my own & put it
into the Gregynog Press W.H. Davies, but I don’t know.
There are a lot of things a man wants to buy. Shirts, for
instance, & I am hesitating on the brink of a new sports
coat, now that the sales are on, so as to preserve my
flash suits for 5 or 10 years if possible. — The last
week-end I went out to Lorrie Richardson’s place at
Welwyn Garden City — I think I have mentioned his
little flat before — 2 main rooms, bathroom & kitchen, &
not much more than a quid a week, if I remember
rightly. Good walking there & an open fire. I may
emigrate there myself some day. That would be the
place for you to retire to. There was a fair amount
of snow on the ground, & the cold bath in the morning
page 11 was damnable. I am thinking of getting up one or two
Sunday jaunts to Peterborough Lincoln &c to see the
cathedrals — the railway [gap — reason: unclear] turn on holiday trips dirt
cheap on particular Sundays — 5/- & 6/- return. I also
want to go to Oxford & to Salisbury now that I am
freer. — The rest of the holidays I have been [sic: done] nothing
much else but read, in which direction I am making
up for lost time over the last 2 years as hard as I
can go — I am even starting to read the Bible. I have
just finished reading Clare Sheridan’s Nuda Veritas —
very good; though if you read it, Mummy, you may prefer
to shut your eyes over a few of the pages. I have
also finished my thesis twice since I finished it the
first time, & it is about as far as I can take it at
present. Williamson, a good man at the game, D. Lit
History master at Westminster school, [gap — reason: unclear] author of numerous
good books, now running Newton’s seminar, read through
the last chapter for me, & seemed to like it. An infer-
typing bureau to which I took the Canadian chapter
only did about 1/3 of it in a month & then shipped me up,
so I paid them off & transferred the work elsewhere. That
has been the only delay. I have only got the preface & the
bibliography to be typed now & the index to be finished &
typed, & the whole thing bound; then I bung the blooming
thing in. And don’t expect a cable on the result! You
page 12 can take it that if 650pp & about 2000 references don’t get a
Ph.D. nothing that mortal man can do will get one. What
I am really concerned about is getting it into print.
My own opinion of it varies between thinking it a cutcut
above ordinary doctoral theses & thinking it unutterable
rot; anyhow after reading the proofs I never expect to
read it again. It will of course be an essential book for
all my young pupils to have.

We went to the circus the other night. — Thrilling’s not
the word for it. Knife-throwers, lassooers, lions, bears,
clowns, acrobats, performing horses, champion wire-walkers,
trick cyclists, fun fair, tiny town, Buffalo Bill’s Original
Deadwood Coach, strong men, beautiful ladies,
all that the heart could possibly desire. Coming back
from an unsuccessful attempt to get in the week
before we had a look at Leighton House — some
rather good tiles in his Arab Hall (see illustration in
a book of Daddy’s) & a few good pictures. I like his
own studies much better than his finished paintings,
which in fact I don’t like at all. — Saw some good
silver at the V&A a week or two ago, too. Otherwise
nothing much doing. Reading Tomlinson’s Gifts of Fortune
now — by jingo! he can write, that bloke! Puts it over
everybody else I know. — Well, so long once again.

Much love to you both


Did I tell you I saw Mr Pickwick at the Haymarket Theatre? Not at all bad.