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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 22 January 1929

page 1

My dear Mummy,

In hopes that this will arrive
precisely on your birthday (which may be the reason
the mail is closing six hours earlier, & hence throwing
everybody out) but in fears that it will not, I wish
you joy, & many happy returns of the day, & one of
the best in fruit-salads, if possible a trifle, & plenty of
meringues, with cream. I shall try to remember to cele-
myself in due form, & maybe you will
catch a few faint whispers of revelry from the Nan-
Restaurant on your wireless. I hope anyhow if this
is late that the flowers turned up to scratch at the right time
& that all is a-blowing & a-smelling as it should do, within
& without your new room. I have sent you a couple of
books, trusting that in your lust for the printed word you
have read neither, though they have both been out a good
while. The London Perambulator is first-rate, though
the pictures are not so well reproduced as in the big
edition (which however I could not afford on this
occasion — I shall bring it with me if I come back.
The church in the Bloomsbury picture is I think St.
Pancras, not far from here, & you look at it fro up
page 2 Sketch map of St. Pancras, Russell Square and Brunswick Square.
Southampton Row, from about Russell Square. I must
say I have never seen the vicinity lookput on quite so fair &
floral an air, but there the man’s an artist. Mary
Wollstone Craft is buried there, I learnt the other day, so I
may go & look her up some time. The Galsworthy is
just a makeweight, though it won’t make much, even for the
postage, & to fill up any possible gap in your know-
of the family. So here’s luck.

Your last letter turned up nice & letter [sic: late], yesterday
to be precise, so I suppose the winter gales haven’t
stopped raging yet in the Atlantic — or possibly now that
Coates is out of office, the fault is on the N.Z. side
this time; though I don’t see how it can be, as Joe
Ward always nods at Daddy in the street. I suppose
he has a principle, J.W., nodding at every 2nd man
& every 3rd woman, or vice versa, judicious affability
being one of the honest marks of the statesman. That’s
probably the reason why Coates got biffed out, now that
I come to think of it, & Harry Holland can’t get in —
they haven’t learnt to come down to the level of the
people. The heart of Lambton Quay beats not for
them. — I did not start out to discuss politics
however, but to say how cheering it was to see a whole
page once again written by you even though it
was half taken up with excerpts from one of my
page 3
early efforts in the epistolary line. There doesn’t
seem much difference from your normal writing
either, though I won’t be so rude as to say it’s nearly
as hard to read, & so must be improving. Well, well,
I always was an inventive bloke, & if you’d taken
proper steps about [unclear: my] hot water supply 18 years ago,
no doubt you would have saved yourself a world
of trouble in the succeeding years, keen as I al-
was about stoking up the copper. Pity I didn’t
apprentice myself to Hanson, when I left the book
business, instead of going & wasting time at the university.
Good Lord, I might have been round the world three
or four times by now, & be running my car with
the best of them. It wouldn’t look bad to see me steering
you & your sisters & sisters in law at 40 m.p.h.
round the Queen’s Drive either. Look what you
missed by pushing me into the high-brow life. — I
don’t remember Auntie giving us our baths on
that occasion, but I do remember Uncle Tom’s
Cabin in the old King’s Theatre, & the way the
tears rolled down my manly cheek when the
cruel overseer came down whack! whack! on
poor old Uncle Tom’s back. Don’t remember any
emotion on the part of Auntie though, she just
sat there as chirpy as a critic, taking in the drama
page 4
of the situation with an expert eye, same as she
did when I took her to Little Lord Fauntleroy in
Christchurch, another classic of the screen, & I
believe her favourite production. What picnic it would
be I don’t know — I suppose I had left the Primi-
Methodists by then & started on my spiritual
pilgrimage through the Unitarians, & I believe the
Unitarian sunday school did have a picnic at
Porirua. I suppose it was a sunday school picnic
as it was “the” picnic & tickets were only 7d. The
cost of living must have been very low in those days.
Why, it costs me 6d to cash a cheque at the
bank nowadays, what with far tube there & back,
& 2d for Winston. — As far as the Auckland
job goes, I think I said all I had to on that
subject some time ago — really its main recom-
was that it wasn’t far from Wellington.
For the testimonials I thank you & the donors, though
I can’t understand why, if that is the extent of
F.P.’s admiration for me, he isn’t moving heaven
& earth to get me back on the staff at V.U.C. Next
time Daddy is hobnobbing with him at P.J. Smith’s
circus he might just point this discrepancy out to
him & mention that £500 p.a. might have
some attraction for me, but bis dat qui cito
dat & the market may not be open indefinitely.
page 5
(Not that I’ve been rushed with offers so far, nor am
likely to be for some time, this being the off-season
in academic engagements. I don’t particularly want
to wait till January or March 1930 before drawing
a screw either. An engagement from Sep August
or September, even in N.Z. would suit me pretty
well. If I knew what was going to happen to me,
I’d know better how to order my life in the next
few months. A queer bird, F.P. — if I can swallow
my pride I may write to him myself. I have swallowed
better things.

I am relieved to learn that Daddy thinks I
write a lot in the way of letters — you won’t be so cast
down if I sud dry up one of these days & come a sudden
flop. That Joe should get so much entertainment (&
free at that) out of us is indeed a tribute; he will
have been overjoyed [gap — reason: unclear] this to have got a letter of his very
own from me, though I don’t think it will take him
four hours to read. The people over here didn’t seem
to think too much of Conrad’s letters — I mean the
reviewers, partly I gather because of the sameness about
them, partly because not a great deal of his personality got
into them — the general verdict was that he wasn’t much
of a letter writer. I don’t know. They are down to
½ price now, new copies — any good to you (21/-)
page 6
Curle’s book also does not seem to have been very
enthusiastically reviewed, though after what I have
heard about reviewers I am not too much inclined
to attach too much weight to that. It does not seem
to give a great deal for the money though — so unless
after I have had another look at it I [sic: & I] change my
mind I won’t send it out new, but pick up a good
2nd hand copy at the Times Book Club if I can
later on. Perhaps in the mean time you could
borrow it from Archie in Whitcombe’s in my name.
I sent him a Xmas card, so perhaps he may accede if
you put it nicely.

I see that you mention Boswell’s Johnson &
Harrop’s Amazing Career in consecutive sentences —
rather a step down, isn’t it. If you mean by saying
that greater things are reserved for your son (I don’t
quite know which one of you I am addressing now)
bigger things, that’s true enough. My thesis all being in
type now measures 707 quarto pages, less exclusive of
trimmings such as preface, bibliography & index. I
just have to type the index & table of contents now, have
it bound & push it in. Whether the O.U.P. will take
on a thing of this size I do not know — they may
say Well, we published the O.E.D. but there’s a
limit. (F.P.’s “anxious to publish” makes me
laugh) I have been getting insts from Laski,
page 7
however, however to how to approach them diplomatically —
I am to write to Humphrey Milford, & mention Laski’s
name, because they both come from the same college,
& Milford is a real dinkum noble hearted fellow, like
all New College men. He may want the thing cut
down — I hope to God not, for it would be a great cause
of tribulation for me, & I am sick of the sight of it.
The only things I could really bear to fiddle around
with now in connection with gov’s inst would be
proofs. As for the final chapter which Daddy is so
anxious to read, I clean forgot to have a copy typed
for you (& rottenly typed it was too, even though by a
professional bureau). So if there is no immediate pros-
pect of getting the thing into print, I may send you out
a complete copy of the thesis when I get on back from the
university, if I can afford the postage. It might give
Daddy some pleasure however if I made that payable on
delivery — no doubt Joe Ward could do with the money
for opening up the backblocks or building a railway line
to Miramar or something. Yes, I certainly like
making summaries best — in fact, if Stephen falls
through, as now seems inevitable, I think my next
book will consist exclusively of a series of summaries
of things in general. They are easier to write, they
annoy people more, & they don’t clutter up the page so
page 8
with footnotes — all very positive virtues. Campbell
wanted to know the other day, if he took all his
money out of the bank & brought it round to me, whether
I’d write his thesis for me him, he just now being in
the throes of starting. I said I would, but he hasn’t
turned up yet. I might do a good trade this way,
much as John Stuart Mill used to provide an answer
complete in every detail like clockwork whenever people
came along & told him all their troubles. But he didn’t
charge, as far as I know. Not that he should have, having
a good fat pension from the India House. I am
reading his autobiography again — what a cove he was.

I am sorry Father Hooper is worrying about his
cobber Pease. I went & inquired about him, but he lives
way down in the country somewhere, & he rarely comes up
to London. Perhaps I had better try to get hold of him now
that the heat & burden of the day is over, & ditto with Robert-
. I am a bit chary of presenting letters of intro-
two years old, or indeed letters of introduction
at all, & I can’t conceive that these old coves ever
get any pleasure out of it — even out of meeting your
son — so I but I will see what can be done in the matter.
I am interested to hear of all the upheaval at 49 Hop-
Street — I l should not have thought myself that the
change to the dining room would have made all
that difference so far as the traffic is concerned, but there,
page 9
you’re right on the spot, & know. No doubt it was good
for the books, & the wall papers are suitably chaste
(bed & dining-rooms) & voluptuous (hall). What are you
going to do about heating the new bed-room? I still
think it would be a good thing, you know, if it could
possibly be managed, to get a complete change to the
Hutt or somewhere — but I know what the difficulties are,
both material & intangible. Still I think it w would
be a good thing in the lot long run if you could bring
yourselves to do it. Must see about it when I get home.
So far as the view is concerned & the sun, I agree the
change is all for the better. And of course aunties must feel
that to have a sitting-ro (drawing-) room as well as a
dining-room and a library is a definite move upward in
the social scale. — Yes, Atmore seems to be a a com-
& genuine [unclear: C.F.]. I don’t think Peter Fraser is quite
as bad as that, with all his faults (if he has any).
A shocking business. I am all intent for further
news of your proposed invitation to Peter — look at
it from the commercial standpoint — you never know,
the Labour Party might be quite keen on getting a good
auditor or accountant for their head office. Of course
you would have to swear allegiance to the party plat-
& probably drink a health to the memory of Lenin,
but I shouldn’t let little things like that stand in
page 10
the way of a job. — I have not stood about in
the rain outside the gates of Buckingham Palace. Nor
have I read except with a very sceptical eye the letters
from old ladies & gents to the Times & the Observer en-
extracts from their cobbers in the States “Oh we
are all so worried about your dear King” “Do
write & tell us how poor King George is getting on — every-
body here is so concerned” &c &c. Apparently all
the typists in New York on emerging from work mob
the newsboys for the latest about his nibs. And here
he is, gone & done them all out of a first-class emotion!
God knows how the cause of Anglo-American friendship
will suffer from this unlucky recovery.

I meant to say before that the answer from the
Auckland registrar to my application strikes me as
being a very shocking piece of English “Dear Sir, I have
to thank you for your application in the above regard” —
men should be hanged, drawn & quartered for that
sort of thing. — I had a letter from Kathleen
McKay, partly on her visit to you, which she seems
to have enjoyed very much, both upstairs & down.
The main objection she seems to have to the family
I gather is Keith, who seems to have developed a sort
of superior cynical impassiveness in company that
is a trifle oppressive to the spirit of unfamiliar visitors.
Perhaps it is merely the effect of being unmarried.
page 11
I would never have thought of accusing him of lack
of — well, conversation I was going to say, but perhaps
“words” would be more accurate. He may concentrate
all his gems on Frannie now, of course, on the prin-
that every man should be on his best behaviour with
his wife.

There is not a great deal to record in the way
of personal adventures over the last fortnight. My cheque
arrived from Hodgson’s — £35/8/9 net. I must thank
you very much for the £50, though there was no
need to cable it. I hope you clearly understand I do
not intend to touch this except in case of emergency, &
that I hope to return it at no distant date. I wanted to
be on the safe side, that’s all — but I think I explained
it pretty fully when I wrote. In the meanwhile it will
enable me to leave my own fixed deposit on fixed
deposit & so accumulate whatever miserable interest there
is to accumulate (& pretty miserable it is too). I am
at present having a scrap with King’s College & the Insti-
as to whether I shall pay them 3 gns more fees they
want to get out of me — without any justification in
regulations, so far as I can see — but apart from
these things, there is not much doing in the London
financial world. In the musical world I attended
a B.B.C. concert on Friday & heard fr some late
page 12
Debussy & Stravinsky’s le Sacre du Printemps, which
is weird stuff, but interesting. Before saying it is tripe
I should like to hear it again once of twice. Debussy
good. Also some Boyce & Elgar, both good. Other-
I haven’t been hearing any music, bar street organs,
but things are waking up now after Xmas, & I expect
to start my pilgrimages again. In the theatrical
world, I have seen Peter Pan, in fact took a
friend to it for a birthday present. Also good — same
cast as when I saw it last year, & kids in the
audience most enthusiastic. I think I shall wait
a year or two before seeing it again though. I
haven’t read much, nor have I been to the Dutch ex-
yet; but next week, when all this blooming
thesis is at last off my hands, the fur will begin to
fly — far & wide. Have you got any recommendations
for books for me to read? — On Sunday Elsie H.
Ern & I went up to Lincoln, for to see the cathedral; thick
fog all day a nuisance, but the cathedral was very
interesting though I have seen better. I have also heard
a lecture on Liverpool Cathedral, which I must see
some day. I have been suffering from a swollen
gland, but that seems now about back to normal — it was
very painful to live on soup for two days & that was the
chief suffering. Heard Laski lecture on Burke. Bought
a new sports coat — 15/- at Selfridges — for winter wear.
And that’s about all.

Much love to you both