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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 5 March 1929

page 1

My dear Mummy,

Your end of January letter received &
read with all the eagerness & avidity I generally display over
the production of my Parents’ pens (quite a lot). For
enclosures also I thank you: university stuff very interesting —
I suppose Hunter accepted the Vice Chancellorship & is now in
a position to hand out Juicy Jobs with both hands. Alan’s book-
cartoon strikes me (though I may be biased) as one
of the best he has done. Scholefield on N.Z. archives makes
me tired — you would think he was the first bloke who ever
saw anything, read anything, heard of anything, or did any-
on the subject. Has he forgotten that not only did J.C.B.
have free access to the Police Station records, but even
walked off to Sydney with the key thereof? You’d better
write to the Post & tell them this. The review from
the Post seems all right, though of course it has completely
misrepresented the scope & nature of my Work (they
always do); & I am very grateful to Daddy for trouble
taken in connection therewith. Ditto to his obliging
cobber Mr Ernest Blundell. I see that Miss Alice A.
Fraser is going abroad in the interests of child welfare: now
why should she want my address? — it’s these people who
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worry over my welfare I want to get away from. The
N.Z. Artists’ Annual also came — some of Alan’s stuff is
quite good I think: I may pass it on to Uncle George & Co.
I larfed at one or two of the Dominion cartoons enclosed
therein too. That I think concludes the tale of enclosures
&c. While I am on same you might thank Joe for
the third letter card in succession I have had from
him — if he isn’t careful I shall be coming to expect
it as a regular thing. He may get a letter from me
some day. I got a few letters from other people in
N.Z. this time too — the first for a long while
when my mail has consisted of one letter per fortnight,
[gap — reason: unclear] from you. I should be glad if you would ring up
Marjorie Wiren & inform th her that God willing she will
get a letter next mail.

I now come to your letter. Of course I am delighted
that you can walk upstairs again, even if it does add or restore
a fresh terror to Daddy’s life, — or restore an old one. However I
hope you won’t do it too often, both for his sake & your own.
I might suggest to him as a good standard excuse, available
for all occasions, to account for the presence of books
you haven’t seen before — “Oh, Jack sent it to me”. He can,
of course, add any riders he likes, such as “Good of him,
wasn’t it?” or “I wish he wouldn’t do it so often” &c. &c.
I hope you will have the decency only to go upstairs after mail-
days. Joe seems to be amazed & entranced at your im-
page 3 provement
, too, so it seems well vouched for. However keep
a tight hold on yourself — don’t go down to Mt Cook these
holidays. Wait till I come back & I take you down. — On
the subject of Hope & Book Auctions, I don’t think your John
O. Hobbes is worth much yet. They’ve only got up to the early
Victorians. Tennyson is beginning to rise in value, & no
doubt even Browning will later on. Just wait till the
Yank millionaires have exhausted all previous centuries.
I think that about 1980 the ‘90’s will be in great demand.
I tell you what I do think may be worth something, though —
they’re in my room, but they really belong to Daddy, or perhaps
you. Though as you let them pass so meekly out of your
hands, they may de facto be securely in mine in point of
law. That is a couple of Kipling early railway book-
editions — I put a beautiful cardboard folder round
one of them — story of the Gadsby’s I think. They’re on
the extreme left [gap — reason: unclear] end of the top shelf of my biggest
book-case, I think. Now you do those a up carefully
& send them over & there’s just a Sporting Chance. You
know. It’s worth the cost of postage even if they only
fetch 10/-. There are all sorts of fine points about these
editions, that’s the trouble. However send ‘em over —
unless some early romance hinges on them, & you’d rather
not part with them. We’ll go 50-50 in the proceeds,
if any. You get your 50 for having bought them when
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you did, & thus showing knowledge & foresight; I get my
50 for commission, trouble taken, knowledge of where to
look, & pains in bringing buyer & seller together. Come on;
give it a flutter. Get Auntie in on it, & form a syndicate
to finance the postage, if you like. As for Sorrell & Son,
yes you can tell Auntie that I think it would be very nice
too if I could write a book like it, but I don’t see any
prospect of doing so. As for underpants, such has been the
rigour of the weather that I am still wearing them. Here
let me tell you what I have somehow forgotten to do to date —
i.e. that I also bought a month or six weeks ago, Two New
Shirts, coloured ones, mainly brown stripes, & 4 collars
for each. What are you getting at, calling me a miser?
I’ve practically bought a whole new wardrobe since I
came to England — two whole new suits:— overcoat —
hat — handkerchiefs — socks for summer wear — collars —
shirts — co coats — trousers — & underpants & singlets galore.
Quite a large stab out of my income. And look what
the suits alone cost me! Did I ever go down & spend
£12.5 or whatever it was bang off on books? Why, do
you know that in more than 3 weeks I’ve spent exactly
2/- on books? — that an Everyman. Call me miser
over clothes indeed! And wot about the shoes? Come orf
it! — Was the Cam. College young lady coming to
call on Auntie Win or the MacG. Wright’s? She is a
great cobber of Uncle George’s you know. Yes, Miss Candy
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was the old girl I met, but I haven’t heard any more about
jobs at Cam. Coll. — I conveyed your message to Miss
Holmes, contrary to the opinion of Miss Austen. — If I come
back to N.Z. it will certainly, barring some extraordinary
reason, be per free passage. This is available April to July.
You won’t see me in April tho. Heaven knows there is plenty
to do here. I wonder w how long Mrs Hannah will be in
the States — I should very much like to see her over here. You
seem to have been getting on very well with her, & certainly
she is very easy to get on with. — I was interested to learn that
Daddy saw “Chang”; I saw it over here too; it’s had a
long run here. — No doubt Keith will have his picture
in the Free Lunch over the Lyttelton Tunnel, & at the
ceremony Frannie will be presented with a charming bouquet
by little Miss Somebody — all very affecting to think of — a
bit stiff on the stewardess though, when she has to knock
off seeing K. I suppose they will start to electrify
something at Dunedin now. In fact there are quite a
number of places down south besides Lyttelton. Yes, the
future of the stewardess seems assured. — What to think of
a book & stationery business I don’t know — are you prepared
to dance on the end of a string pulled by Whitcombe’s? Can
you face the immoral profits made in the stationery trade.
If you have no ethical or literary sense you may make a
do of it. Whitcombe’s themselves of course could do with
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a bookseller in their shop. Or what about asking old Coventry
for a job. Or why not start another circulating library?
Perhaps Innes would take you into partnership to do the
highbrow side of the business.

In answer to all kind inquiries I beg to report that
my exam is not a thing of the past. In fact the more I
think about this imbecile university the more I lose my
temper. In fact they haven’t even sent the theses out to the
examiners yet. In fact they haven’t got examiners yet. You
generally get examined orally about 3 weeks after your thesis
goes in. After a month I had heard nothing of mine;
but I did hear from the caretaker that Miss Parson, who
has charge of my case in the absence of Newton had asked
if I had been around at all, & said that she could not
understand something. So I sought a word with Miss P.;
& she told me that she tried to get the Board of Studies to
appoint an emergency external examiner ([gap — reason: unclear] you have 3 ex.’s,
two from Univ of London & one elsewhere) in case the one
they nominated wouldn’t serve — they refused — he wouldn’t
serve — & they haven’t appointed another examiner yet! They
appointed the first three Dec 7th. And here it is March
5th. Any they didn’t even have the decency to write & tell
me. Charming manners. I used to think the Univ of N.Z.
was pretty badly run, but it’s almost a jewel compared
to this joint. Meanwhile I waste time. I wanted to get
the examiners’ advice on revision before submitting the
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thing to the O.U.P. — I hear that if it is to come out next
Autumn it must be in at least by the end of March — &
I don’t see any prospect of even getting examined before
about the middle of April. Of course the O.U.P. mayn’t
accept it anyhow — however I think I will write to them
to-morrow & be blowed to the opinion of any examiner.
There would be a whale of a lot of proof-reading, anyhow,
& other et ceteras, & I don’t want to spend my last days in
England doing that. Nor do I want to have to do any of it by
post, after I have left. I had enough of that over the Capt.
Hobson thing. It’s a pity my letters receive mixed read-
— I could just loose off a few of the best now.
Meanwhile de Kiewiet’s book is out anyhow, & very nice it
looks too — Longmans. You say you like to see my
name in print, so if ever “British Colonial Policy & the St[h] African
Republics” turns up in N.Z. Daddy had better borrow it, & if
you look in the preface you will find me all right, as large
as life. I got a presentation copy, of course, which turned
up this morning — the first I have ever received, though
I have dispersed them. I must say de K. has either a
perverted sense of humour or a morbid sense of com-
however — this is the inscription he enclosed
“To John, in memory of many common likes & dislikes,
& some common disappointments.” Now who wants to be
reminded of disappointments, common or otherwise? Too
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much like the Memento Moir bloke. It is a good book
though, if you’re interested in the subject. I don’t sup-
Auntie would like it as much as Sorrell & Son. It’s
not suffused with the same passion. In fact you might say
the same for my book.

I don’t know that I have done much worthy of record
in the last fortnight. I haven’t been away at all, except
[gap — reason: unclear] on Sunday last to Welwyn Garden City to look up Lorrie,
who has been mildly ill for a bit with blood poisoning.
He was out when I got there, so I had a bit of a walk
along the road, over the fields & through the woods,
& afterwards had tea & supper with him at some friends.
While in hospital he removed his mind from its
scientific detachment from the ordinary world for a
bit, & considering the state of England, became a socialist.
Now there you are — there’s a bloke who has hitherto taken little
interest in politics or social organization — so in spite of
Daddy’s love for England & the English, it won’t be very
hard to understand my rage sometimes. Lorrie carried
on an argument with his hostess in great style — she
being one of these enthusiastic middle-witted very nice
girls who don’t like extremists & admire successful men
& think everybody ought to be given an equal chance & who
patronise the don’t like the factories they have seen, & patronise
the Welwyn Co-op. all in one breath. — I had a very
slight attack of the flu myself last week & stayed in
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bed for a day & read — everybody has been getting it, but I got it
less than most. We went sliding again before that on the
Round Pond, which was productive of great hilarity, but only
one crash this time on my part. The thaw has come now —
& I think on the whole I prefer the thaw to the sliding. In fact
the sunshine to-day was such that you could almost imagine
Spring sitting up aloft somewhere & meditating a sudden descent
somewhere. However I note that it has now begun to rain; & that
we are promised further frosts at night, so everything in the
garden is not exactly lovely yet. — I read the 2nd volume of
K. Mansfield’s letters last week — not quite so painful as the first,
though I did know she was dying all the while. Well, all I can
say is that I feel I know her better than all except one or two
of my friends, & admire her to desperation. What hideous,
brutal luck she had! Otherwise I have followed her
example & read several of the comedies of Shakespeare. Also
Religio Medici (pursuing my voyages of discovery among the
classics) & Well’s last book, which is very good in its way.
This they spontaneously lent me — pressed on me — insisted on
my taking for the week-end — at Bumpus: I must take
Alan’s bookshop cartoon along & show them next time I go.
Here’s a bit of a joke, by the way — the other day I got the
prospectus of shares in some big drapery combine run by
Debenham & Freebody (I think) — they own most of the
big drapery shows, Marshall & Snelgrove, Harvey Nichols &c —
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& also, of all places, Bumpus! They leave Bumpus’ direction
alone, though, I heard on inquiry — just take the profits.

We have been to a few exhibitions lately, too (1) Dutch
(2) British Industries Fair (3) Ideal Home. The main conclusion
I have come to after due consideration of all these is that the
British haven’t mastered the art of giving away free samples.
Perhaps I should say the English. We didn’t expect pictures,
of course, of or furniture; but these things ½ boil
down to shows of foodstuffs &c. We got a lot of biscuits
cheese, & breakfast food — but generally speaking these were
Canadian & had to be eaten on the spot. Nothing to take away
anywhere at all. The Empire Marketing Board takes up a
lot of space — ½ or 2/3 of which goes to Canada — they do they
third properly, & are comparatively lavish in asking you
to taste. The N.Z. show is small, & you get nothing out of
them, & they don’t know the price of much that they have got,
& they only have the most expensive kind of everything. —
However by going back several times to the same stalls after
a decent interval, both at the Br Ind. & the Ideal Home we were
able to get quite a good afternoon tea — you had to go several
times because the portions were so minute. In this way I
got a mixture inside me of biscuits, cheese, chocolate, charcoal
biscuit for indigestion (not mine) pineapple (Singapore)
Ivelcon, [gap — reason: unclear], more cheese, marmite, (sandwiches & as a
drink), rice toasties & fruit, & even yesterday (as it was free) a
bit of curry & rice from India. But you’d pick up more in
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½ hour at a decently run Winter Show in W’gton. You see I am
quite prepared to give N.Z. its due. There were no ideal
homes at the Ideal Home Exhib as far as I could see, & a large
amount of quite appalling furniture — but some very good stuff.
However I’m afraid I have come to the point now when I
shall have to live in a house furnished frankly with fruit
& kerosene cases, for nothing I could ever possibly afford to
buy could possibly please me. I saw some good glass &
china at the Br Ind Fair too; but here again 99% of the
stuff was simply ghastly. British Industry is responsible for
a shocking lot of ugliness too. This was a trade show
too, & we got quite a lot of insight into the profits made. Their
great phrase is “Can I interest you, sir?” in bungalows, Worces-
sauce, cigarettes, washing machines, patent chesterfield
beds, bathrooms & potato-peelers. One cove wanted very much to
interest me in pianos, but I told him he couldn’t even sell
me a barrel organ. They have a lot of little stalls full
of woven materials & peasant embroidery, & painted gadgets
for the house too, some of which were very good. I was greatly
tempted to get a dinky serw serviette-ring each for Anne & Betty,
with their names on, painted wood, but they were 2/6 each, &
too blooming expensive, like all these nice arty-crafty
things. So both nieces will have to take the will for the
deed, & continue to lick their thumbs, or throw their napkins
on the floor, or whatever they do now. You know there
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might be unheard of depths of avuncular benevolence
in me, if only I had the money. — Did I tell you
about my great Fees Controversy? After a great deal
of argument & correspondence King’s College has at last been
able to produce the tail-end of a regulation bearing on
the subject, so it looks as if I am going to lose after all,
& will shortly be minus 3 gns more. It wouldn’t be quite
so bad if they would only get a move on & give me some-
in return — God knows you get little enough at
the best of it, & I seem to be doing exceptionally badly. It
may confidently & truly be stated that the PhD fees here are
tantamount to bare-faced, unblushing & daylight robbery, done
with the most ineffably sanctimonious air in the world. They
tell you how lucky you are. — I have been to no plays
since Florence Nightingale — did I tell you about that? It was
good. Damnation of Faust conducted by Hamilton Harty last
Friday, with Hallé Orchestra — also good. Ditto Lener Quartet
in Brahms programme on Saturday afternoon, including clarinet
quintet part of which we have on the gramaphone. I feel there
is the less need for me to make any remark on these in-
amusements now that Ern is on the scene. He
seems to be the highest brow in the family, & generally seems to
have the final word on every subject. I don’t feel it’s for
me to say anything these days. When in doubt, ask Ern.
All questions of fact settled: all aesthetic judgements corrected. So
you can always be certain of getting the dinkum oil out of him.

I therefore beg to finish by sending my love to both of you