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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 5th April, 1929

page 1

For letter & cuttings I thank you both.
Ditto for cable received the other day. I was sorry to hear
that your breath was getting a bit short at the time of
writing, but th trust that all is once more serene by now.
I was sorry to hear also about Mrs Hooper's crash — I
have written to her & hope she also is kicking vigorously.
As for the flowers, we didn't send specifications to Miss Poole, but
doubtless she displayed a good deal of second sight in the matter,
& knew that what was a success last year would be an
equal success this. I suppose our other little tributes
came by the mail after. Auntie Sis caused me consider-
able amusement — did Mr Patrick work it all out by
himself, or did he, working in Keith's office, have to consult
Keith first? I suppose Keith knew what it meant?
As a matter of fact I hesitated about supplying them
to all the aunts thinking that Berrie's cards might
be more their style, but B or her publishers didn't
turn out anything very thrilling for last Xmas — &
anyhow, I reflected, what is wanted on these occasions
is the personal touch, whether people understand it or
not. And as far as I can see, in spite of its cryptic
page 2 nature, it seems to have given universal satisfaction.
Joe seems to be rising in the hierarchy of civil servants —
surely it is a considerable distinction to be assistant librar-
ian to the Agricultural Dept, with great possibilities of
doing good. I should think he might start a circulating
dept for the farmers & slip in a British Weekly (if he
still takes it) or N.Z. Worker occasionally to broaden
their minds when they grow a trifle weary of recipes
for [unclear: manures] & curing pigs of the [unclear: herd-stoppers]. No
doubt he will be wandering up & downstairs & giving
Father Hooper the benefit of his views & advice in
the editorial division, so henceforth I expect things
to go with a swing & the quality of N.Z.'s basic
industries to improve suddenly and enormously. You
might thank Joe by the way for his letter, a very
impressive affair, which arrived last mail, & was perused
with due attention. I got likewise another effusion
in sparkling prose from Keith, but regret that I
can answer neither of these surprises by this mail,
owing to pressure of correspondence with a prior claim —
Laski's Recovery of Citizenship is not in his best [unclear: manner].
So for old King Cole, whose passing Daddy & the
paper chronicle — they both seem to leave out con-
sideration of his sterling work as ice-cream vendor,
carried on through many seasons & many places. I
don't know that it was particularly good ice-cream
page 3 but anyhow R.I.P. — I am somewhat appalled to
learn l about Margaret — I didn't know we had any Xian
Unionists in the family in this generation; but no doubt
as she is so circumstanced it doesn't matter whether she
does anything more or not at th college — I dare say she
will marry a parson & go to China as a missionary. Or
perhaps India. The young missionaries I have known all
seemed to have picked on countries with intricate philisophical
systems; but no doubt as they have taken university courses
that presents no serious obstacle. I only hope the parson
will be of the right sect for Auntie Laura — it wd would be a
bit awkward if Margaret fastened on a bloke who went
astray on some serious point, he he never so holy. Some
of these student Xian Movement bids are a bit liable to go
astray on political subjects too, you know — indeed
taking it all round, the theological life seems to be as
dangerous for prospective mothers-in-law as any other.
I note also that Daddy says it is “innocent pleasure”, &
God forbid that I should discourage anybody from that.
So you may regard Margaret's academic career as having
gained my sanction, which will no doubt give everybody
great joy. — Thanks for remarks on Dedication; I
hope you will not be too dissapointed if same falls
through for lack of a publisher. The O.U.P. now has
my MS. & say they will let me know sometime in May;
page 4 they are very careful to guard themselves from being encour-
, & if they turn me down it will be very awkward
hawking the things around in the time left at my dis-
posal. I do not propose to send a cable on the subject,
either, though it is much more important than the degree —
they are too blooming expensive. As you will doubless
agree. — Information on & [unclear: often] [unclear: cliche] of M. [unclear: Creghton]
I am glad to have. His works I have not read — outside
my period, [unclear: as] the [unclear: days] or incompetent historian pereni-
remarks. Mummy seems to be taking to reading works
of a very radical nature — Shaw on socialism, then
Upton Sinclair on economic imperialism, Beatrice Webb
on Social History — I tremble for the placidity of our
home. Perhaps she is working up to ask Peter [unclear: Jensen] to
tea? I hope Auntie and Auntie Win are doing their bit
also. You might find something elementary among
my books to start them on. Daddy mentions, [unclear: a propos]
of [unclear: Crighton] & [unclear: Peterborough] Cathedral & I called in there
on the way south from our [unclear: onlyshine] jaunt, & no
doubt if you refer back to my letters of that date you
will find something authoritative on it. It is a first-
Norman place so far as I remember, very huge,
but very airy & bright in the impression it makes, which
is unusual for Norman arichitecture I believe.

The apples arrived a couple of days after your
letter & are superb. They are a frightful price in the
page 5 shops & I have never been able to afford to buy them.
Well, as you may imagine, they are going down with great
[unclear: eclat,] though I am trying to make my share last as long
as possible. Ern having a key to my house, through the
kindness or carelessness of my landlady, it is a bit risky
for me to go out, but so far all has gone well; & my
friends seem to appreciate the gift as well. Once again &
with all due ceremony I thank you. It takes me back to
the suberb balancing feats I used to do in the kitchen with
40lb cases of apples, to Mummy's alarm, or at least she
said. The gy gymnasium is not so well fitted up as a
general rule nowadays.

My oral exam was like most oral exams — more or
less of a formality & more or less of an anti-climax. The
examiners were Miss [unclear: Parson] (or perhaps I should call her
Dr, as she has a PH.D.) Prof Godwell of the School of Oriental
Studies, & a third bloke whose name I havn't discovered
yet, though I think he was [unclear: Hedlam] hailing from I know
not [unclear: whence.] This last had the thesis stuck
full of markers, but I dont think anyone any of them had
read more than 1/2 of it, & Godwell confined his attention
entirely to [unclear: Ceylon.] They said absolutely nothing about
it as a whole either by way of praise or blame — I except
Miss [unclear: Parson,] who did she thought it didn't have enough
dates in it, to which the others chivalously agreed. They
page 6 each asked a few tiddly [unclear: working] questions, & I picked up
one or two hints for revisions & then informed me after
a suitable period for mutual consultation that they had decided
to recommend me to the [unclear: Senate] for the degree; which was
very nice. I thought they might have asked me to have
afternoon tea with me after that, but they all went &
sat in [unclear: cover] & discussed their various influences, so
after hanging around a bit in a hopeful manner without
result I came away feeling somewhat hurt. That's what
you pay 20 [unclear: gns] for. I don't formally get the degree till
the Senate meets at the beginning of May, when I think
I also get a [unclear: parchment] ship to add to my collection, or
something like that. I spent considerable time & thought
you might like [unclear: wise] (so that you could put in the
Freelance Whispers from [unclear: Wgton] by [unclear: Consande,] that
"Cabled advice has been received from London [unclear: that is)]
& finally boiled it down to the word PHD which I
thought would pass, but the young lady in the post office
said that wd be charged as three words, which rather
surprised me. [unclear: "Passed"] I objected on stylistic
grounds & [unclear: "thought"] seemed a bit vague, status="unremarkable">[gap — reason: unclear] so finally
I decided to blow in another 11 1/2d & send two words.
You have to sign a declaration here too that you're
not sending code of any description, these blasted
cable companies do get the whip hand of the public.
page 7 then this infernal govt goes & sells the [unclear: beam] radio system
to them at about 1/2 its valuation or less. Ah well, it
looks as if they are all going out on their necks at the
election, to judge by the status="unremarkable">[gap — reason: unclear] election results, so that's one
consolation. The [unclear: Darwin] gets very exicted about it every
Sunday now, & is torn between the necessity of saying
serve you right & I told you so & preaching the horror
of the Socialist menace. It must be terrible to be a
fair minded-publicist.

We had a pretty good Easter as far as the weather
goes, fine pratically all through, but I didn't go away,
except by the day. I went out to Hampton Court on Good
Friday & when I got into the gardens wished I had brought
my camera to take a picture for you — millions of
crocuses, white, blue, yellow & mauve growing every-
on the grass under the [unclear: trees.] Such a sight I
never did see before. Dear, dear, you would enjoy
such things as these over here. Lunched in the park
outside & lay & dozed under a tree afterwards —
you would almost think you were in a sensible
country on days like this. Very few people in the
park too, though just on the other side of the
wall getting blacker and blacker the nearer you got
to the buses & trams & trains people were crowded
sitting in their best suits or [unclear: preambulating] very
page 8 respectable. They're a curious people the English
(I say it in no [unclear: noble] spirit of [unclear: camping] criticism)—
they never seem to spread or want to spread themselves
out. No wonder such a thing as the [unclear: "slum] mind"
exists. They'd much rather sit in a black crowd
between a dusty road & a dirty river's edge with the
shriek of [unclear: horns] in their ears and persecuted by down at
hell heel 5 minute photographers than walk 100 yards
& get into the country. Just as well for the country,
perhaps, when you consider the waste-paper they leave
behind them. Well, anyhow, Hampton Court on a
fine day, even before the real approach of Spring, is a
pretty good place. The next day being Saturday I
went to Kew with the [unclear: Holmes] sisters, friend, & Bill
[unclear: Jocliffe] who turned up all of a sudden from Edinburgh
on his way to France to finish his [unclear: forestry] training.
It was jolly good out there too, though almost the only
sign there of happier days (besides the sun) was a fresher
green to the grass. We had lunch there & sat & gazed at the
river — which being very low looked extraordinarily like
some N.Z. rivers with big sloping sand-banks — & at an
aeroplane buzzing over here, still I tore myself away
to go & expect Uncle George's new house & wife over
the road. It is a huge house, so big that I don't know
what they'll do with it all, except hang all Uncle George's
spare pictures on the walls, but they have done it up
page 9 very well, so that it looks much better inside that it
does from the outside. A little patch of lawn &
garden at the back stacked with plants Uncle G. said,
pinched from Kew, like most of the gardens out that
way. I was told there was a room reserved for me
whenever I cared to come & stay. The new lady, Miss
[unclear: Boyee] by name (as she then was) seems very cheerful,
capable, good-humoured, & pleasant, but more I cannot
say, status="unremarkable">[unclear: having] having seen her for a total of 1 hour.
She did hard work as a nurse during the war, Uncle
G. told me & they seem to be on very good terms. They
were married on Tuesday at a Mick church down
Kensington, Our Lady of [unclear: Victoria] (she is a Mick) and I
never heard Latin gabbed gabbled more perfunctorily status="unremarkable">[gap — reason: unclear] than
by the parson or saw more cursory salutations given
to the altar. They had to have a registrar afterwards,
off course, & if I ever was brought to take the plauge
plunge that wd would be the service for me — all over in 2
minutes. I stood behind the bridesgroom & signed the
book & off they buzzed to Paris, Florence & Siena for 3
weeks, or as long as their money held out. The whole
thing was pretty short & sweet. — When I was at Kew
Uncle G. shouted me to the Q. Theatre to see a new
play of Lennox Robinson's The Far off Hills, is a very
bright comedy though by no means great, with Sara
page 10 Allgood & some other first rate people in the cast. His lady
went to town for a like occasion with a friend, so we
had a good chat, he said he might paint my portrait for
a show he is going to have out there to make himself
known. He hopes to work up a portrait collection, there
being a good many wealthy nobs out there. Berrie is
going to give London a go & live at Bayswater for a
while, which ought to do her good & wake her up a bit.
She is a very nice girl, but not very vivid. — I seem to
have been to a good many other plays too — Journey's End,
Berkeley Square, Fashion (see Punch — a screamingly
funny revival from the 1850s with more or less con-
songs — "Why did they dig Ma's grave so deep?"
"Call me pet-names, dearest, call me a bird," "Come,
birdie, come" with effects etc. I think I may possibly
go out to the Old Vic tonight and see The Rivals. Major
Barbara very good. — but I think I mentioned that in
my last letter. Heard the B.B.C. people do Verdi's
Requiem under Sir Henry Wood, a good performance,
& a couple of quartets, Mozart & Schubert, by the
Cathedral Quartet last week. At the pictures I have
seen status="unremarkable">[unclear: The threx Mix] Fairbankes & Co in The Iron Mask,
aerobatic, swashbuckling, cloak & sword stuff, &
White Shadows in the South Seas, a good picture &
an extraordinary picture to come out of America,
for it actually made white men the villains &
page 11 natives the decent people in a story of pearl exploitation
[unclear: or.] First-rate photography, but considerable prudery —
there was a great deal of bathing, but all the natives
bathed in their clothes. But the brightest thing in the
way of censorship for a while is the fact that
the censors objected to the abbreviation "Jix" in an
avowedly comic film. Now what do you think of
that? — I seemed to go out every night for a fort-
somewhere, partly due to Henning's presence
over here for a last look-round before buzzing off
to a job in Sydney Univ. A good cobber. On
Monday Sunday I went with him out into the country round
Hadley Wood, to the north of London, the most deso-
journey I have ever been on — a frightful
district indeed. What a sickening place London is
outside a few favoured spots! But it was heaven
to walk over green fields again. To-morrow, if it
is fine, I take to my bike & go off to Hertfordshire
& knock around with [unclear: Lowie] for a while, & the
Holmes, who have got the loan of a cottage there
for a fortnight.

I am now nearly through the Intelligent
Woman — I shelved it for a while for other things —
[unclear: Tomlinson's] Waiting for Daylight, — good but not
his best, & the [unclear: Brooke Keith,] which I think
page 12 is magnificent. I wish there was another volume
of it. I think I may cultivate [unclear: Geoge Moore] now
for a bit. Or I may go on to Moby Dick next, which
seems the sort of thing that you can get your teeth into.
It is satisfactory to be able to read some real books
again, & not to be confined to the dirt & drivel out
of which history is manufactured in the B.M. Per-
I shd should apologize to the B.M. — their books are status="unremarkable">
generally clean. Its [unclear: in] the P.R.O. that you pick
up the status="unremarkable"> dirt. — I bought the new cheap edition
of My Apprenticement the other day; or rather as my
funds are so low I was [unclear: urged] by Miss Mary Casey
the brilliant saleswoman of the C.S.E. book room
to take it & pay for it in three weekly instalements
of 2/6; the first of which I am proud to say I
paid off today. I got a very good green dish at
that exhibition of Heal's of pottery and textiles too, for
a guinea; an Apple Dish it is called, & looks very
well, whether empty or full of apples. I hope you
will see it some day.

Well, that I think concludes the fortnights'
news. With love to all, but especailly your two