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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Father, 14 June 1929

page 1
79/ is missing – the
one written on hearing
of his mother’s death I suppose.

Life of James Fitzj Stephen
By Leslie S.

My dear Daddy,

The usual thanks for you last letter,
of 5 May, or rather, more than the usual thanks, it being
my birthday letter. I feel rather humble when you
yourself thank me so much for my letters; you don’t
seem to consider that yours have been just as regular
over just as long a period, & that you have had a good
deal less time to write them in than I have had. Look-
back, I seem to myself really to have put up a very
poor performance seeing what I owe you. It seems little to
repay you & Mummy for what you have given me. — I
was thinking by the way, but forgot to say in my last
letter that my book will still have the same dedication
when it is published, for it must get published some day if I
have to shanghai a publisher to do it — “To J.B. &
D. E. B.” I could never alter it now.

Thanks for the Carlyle bit about Stephen; it is
very interesting to have such an ex-cathedra judgement, &
I may find an opportunity of using it. There has been an
article about Stephen in a new American Journal of History
recently by a cove who has picked up some very good
material, but does not put it together too well. Someone
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told me he was writing a book on the subject; so after
the lapse of twenty years or so I may be able to step in
& rewrite it for him with the addition of whatever ex-
information, if any, I may have myself. I think
it’s a pity Leslie S. or James Fitzjames never left a decent
long account of the old man; apparently they took the
view that it wasn’t everybody’s business. If you ever
come across Leslie’s Life of J. Fitzj though, there is a
rather interesting account in the first chapter or so of the
whole family, with a good deal of attention to the James.
Carlyle didn’t seem to think much of his Essays in Ecclesiastical
Biography, but they are rather interesting still, as the ex-
of a the mind of a very thoughtful & broad-minded
evangelical. When he went to Cambridge as Regius Prof.
of Modern History he was assailed by one blithering fool
over the hell-fire question; but the attack didn’t seem to
cut much ice; the vice-Chancellor of Cambridge being a
good deal more tolerant than King's College, London
apparently. I think I told you of the movement to get a
F. D. Maurice Chair of Theology there - it makes me
laugh whenever I think of it. God knows how many
more theologians they want there; I should think a
better thing for the parsons would be a practical worker
in intelligence-tests. — Thank you too for the cuttings.
Everybody seems to be very keen on the study of N. Z. history —
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at least, [unclear: H. G.] Miller, Nellie Good, Scholefield, & perhaps F. P. W.
do. Miller of course may be acting merely as devil’s
advocate, but he does seem to be a bit of a holy Joe in his
public life. I notice it never seemed to occur to anybody to
propose an E. G. Wakefield lectureship in History at a good fat
screw — perhaps as a member of the Committee, or Council,
or High Priesthood of the W’gton Historical Assn. You might
be instrumental in engineering this praiseworthy object. I
do not doubt that if P. J. Smith got his giant brain on to
the subject something could be made of it. Perhaps how-
he is entirely wedded to the drama these days — I
understand he has at last had an extravaganza produced.
It is interesting to learn also that there is a symphony orches-
in W’gton. It looks as if the difficulty soon may be
not to get me back to N. Z. but to keep me out of the country.
I don’t think there is much more to say about the contents
of your letter; I gathered from it & from Keith’s, for which
you might thank him — I will do so myself next mail —
that you had been having a pretty rotten time. However I
did not need much telling to know that , & I won’t
enlarge on it. Will you thank Auntie also for her
note & birthday present; I wrote to Auntie Win this
mail, just to keep things all square between them, but
she shall get a letter herself very soon.

The 2 gns + 30/- turned up all right. I won’t
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reiterate thanks; but it may steady your bank balance if I
say I don’t intend to take any more degrees for a few
years. I have been considering what to get, & I have
pretty well decided to add both lots together & get the
Shakespeare Head Plutarch, if I can find a decent copy.
It is a very good set; but those Blackwell books have very
often one bad fault which most books seem to have in
this machine-ridden age — the pages are folded so badly
that the print frequently rides up or down hill on the
page, & I am getting so pernicketty [sic] that these things
annoy me damnably. At the same time as I said in
my last, the thin-paper Pepys is very attractive, & so is the
new Sir Thos. Browne, though that has the same fault f
as the Plutarch. It is annoying when they ask £4
or £5 for a set, to have two or three volumes like this.
Did I ever say anything about that Nonsuch [sic: Nonesuch] Shakespeare
they were trying to work off on you at Whitcombe’s? They talk
about the marvellously low prices of those things, but there’s
a good deal of eye-wash about the it all. They may be
marvellously low prices, but not for the average book-
collector. At the same time, it is a bit comic that they
should be obtainable in N. Z. Some of them, at prices far
below what collectors who can’t get on to the original
subscribers’ lists have to pay for them here. Do you know
I hardly ever see a Nonsuch [sic: Nonesuch] book? I did see a show
page 5
of them in Bumpus’ window just after I got here; & the
Milton a few weeks afterwards, & I know were you can
get a Milton now if you own the Midland Bank; & I
saw the Dante at Oxford. But with the exception of their
Restoration dramatists, I haven’t seen any other of their big
books — not the ghost of a shadow of the Shakespeare. I
think publisher & subscribers must form a pretty close
corporation. — Well, this is a long repetition of what I believe
I have already said before often enough. Of course I
should except from this diatribe the small Blake & Donne.
Ern walked in yesterday morning with the Donne as a
birthday present, which was very decent of him — I had
been wanting it for a long time. He is a generous cove.
I also received on this occasion the new Gibbon’s Journal
from Elsie, with permission to change. I have not yet
decided what to do; it is a good book, but rather expensive
at the price. Finally Mary Casey of the School book-
, & Duncan joined in presenting me with A Soldier’s
Diary of the Great War, a little book which has a good
reputation. Translations of German war-books by the
way continue to flock into the market. Ernest & Elsie
combined to turn on fruit-salad & cream & a bottle of
booze for tea, to which Duncan also came, so I did
pretty well for one away from home. — the first birthday
party of that size I have had since 1926. Mrs Hannah,
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unwitting of the occasion, had already had me out to lunch
again, so all in all I did pretty well yesterday.

I don’t know that there is a great deal to report apart
from this. There hasn’t been a job turn up yet. The thing
at Portsmouth has gone to someone else. I have been asked
to attend at the University next Friday for an interview in
connection with the travelling studentship I entered for; which
may mean something or nothing. I’m not getting excited
about it anyhow; as whatever happens in that particular
business it can only mean further puzzlement. A year in
Paris would be all right, but at the end of it I mightn’t know
exactly where I stood, any more than I do now. I haven’t
heard anything at all of the Geneva project, as the head
serang in that department is working on the minorities report
for the league. I hope he will bethink himself of this
infinitesimal minority some time. I had a note from Wil-
liamson tonight about that Pacific exploration book; the
publishers are now sending out contracts to be signed; there
is no time-limit, but they would like my volume by the
beginning of 1931. If I come back to N. Z. & can’t get a job
immediately, I could work on this in the meantime at
the Turnbull Liby. If by any chance I am out of England
& not in N. Z. There may be difficulties. However I think
I should do it if humanly possible. I have done nothing
about publication of the Gov’s Insts yet. I may as well
page 7
revise it before trying it on anyone else, & that is a fair sized
job, & I don’t feel like starting off on it at present in this
uncertain position; though superficially that might seem
the best way of filling in the time. But I want to come
to it with an absolutely fresh & merciless mind; & mean-
there is a lot to see & do in England still. So much
for work or prospects thereof.

I don’t seem to have read much. I finished the
Forsyte Saga last week; & I am very eager to read the next
cartload. Thinking back to the Man of Property itself, it seems
to me to be a most remarkably good novel, in balance, &
construction, & style & effect. Taken in conjunction with the rest
of the book, it seems unfinished; but I am wondering what
I would have thought of it if I had read it as it first appeared
by itself in 1906 (was it?). We were strolling around Kensing-
a bit this afternoon & struck Montpelier Square, where
Soames lived — a jolly nice square it is too. All those Forsytes
did for themselves pretty well in the way of housing. — I
think for sheer beauty of writing the Indian Summer of a
Forsyte takes the palm. I never read any Galsworthy before
this spasm. I think it is a good thing to keep some books
till you are fairly mature, & then to get your teeth into
them properly. I have also read a little book of essays
by Galsworthy, Castles in Spain, in Heinemann’s Windmill
Library 3/6 — it has some interesting reminiscences of Con-
page 8
in it; & another interesting essay on his own faith as a
novelist, among other things. I never knew there was so much
humour in him. — I have also read Gentlemen Prefer
Blondes, which is funny in spots; & Virginia Woolf’s Orlando,
which is hard to criticise; nor is it much good doing so —
you just accept it, as Walt Whitman & Ella Wheeler Wilcox did
Life. Mrs Hannah presented me with a Tauchnitz edition.
I believe you were enquiring about the book from Ern — I don’t
know whether you would like me to send this out. Or would
it be too much like driving a motor-lorry through the
[unclear: law]? That seems about all I have read. I got Eddington’s
Swarthmore Lecture, Science & the Unseen World, the other
day, but haven’t taken it in yet. And the other day I was
peeved to notice a new cheap 6/- edition of Tawney’s Religion
& the Rise of Capitalism. What with the books you don’t
buy & never get a chance at again, & the ones you do buy &
that afterwards come out in cheap editions, a man leads
a pretty mournful life.

I had Mrs Hannah here to tea on Saturday
afternoon last, after which we went together to see
Sybil Thorndike in Jane Clegg & the Medea. The
acting in Jane Clegg, most of it, was superb, especially
Clg Clegg, Mr Morrison, & Mrs Clegg senior. Have you
read the play? It is good though not great stuff. The Medea
was staged very well on the whole, good posing & lighting
page 9
Sybil T. at times looked magnificent. But the thing, though
impressive at times, was also at times very funny & pretty
boring, at least to me; also considerably long-winded.
It might go down better in Greek; for the translation,
though beautiful in parts, is undeniably if inevitably
wordy. However it was interesting to see Greek drama
for the first time. About the only show I have been to
besides this has been a Philharmonic Choir concert of
modern English stuff, very good indeed.

Well, I don’t suppose I need point out the importance
of the election to you. Lloyd George seems very peeved.
The fool isn’t losing any time in getting going, & is generally
regarded as being a very good one. Most people have
expressed some doubts of Henderson as Foreign Sec, but
at Laski’s on Sunday I heard that he was about the
best man in the country for the job — a tremendous
worker, a wonderful organiser, & thoroughly familiar with
Europe & the coves who run it. Geneva will be very
pleased, as he is greatly admired there. He is the sort of
cove who doesn’t mind who gets the credit, as long as the
work gets done, so Macdonald will probably do most
of the speechifying. It is owing to this that Henderson
is not so well-known or appreciated, but he is the man
behind the Labour Party. All of which is very
cheering, if it doesn’t quite tally with John Burns’s
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estimate of him. [unclear: J. H.] Thomas wanted the Foreign
Office, but agreed to work on the unemployment question
instead — about equally important. Most of the other
important jobs are in pretty good hands. Macdonald is
a very good P. M. Jowitt’s going across & taking the
Attorney Generalship has annoyed the die-hard Tories &
Liberals immensely. [unclear: U. G.] said he wouldn’t comment upon
it — there was no need to in view of the universal
nausea it has created — I haven’t noticed this personally.

Just before I close down! have you considered
whether it may be possible to chuck Shanlands’ now or
get six months off & come to England for a trip? I
think it would do you a world of good. But I
won’t say more about it now till I see what is going
to become of us all on this side. Think it over though,
even if it is only a bare possibility. — Well, I had better
knock off or have another walk to the Post Office. I think
about you a good deal these days — the memory of all
our lives together is very dear to me. My birthday
seems to throw it all up in ever higher relief. God
bless you my Father.

with much love