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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Father, 12 July 1929

page 1

My dearest Father,

Your last two letters have come —
the one for me, & that for Ernest & me between us. It
is good of you to think so much of us in your own
sorrow; I wish I did not feel so dumb myself. I think
I can realise how you feel in the house; books, trees,
this square, gardens like Kew, & indeed everything lovely
& quiet & peaceful remind me of Mummy. The things she
knitted me I was always proud of, & now they have an
added dearness. I’m glad you told me about the last
books she read — I was wondering what they were. I have
been thinking of getting Gore’s Jesus, but as it seems pretty
certain now that I shall be coming back to N. Z. I think
I would rather wait & read the copy Mummy read.
The main consolation of coming back now will be that
I shall be able to share the house with you for a bit.
I can’t say how glad I am you have got away from
Shanland’s for a while — the longer the better. The
thought of that place puts me into a considerable rage.
It seems to me almost inconceivable that they would let
you retire & not do a thing for you — but I suppose
businesses are built that way. All the worse for the
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world. I wish to God I could do something. — Thank
you very much for keeping together the books I sent Mummy;
yes, I should like to have them some day. About the
letters & wi wires from people — I think I’d like to see
these, if you can bear to keep them, but I shouldn’t bother
about sending them over here — they might get lost in transit;
& as I say, I shall probably be coming back. I don’t know
about Ern.

Well, I have spent that Ph.D. & birthday money at
last. I had just about decided to spend the 2 gns on
Pepys, india paper, as I thought Mummy would have
liked that; when I was walking down the Charing
Cl Cross Road & in a bookseller’s window saw the Nonesuch
Milton. I thought, I’ll just hop in there & enquire the
price of that — if it was £7..10 last time I priced
it, it must be away to glory now. So I did, saying
to the cove, about £30, I suppose? He said No, it’s
really very cheap, like all our books — £3- £3..10.
So I had a good look at it & decided to splurge. It did
seem very cheap, & it is a magnificent book, a fine italic
type, & with designs by Blake for illustrations, first rate most
of them. It may be extravagance for one in my financially
very rocky position; but I thought it would be a fine
successor to the Faerie Queene & the Morte d’Arthur you
gave me; & as it was the last gift Mummy gave me, a
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sort of memorial to her. I think you will like it; & I think
we may say that between us we have a pretty good
pair of editions of Milton. Apart from this I think the
only books I have bought lately have been Edmund Blumden’s
Nature in Literature, one of those Hogarth Lectures, & quite
good; & Bridge’s Essay on Keats, in that new edition of
his Collected Essays in his reformed spelling. It is going
to be a bit of a pang to leave so many unpurchased books
behind me! I shall certainly before I leave, however, make
arrangements to get books from Bumpus’ direct. I enclose
a folder about a small exhibition they are holding now —
the work is very good, & cheap at the price, though that
may seem excessive. I like the St. Augustine & the Luther
Bible best myself, glorious folios. The folder is printed
in the usual press type of the smaller size, & with about
the proportion of print to margin they generally use. I saw
the work of the press first when I was in Munich, & was
greatly struck with it then. I would certainly if I were
a rich man, make a collection of printing — & if I presented
it to N. Z. I’d make sure that it would be put on view
occasionally, & not sealed away from the light of day like
most of the stuff at the Turnbull Library. But you need
money for that game, & as you didn’t have the luck or
cunning to become a steel-king or an oil-magnate I don’t
see much prospect of the country getting much out of
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About my future movements: did I tell you
about my Singapore application in my last letter? I
think I must have — but in case not, I have applied for
a newly-founded chair of history there, the appointment of to
which lies with the Colonial Office. Laski wrote “very
strongly” to Webb on my behalf, & Webb answered very
cordially, saying that he would do all he could. But
as they want a man preferably between 30 & 35, & the salary
is rather large (£1400 odd, but the cost of living is
also pretty bad, & so I believe is the state of the rupee or
whatever their standard coin is), I don’t expect to pull it
off. In any case I have managed to get my free passage
period extended till August 3rd; under its terms I am
supposed to get back to N. Z. within three years of leaving
it. The Orient Company have been decent enough — it
remains to see about the Union Co. when I get back to
Sydney. Anyhow I am booked back by the Osterley
(curiously enough), which leaves on August 3rd; & unless
something extraordinary happens in the next three weeks
I shall leave in her. I shall probably have various tokens
for the Duncan & McGrath families, & Hemming wants to show
me Sydney from A to Z, so I shall be there about a week,
anyhow; bringing me to Wellington (I hope, & not Auckland)
about the beginning of October.) I think the only things
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that will change these plans will be the intervention of Singapore
or Providence. If I go I Singapore I shall be able to send you
pineapples no doubt; if Providence steps in Lord knows what
I shall be able to do for you. Anyhow I have already
started preparations for leaving & enquiries about packing-
cases; it is going to be a considerable move. What I am
rather pleased about is that I really haven’t chucked away
much money on books which I am sorry for — I don’t think
I have spent more than 10/-, possibly just on £1, I wouldn’t
spend again. So I don’t think that’s bad for three years. I
shall be interested to see what I have got on my shelves when
I get home — I can think of one or two books bought in
my days of wealth which would be beyond me now, but
not many. I don’t think I need say any more about
leaving; when I have left I shall of course let you have
some more up to date information en route. In any case
you will have got a cable before you get this.

There is a good deal I want to do before I leave, but
I’m afraid I shan’t have time to do it. I want to go to
York & to Salisbury, to Oxford again; & I had hoped to
go to Paris, but I’m afraid that’s out of the question. Liver-
pool Cathedral I want to see; & it would probably be
polite to call on the Johnson’s again at Buxton. However I’m
afraid politeness will have to play second best to time
& money now. I had a letter from Father Johnson the other
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day, very badly typed, inviting us both up, as he has now
recovered his old vim & is becoming a great man in Derby-
shire; so that’s very cheering. We — a crowd of Ernest,
Duncan, a girl-friend of his, Elsie Holmes & I — are
going up to Cambridge to-morrow, to have a look at the
Forbes house &c. I shall be glad to see it again before I go,
& start my farewells with so beautiful a place. — I don’t seem
to have been anywhere much in the last fortnight, except
to Richmond two or three times — to sit for my portrait, to
help hang the pictures in Uncle George’s exhibition, & to have
a good look at same. There were very good things going
dirt cheap — I should have liked a couple of water-colours
at 3 gns apiece, & an oil or so at corresponding ridiculous
prices; but lack of cash once again stepped in. Ern I believe
plunged on a water-colour though, a very good one if I re-
aright. I generally manage to carry off one or
two things from the house when I go out there — or rather,
Aunt Monica, as I suppose I must call her, generally manages
to press something on me — a ginger-jar, or a wooden box, or
an old number of the Studio. She says she has a pair
of candlesticks in store for me when I leave. Personally
I would rather have a picture. She has a great eye for
bargain, & between them they have some very desirable
possessions. My portrait looks as if it is going to look
all right moustache & all. You ask whether I wrote
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“experimental” intentionally or for “ornamental” when first
mentioning this subject. Experimental was the word all
right; & though I’m still not altogether decided about the fate
of the thing I shall probably bring it back to N. Z. however;
it seems at least as respectable for that purpose as spats.

I was at Laski’s again on Sunday last with a very
select company of two others — an American prof. studying
the English party-system & the wife of a cove who has been working
on the reparations business. Talk first of all on university
principles & jobs, & then mostly politics, disarmament &c. The
general prin feeling seems to be that the fool will stay in for at
least two years; & that if they don’t get a fair run for that long
& have to resign, they will come back with a clear majority, the
country is so disgusted with the Tories. They will have
a clear majority anyhow in seven years. The Liberals seem
bust — they spent £750,000 on the election; & immediately
after it were so disgusted that they dismissed the whole of their
research staff. If Lloyd George dies, it looks as if a big crowd
of the Liberals, including Keynes & Samuel, will join Labour.
Labour spent £20,000 over the election; so you must agree
they have some feeling behind them. — I got into the House
the other day — just after Macdonald had sat down. There was
not much [gap — reason: unclear] doing, as usual when one manages to get in.

I suppose you will manage to get a bit of reading
done while you are away from Shanland’s, though I know
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how hard it will be to get down to anything solid. I resumed
Human Nature in Politics the other day, which I was reading
seven weeks ago; I simply couldn’t take it in during the inter-
, though it’s not a heavy book. Blunder’s book, before-
mentioned, I have read. Also a selection of Cowley’s poems, which
I liked extremely; a little book on Cotman, the water-colour
painter; Edward Thomas’ Literary Pilgrim in England; &
various odds & ends. It is hard to get in all the reading
one wants, even when a man of enforced leisure like
me. — The weather continues hot & first-rate; to-day a
real [unclear: swelterer], while last night I wrote to Challis clad
only in a skirt & a eye-shade.

I forgot to say that I went to inspect Waltham
Abbey, an almost excessively historic spot just outside Enfield,
which is just outside London; not much of the Abbey left
after the inroads of Henry VIII; what there is, is used as a
parish church, rather beautiful Norman work, & a few
ruins. The country round about is very pleasant; it is
only a mile or so to go to Epping Forest.

Well, I think that about concludes the chronicle
this time — rather a shorter one than usual. We are now
off to see St John Ervine’s play, The First Mrs Fraser.
Till (probably) October

with very much love