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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 22 March 1927

page 1
21 Brunswick Sq.
London WC1

  Dear Mummy,

Here I am once again owing to the peculiar
business of things, writing furiously against time — visitors
wander in at odd times & get in the way, or after driving
my pencil all day in the P.R.O. I don't feel like driving
a pen at night; & on Sunday afternoon, as Spring had
apparently arrived, we decided instead of catching up
on our [gap — reason: unclear] respectively [sic: respective] families, to wander out & inspect
this far-famed so-called Hampstead Heath in all its
primeval splendour. Believe me, a washout. About
twice the size of Central Park, houses all round, infested
with bourgeois lovers in pairs making shameless public
love in the peculiar English way — most embarrassing
to a pair of unsophisticated colonials & lower class
small boys playing bandits in Arizona & the upper ranks
of the bourgeois reclining in serried ranks of deck chairs
all over the sunny slopes like a as if the place were a
sea-beach. Most extraordinary. Trees all bare, of course,
& nothing else but grass & a bit of sick looking gorse. Oh,
there was a dirty pond with three or four melancholy swans
scratching themselves in mid-water or up-ending their
stupid behinds in a forlorn attempt to find nourish-
on the bottom, I suppose, & an even dirtier & more
page 2 melancholy pond with a notice warning you not to
bathe in it. Apparently though I can't conceive of any
one bathing there it comes in handy for suicides, for another
notice informed us that dragnets would be found in the
shed opposite. We looked in vain for a body & moved on.
Then we looked at a couple of deer, dirty too, in an enclos-
leaning against the fence & pea peering between the bars
of same with all the abandon of small boys at the New-
Zoo; & then feeling worn out with the effort we
lay down on the grass in the driest place we could find,
& to dream of the Orongorongo & Duncan to read Wells'
latest omniscience in the Sunday Express. Then we caught the
Tube home again & felt that we had really accomplished
something, done some sterling work, & begun to see London.
An exciting place. Isn't it where John Morley used to walk
to get up his moral fervour & communicate with the spirit
of Rationality on special occasions? Well, I shouldn't
say the place is conducive to humour, however much
it may strengthen moral endeavours, in the winter or very
early spring, anyhow. It may perk up later on.
When we get back from Bristol & Spring brightens
up we shall give Wimbledon Common & Richmond
& Kew a look over & see if they live up to their
reputations. We — McG, D & I — are thinking of
buying bikes now & trailing all over the place; that is, we
have definitely decided to buy bikes, but not what bikes to
buy; & there is some argument as to whether we would
page 3 get any concession for buying ¼ dozen at once. It wasn't
my suggestion, so all rude remarks may be restrained.
I think I'll go down to [unclear: Trinley] & see the Butlers on mine
for a start. The Lakes trip has fallen through, curse it;
owing to some complication in P.P.'s arrangements he could
not get up there for more than three days & I couldn't
afford the trip up there just for that time; so we may
be doing it in the late autumn. He invited me to
stay with him for a bit too, which I should have liked
to do; but I have got a good deal of work on hand & a
good deal of the country to see; so M/c, can go to blazes
for a bit. I must see him again before I leave the place
however; he is a darn good lad. Owing to my letter re
Horatio Bottomley to him evidently going astray I haven't heard
anything of address of same yet, but I shall let Miss N.
know as soon as I do hear.

There's not as much to report in the way of goings
out this time as usual. I only went to two concerts
last week & no theatres, but the concerts were first-
rate. Monday to the London Symphony Orchestra conducted
by Beecham, of whom I got a close-up view this time, being
seated behind the orchestra. He is a big cove with a sing-
assortment of mannerisms; conducts without a single
score & in the slow movements without a baton; smiles
in a peculiarly pleased way when anything particularly
pleases him & purses up his lips & hisses horrifiedly when
page 4 anything is too loud. He stops conducting altogether some-
& just lets the orchestra go on. And in between the
pieces steps down (when he doesn't go off) & cracks a joke
with his henchmen. Cripes, though! he delivers the goods.
Mozart they played & a Schumann Symphony & the Beethoven
violin concerto, Arthur Catterall the soloist — good stuff.
Then on Saturday to the last Symphony concert of the
New Queen's Hall orchestra, with our old cobber Sir Henry
César Frank's symphony, Beethoven's 2nd piano concerto,
& Leonora noIII overture, Delius' Brigg Fair, Haydn &
so forth, all first-rate. Of course the great question
at present is, is the N.Q.H. orchestra to continue to
exist; Chappell's have announced that they can't afford
to keep it up & will disband it after the present season;
this means no more Proms & as I said last Saturday's
was the last symphony concert. The B.B.C. is talking
about stepping in & taking a hand; but although every-
is panic-stricken nothing seems to have happened
as far to save the sinking ship. I don't know whether
you have heard anything about it in NZ. It is really
a pretty serious position. There has been talk for some
time of turning the Queen's Hall (the horribly ugly, but the
only decent hall acoustically in the place, into a picture
theatre; so Lord knows what will happen. The only thing
from my point of view is that if there are no proms it
will be slightly easier to come home. So much for
the last weeks amusement. In addition I got some gratuitous
page 5 emotion once again from the vagaries of the mails. The H.Comms
said due on Monday (yesterday); the Times said due on Saturday
(last); & when two such impeccable authorities as Jimmy
Parr & the Thunderer collide, what is a mere admirer of
the one & reader of the other today to do. In the end Jimmy
Parr one [sic: won]; you are pretty safe with betting on the most
pessimistic horse in that race. We are going to the
Old Vic to see Othello tomorrow night; & then on Thursday
to Bristol for this [unclear: ...ted] conference; which I have
mentioned before I think, & shall tell you all about
probably in my next letter, if I survive the

Last week I see by reference to my accounts,
which kept with such unflinching accuracy & honesty as
they are, are as good as a diary to me, that I went to
the final Lener quartet concert; I believe I had com-
to this one, or was it the week before? — a charming
Canadian girl of sense [unclear: ibility] & intelligence, who payed
for herself as like a true colonist. She is a historian. I have
been the means you see of educating quite a large
number of my fellows — McGrath I took to the first concert,
de Kievriel to another, Ross to another, & then, all other s males
failing me I broadcasted an invitation & this Miss McDon-
accepted. Fine girl. I went next to [gap — reason: unclear] a Philharmonic
Choir concert & [gap — reason: unclear] heard Bach & Liszt & Gustav Holst &
Vaughan Williams & was shouted a cup of coffee by Ross's
father whom I ran into there. I could have had
page 6 whisky, but thought hard of Auntie, struck out the top line, &
saved myself from a dreadful end. Dear, dear what a
lot early moral training is responsible for! As a matter
of fact I don't like whisky, except with lemon, made for
me with Frannie's fair hands; so moral training is a
wash-out, whichever way you look at it. Then on
Saturday afternoon I said to D. Dunkie my boy, your
old dad will take you to the opera this afternoon; take
your thumb out of your mouth & wash your face & put
on your hat & pull up your socks & go & ask your mother
for two bob & [gap — reason: unclear] tuppence for the tube & come along. So
he said Yes, daddy. So we went out to Golders Green &
saw the Marriage of Figaro by the immortal Mozart;
jolly good it was too & all for 2/11 including Tube
fare there & back & a programme. The B.N.O.C came back
but only for a week; & owing to stress of engagements I
missed all the rest of it — they play repertory, a different
opera every night; but I hope to work them all in before
I leave. But the great event of the week was our
English Speaking Union two Saturdays ago. We decided to
have a party; so we bought 1 3/4d worth of milk extra
(½ pint) for cocoa & a bobs worth of biscuits & 21 crumpets;
& 4 penceworth of chocolates which we ate before the party
started. The personnel was my cobbers mostly from
the institute & it was a noble stroke in the course cause
of amity between nations; they were de [unclear: Keivriel] (S.
Africa) Ross (England) Miss MacDonald (Canada) Miss
page 7 Allen (U.S.A.) added to which we had Duncan (Australian)
& me (N.Z.) We had an uproarious time swapping nation-
jokes; when the time came for supper you would have
been speechless in admiration at the organisation I evolved.
The two girls toasted the crumpets & [unclear: balled] in the butter; Ross,
being an Englishman & comparatively helpless watched the
milk to see it didn't boil over & tried to warm a plate for
the crumpets simultaneously, with the result that the milk
very nearly did boil over; Duncan & I made my
patent brand of cocoa, & de K, being a canny lad &
a true colonial got out of the way & down on the biscuits.

Apart from all this vivid & passionate living I have
been doing a certain amount of work, though I got stale
on it towards the end of last week trying to work out the
exact organisation of the Windward Islands between 1781
& 1833, but what with the change in the weather & the
prospect of the end of the term & getting off the chain for a
while I have perked up considerably. Oh, I'll tell
you where I went — to a buckshee afternoon tea King's
College gave its arts postgraduate students; I got on to
Barker again & will probably be seeing him next term
sometime. He is thinking of chucking his job at King's
(Principal) & going for a prof's job somewhere so that
he can write his book on Aristotle's political thought;
also of getting married; so it looks as if he has got
his hands pretty full. I gather that on the whole he is a
fairly great man.

page 8     Now to answer your letters. I am glad to see
that Ern is doing his best to emulate his the rest of the
family: it just shows what a valuable thing the force
of a good example is. Well, 70 quid isn't a bad little
pile for a cove of his age & experience; so you had better
tell him to put it in the bank, or better still, give it to
his mother to look after for him, & to keep away from
the pictures & female company, which has ruined
many a good man before now. I hope he shouted
you afternoon tea on it, but remembering his record
in that respect, I have my doubts. — I thought it
wouldn't be long, Mummy, before you got up to Wang-
to have a squiz at your grandchild. As you say
it is like so many people I haven't got any very clear
idea of what it is like; but it doesn't matter much in
any case. I can't quite read your writing — is it a
very sound, or a very round, head your babies always
had? Speaking for myself, I should certainly have said
sound; but it seems an absurd adjective to apply to
others of the family. — Thanks for Haydon quotations. I
saw his picture of Wordsworth in the N.G. but was not
vastly thrilled with it. No, I am not stinting my
food to spend on music & the drama as you basely suggest;
& the price of eggs has now come down to 1/9 & 1/6 doz,
so we proteins [sic: we have proteins] in the mornings now as well as oranges
& bananas & raisins & wholemeal bread & best marmalade.
You say you are tired of moving about & hope to be settled
page 9 at home for a long time now, but I shouldn't mind betting
you will be off on the loose again soon. I suppose
as soon as K & F get a joint you will engineer an
invitation & buzz along there to see that Frannie doesn't
starve the boy or to give good advice on how to cook
macaroni cheese & how long to boil eggs in the colonies
owing to the different atmospheric conditions. Then I sup-
now that Ern is getting so high up in the academic
world he will be a considerable prize in the matri-
market & will fall accordingly, & it will be
3 months for you in Wanganui, 3 at [unclear: Pitcaithly's], 3 with
Ern & 3 at your so-called home. Well, I daresay, there
might be worse lives. I'm safe for a couple of years,
anyhow. Dads Contents of Daddy's letter duly noted,
but do not seem to call for any very extended reply.
Some L.S.E. [gap — reason: unclear] birds did Outward Bound one night
in aid of some fund; I didn't go, being fed-up with going
out that week, but D did & said it was a pretty good
play. It's a pretty startling advance for N.Z. to get anything
so extremely ultra-modern as that, isn't it? Yes, I
saw the things referred to in the Times Lit Supp. We get
it every week. Fortune is not engaged & is distressed
that Campbell should elaborate the contents of a simple
postcard so; at least so he told me. He has intentions
with regard to a Yank girl he met in Sydney on his
way to England, & she apparently reciprocates them; but
he doesn't believe in engagements. She teaches in Colum-
page 10 bia
University, he says. He is talking of going out to Melan-
esia next year, whether with her or not I don't know.
Cambridge seems to suit him & he agreed without a glimmer
of amusement when I said of course he was getting
a polish there that we poor devils at London couldn't
hope to get. He blew along one night last week being
down here for the vacation & I took him along to Poffioli's
& gave showed him the Kingsway Theatre for Man & Super-
& gave him good advice on how to look after
himself in the great city & so forth; & told him to come
again when he wanted spiritual consolation. D &
I serve as a sort of clearing house for all sorts of
emotions & intellectual ferments. Decidedly two of
the world's workers.

I had a note from Auntie Win, charming as usual.
But she said one thing that puzzled me — don't I feel proud
of my niece, especially as she looks like me. Well, as I
remarked, & D agreed, what the blazes have I to feel proud
about? It's the kid who ought to be proud. It's not my kid I didn't have a hand in its creation.
It's a perfectly natural phenomenon; perhaps inevitable
Why pride? If it had immediately taken to cigarettes,
bobbed hair, & pillion riding I might have expressed amaze-
; but so far as I can see, the situation calls for
no emotion whatsoever. I can't understand women.
Well, I think I shall cut you off on 10 pages tonight. I had
letters from Mrs Hannah & Stan by this mail, the latter
giving a very favourable report of you & Daddy, so that's all

So long.

love from