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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 3 November, 1927

page 1
21 Brunswick Square
London W.C.1

My dear Mummy,

Well, well, the world wags on pretty
quickly, curse it, & next mail I suppose I shall be writing
my Christmas letters. I was very sorry (still am) to learn
you didn’t get my Paris letter on time, & somewhat surprised,
as I thought the previous ones might have been held up, [unclear: but]
that that one would go to its destination by the night Frisco
mail as straight as a die, & speedy as the arrow from the bow,
to quote words which you once used to describe the quick-
of the model child to carry out its parents behests. A
great pity to break up the orderly progression of letters
instituted by Keith; but then of course I don’t suppose another
mortal man could live up to the standard of that shining
example. Ask Frannie anyhow. Well, I can only assure
you with many regrets, that I never felt surer in my life
that I had caught the night mail with a couple of days to spare,
as I did in Paris. Still you know what unreliable birds
these French & Germans are, & the other lesser breeds without the
law. As Jimmy Parr said to Campbell, on his return from
Geneva as official N.Z. delegate in the cause of peace & inter-
understanding “You know, I don’t trust any of these
foreigners.” This yarn had better not get into unauthorised
circles, but it is too good to keep. Anyhow I was glad to get
page 2 your joint letter — my mail does not seem to get any bulkier
with the lapse of time; I also got one from Mrs. Hannah, so in
case I don’t have time to answer it by this mail you might
kindly announce to her that it has been received with
considerable gratitude, & will be replied to in due course.

I must thank you very much for the offer of financial
assistance, which is not altogether unappreciated, even though
I am your son, & therefore have a right to demand the
reckless pouring out of your blood & treasure on my behalf.
I think however, unless anything extraordinary happens, I
shall be able to scrape along pretty well on my stipend &
savings till the end of next year, before which I shall
probably have applied for a Guggenheim or Rockefeller fellow-
, or something else profitable. Anyhow I don’t think
I shall need to call on you, so take my advice & put by the
pennies for a worthier cause. I think I asked you or
someone else in the family to give the National Provident
gang notice that I wouldn’t be paying them any more cash
after the end of this year. — I suppose if necessary I can
cancel that & still keep on. But as it stands the cash
could be put to a more exciting use over here probably.

I thought Daddy had been told to keep off night work — a
fine gang of [unclear: crooks] you’ll be in a year or so at this rate.
I can see the whole damn family in bed & Auntie Win
in her silent heroic way looking after the lot of you.
Or your daughters–in–law may be getting useful in that
line by then.  Well I reckon it’s about time for the
balances to hang skewiff if they won’t get to the right
page 3 [unclear: poise] during the day-time; but then I’m no financial wizard,
& it may be that a delicately–adjusted equipoise is necessary
to the welfare of [unclear: Sharland’s] [unclear: unearned] increment holders.
No one need read the foregoing Bolshevist doctrines who
prefers not to. — Daddy says “our weather is getting warmer
& more pleasant” — conversely ours is getting colder & more
unpleasant on the whole, though we have not really gone
off the deep end yet. Still by the time you get this, all
the fogs of hell will have been loosed on us, I suppose.
Yes, I remember how the sycamores looked in spring; also
how Auntie looked in the same blissful season, if the
garden doesn’t flourish under such able & tender care, well, shame
on it! says I. — I note with due pleasure that K. & F approve
of their flat. It might heighten their happiness to be told that
in my time I have danced over that floor; & sat on it &
consumed a good deal of fruit salad & other mixed comestibles
& stood outside the backdoor & looked at the stars with
many a charming girl to the accompaniment of Bill’s grama-
; — noble animal, incisive in its renderings of the
terpsichorean classics.  On second thoughts, I don’t think
Frannie ought to be told of this, or she might want to move
out, & God forbid that I should do Mrs Jolliffe out of so
charming a tenant. — Thanks for the Hist. Soc. circular; a
wonderful effort of the human mind; I suppose the
family en masse has joined a body propelled by the
powerful intellects of [unclear: F.P.], Miss [unclear: Coad], & [unclear: Vaughan] Evans —
page 4 what a crew! How P.J. Smith got into such company I’m
blessed if I know. — no man has less the historical mind,
or more the fertile unfettered imagination. The others so
far as I know, have neither. The lass [unclear: Maiden] Clark who
appears to be [unclear: hon. sec pro tem.] is not a bad sort though.
If I come back & the thing is still going it might be a
useful organisation to set collecting money for the supply
of books to the library. If you see any of them you
might tell them with my compliments that it’s impossible
to study history in N.Z. anyhow. The rumour about
Miss Duggan’s leaving makes me laugh — if true, I wonder
who’ll take on the job next, & how long she’ll last? It’ll
be a she if F.P has any say in it. God, what a circus!
I’m sorry to see that F.P. [unclear: C.Q.P] has gone & got engaged —
the last remaining cobber I had to maintain his indepen-
— no, no quite, there are still Jack [unclear: Fatterall] & Rossie
& one or two young ones left. I suppose I had better trot
down to the [unclear: H.C’s] to see if I can look up the name of the
girl; but you might tell him I don’t approve anyhow.
Fatal step! I suppose he’ll never get out of N.Z. now. These
women do get in a man’s way. — You do seem to be trav-
pretty widely over the world in your reading — Monday
in Transylvania, Tuesday in Tibet, Wednesday in Holland,
& Thursday in Antarctica, I suppose. Yes, I think I must
try that buttered tea sometime. I haven’t had anything
out of the way in the drink line for a long time.
I am thinking of buying some China tea of the best brand
page 5 at present, as I have just invested in a rather flash
Japanese tea–pot for state–occasions — it puts the rest of
the household crockery seriously to shame. Mac & I saw it
in a shop the other day & had a good look at it & went
away & thought about it & had another look at it at
night, & came to an arrangement that if I bought it &
got fed up with it by Xmas he would give me a quid
for it, I this making 1/6; so whichever way my taste
goes it looks as if I’m on a win. I’ll bet you never
thought of buying your household furnishings on this plan.
My word I shouldn’t mind a flat in one of these squares
& £500 a year, & unlimited shelving — you could collect
some good stuff in the way of books & other ornaments.
Your remark about the Oxford Univ Press printing my thesis
called up many a delightful vision. You don’t seem to
like the idea of my taking it to a foreign land to get printed.
(Though I don’t know whether it will be, even now; I haven’t
heard from the bloke yet, curse him) I gather that you
think that your son has only to announce, in his modest
way, that he has a little bit of a thesis he’d be willing
for someone to print, for red list & bloody carnage to
break out among the publishers of this city to get the priv-
. And it would indeed be a stimulating sight to see
Jonathan Cape charging up Ludgate Hill against a hail of
machine guns & high explosive from the impregnably en-
trenched O.U.P. Ludgate Circus a shambles; Heel St runs
page 6 blood; St Paul’s bombed by unscrupulous Capeans; London
policeman hard put to it to clean up the mess. Dear, dear,
not in our generation, I’m afraid. No, whenever the
good Englishman wants to raise the wind he doesn’t clear
out his own pockets — he goes to the States. The States are
building the University of London. They’ve just collected
enough to rebuild the Shakespeare Memorial theatre — £200,
odd. Of that England raises — £30,000. Rest comes
from U.S., including John D.Rockefeller, who gives
£50,000 in America, & £50,000 in England. This is the
bloke who has also just presented his a library to the
League of Nations; & whom I also hope to exploit later on,
if my luck holds. De Kievriel is thinking of getting at
him first, though. No, there’s precious little organised phil-
going in this country, either in publishing or
anything else. What makes me sick is that the
English affect to despise the Americans for their cold–
blooded commercialism. Well, well, let’s rob the
robbers by all means, but don’t let’s make a virtue
of it.

Let’s see what I have to report. de K has finished his
thesis & got it in after staying up all night two or three
times. I went up to his place one afternoon at 5pm &
left at ¼ to 4 next morning — we both worked straight
through, he typing & I proof–reading & correcting, with
5 minutes off now & again for tea & 1.30 toast, & an
occasional doubtful story. This is undoubtedly the
page 7 way to get work done. The only thing would be if you lived
in London [unclear: out] about five years you’d live as much
at night as in the daytime.  Things don’t really begin
to sparkle till about 10 pm.  I am thinking of putting
in a few late nights myself & getting my thesis written
by Jane — even if I don’t put it in then, I shall have
it off my mind, except for revising, & have the summer
free. After the next long vacation all my bright partic-
historical cobbers will have left too, which will
make things a bit less interesting in some ways. I wish
I could put in a session at the School — I’m always
missing good meetings down there ... Heard [unclear: H.N.Brailsford]
the other night, though, & to joined the UnivLabour [unclear: Club] Party
through falling into the hands of Joe Goodwin who is the
L.S.E. treasurer. Bang goes 3/-. [unclear: H.N.B.] not bad. In
the meantime my work is going on badly, I ought to be
finished at the P.R.O. in another month or six weeks, &
I hope to start writing in the Xmas vacation. Don’t
want to leave London at Xmas, so I hope nobody asks
me. Couldn’t stand another Manchester Xmas dinner,
anyhow; but I might trot down to [unclear: Frinley] for a couple
of days. Newton is getting quite polite to me, & it almost
looks as if when de K goes I shall take his place as the
white–headed boy. I won’t mind if I can dig another
schol out of it. There is stacks of work to do if only
you can get the chance of doing it. I could put in about
page 8 20 years very nicely doing a history of British colonial policy
since 1783, & it’s easy work, compared to poetry.

I have been to a couple more [unclear: live] Quartet concerts —
a second Mozart one — no, I think I mentioned that in
my last letter — & last Tuesday to a Beethoven one, the
three Rasumovsky quartets, of which, feeling in an expansive
mood, I bought the scores. These birds can play all right,
though the critics, including an old cobber Ernest Newman, are
now going for them for playing everything too smoothly. I must
hear a few more quartets, just to see. Otherwise I haven’t been
to any concerts, as far as I remember; performing the heroic
feat of staying away from an L.S.O Bach concert last
Monday to work... There is an interesting affair coming off an
Armistice night, though, to which I must go — B.B.C concert,
conducted by Elgar, including For the Fallen, last movmt of
9th Symphony, Pericles Funeral Oration spoken by that
complacent old ineptitude Earl Balfour R.G., & Let Us Now
Praise Famous Men, read by Sir Ian Hamilton; who
is a cove I should like to see. There are quite a lot
of birds I have not yet seen or heard that I mustn’t miss.
The only other thing I have been to is a play, Strindberg’s
The Father, a terrific thing, cove by the name of Robert
Loraine in the principal part. I am thinking this feller
Strindberg was a dramatist of some distinction. There
was a bit of a [unclear: Barnie] thing as a curtain–raiser, Barbara’s
Wedding, but pretty poor tripe [unclear: tripe], though technically
well–managed. I’d like to see some good [unclear: Barnie]. Also
page 9 I hope the [unclear: Macdowen] Players will be back with some
more Shaw soon.

I suppose some echoes have reached you of
the noise in the good old Church of England — I thought
you might possibly be interested in this peculiar theology,
so I spent an evening cutting up the Times for a fortnight
back. Note the sad dignity of the sub–leader — among other
things. What a mob! I asked a girl the other night,
fat & extremely English, with no sense of humour, daughter of
a celebrated mediaevalist (Crump: edited Legacy of Middle
Ages) to explain the present state of the [gap — reason: unclear] to me. She said
it was a rather big subject. I said kindly, oh, you’ve got
¼ hour, go ahead. Which she did. Lord: what a men-
. These lunatics seriously discuss the Nicene creed &
the Athanasian creed & whether the new prayer book is open-
the road to Rome & [unclear: trans]& consubstantiation & the spir-
presence while their whole civilization crumbles.
Meanwhile everybody breaks out into lachrymose admiration
of the Archbishop of Canterbury. God have mercy on
them. Uncle Harold might like to see the cuttings when
you’ve finished with them.

Other points of interest: we have just got a small
much needed addition to our bookshelves. Duncan’s books
were piled up on the chest of drawers in four coloum
columns & had just reached the ceiling when a taxi
blew out a tyre outside & they all fell over. They had previously
page 10 nearly [unclear: brained] Joe Goodwin, so the time was ripe for
reform.  Also I am on the point of forking out
a second year’s fees — a painful process. In addition
to which the Univ of London, which seems to be run
about as efficiently as V.U.C. suddenly wakes up to the
fact (about 18 months after I’ve been accepted as a
Ph.D. student) that I did not matriculate at London,
& therefore have to pay £3.3. more & produce my
M.A. diploma! They got Duncan like this about
6 months ago, & in neither case was the language
beautiful to listen to. Yet, as I said before, these people
sneer at the Yanks for their disgusting commercialism.
Our confounded seminar dinner gets nearer. We have
arranged a hefty feed at a joint in Soho, 4 bob a
head; so we are hoping for the best. Curse these people
with sociable inclinations. — Had a good night last
night playing the piano & talking universal history with
a German, an American, & the usual S. African.

I think that’s all. With all my love.


P.S. Get ready for Xmas onset in two or three weeks.
Special train chartered N.York to Frisco. Union log puts
on fresh boat. [unclear: Inchape] rolls up sleeves.
   I am at last entrusting your Paris scarf to the post —
hope you get it all right. It ought to go all right in the
summer with the rest of your fal–lals. J.C.B.