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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 2nd May, 1929

page 1

I was much obliged by your last letter,
cutting about Authur's Pass earthquake, which seems to have
a considerable shake-up, Miss Nellie [unclear: Scanland's] daily
Express concoction, & [unclear: gant's] adventures in Charing X Road.
Dealing with last things first, I may say that I consider
Aunt Hannah's action over Joe's books worthy of a divorce —
good Lord! if I had a wife & she sold any of my books
she'd go out on her neck before she had time to wonder about what
was happening to her, & she wouldn't get in [unclear: again]. I never heard
of such a blooming outrage, whether the books were out of print
or not. Fair dinkum, there's a limit to the liberty of wives.
I saw the drawing once in a shop-window in that same
Charing X Road, but I am glad to have one for my very own. It's
[unclear: fancy] the entire absence of morality women have where books are
concerned — well, perhaps I had better say women in general.
If Joe had sold a cupboard full of Aunt H's clothes to the [unclear: Hayvice],
thinking she had ample anyhow, I don't suppose Aunt H would
have said a word...in fact, it wouldn't be a bad idea if
tried it on. Perhaps he has already. Perhaps you
had better have the door of my room locked when A H is
visiting you — she might get a [unclear: mania], & I would feel a lot
page 2 a lot safer if I knew that adequate care was being taken.
Memo: when looking for a wife, if ever, ascertain very
carefully her position on Book Question. This indeed
might be made the Acid Test. I wonder no one has made
up a code of rules on this subject before. — As for Miss
Nellie [unclear: Scanland], all you can say is that that is the sort of thing
that appeals to the Daily Express — the circulation of which by
the way, I believe has now beaten the Daily Mail's, & this realised
the great ambition of Beaven Brook's life. — And as for Arthur's
Pass, all I can say is that I'm glad it didn't blow up when
we were having lunch in a stray railway carriage not far
from the station one rainy day in the Xmas holidays
of 1925-6.

Now first things last: I was glad to learn that you
were getting on so well that the oxygen machine was to be
packed up — a pity you can't have a cinema-picture of your-
getting out of your window on to your trolley sent
over. Then we could have a private show staring Jane
Beaglehole. The difficulty of course would be to get it past
Jix or [unclear: J P O'Connor] but I dare say in the case of a purely
private film for purely private purposes they would be in-
to waive the customary cutting which goes on in
the interests of British morality. I am sorry to think that
you take advantage of your position to give Daddy so much
fresh air — poor devil, he might get blown through the wall
page 3 into the porch some night & wake up cuddling the milk-
bottle. The ways in which wives seem able legitimately
or rather legally to victimise their husbands do really
seem endless. — Well, I must say it seems quite fitting
that Keith & Frannie should move to Highland Park at
least — the place is full of newly-weds & wedded-a-year-or-
so's with a kid apiece — Wives & [unclear: Martin] Smiths & so on,
let alone the vast shoal of legal luminaries that park
themselves there. The view may be alright, but what a
neighbourhood to live in! I suppose Frannie will be
taking on bridge & golf next; & poker might be good
for Keith's finances, with a bit of practice, if not his morals. I
think it was at the [unclear: Wiren's] that I lost 1 1/2d in ha'pennies
at that game, the only time I have ever played it. It seems
[unclear: unious] that people can't think of some less dreary way of
losing their money. — Glad to hear of Mrs Hooper's improve-
. — I hope you got something out of Lord Sydenham's
autobiography — As far as I can make out, his working
life seems to have been mainly spent writing letters to the
Times & the Morning Post. However I can quite approve of
your getting through Well's Outline of History, uphill to
the bitter end. You'd better take on the Outline of Science
now, which is coming out in fortnightly parts. I noticed
there were some very interesting points about whales & mice
in the first number, which is the only one I have had
page 4 an opportunity of seeing so far. As for Dr Bennett's
nice Conservatives, yes, I would be quite willing to meet them,
Stanley Baldwin seems quite a likeable personality in any-
where politics are not concerned. But lord, however
nice they may be, that doesn't make up for the startling ab-
of grey matter they seem to display where running
the country is concerned. The latest election gag is to
plaster all the [unclear: hoardings] in London with immense posters
of Baldwin & the simple legend "Safety First"; this apparently
is an effort to [unclear: nerve] the country to do something
about something — in opposition to Lloyd George, who may
be a [unclear: twister], but at least displays some plan & considerable
purpose. He seems the only leader over here with any real
guts — I did not charter a taxi to take my thesis to the
univ. because it cost 3d, or was it 4d, to get there in the
tube, & a taxi would have been about 4/- or 5/-. [unclear: I've]
your P. G. Wodehouse quotation about [unclear: P] Smith & Simpson's, no
I have never taken Ern there, nor myself. 2/6 may be a
very moderate charge to get full up on, but you can do it
for 1/1 at our [unclear: Chink's]. — I dont know why Keith & Frannie
should complain about F. G. Smith's torrent of talk — they
seem to have got pretty good use out of his car. They are really
pretty well off if only they knew it. Well, you might
page 5 give my fond regards to P.G.S. next time you can get in a
word edgeways — I believe I owe him a letter or is it
my trn turn to write or something, & some day I may do
so, if I don't arrive in person first. On the subject of
your reading again, it seems from Daddy's letter that you have
formed the habit of listening in to church services, & simul-
reading secular books. How you can reconcile this
with any idea of reverence, however subtly refined, I don't
know. It beats me. Even if it was the bible of the Pil-
Progress you were reading, or Willie's [unclear: Rest] (that's a
book I should like to read again, by the way), I don't see
how you could be properly respectful to the parson, let
alone Him on high. I honestly don't think this ought to be
allowed. It's over the edge. You know you wouldn't do it in
church; & in the temple of your heart, it seems to me a very
equivocal way of coming before the Lord. I don't see that it
will do you much good to come up before the thrown with clean
hands if your attention keeps on wondering. I dare say
now I come to think of it that that was what peeved
God about the fallen angels — they were a high-brow type
& they got bored with the sort of theology preached in heaven
& the church-services & what-not. I dare say they all brought
Edgar Wallace & P.G.W. into the back rows with them, & then
it was All-Up. See Milton for synopsis of subsequent
scenes. — It wouldn't do you any harm to go through Paradise
page 6 Lost again, anyhow, when you're hard up for something to
read — it's about as long as a novel. It's a pity you're
not naturally keen on theology, you know — you could take
up the early Church fathers, & they would keep you going
for a couple of years at least. — I note Daddy's excitement
about my visit to Oxford — I hope it all turned out satisfactory
for him: but what can you say about a place like that? I
hope to go again for a week-end in the summer, if the summer ever
comes — here it is May 2nd, & I have the gas on in my room &
shiver at that unless I have the window closed tight. I also
note the bits about writing the thesis, complaints by Camp-
, [unclear: Ernest] etc. I must say, now that mine is 3 months
behind me, that I think the writing of a thesis is an admirable
training for these young fellows in logic & arrangement &
expression. I like to go off to the flicks of an afternoon &
leave these two & Duncan at it — nothing like it for
discipline. I must say that the average Ph.D. student as I
meet him nowadays, seems to work with much less vigour &
application than we did in my time though.

I think I wrote my last letter from Cambridge,
though it seems a good deal longer ago than a fortnight, & on
a Thursday morning. Oh yes, after which I wondered [unclear: forth]
to take in the bookshops, & found them all closed, together
with every other shop, that being Cambridge's half day off, & very
page 7 annoying it was. Before I go on any farther, let me copy out
that tomb-stone inscription I picked up at Harrow, lest I
afterwards forget:

"Sacred to the memory of Thomas [unclear: Pt]...
who near this town, had both his legs severed from his
body by the Railway Train" etc etc" August 7th 1838
aged 33 years

"Bright rose the morn & vigourous rose poor [unclear: Pt]:
Gay on the [unclear: Vain], he used his wanted sport.
[unclear: Eve] noon arrived his mangled form they bore,
When evening came, to close the fatal day,
A mutilated corpse the sufferer lay."

It may not be a very pleasing subject, but I'm sure it
could not be celebrated in better heroic couplets.

Well, to get back to Cambridge: I thought I might cycle
over to Ely that afternoon instead, but rashly offered to help
Forbes to shift his stuff from one room where he was
working to another — he had been leading a very harassed
existence, chased from one room to another, with half his stuff
[unclear: carted] over to his new house & the College in the throws of
pre-term cleaning. He accepted the offer, so I spent the
spare time reading on the backs of Kings, just next-door
to Clare. I must send you some postcards of Cambridge
some day — I don't think I have already done so, have I?
page 8 I got another room in Clare last night, although term had
officially started, & was privileged to dine in hall at the
High Table with a whole cohort of fellows this time &
the Master. I'm sure you would have thought I was
rising in the world if you had been able to see me. But
I seem to have stuck to my ordinary level since. On
Friday morning I had a look at Heffer's & Bowes & Bowes, but
I could only afford to spend 6/6- or rather that is all I
spent, I couldn't afford it anyhow. I got Maurice Hewlett's
Last Essays remaindered & a 3/6 cheap edition. Some of the
essays are good. I thought I would go to Ely that afternoon;
but I found that McG. was back & waited round for him
unsuccessfully til it was too late to go, & then went for a
general ride round the country instead. There are some
very beautiful little villages round that way & dis go in for
whitewash & thatch a good deal — some very beautiful country.
England entirely does itself proud in the way of trees. I
felt a bit oppressed at the idea of another session with the
fellows, so I stayed out until after dark & dinner time &
spent 1/6 of my own on high tea on an immense lawn
just over the road from the church in a village whose
name I have quite forgotten. And as Clare seemed pretty
full of returned students & I didn't want to get in the way
I hopped it to the 4/6 bed & breakfast place Ern stayed
in when he was at Cambridge, which was fairly satisfactory —
page 9 having previously waylaid McG. at his digs. Next day
I called on him early & we inspected the house again (my
3rd or 4th time I think); after which & due consultation
with the builders, plumbers & painters we picked up his girl
from Texas, & Helen Allen who has gone up to Cambridge for
a term & had lunch together. It doesn't do to go round with
Cambridge people though, the lunch, a very exigious (?)
affair, done me in for 3/-. Then we all, & Forbes, went over
the house again, very thoroughly, inside & out, & also very
hilariously, after which we adjourned for tea to the
rooms, very palatial, of a biologist tutor in the new Clare
buildings — this was also very hilarious. After this I
put my swag on my shoulders & myself on my bike &
rode back in the moonlight to Welwyn Garden City; about
3 1/2 hours it took, very pleasant, with the wind behind me, &
a lump of chocolate for sustenance. I did the last few
miles without a light, as my lamp kept going out for some
reason, & met with no hindrance. The next night, going to
ride a couple of hundred yards to another house in W.G.C.
I ran into, or rather past, a cop in the first 5 yards, & the
first & only cop I have ever seen there, who seemed quite
pained because I hadn't thought it worth while to light up —
the moon was brighter than ever too. It seems that one day
you can get away with anything, & the next you can't move an
inch — well, not more than 5 yards, anyhow.
page 10 I came back that night partly to have a ride with Lorrie on
Sunday, partly because I had no money left, however L had
gone to town, & as I didn't go to bed til very late after a
very hot bath I didn't wake til about 2p.m. — which afterwards
turned out to be 3, as Daylight Saving started that night.
Nevertheless I managed to work in a couple of hours explora-
in various directions before nightfall; & rode into
town next day, reading in the sun on a convenient hillock
about 1/3 of the way down for about 4 hours after an early
lunch. I got quite sun-burned that day, & couldn't make
out why I was coming into town anyhow; but the weather
changed very much for the worse the next day, & has been
very so-so & confoundedly cold ever since. A cobber of Lorrie's
offered to take us to Wales & back for the last week-end in his car;
Lorrie wanted to have a last spree before the arrival of his
family from N.Z. (including several aunts — why not pack
up & do likewise) & he was going anyhow by train, which
he had to do in the end, for the car was an Austin, it had
to be repaired, there was a strike at the Austin works (these
[unclear: dud] workmen!) & no spare part was obtainable in time;
after a visit to the Bank, I decided I couldn't afford the
railway fair all that way, & so saw off Lorrie on his
own. I'm rather sorry now that I didn't [unclear: damn] the
expense — time is getting on, & I don't suppose I'll have another
chance to climb Snowden & her attendant satellites.

page 11

Mrs Hannah came to see me on Sunday afternoon, [unclear: nomimally]
to tea, she came at 1/4 past 4, & left at 1/4 to 10. We had
to have two lots of tea. You can see that we yapped a good
deal, & I really think that she did more than I did —
mainly about N.Z. of course, & our views on same & the rest
of the world. She is going to entertain me to lunch & perhaps a
matinee to-morrow if we can find one, before she hops off to
Bristol for a month. She has already been to Italy & to Holland,
where the bulbs were disappointingly & unexpectedly late.
She told me that Miss M Richmond (whom she seems to
despise pretty thoroughly) was back in N.Z. & gave me a side-
splitting imitation of her speech giving away the prizes at
Chilton St. James or somewhere. She must be an old ass. Mrs
remarked that I looked extremely well, even to my moustache,
& looked pretty hearty herself. She had a pretty stiff stroke
of luck, didn't she? — Since I came back to London I have
been patronising the pictures & a good deal at 1/3 a time, that
being the cheapest form of solitary amusement, apart from free
shows, in London just now. A sort of movie repertory theatre
here, the Avenue Pavilion, has been giving a fortnight's festival
of six pictures chosen by votes of its patrons as the best of the
year's productions — I have seen Vanderville, Jeanne Ney,
The Nibelungs, & Warning Shadows, all good films and I believe
film classics; so I really seem to be climbing up into the
film highbrow class, not so many seats below Ern. Of course
page 12 I can't hope to go too far all at once. & Apart from pictures
my principal amusement during the fortnight has been reading,
I have still not finished Whitehead, which is one of those con-
books which crease the brow & the soul alike of any
ordinary bloke like me; other members of the family with
more training in metaphysics & abstraction may [unclear: come] through
it, but I get tied into hopeless knots — I am coming to
believe that history is a soft option after all. I have read
the Icknield Way, a topographical book by Edward Thomas, &
Wyndham Lewis' Tarr, a very able novel, though not about very
attractive characters. Also Way of Sacrifice which Daddy sent out
to Ern, which I agree is pretty good. There is another German war
book out which is supposed to l be absolutely first rate "All Quiet
on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque, you had better
get hold of it. It wouldn't be a bad idea if everybody was made
to read a representative collection of real war books from every
nation — G. Britain, France, Germany at least they all have fairly
good specimens now.

A job has not turned up yet. I have got a couple
of replies from the States — letter filed, will let you know if etc.
One from Chicago this morning says "I am sure with your
admirable experience & qualifications that you will not find
much difficulty in obtaining a post suitable to your attainments."
This is all very well, but the post seems just as far off. I am
investigating of Univ. of London travelling studentship alas, but
page 13 not with much hope, as I have no decent excuse for asking
for it or plan of work to do if I got it. I wd go to Paris for
a year, that's all I know! Newton is back from India &
he may have something in his pocket — I must see him next
week. I hope to hear from [unclear: F. P.] by the end of the month
too — I hope to God he has had the decency to write. You
see it has become a question now practically of grabbing
anything I can get, in N.Z. or elsewhere, & beyond that
I can give you, or myself, no idea of my plans.

Have you seen that all the nobs in the theological
world are getting together to found a F D Maurice chain of
theology at King's College s to make up to him for his being
chucked out? Beautiful I call it. — Well, I must
knock off. With very much love to you both


I send you some real genuine English [unclear: primroses] sent to
me from Cornwell.