29 October 1917

I am afraid the sequence of these pages is a bit erratic, so have numbered them.

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

29.10.17.

                My dear Mother,

Very many thanks for your two letters, and the enclosure in the first, and also for the parcel, which arrived today.  It was a marvel of packing, and everything travelled beautifully.  The muslin is very pretty, and will do nicely for the curtains.  Also if there is enough left I would like to use it for the curtain behind which I keep my clothes.  The one I have at present is hideous, more like a dust-sheet than anything else.  But I shall want something to back the muslin, as it is too thin for the purpose.  Have you anything that would do?  It must be about 2 yds long and about 60″ wide.  If not I will use Grandma’s 5/- to get something here.  Don’t you think a pale yellow or biscuit colour would look nice behind the muslin?  It would not show the dirt so much as white.  The odd piece of muslin will make an awfully pretty cushion cover.

I think now I shall ask Gwen to give me a table, as I haven’t one in my room, and it would be a great convenience when I entertain.  Now the curtain difficulty looks like being solved, that is my greatest need.  I like the little tray very much – it is charming.  Next term I shall bring up my Goss1 tea-service, as I shall have to entertain the old people, and shall want more things – I could do with it now.  By the way, when next you send me a registered letter, could you enclose another of my spoons, as at present I have nothing for jam, which is distinctly awkward.  Next term I would like to bring up a pot of jam, as they don’t give you any here on Wednesdays and Sundays, but only some horrid kind of cake instead.

Last Thursday we had an awfully jolly Social in connection with the S.C.M. – cocoa and charades.  Earlier in the evening we had a really lively meeting on the reconstitution of the Literary Society, it being proposed to ask people to come here and read their own works, beginning with the Poet Laureate, who apparently resides in Oxford, and continuing with a Miss S., a local poetess who was the subject of much repartee – “Madam”, said a member, “have you met Miss S.?”  “Madam,” replied the Chair, “I have”.  The “be-Madaming” that goes on at these meetings is immense.  I’m aching to get up and “Madam, something or other”, myself.

On Friday evening I went to a lecture on Social Service at Barnet House2.  It was really more a discussion of a report on the employment of school-children in Oxford.  Several of the local education committee were there, so it was quite amusing.  On Saturday I got up with a stuffy head, and felt rotten .  I evidently had a regular cold, for complications ensued, so I decided to go to bed after lunch, which I did.  I had quite a nice time.  Slept all afternoon and sniffed Friars Balsam all evening.  The Bursar was angelic – she came to see me three times, and stayed quite a long time chatting.  She also lent me a book of perfectly charming Japanese Fairy tales, with exquisite pictures.  Also Ella came and had quite a long talk with me before dinner.  The result of all this was that I woke up with a perfectly clear head on Sunday morning, and got up as usual, although I did not go the walk I had planned to go, but my two friends went by themselves.

I went to the Wesleyan Chapel to hear Dr Glover3 of Cambridge, preach, and then got tea for my two friends on the return from their walk, and we had a lively tea party in my room.  Joyce Woodward brought in a tin of Devonshire cream, and Joan Fisher a pot of jam.  We also made hot buttered toast, and regularly enjoyed ourselves.  We talked chiefly about boys.  Joyce has a brother just a bit younger than herself, who is at Shrewsbury, and Joan’s father keeps a private school in Birmingham, so we had plenty of material to go upon.  I told them some of the antics of the Stantons, and we made a terrific row between us.  Joyce hails from Blackheath.  Joan comes from Birmingham, and plays the ‘cello.  Last Friday afternoon I accompanied her for an hour or so.  It was great sport, and she was kind enough to say she preferred my playing to that of Miss Lloyd, the musical person here, because playing an instrument myself I can follow her, and don’t run off on my own.  I am being pestered to bring down my fiddle, and I certainly shall next term, for only one other child plays, and I think not very well.  I had some idea of getting Gwen to bring it down, but even then I could not have the music.  But I would be awfully glad if you would put a handful of my songs in your next parcel, particularly the Somerset folk songs.

On Sunday evening I went to New College Chapel, and there saw Mira Atkinson and Norah Coad.  They were staying with Mina.  I was quite pleased to see them, though neither are usually great favourites of mine.  The same night I went to cocoa with a Miss Mills, who hails from Manchester, was at the High School, and knew Nancy Harker4, Doleen, Jean Batcham, and Jessie Thorburn.

Today Dr Allen informed us at Bach Choir practice that he wants 80 voices to sing at a great memorial concert at the Albert Hall on December 15th.  I think people who live in and near London will get the preference.  It would be great sport if I were to be chosen, for of course I should be home by then, as we come down on the 8th or 9th.  Ella has hopes also, as she will spend Christmas at Croydon.

Did we decide I was to send you the silk pyjamas, or give them to Mrs Harris?  If you will let me know next time you write I will post them to you if you want them.  Would it be safe to give her the green embroidered cloth to wash?  Being on my Moab it gets rather dirty, as it is moved twice a day.  I must have a dark cloth for my chest of drawers, as there is a heavy bookcase on it and an ordinary white toilet cloth would get filthy in no time.  Tomorrow Mrs Fawcett5 is addressing the Women’s Suffrage Society at L.M.H.  I am looking forward very much to hearing her.

The electric light began to play tricks last night, and we thought there was going to be a raid.  However, after declining twice it recovered, so we went to bed.  These moonlight nights give me fits, although Magdalen looks a perfect dream by moonlight.  However, I see nothing about raids in the papers (We take Times, Telegraph, Chronicle, Punch, the Nation, and other oddments) so conclude all is well.  Tonight it is blowing great guns, so I feel quite happy.

I must stop now as it is getting late.  I’m sorry this letter did not get off before, but it had to be written by instalments, as there is so little time here for a long letter.  Much love to Daddie and Maxted – and also to Grandma.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

29.10.17

1Goss china is mainly known for commemorative china (little vases with a place name and its heraldic shield are typical).

2Barnett House (spelt with a double ’t’) was set up in 1914 as a  centre for the study of contemporary social and economic problems, and for education and training  in social work or social research, with the aim of linking the university more closely with the study of social conditions and their alleviation.

3Dr Glover, 1869-1943, had just published ‘The Jesus of History’ in 1917.  A lecturer in ancient history, a classicist and Cambridge Public Orator, he later became the President of the Baptist Union.  He was a preacher widely respected by both the Church of England and Nonconformists, and an entertaining lecturer who is quoted as saying ‘It‘s a poor subject that cannot be brought into a history lecture‘.

4Nancy Harker is a cousin from Lancashire but it’s not certain if the others are more cousins or their friends.

5Mrs Fawcett, 1847 – 1929, was the sister of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and became president of the National Union of Women‘s Suffrage Societies which adhered to constitutional methods to achieve their ends.  She also campaigned for a wide variety of causes, such as the fight against the white slave traffic and for government help to protect low paid women workers.

Next letter, 8 November 1917, to be posted 8 November 2014

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One thought on “29 October 1917

  1. I have just (27 June 2015) discovered your blog and look forward to reading all of the letters. I am completing a biography of Constance Winifred Savery (1897-1999) who was at Somerville at exactly the same time as Margot was at St. Hilda’s, and like Margot, Winifred wrote home regularly. About 175 of the letters were preserved, and they were donated to the Somerville library yesterday! I am spending a week at Somerville identifying as many as I can of the 391 persons Winifred mentions. Among them is Estelle Jacinth Poignand, who attended St. Hilda’s, and whose nerve-wracking viva with Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch ended famously with Michael Nichol-Smith’s question: “How do you pronounce your name?”

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