26 November 1917

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

26.11.17

                My dear Mother,

Very many thanks for your parcel and letter.  I was most awfully sorry to hear about Auntie Lizzie, and more shocked that I can say.  Poor dear little Peggy – everything will be on her shoulders now!  Have they made any plans yet?  I am sure you are being awfully sweet to the child.  I wish I were at home, so that you could be with them more.  How is Uncle Fred?  His health is not really so awfully good as to be able to stand a great shock without its telling on him very much.

Fancy the bells being rung in London for the victory.  I believe they were rung here, but then they are always on the go here, all day long, and a little more or less makes no difference1.

We are working most awfully hard at the Bach Choir.  The concert is next Sunday in the Sheldonian Theatre, and we are practising three times a week.  Last Sunday I did nothing but stand and sing all day.  It was a glorious morning, and Joan Fisher and I just swore at the Bach practice which prevented us from going for a lunch walk.  However we decided we would to up the Shotover if we perished in the attempt.  So we started at 9.45 a.m.  We walked up by the road, and cut across the heath by a field path, from which we got the most glorious view of Oxford.  It really is the prettiest sight, a little cluster of grey towers lying in a circle of wooded hills.  Then we went home by a field path and another road, arriving at the Hall at 11.10 a.m.  That means we did 6 miles in exactly 1 hr 25 min.  Not bad, was it?  Then immediately I went to Mansfield Chapel with Muriel and Edith – the Nonconformists here really are the pick of the bunch.  In the afternoon there was a Bach practice at New College Chapel.  In the evening we went to Evensong at New College, and when we came back there was Choir practice and Chapel.  So as I say, I did nothing but stand and sing all day.  How I managed to screw in two Latin Unseens, I don’t know.  Sunday is always the busiest day of the week.

Last night’s Bach practice was a strange experience.  We did nothing but practise the unaccompanied Motets.  Of course we went hopelessly flat, and Dr Allen was in despair.  So he just bullied us into singing in tune – beginning with a five-finger exercise – and by the end of the evening we came out actually sharp, which was a great cause of joy both to us and to him.

Many thanks for the hold-all.  It will be very useful, and I intend to bring home my eiderdown in it.  Will it be necessary to bring home both my big coats?  Shall I leave Auntie Nellie’s here?  We go down on Dec 10th.  I am going down with Kathleen Darnell, and we rather thought we would like to have lunch in town.  If this little scheme comes off, I could meet you either at Victoria or at Streatham Hill.  If you want to wash, of course, never mind – but I expect you will be waiting for my things.  It’s awful to think this term is nearly over!  If three years are going to fly like this, I shall be an old woman before I can turn round.

I must stop now, as I am just off to tennis, and must run and get some bread and butter first, or I shall get no tea when, as we don’t come in till 4.0. p.m.  My best love to all,

Your loving daughter, Margot.

1Bells rung for a victory was probably for Cambrai which was passed off as a great victory.  Oxford may have been more sceptical than London.

Next letter to be posted on 1 December 2014

19 November 1917

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

19.11.17

                My dear Mother,

Thank you very much indeed for the parcel, and the letter and silver.  The cake and scones were a godsend, and the latter again helped us out on our Sunday walk.  I was also very thankful for the cake – it is a beauty, and will last out for several cocoas and tea-parties.  I was also very glad to see the pyjamas, as I was just beginning to think that silk might tend to feel cold after flannel.  It is very cold here in the mornings, but at night the rooms get rather hot and stuffy.  So one usually begins the day with two coats, and ends in a lace blouse.

That pot of anchovy you sent in the previous parcel is proving invaluable.  You have no idea what a difference it makes to the margarine at tea-time.  It is also very nice for filling up the gaps in the scones they give you for lunch walks.  These are usually rather dry, and just smeared with some weird concoction I think they call paste.

On Saturday Mr Allen came to inaugurate the new musical society with a lecture on modern music.  He took the idea of subject music – picture painting in music.  He kept on playing little bits of things in illustration, but would not play anything properly, which was very annoying.  However, he was most amusing.  We are singing at present for all we are worth for the concert on Sunday December 2nd – three practices a week!  Sometimes + the orchestra – which is quite amusing – I don’t know whether I mentioned that we were singing the first part of the Messiah – some of the choruses are awful – runs a mile long!

We had rather a killing time yesterday, when the Literary Society (commonly known as the lit. soc.) had its first poetry reading.  There were two poets, both young Oxford men – one very artistic in appearance, touselled head, untidy collar, misfitting clothes, and slouching gait.  The other was rather dapper, but with quite a nice face, and, for a young man, a quite well developed sense of humour.

Please thank Daddie for his letter and for the certificate and please tell him I will write to him later.  I have not been on the river yet but hope to go next week.  I was going on Wednesday, but went over Oxford Castle instead.  We climbed up a most awful stair-case, narrow, spiral, low, and pitch dark, up onto the top of a tower, from whence we got a fine view of Oxford and the surrounding hills.  We also saw the door by which Matilda made her escape from prison in the castle, with the aid of “three trusty knights”.

We are at present in quarantine, for Miss West, the theological student, has developed measles from going to work among children in some poor quarter of the town.  Quarantine merely means cutting social affairs, not lectures or coachings.  It’s Wids1 that suffers most;  everything else goes on as usual.

I am awfully sorry not to have written before, but this week has been simply appallingly full up, owing chiefly to the fact that I have made two new friends, second year people – Muriel Attee, hailing from Birmingham, very brainy and sporting, thus reminding me rather of Ethel – Kathleen Darnell, who comes from Blackheath and was at the High2 there.  These two insist upon our going to bed early – come to see if we have done so, in fact, which is not conducive to our getting to sleep early – I am generally recognised as being particularly sensible in that direction!!!  I shall probably come down with Kathleen, as Ella will be staying up for Smalls.

People are beginning to “pop” now, i.e. yield you their gracious permission to call them by their Christian names.  It is always done by the 2nd and 3rd year to the 1st year after half-term and is a gradually [sic] process often not completed until the end of the second term.  It’s awfully funny to see how they do it.  Muriel and Kathleen have popped to me already, also Edith Cowan, an awfully nice Scottish girl with whom I go to the Barnet House lectures.  She is a 3rd year so I feel considerably flattered.

I must stop now, as the youth brought me three fat volumes of Irish History some minutes ago, and I must screw the substance out of them before lunch time.  I can see the end of my pecuniary resources in sight, my washing bill having been steadily 2/6 for some time.  But I am not in immediate distress.  Best love to all,

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

P.S.  I began this letter on Monday, and have written a paragraph every day – today is Saturday.

1Wids = Women’s Intercollegiate Debating Society

2The High – Blackheath HS, one of the GPDST schools like Streatham Hill HS, the one Margot attended.

Next letter will be posted on 26 November 2014

12 and 13 November 1917

2 letters in an envelope addressed to W H Collinson, Esq.

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

12.11.17

                My dear Mother,

Thank you very much for your parcel, and for the letter and enclosure.  The scones were very welcome, and made a nice addition to our dinner on Saturday night, when we went to the last performance of the D’Oyley Carte.  They were also very useful for our lunch walk on Sunday.  Many thanks for the kimonos, Miss Todd is highly delighted with them, also with the sandals.  The wool will be extremely useful when I can find time to stuff the cushion.

I like the mauve pyjamas very much, thank you, and am glad you have another pair on the list.  Mrs Harris continues to do my things beautifully.  I gave her my blue striped blouse and the silk pyjamas last week, and they both look too nice to wear.  This week I have given her the green embroidered cloth.

The play is getting quite amusing.  The heroine is Miss Faulkner, the prettiest girl and the best actress in the Hall.  She and Ella make a charming couple as mistress and maid.  Miss Faulkner can be so thoroughly fascinating that I shall really be head over heels in love with her before I have done.

Miss James, the author of the play, sent us a most fascinating box of properties and dresses.  My dress is a proper man’s garment, and is indeed a fearful and wonderful affair – it is in five parts, and consists of an undershirt whose only importance lies in the black collar, a pair of blue hakemana (trousers), a long black silk kimono, and a short black crepe coat.  It really looks awfully nice when on, and I provide a splendid foil for Ella and Miss Faulkner, who wear most gorgeous flowered kimonos.

Tonight Ella gave a very interesting lecture on Chinese architecture – tomorrow I have a free afternoon and intend to wash my hair – also a formal cocoa in the evening after a rehearsal.  Thursday is General Meeting and a first year cocoa.  Friday, another rehearsal.  Saturday, Dr Allen is coming to inaugurate our new Musical Society by playing to us.  So you see how much time hangs heavily on our hands.

Your loving daughter,

Margot

P.S.  Please thank Maxted for his nice letter.

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

13.11.17

                My dear Daddie,

Thank you very much indeed for your letter.  I am glad to see by Mother’s postscript to Maxted’s  that you got home from the North all right.  How did you find all the people there, particularly Auntie Nellie?  I had a letter from her last week, in which she said she had been over to Heaton Moor the previous Saturday, expecting to see you then, so evidently she had mistaken the date of your coming.

13.11.17 First mention of the river.  Margot is the tallest.

13.11.17 First mention of the river. Margot is the tallest.

I have discovered that the swimming test is not 80 yds, as I thought, but 80 ft.  Don’t you think you have seen me swim that much?  If you have, please say so in writing, and then I can go on the river.  People row, scull, punt and canoe here, and they are very particular how you do it, as we have a reputation for style, and have to keep it up.  It is therefore not at all a bad thing never to have punted before, as they are most particular as to how you do that.  I am just aching to go on the river, so, if you can do so without perjuring yourself, please send me a certificate as soon as possible.

I do get out as much as possible – in fact I do quite a lot of walking.  That’s where a bicycle would be useful, of course – walking to lectures and coachings is all very well as a form of exercise, but it takes time.  For instance, on Tuesday I have a coaching at L.M.H. at 5. p.m.  It takes me half an hour to walk there, so the whole affair takes two hours, which for an hour’s coaching in Latin Unseens is absurd.  I get absolutely nothing done that evening.  Also one is liable to have a coaching which ends at 11.0 and a lecture which begins at 11.5 at the other end of the town.  I am alright for this term – the one time that was awkward was changed.  All Oxford moves on wheels.  You should see the High at 1.0. p.m. – it positively swarms with bicycles – it’s quite a tricky business getting across it.

I hardly ever work in the afternoon.  If I am not playing hockey or occasionally tennis, I try to get a stiff walk.  You can get up to Headington, which is the nearest height, in about 15 minutes.  It’s nice and high up there, but there’s rather too much of Headington Village.  We went a ripping walk on Sunday – we went 9 or 10 miles, and took from 10. a.m. -3. p.m. over it.  We climbed up on to Boar’s Hill, and found ourselves in a perfectly glorious wood.  Of course we got off the road, and followed a perfectly charming path which led up and down, through the wood, and finally into a carriage drive.  Scenting that there was something wrong we climbed through some wire into a lane, which led us back to the point from which we started.  After that we stuck to the public path, which led us home by quite a pretty track across some fields, and we arrived in about 3.0. p.m., leaving us just time enough to have a bath and get dressed for tea with Miss Burrows in the drawing room.  At least that was my fate.

I shan’t be able to walk much now in the afternoons, as we are at present rehearsing for all we are worth.  However, there is always hockey.  We played a most exciting match against L.M.H. on Saturday, which ended in a draw – 3 all.  We have two Cheltenham children among the freshers who are splendid at hockey and lacrosse, and have been asked to play for the United – a rare honour for St. Hilda’s.  One of them, Marjorie Comins, whose brothers were and are at D.C., is a perfect marvel.  Our practices are rather apt to become a solo concerto for Marjorie’s powers of shooting, the rest of the players acting as orchestra.  She can shoot, too, as multi-coloured bruises on various parts of my lower limbs bear eloquent witness – the opposing goal rather acts as a kind of Aunt Sally.  On Monday we had a practice at 7.15 a.m., and had to climb the fence into the bargain!

The Bach Choir continues to go with a swing.  We are doing the first part of the Messiah for a concert at the end of the term.  It is lovely music, but takes a deal of breath!  The Sunday before last Dr Allen held a hymn-singing in the Sheldonian Theatre, with the general public as his choir, and the Bach Choir as an object lesson.  He taught people new tunes in that way.  It was quite interesting and very amusing.

I must stop writing now, as it is getting late – the 10.30 bell has just tinkled.

Your loving daughter

Margot

Next letter to be posted on19 November 2014

8 November 1917

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

8.11.17

Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter and also for the parcel, which arrived quite safe and sound.  The gingerbread was very welcome, and also the jam and spoons.  I may say that Dulwich Prep. 1 is not the only place where your cookery is greatly appreciated.  It is the same story here – the shortbread in particular was a great success.  Thank you also for the sateen and cloths.  I am not sure that there is enough muslin left for the curtain – I really haven’t had time to measure yet.  This is the first spare moment I have yet had to write a letter.  The fact of the matter is I have now begun to know people, and the spare moments tend to get filled in with “social intercourse”.

We are going to do a play at the end of this term – a Japanese fairy play called “Reflections”.  I am to play the heroe [sic] – a hen-pecked husband, I believe.  Anyway we want heaps and heaps of kimonos, for a pedlar comes along with some to sell.  Could you send me Maxted’s and Daddie’s in your next parcel? – (not yours).  I believe Ella has enough really striking ones for us to wear.  Could you also send a pair of those sandal affairs – they might come in very useful.  I regret to say that I have smashed the handle off one of my cups.  I did it myself.  Do you think it would be possible to send my Goss2 china here?  If you don’t, never mind, for I can always borrow.  If you do, please send the other three spoons as well.  Thanks very much for the spoon and fork – they will be extremely useful.

I was very pleased to get your letter after the raid.  I was most awfully anxious when I saw in Thursday’s papers that they had been S.W.  But it only lasted for half an hour, for your letter came by that morning’s post, much to my relief.  But Stockfield Road is quite near enough.  I am glad Rita no longer lives there.

We had a lively debate in Hall last Friday – the motion before the house was that “emotion is a surer guide to conduct than reason”.  There was an old student up that week-end who was a real gem.  She always had some delightfully ingenuous remark to make.  The debate was for the most part distinctly off the point.  For some reason or other they kept dragging in Aristotle by the roots of his hair.

The Old Students’ meeting was held in London this year, and I heard about it from two different sources.  First Miss Burrows was kind enough to mention the fact that she had seen Miss Macrae, who had enquired after me.  Then the Bursar told me that Miss Macrae had been making tender enquiries after her “grand-daughter”.  The Bursar is awfully jolly, and has promised to go walking with me on Friday.  All the dons are most kind.  Miss Levett was perfectly sweet at my last coaching – she asked me about my work with Mr Stampa, and suggested to me how to divide my reading.  She also gave me suggestions for lighter reading, to fill in the gaps, as it were.  She really is jolly, although very shy.  Miss Burrows very kindly asked if I had heard from you after the raid.

Last Tuesday Mrs Fawcett came to L.M.H. to the Oxford Students’ branch of the Women’s Suffrage Society on the future work of the  union.  She is awfully nice, and doesn’t look nearly as old as she must be.  She said that the future work of the union must be to secure votes for the women still left unenfranchised by the Franchise Bill, and also to work for reform of the laws which bore more hardly upon women than on men.  She was quite amusing, but oh, the L.M.H. dining hall is stuffy!

Mrs Harris continues to do my washing for me very nicely.  I sent her a blouse last week, and she did it and the pyjamas beautifully.  She charges one 1/2d each for handkerchiefs and if there is an odd number, she gives me the benefit of the doubt, as it were, and charges me 4d for 9, so now I am careful to send an even number.

Is there any money due to me soon?  I’m not really in want, but this week’s expenses are rather heavy, what with the D’Oyly Carte3, and my shoes being worn out by my peregrinations on the Oxford cobbles, and having to be mended – and my washing bill increases every week.  Accordingly I can see the end coming.

Last night we went to see “Iolanthe”4.  Such a nice party – it couldn’t have been better if we had selected it – in fact it included all the people I am specially keen on.  Miss Winslow5 chaperoned the party – there were also Ella and her four 3rd year friends – Miss Tutin, the hockey captain, who dresses simply perfectly, and sails off the hockey field after a breathless game as if she had just come out of a band box – (but her hair did come down last time , much to everybody’s secret delight) –  Miss Faulkner, the beauty of the Hall – and awfully nice as well, and a topping actress – Miss Cowan, an extremely jolly Scottish girl – Miss Rathbone, very quiet and scarcely speaks a word, but fags for the rest and is generally the most unselfish member of the party.  There were also the two Cheltenham kiddies, my two particular friends Joan Fisher and Joyce Woodward, and myself.  We got into the second row of the pit, just behind Ella and Co, and saw beautifully.  The play was just beautiful.  I really think it is the prettiest thing I have ever seen.  Lytton was superb and most dignified as the Lord Chancellor.  The chorus of peers was exquisitely “got up”.  Each one was meant to be someone real, I think – Disraeli was unmistakable.  The Parliament yard scene  made me feel quite homesick.

Please thank Daddie for his letter and tell him I will write to him tomorrow.  I have quite a lot to tell him, but want to get to sleep early tonight, so will not write any more now,

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

P.S. I remembered Emmie’s birthday all on my own.

8.11.17

1Dulwich Prep, the junior departmentl of Dulwich College, was where Margot’s brother went to school.

2Goss china is mainly known for small commemorative ornaments but this would seem to refer to a teaset.

3The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company performed the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, based at the Savoy Theatre when in London.

4Iolanthe is one of these operas.

5Miss Wilmslow is the Bursar. It was necessary for the women students to go out to the theatre accompanied by a chaperone.  What is not clear is whether there were chaperones at tutorials, called ‘coachings’ by Margot, when the tutor was a man.

Next Letter will be posted on 12 November 2014.