27 January 1918

S. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford,

27.1.18

                My dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter this morning, and also for the tie.  I keep discovering things I have left behind.  Among them are a woollen vest and my flannel petticoat.  Will you please send them along sometime?  There is no particular hurry, as I shall not want to change my vest just yet.  Also I think I must have left two of those little handkerchiefs of mine with the coloured borders in my linen drawer.  Also I cannot find my small holland linen bag.  Did I leave that behind?

I enjoyed myself thoroughly last week doing a little bit of research in the Bodleian proper.  Miss Levett suggested that I should read James I’s original writings and speeches.  As only books published after 1830 or so are kept in the Camera I had to migrate to the Bod.  The Upper Reading Room there is a glorious place.  It is a 17th century room turned into a reading room in 1907 by Thomas Alnutt Brassey1.  It is beautifully light and airy, with desks about twice the size of those in the Rad.  You just leave your books there with a slip inside those you want to remain, and the next day there they are all right, and you can go straight to your desk and begin at once.  The people there are killing – some of them have their desks piled up with books.  One man near me was reading music, one studying coins, and a third making abstruse algebraic calculations with the aid of a treatise on the Law of Chance.  Meanwhile I was getting deeply interested in the morality of James I.  He was very moral! I also discovered in Duke Humphrey’s library a minature [sic] portrait of Shelley as a boy, and a perfectly beautiful portrait of Mary Shelley as a middle aged woman, together with some other reliques.

My work is ever so much better arranged this term.  I seem to have more time, but still do not always get done all I want to do.  I am going to a new lecture, Mowat2 on the Stuarts.  Muriel also goes, and we have rather an amusing time.  I really work hard that morning.  I have lectures at 9.0, 10.0, and 12.0, which leaves me just an hour in between for the Rad.  Last Saturday I spent the rest of the evening talking to Muriel.  Mr Stampa now comes to Hall on Thursday evenings, which is rather amusing.  Last time he told me about his work for his scholarship – he crammed the whole period (1494-1789) in a month!!!  The brains of the man!  But then men’s schools are quite easy to pick up.  This morning in my coaching with the Levett she told me – “I always do seem to wander off on to some other subject when I am coaching you”.  That was because the theory of divine right led us on to Modern Catholic liberation, free thought, toleration, and modern English politics! Very instructive!

Last Thursday was General Meeting – very tame until the end when it was discovered the Sub-Librarian, Helen Rathbone, that nice quiet person I think I have mentioned, was not present.  “Madam!, inquired a member, “may I ask why the Sub-Librarian is not present?“  “Madam,“ says the SS, “the Sub-Librarian sent me a message to say she was going to bed?” – “Madam”, cries another hon. member who has just been on a message to the Sub-Librarian, “she is not in bed” .  Whereupon two votes of censure were passed on the Sub.L., first for not being at the meeting, secondly, for not being in bed!

We have begun our polite cocoas.  On Friday Isabel Perkin and I entertained Gibbie and Mercy Harvey.  We were quaking inwardly beforehand, but they were awfully lively and we made quite a row!  On Saturday Joyce, Bronwen and I entertained Kathleen and Muriel.  We did not really become rowdy until after the 10.30 bell, after which we made such a row that the S.S3., who was feeling awfully tired, came in twice to protest!!!  Of course she only made us worse, and we ended in hysterics.  Tonight Joyce and I entertain Ella and Edith.  The funny part about Saturday night was that we were not half as rowdy as on the Thursday previous, when Kathleen, Muriel, Edith and I were all in Bronwen’s room at about 11.0 p.m.  tickling Joyce, who was in convulsions on Bronwen’s bed.  You always know where Kathleen and Muriel have gone to cocoa, as the noise proceeding thence is always tremendous.

I had a nice game of tennis yesterday – it was a glorious day.  Last night and this morning I have been fighting Muriel, because I want to go boating on Thursday and she wants me to play hockey (she runs the hockey during Norah’s absence)  I regret to say she has won – it was a case of pure bullying!

Many thanks for your card this morning.  It was a great relief to my mind.  Was it very bad?  Is any of the neighbourhood missing?

Your loving daughter,

Margot.                  P.S. Love and kisses to Daddie and the kid.

1Thomas Alnutt Brassey, the second and last Earl Brassey, was a benefactor of the Bodleian Library. He was  the grandson of a very fine railway engineer who founded the family fortunes, and son of  a hard-working MP ennobled  at Gladstone’s retirement.

2Mowat  – RB Mowat, 1883-1941, fellow of Corpus Christi with government  posts in  naval intelligence, 1915-18, and in the war cabinet secretariat.

3S.S. – the Senior Student

Next letter to be posted on3 February 2014

23 January 1918 23 January 1918

                St Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford,

23.1.18

                My dear Mother

Very many thanks for the parcel, which arrived promptly on Tuesday morning, and also for your letter and card.  Thank you very much for your potted meat – it will be extremely useful.  I am so sorry not to have acknowledged the things before, but on Monday I was confronted with two essays and two unseens to be done in three days, with both Monday and Tuesday evenings full up.  The consequence was I have worked harder than ever in my life, even on Tuesday afternoon, and hardly spoke to a soul for two days, for which most of my friends are reproachful.

I expect you have now heard from Mrs Harris that she thinks she will be able to wash for me herself.  So that’s all right.  I shall send her as little as possible, for she looks very frail, but says she must wash for herself, she may as well take mine in addition, as she cannot find anyone else willing to take it temporarily.

This term in Bach Choir we are going to sing Haydn’s “Creation” and Charles Wood’s “Dirge of Two Veterans“, which we couldn’t make out until Dr Allen informed us that it was the opening chorus of “Iphigenia in Tauris” put into English verse and set to music.  So it ought to be quite interesting.  Dr Allen spent all last practice in teaching us to read at sight.  He was killingly funny, and said that when we reached a perfect cadence, an idiotic smile of satisfaction came over our faces.

Today the B. conducted a party round the town walls.  It was very interesting tracing them out, as bits still remain, and occur about every hundred yards, while in places they exist quite  whole for some distance.  The B. is going to conduct expeditions every Wednesday, so we ought to know a lot when we have done.

The floods are just beginning to subside, and the island is gradually reappearing.  It is awfully funny to see first the football goal post, and then the field roller emerging from the waters.  I hope it bucks up and subsides, for of course boating is at present impossible.

Please give my love to Daddie and the kid – poor infant, you would have thought he had mumps.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

Next letter will be posted on 27 January 2015

20 January 1918

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford,

20.1.18

                My dear Mother,

I posted you a card last night telling you of my safe arrival, and the serious omissions in my packing.  Later I discovered several others.  I will now give the list –

 +shirts-3                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      c*shirts – 3

soap – plain primrose

+bed socks

stockings – old ones

+string (under my bed)

wool – for my knitting

Lemco – clothes-brush

note-paper – (my own best kind,

calendar (the one Daddie gave me at Xmas)

in the cupboard in my room)

Those marked with a cross are the only really important ones, which I should like as soon as possible.  The others will do any time.  I can’t imagine how I came to forget my shirts, but anyway there wouldn’t have been room for them!

I hope you were not  too tired after your portering yesterday, and that you did not have much trouble in getting home.  We had a very lively journey up – there were five of us in the end, for Jacynth joined us from next door.  Muriel carried on as usual, and then complained of the rowdiness of the first years!  We got a cab quite easily at Oxford, and as there were about 10 of our people on the platform we had 3 cabs between us and shared the luggage, while some people cycled to the Hall.  Joyce and I went in one cab with four people’s luggage.  When we had got finally unloaded into the hall, Ella came rushing down and carried me off out with her.  She had had malaria, as I feared, and came straight up to Oxford as soon as she was better.  She has, however, been staying at Headington till term began, and not in Oxford, which was wise as Headington is considerably higher.  I parted from Ella at Weeke’s, went on up the High, and ran into Gwen, who was coming to St. Hilda’s with a note for Miss Burrows.  I walked back with her, and we had quite a nice chat.  She is coming to tea with me on Monday.

After all that I did finally get some tea, and a look at my room.  Everything had arrived and I got it all unpacked and put away before dinner, but did not get really presentable until just before cocoa time.  Joyce and Bronwen and I had cocoa together in Joyce’s room, plus the fresher, Miss Archer, an Australian.  She is quite different from what we expected – much older, for one thing – I should think about 24.  She hasn’t a trace of accent, and seems quite amusing.

It is much warmer here than at home.  Miss Winslow says the place was covered with snow on Friday morning, but it had all gone by Saturday, and in consequence the river is out, which appears to be rather unusual at such an early time of the year.  I don’t know how it will affect boating.

Two of our people are in quarantine for measles, and can’t come up yet, and one second year has gone down.  Supplies are distinctly short – only 1lb of meat per head per week – and no margarine except for cooking – for eating some weird kind of cocoanut butter which looks like lard, and which I have not yet tasted.  It looks as though it will require anchovy.

I must not write any more now, as Muriel has just been up to know if I am going to Mansfield.  Of course, I am.

Your loving daughter

Margot.

Next letter will be posted on23 January 2015

19 January 1919

19.1.19

                My dear Mother,

We arrived quite safely yesterday.  Our carriage emptied a bit at Reading, and we picked up Evelyn.  At Oxford the station was packed, and there were so few cabs that finally five of us piled all our luggage into one cab.  Two rode inside, May rode my byke home and Mary Mac. and I walked home, with Mathias1, of course.  We just got home in time for tea, of which we were very glad, being tired and hungry.

Much to our relief, the food situation is decidedly easier.  Bread is henceforward unrationed and we are to have more jam and more butter – or rather margarine, and twice a week for breakfast!  Milk is the only thing which is tightened, and that not essentially.  We still have a little at night for cocoa.  We also have 4 fires per week, and the electric light till 11.15p.m. so altogether we feel rather happier than we did!

Dr Allen has been appointed head of the Royal College of Music, but still comes to Oxford at the weekends, so keeps on the Bach Choir and plays in New College chapel on Sundays, but has had to give up the orchestra.  We hear that the public are now excluded from the choir in New College, but are going tonight to find out.  All the cadets have departed and the colleges are mostly full up, though the town is not so full  as it would normally be.

My box has not yet arrived, but I suppose it will come sometime.  I have left my little purple dressing gown with the lace collar and cuffs at home, so would you please send it along with the washing?  I am not in any tearing hurry for it.  I am glad I did not send my jewellery[sic] in my box, for one child was telling me that all hers was stolen out of a trunk sent by goods last vac.

Gerry got through H.P. but not Babe!  It is really awfully hard luck on Babe – she came a cropper on maps, I believe.  All except one of the women candidates had to do their Latin Unseens again at the Viva.  Poor beggars!

The river is out, but not much.  The island is still there, although there are one or two pools in it.  However the river is too high for them to bring our boats back yet.

Please give my dearest love to Daddie and the boy.  I hope he is getting on all right at D.C. 2

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

1Mathias – Margot’s violin.

2D.C. – Dulwich College, a South London public school.  Margot’s brother had been at the junior or ‘prep’ school.

Next letter to be posted ion 24 January 2016.