27 January 1918

S. Hilda’s Hall,



                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