25 February 1918

S. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

25.2.18

                My dear Mother,

Ever so many thanks for your letter and the parcel, and also for the photo.  I was very thankful for the jam, as I have just finished both my jam and my marmalade, also my cocoa.  Could I please have some more of the latter?  Also will you please send me one of those ends of red wool off my jersey, as another seam has split, this time under the arm – also a pocket.  The jam pasties are delicious, and also the buns, which unfortunately got rather shattered, but the fragments were just as nice.  The cake I have not touched yet, but it will be a real godsend, as I shall be entertaining quite a lot this week.  I want to give a first year cocoa this week as well as make up a few polite ones.

I have been taking things easily this last week.  I had my breakfast in bed for three mornings running, and went to bed directly after dinner on two evenings.  But at the same time I kept my average up to 7 hrs a day.  I have decided, however, not to cut any more social affairs.  I have been so really interested in my work lately that I have cut practically every thing else.

Last week was C.U.1 Finance Week.  Every body has been doing everyone else’s odd jobs in order to collect money – cleaning bycicles [sic], making beds on Sunday mornings, mending garments, etc. etc.  Also a model laundry was set up, and a dancing class established.  Our babies, Betty, Marjorie and Mary Mac (McClelland) got up a “Bronco Bill” performance, consisting of a “picture” cowboy play, and some ordinary songs, assisted by a comb band.  It was open to the first year only, and was rippingly well done!  The other years were jealous, and some bright spirit blockaded the door, while other people kept appearing with mock messages from the B. that we were making too much row, must go to bed, etc, etc.

On Saturday we had a fancy dress dance which was great sport, as being all girls, we could do exactly what we liked in the way of costume.  I got Mephi. to a T. with the aid of a weird collection of scarlet garments.  I discovered some red stockings in the property box, and used the skirt of my poppy dress for “continuations”.  Joyce sewed me up, and the effect was so good that everyone wanted to know where I got a complete costume from.  I borrow(sic) some effective jewellery and made up my face so effectively, that Joyce declared I quite frightened her!  We acted the “Sorrows of Satan” before a mirror afterwards.  Jacynth Poignard got first prize for the best representation as Scrooge.  She just was it, night-cap, expression, and all. The prize for the most effective costume went to our theological student, who appeared as a Bacchante, and pirouetted in the midst of the dancers with great effect.  She really had done it awfully well, with the aid of a leopard skin fur and a bed cover.

I am afraid I cannot go to the end of term without more money.  I have just 5/- left, and have not yet paid for my Bach Choir music.  Would you please ask Daddie, if he has a moment to spare on Sunday, to write to me and tell me what the Labour Party2 has been up to?  Ethel writes me a letter full of it, and I have missed it altogether.

Your loving daughter, Margot.

1CU – Christian Union, evangelical student Christian society.

2?

Next letter to be posted on 3 March 2015

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17 February 1918

S. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

17.2.18

                My dear Mother,

Very many thanks for your two parcels and the letters enclosed.  I have some great ideas on the subject of Mephi, but am waiting to consult our best actress before I make a move.  The cake is delicious, and the pies a godsend, as I think I shall have to have my lunch out on Tuesday, since I want to go boating at 1.40.  I have a late lecture that day, and it is ½ an hour’s walk from the Hall to the boathouse.  Polite cocoas were in abeyance last week, but begin afresh this, so I have need of supplies.

I don’t think I told you about our walk last Sunday.  Joyce and Evelyn Ellis and I went a short lunch walk, and had a most hilarious time.  We sat on a stile and ate our lunch, adding sardines to the Hall scones, and my hat dropped into the stream!  That was the second time that happened that week.  The previous afternoon my oilskin one fell into the river while I was punting, but fortunately the inside came uppermost.

The play was performed on Tuesday last.  I was dresser-in-chief to the whole caste.  No one but I could tie properly Ella’s and Gertrude’s “obis” – the sash affair.  I got quite expert at the job, which leaves quite a large scope for artistic taste.  Also I had to sew Muriel into her lady abbess’ garb – a tricky job considering the fidgetiness and grimaces of the patient!  Muriel as a Holy Nun was priceless.  Her manner, austere expression, and glad eyes – were superb!  I tell her that never again shall I believe in seeming holiness.

Muriel has not been at all well lately.  The previous week she had to spend three days in bed with a bad headache, and chafed the whole time at the boredom and inactivity.  She isn’t really right yet.  The real fact of the matter is she is worrying hard, because her mother is just departing for France, and she will only just snatch a weekend with her before she goes.  She will have an awfully lonely vac, poor kid, as the whole family appear to have decamped.

I have made the surprising discovery that I can work hard.  This week I have worked 7 hrs per diem on an average.  Once it was 8 hrs.  Both my coaches have been angelic this week.  The Levett was making tender inquiries after my work last Wednesday, and between us we concocted a new plan of action by which I am to use only the Dic. Of Nat. Biog. and original documents.  The consequence is I now dwell in the Rad.  Last week I was burrowing in Strafford’s letters and dispatches, this week in Cromwell’s.  You can’t think how I am enjoying it.  Mr Stampa has also been jolly nice.  I arrived at my coaching last Thursday with only half an essay, and he was perfectly charming, and said if I hadn’t time I needn’t write for him now, as I knew how to write an essay, and the reading was more important.  The reason why the essay didn’t get  finished was because I had been browsing in Walisczensky’s “Peter the Great”, culling many choice tit-bits.  A priceless people, the Russians!  Stampa and I discussed them, past, present, and future, all through my last coaching, also the war and the present situation.  Highly instructive!

I have been punting again this week. On Wednesday Anker took three of us out, and we complaining that you never got a punt to yourself for practice, just left it to us to do as we liked, go where we like, and coach one another.  We had a ripping 2 hrs, and went further up the river than I had ever been before.  Once before with Anker we picked up a scull for two wretched cadets, and got ourselves aground on a root in the process.  We nearly went over in getting off again.  Says Anker “I love helping men on the river.  It’s the only sport in which we can excel them”.

Please thank Maxted for his letter and tell him I will write to him as soon as I possibly can.  Dearest love to Daddie and the kid,

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

Next letter will be posted on 21 February 2015

21 February 1918

S. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

21.2.18

                My dear Maxted

Very many thanks for your letter.  I was very interested to hear what you had been doing with yourself while you were away from school.  You seem to have increased somewhat the takings of the local tramways.  I hear you had the Faulkners last week and I hope there was not too much row at night in your top room.

Now I am going to tell you the true tale of a bust.  In the ordinary way there stands in our dining hall on a pedestal in one corner a white bust of our noble foundress, Miss Beale.  When we came up this term, Miss Beale had most unaccountably disappeared from her accustomed position, and no track whatever could be discovered of her whereabouts.  Tender enquiries were made, and speculation was busy over a certain small heap of white fragments found in the shrubbery, but nothing could be proved, and suspicion settled on no one.  Then one day last week the Senior Student found the missing lady, seated, with all the assurance in the world, on her bed, nor had she any account to give of what she had been doing in the meanwhile.  The whole Hall was immensely intrigued, and very eager to try its hand at amateur detection.  A resolution was passed at general meeting that this matter be enquired into, as affecting the interests and reputation of the Hall.

The following day, the said Miss Beale appeared at breakfast time all bedizened with blue and yellow – painted and placarded with domestic salutations “Welcome home, Mother!” – “What is home without a Mother” – Great efforts on the part of both students and dons to look unconcerned.  Divided opinion later as to the taste of the perpetrators of this outrage.  The ground floor bathroom discovered to have been the scene of the outrage, being decorated with stripes of blue and yellow paint and the legend – “Good-morning, have you used Pears’ Soap?” – greatly to the distress of the History don, who generally uses that bathroom.  The authorities incline to take the matter seriously, and call upon the culprits for confession.  The deed finally brought home to our respected 4th year, two in number, who tried to look fittingly abashed.  Results of the sad business – The whole Hall receives an address from the B. on the merits and virtues of Miss Beale, the upper corridor made hideous for three nights running by the horrid noise issuing from the bathroom, where the culprits aided by many and various members of the first and second years, are endeavouring to remove the effects of their handiwork.  This affair, by the way, is quite distinct from the removal of Miss Beale, which still remains an unsolved mystery.

The night on which the outrage was perpetrated we had a fire alarm at 11.30 p.m.  I was asleep, and was only awakened by the valiant efforts of the fire-lieutenant (Muriel), who performed on the gong outside my door for my especial benefit, having previously, the beggar! – put me to sleep herself.  Three maids and one oblivious student slept happily all through the proceedings. Muriel, Joyce and I ragged for about an hour afterwards in Joyce’s room – result – innocent enquiry of student who sleeps below – “Were you moving all your furniture last night, Joyce?”  Answer – “No, it was only Muriel!”  We wound up the evening by an attempt on the part of Rags to stand on her head  on the landing!  Much more fun than an air-raid!

It’s curious how such things always happen, wherever Rags may be.  The other night Rags, Darnell, Joyce, Jacynth, Violet and I were all in Muriel’s room kicking up such a fiendish din – at least the others were.  I had neuralgia – that we never heard the Chapel bell, which was unfortunate, as Jacynth was due to read the lesson.  However the presence of mind of a certain member of the first year in chapel waved the situation.

Please ask Mother to send by return of post a portrait of me as a baby, for a competition we are holding for the benefit of Finance Week,

Yours with love,

Margot.

Next letter to be posted on 25 February 2015

12 February 1918

S. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

12.2.18

                My dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter, the money enclosed, and the parcel.  I had a first year tea-party on Sunday to celebrate the event.  It was great sport, for Jacynth and Fay, the Australian, swapped stories about clergymen, mostly the irreverent sort, and kept us absolutely howling!  The potted meat was delicious, and came in most useful for Sunday lunch, and also last night after the rehearsal.  Three and a half hours’ of making myself generally useful with dressing, and pulling the curtain, etc, left me quite dead!

Last week I spent most of my time punting – was three times on the river, in fact.  This term we have another boat captain, Anker Nichols.  She is the fourth year I believe I mentioned before.  She is a perfectly priceless person!  She is nearly the wittiest person in Hall, in a very incisive way.  Also she really knows how to talk; though she is supposed to be very shy and silent, she has always managed to talk enough when I sit next to her.  When she really gets going, she absolutely “scintillates”, there is no other word for it.  She is a ripping coach, and punts with the utmost grace.  We shall have her next year, too, for she has been ill during much of her time here, and now has got to do much work.

West, our 37 year-old, has been “putting her foot in it” rather a lot lately.  The whole Hall is secretly rejoicing that she goes down at the end of this term.  The woman is a rank outsider.  I don’t know whether I mentioned that the Boat Club had a row about a week ago.  The real fact of the matter was that Hughie, the boat club captain, asked us at last general meeting to consent to offer the use of the Hall boats to a Miss Baumgartner, an old boat captain now working in Oxford.  Hughie gave the invitation without consulting Miss Todd, the English don and president of the Boat Club .  Whereupon there was a great fuss because the constitution of the boat club had been infringed, the real fact being that Todd had been unintentionally insulted.  West had the indecency to refer to this in Hall Debate on Saturday night, Miss Baumgartner being there!  Of course she didn’t know who Miss B. was, but she had no business to bring up the matter at all.

The motion at the Debate was “that there should be democratic control of foreign policy”.  West was proposing, I opposing.  I had great fun preparing for it by reading Gilbert Murray’s “Defence of Sir E. Grey”, British Foreign Policy (1906-1914).  My preparation is, I understand, generally conceded to have been clear and too [sic] the point, which West’s wasn’t, but somewhat too short.

The Mus. Soc. wants to have a Gilbert and Sullivan evening at their next meeting.  Will you please send me at once my score of the Gondoliers, and any of the following you or the kid can bag from any of our numerous libraries – The Mikado, Patience, the Yeomen of the Guard.  The Mus. Soc. will pay postage.

On  Saturday week the S.C.M. are giving a Fancy Dress dance.  I have an aching to go as Mephistopheles.  Not more than 6d to be spent, so will you please send me all the scarlet garments you can lay hands on, including my cardinal’s hood, the covering and girdle of the hat (both under the bed in my room) and if there is a pair of red stockings in the box on the landing, please send them along together with any odd bits of scarlet stuff you can lay hands on.

I enclose a/c and receipt.  Have heaps more to say, but no time.  Will try and write again during this week, and fill in the rest.

Your loving daughter

Margot

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

Official college receipt for £23.15.- signed Christine ME Burrows

Dr

Cr

.

£. s. d.

£. s. d.

To Daddie’s cheque 16. -. – By Tuition Fee  8. 15.-
 “   Miss B.’s   5. -. –  “  residence  “ 25. -. –
 “   P.O   3.15. – £33.15.-
£24.15.- Less exhibition  6.13.4.“     Room        3.  6.8

£10. 0.

\   By Total Fees £23.15.-
         “ Balance £  1.  -.  –
£24.15.-    24.15. –

Next letter will be posted 0n 17 February 2014

3 February 1918

St Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford,

3.2.18

                My dear Mother,

Very many thanks for your extremely lively letter, and also for the parcel.  It is so nice to see a carraway [sic] seed cake again.  Where did you get it?  It came in very useful for entertaining the S.S and the Fire Captain to a polite cocoa last night.  Both Gwen and Susan coach with Grant Bobs, so we swapped anecdotes concerning him.  He appears to have renewed his stock of jokes, for the things he says to us are quite different from those he told them.  He really is a priceless man.  He was acting Gustavus Adolphus last Saturday, and he kept alluding to “my beery relative in Brandenburg” – “my sister (his wife) doesn’t seem able to teach him sense, so I must do it myself” .  Then he personated the “beery brother-in-law“ – “Why can’t they leave me in peace to drink beer and meditate on theology”.

Muriel’s brother is up this week-end, on his way out to Belgium.  He is an officer in the R.N.R. -is 23, and looks about 17.  However, brothers of that size apparently have their uses, for he brought her a cake, a box of chocolates, and  Yoshio Markino’s1 book on Oxford.  I mean he illustrated, not wrote, it.  We also have an S.C.M. travelling secretary in Hall, an awfully nice girl.  We first years entertained her in two instalments, one to cocoa last night, and the other to tea today.  This afternoon we gave her a very frivolous time, for which I daresay she was grateful.

I have been altering the arrangement of my furniture, with great success.  My cushions are a beautiful casement cloth, and match the pink in the curtains.  My table is simply invaluable.  It is just the right size for cocoa, and I now use it for writing, as it is steadier than my desk.  My china is much admired.  The blue boy has not yet arrived, and I have not had time to look him up.  Oxford shop people always require stirring up.

Take care of our two men.  I hope the kid won’t get dip2.  I am sure the rest will do him good.  All my  other news is in Daddie’s letter.  Much love to the kid.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

St Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford,

3.2.18

My dear Daddie,

I enclose Miss Burrows’ receipt for the fees.  It turned out that the £1 rise in the residence fee, and the £2 rise next term are only voluntary, but the term after, beginning in October 1918, the residence fee will be £27 compulsorily, instead of £25.  This being the case, I informed Miss Burrows that I would rather not pay the voluntary rise for this term, so I hold £1 to the good from your cheque.  I propose to keep this for my next month’s allowance, so you must demand the equivalent from Mother.  Also being rather out of pocket, I beg to present a bill for stationery, as follows –

 

s. d.
Note book  1/- 1. 0
Block of writing paper for essays 1.10
Refill for loose leaf note book 1. 0

Total

3.10

 

 

 

 

As this is nearly equal to a week’s allowance I shall be very obliged for it, as polite cocoas are proving expensive.

So much for finance.  I have had a very strenuous time this week.  That wretched Rags has being leading me such a dance!  Owing to the absence of the hockey captain, Muriel, the vice, is running the hockey show altogether.  I had not played at all till Thursday, and I wanted to go boating that afternoon, but she absolutely bullied me into playing.  I fought hard, and was very refractory, but had to give in in the end.  I played goal behind the first eleven forwards, and as some of these were missing, the other forwards  got a chance, and I had quite a lively time.  The shooting was pretty plentiful, but feeble, and I rather knocked it about.  The result was Marjorie and Gerry were very complimentary, and after dinner Rags broke it to me gently that she wanted me to play goal on Saturday in the match against New College boys’ school.  I nearly died on the spot, and spent an awful two days in anticipation.  The match was a perfect nightmare!  The wretched little boys were so quick and all over the place – you never knew where you were.  But worse followed after half time.  Then I changed places with Georgie Lloyd, the proper goal, who was playing back.  My last state was considerably worse than the first, for not being able to run, I couldn’t do anything against those demons of small boys.  I was never so thankful in my life as when the whistle went for time, for I simply hadn’t an ounce more energy or breath.  Never again, thank you!

Today Bronwen and I had a nice walk through North Oxford and up the Woodstock Road for a little way, and then across the river, or rather rivers, for these were several.  We happened upon a large areodrome, and while we sat on a wall and eat our lunch, several areoplanes performed for our benefit.  We saw one bus come to earth, and it did bump as it  touched the ground.  I had never actually seen one land before.

I have no time for any more, as the supper gong will go in a minute, and that’s the end of Sunday, as far as spare time is concerned,

Your loving daughter,

Margot

 

1Yoshio Markino’s book on Oxford, ‘Oxford from Within’ with his illustrations and text by Hugh de Selincourt

2‘dip’ – diphtheria.

Next letter to be posted on12 February 2014