24 November 1918

St. Hilda’s Hall

Oxford

24.11.18

                My dear Mother

Many thanks for your two letters, the enclosure, and the parcel, which arrived by the second post on Friday, about 4.30p.m.  I was very glad to see the note but am positively afraid to break into it.  The cake is delicious.  Many thanks for the marmalade – but are you short at home?  I still have one unopened pot besides which I could make do till the end of term.  If you are short, write and tell me, and I will bring one of them home with me unopened.

I will send you some washing tomorrow – but I only require the stockings again up here.  Could you send me a pair of pyjamas as soon as possible – also a little sugar, if you can spare it, also “The Throne of David”, which I think is in the cupboard in my room.  Paddy is doing the Books of Samuel for Divvers1, and would like to read it as relevant to the subject.  I am very pleased with my new washerwoman.  She is good, quick, and cheap.  She charged me 7½d for a camisole, knickers, handkerchieves and towel the other day.  The laundry still keeps things for a fortnight.

I am very sorry Daddie is out of a job!2  He will have to take up golf!  Perhaps he will cultivate the acquaintance of his family a bit now.  I am looking forward to the vac.  It seems to me we might begin to enjoy ourselves as a family once more.  I shall have “masses” of work – as Jacynth says – to do in the vac!  Never mind, G. Bobs said my last essay was relevant – highest praise! – and well put in the first part, and he only wanted to make me consider the last part from a different point of view.  He is a ripping man.  The Levett also said at my last coaching that my essays were always to the point!  I am fearfully busy just at present.  Two essays a week and divvers is no joke!  Twice this week I have done over 10 hrs’  work – and that not late at night either.  I seldom do more than an hour’s work after dinner, and have a passion for going to bed early.

Doris Coleman spent the evening here on Friday, and I asked Joyce, Bronwen, and Isabel to meet her.  We made quite a jolly party.  I went to tea with her last Sunday.  Hutch is coming to tea with me on Thursday, and Joan is also coming, because they met at the Pensions.

The B. is going down at the end of this academic year – to make a home for Mrs B.  We are all very sick about it, and only wish she would take the Bursar with her, as the latter is getting on the nerves of all of us.  It will be hateful if we have a stranger planted on us, and none of us history people want to see our tutor transformed into Principal.  The Levett is, of course, Vice-Principal – also editor of the “Athenaeum”, I have discovered.

We nearly got introduced to the poet laureate3 the other day.  He came to see G. Bobs in the middle of our coaching the other day, and he said he wanted to bring him in to discourse to us on Prussia.  He called him an “original and entertaining man”.  I am so glad I know!  I shouldn’t have thought it from his poetry!

My dearest love to Daddie and the boy.  Please give my love also the Mrs Faulkner and the children.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

P.S.  Please will you send me some silk to thread my brown beads on, because they have busted!

 

1Divvers – University Divinity exams all students had to take.

2It sounds very serious that Margot’s father is out of a job and the letter contain no clear sign of him working again, though Margot’s brother was still just a schoolboy.  The family story is that he left Sharwoods’s on a matter of principal, that their label contained false information, and that that was why Mrs Collinson was left with absolutely no pension on his death.

3The poet laureate was at this time Robert Bridges.

The next letter will be posted on1 December 2015.

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17 November 1918

S. Hilda’s Hall

Oxford

17.11.18

                My dear Mother,

Many thanks for your letter and the parcel.  The cake is delicious.  The slight burning it had did not affect the flavour.  I did not send the camisoles, etc. with the stockings because I have found another washer woman, by the aid of Mary Mac.  She washes beautifully, sends back the things in three days, and does not put on a percentage, like the laundry.  I shall continue to send her all my underclothes and blouses, as the laundry at present is so uncertain.  I am going to give her my best crêpe de chine blouse this week.

Daddie sent me a cheque and also a nice long letter from the North, telling me of all that happened in Liverpool.  I was very thankful to get the money, but 10/- of it went at once in washing bills and the rest is slowly departing from me.  I think what really runs off with it is the lunches in the morning.  I simply cannot exist from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on a cold morning without having a cup of coffee.

I think we are on the way towards a solution of the fire problem, for which Heaven be thanked!  These frosty nights are awful without a fire.  It is equally impossible to work in your own room or in anyone else’s.

Grant Bobs continues to be as unexpected as ever.  I must tell you when I come home some of the things he says about the war.  He was not quite so scathing yesterday about our essays – merely criticised them “en masse”.  This is what he has given us for next time – “Examine the effect of the reconstruction of Prussia in 1807 on the subsequent history of a) Prussia, b)Germany, c) Europe”.  This seems to me to entail reading the whole of the subsequent history of a) Prussia, b) Germany c) Europe.  “Not so simple as it looks”, says he, with a feline smile.  I wished to goodness it did look simple.  I shouldn’t want to go any deeper!  He doesn’t care what the result is, he says, so long as he stirs up our “grey nervous mahtter”!

I must stop now, as Isabel and I are going to a thanksgiving service at St Mary’s.  Much love to Daddie and the boy.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

Next letter to be posted on24 November 2015.

15 November 1918

S. Hilda’s Hall

Oxford

15.11.18

                My dear Daddie,

Many thanks for your nice long letter and also for the cheque, which I was very relieved to see. It saved the situation beautifully.  Thanks also for the paper which arrived this morning.  Aren’t you sorry not to have been in London when the news came through?  Of course it’s just my luck to have been away from home both at the beginning and at the end of the war.  Fancy J.R.S. 1 giving you a holiday.  The end of the world – I mean the war – must indeed have come.

We managed to make things pretty lively here!  I was just returning to the Rad from a little stroll down town in search of coffee when I met two excited people on bykes, who had got some inkling of the truth.  They rushed off to the G.P.O. to see if the official intimation was out.  They returned to say that it was really true – and there was no more work for that day.  We routed everyone out of the Rad and swarmed into the High and the Corn.  I don’t think any of us quite believed in it.  I know I didn’t.  The undergrads relieved the situation.  They got hold of an enormous motor lorry and careered round the town on it yelling and waving flags.  We finally wandered home, after buying all the flags we could lay hands on, and had a most riotous lunch.  Several people popped2 to all the freshers at one gasp, by way of celebrating the occasion.

After lunch the whole Hall processed round Oxford, headed by the S.S. 3 with the gong and the Hall banner.  Most people had flags or air balloons, and the bell was also trotted round.  All the third year had ridiculous tin trumpets and the rest of the band was provided by combs, etc, including Jacynth with a poker and shovel.  We got ringed round by the Balliol men and some of the Hertford cadets, which was great fun.  We serenaded Miss Coate, who is now History don at Somerville, and extracted one of our number from the Cadena, where she was lunching with friends.  Then it began to pour , so we went home.

That night the undergrads lit several bonfires – and of course we went out to see them – the B. and all. We had to go in twos – neither more nor less.  Of course there was a great racket – you could hardly move at Carfax, and Cornmarket was packed.  The bonfire was just outside St John’s, and all the time they sent up rocket signals, and aireoplane[sic] lights.  So imagine St John’s lit up in front by the lurid glare of the bonfire, and behind by the brilliant very4 lights – it was a gorgeous effect!  There was plenty of noise in Oxford all night, and next morning the Caesars whose heads ornament the paling outside the Sheldonian Theatre appeared covered with red and blue paint.

On Wednesday evening we decided to celebrate in style with a bump dinner and a dance.  None of us had dancing togs, so we decided to have fancy dress.  It was great sport.  The Bursar really rose to the occasion.  I have kept the Menu, so will show you it one day.  After dinner we toasted everyone we could think of, and pledged each other in a loving cup full of claret-cup.  I think it was lucky we only took a sip each!  I went as Solomon, with the aid of a handkerchief-satchel, a few scarves, Isabel’s table cloth and rug, and Silvia’s nightgown!  Isabel looked perfectly sweet as Queen Victoria.  Gerry was Henry VIII in the days of his youth, as she was careful to point out – Gerry is as thin as a lathe!  Bronwen was a most fascinating Welsh maid, and Joyce went as her ancestor  Buckingham.  Muriel and Joyce Darnell were gorgeous as an XVIIIth century couple.  Darnell looked exquisitely pretty, and Muriel was most handsome in a blue velvet suit, patches and ruffles.  Altogether we had a jolly time.  Joyce taught me to fox-trot, and Joyce Tomlin nearly succeeded in getting me to reverse properly!  I wonder if I shall ever go to any proper dances.

Isabel, Joan and I went to see Carmen5 at a matinee of the Carl Rosa.  I had no idea it was so nice!  Carmen was perfectly ripping, and put everyone else in the shade.

I really must stop now.  Are all the lights up in London?  We don’t draw our blinds now.  We ought to have a jolly Christmas this year!  I wish we could go North.  How is Donald?  I expect Mrs Stanton feels happy!

Much love to Mother and the boy,

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

1J.R.S. is the firm Margot’s father worked for, Sharwoods, whose most famous product was and is their mango chutney.

2Popping is when an older student invites a younger one to use her first name rather than the formal ‘Miss Collinson’.

3SS – Senior Student.

4A very light is a warning light like a firework;  the dictionary describes it as a coloured flare fired from a special pistol from a design by a man called Very.

5Carmen, the opera by Bizet.

Next letter to be posted on

10 November 1918

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

10.l1.18

                My dear Mother

Many thanks for your letter which arrived this morning with the notes enclosed, and also for your parcel of yesterday.  I did not send any washing off after all, because none of that I had sent to the laundry turned up, so I could not discard what I really wanted washing.  However, yesterday it nearly all turned up again – some things marked “to follow”.  I could not send anything away this week, for two sets of underclothing were at the wash, so I am sending them to you.  Could I have one pair of stockings and a camisole before next Saturday?  The rest will do later.

Didn’t I tell about my getting the ring, and how pleased I was with it?  I am charmed with it.  It fits every finger on both my hands, but I usually wear it on the middle finger of my right.  I am so sorry not to have said about Lucy’s book.  I had an Unstead and Taylor1 once.  If I still have it, it is on the shelf of the cupboard in Maxted’s room.  It is quite small, with a blue cover.  By the way I had another birthday present this week.  Emmie sent me a very nice edition of Keats.  She says they leave Godalming on the 22nd.

I was very glad to see the money this morning, for I was literally left with a farthing. My washing bill is 5/6½ and the Carl Rosa are coming this week, to whom I must go once.  So there won’t be much left of my 10/-.  Last week’s expenses were rather heavy. – Emmie’s book, a French book I had to buy, which is necessary to my work on Napoleon, and a new mud guard on my front wheel – practically ran away with 10/-, and I have not yet paid my Bach Choir sub.  We are just beginning fresher’s cocoas now after the “flue” – and on your fire night2 you practically entertain all who are using it to cocoa.  The final blow is that we are expected to entertain the Senior Common Room this term, and not next, as we had fondly hoped!  I am sure we shall never get them all in.  All together I am financially on the rocks, and don’t see anything else ahead!

Isn’t the peace news good?  I wish I were at home just now.  I didn’t know you had the workmen in.  I am awfully sorry to hear that Auntie Flo is so ill.  I do hope you found her better today.  Did you write to Mrs Moore? I think I would like to go and see them soon.

I must tell you about our Melodrama.  It was written and produced by our 3rd year.  It was a kind of burlesque of Bella Donna3 – harem idyll – court poet – “horsey” but romantic Englishwoman with a husband named Algernon – result – they all kill each other!  The poet had written a poem, but he could not get beyond 4 lines – this was the poem

Chip, Chip

My little horse

My little horse

Chip, chip!

The Englishman provided him with an inspiration another line – i.e. an additional “chip chip”.  But you should have seen our S.S. as an extremely “Boozy” Sultan!  Most repulsive!

I really must stop now, as I am just off to a study circle – Love to Daddie and Max

Your loving daughter

Margot.

1Unstead and Taylor: ‘The Essential of World Geography’.

2A ‘fire night’ is presumably the one evening in the week when you can have a fire in your room.

3Bella Donna , a melodrama by the Irish playwrite, J B Fagan

Next letter to be posted on 15 November 2015

3 November 1918

St. Hilda’s Hall

Oxford.

3.11.18

                My dear Mother,

Many thanks for your letter and parcel, which arrived quite safely on Friday morning.  The cake was delicious, also the oat-cakes – much appreciated by Joan Curzon, you may like to know – and I was over-joyed to see the stockings.  The washing here is in an awful muddle here owing to the illness of the laundry staff, so tomorrow I intend to send you some blouses and my new stockings.

The Flue has now left us – all our people are up, including maids.  The convalescents go home for a few days, or else up to Boar’s Hill in pairs, to complete their recovery.  Thus we were able to celebrate Hallowe’en in style.  Gibbie came up on Thursday and came in with our year in the celebrations.  We had a gigantic cocoa in the big room on the top landing, to which we all went dressed as each other.  Gibbie came as Violet Latham.  After lights out at 10.45 we collected all the candles we could find – one for each month of the year – and put them on the floor in rows of three, and then jumped over them.  If your skirts flauted1 a candle out, that particular month was supposed to be unlucky for you!  You can imagine the noise!  Then when we had all done that we pooled all the candles together and tried how many we could blow out at one gasp.  Joan won with a score of 7 out of 12.  There were only 4 of the 3rd year present, the rest were convalescing.  They dressed up as the Senior Common Room – Silvia was the B, Audrey the Levett, Muriel Miss Griffith, the new classical don, and Bride was Baussy, the Levett’s great pet.  They were priceless!

This week is old students week-end.  Gwen, Gibbie, Edith and Susan all are here.  Last night we had a killing debate.  The motion was “that the mind of a woman student on going down is diseased”!  Daisy Adler proposed and Gibbie opposed.  It was killing! – everyone came – all the dons, even the B.  The B. suggested Cambridge as a cure!  There were plenty of old students present to point the moral.

I am quite sorry to resign my job of laying the breakfast.  Lately I have been helped by two freshers, May Spurway and Mary Locker.  They are both of them dears, and I have great fun teasing them.  I am getting very fond of them.

I could go to see the Moores any Sunday now, so would you write?  By the way Best has delivered judgment on my rowing and says I may row on sliding seats, so I am feeling bucked!  G.Bobs paid me the compliment of picking my last essay to pieces!  The only merit he allows me is clearness.

I have remembered Emmie’s birthday all on my own.  Please send me the date of Teddie’s.  I will not forget our boy2.  I hope both are quite well by now.  I was glad to hear Donald was getting on all right.  I should think that was the result of boarding school.

My dearest love to Daddie and the boy, and of course to yourself.

Your loving daughter

Margot.

1Flauted – a clear evocation but not in the dictionary. This sounds like a serious fire risk , given the length skirts they wore!

2Margot’s little brother’s birthday was 8th November.

Next letter to be posted on 10 November 2015