23 February 1919


                My dear Mother,

Thank you very so much for the parcel on Saturday, and for your letter and the compasses this morning, and also for the note in the parcel.  The cake is delicious – we cut it today at tea.  I am glad Daddie is better, and that Max did so well at school.  The next thing will be another remove.  Marjorie Comins says D.C. is renowned among public schools for its hard work!  Mr Callaghan thinks it slack!  So there you have two opposite views – make your own choice!

H.A.L. Fisher1 was here yesterday. He spoke very well, but there is nothing at all exceptional about him.  It was his matter that was interesting, not his manner or personality.  He mentioned the W.E.A. once or twice.  The two points that most struck me was his idea of division of labour among the universities.  He said that it had, of course, been carried out to a certain extent already.  The other point was the training of municipal and county civil servants.  He pointed out the efficiency and high standard of qualification of the civil service, but said nothing was known about the qualifications of municipal and county servants.

Last night we had our S.C.M. 2 fancy dress dance.  It was great sport.  Eight people remained unguessed – Jacynth was topping as “the Anatomy of Melancholy” – a “greenery-yallery” poet with love-sonnet, poison bottle, etc.  We are just getting used to hopping about to 4 time music in what we call the foxtrot.  Everyone has a different idea of it, and it doesn’t really seem to matter what you do, as long as you both do the same thing!

I am not surprised to hear that Keith is one of Beryl’s devoted admirers.  Our susceptible Keith will leave his heart in England yet!

I went to the S.C.M. corporate communion in Mansfield Chapel this morning.  It is the S.C.M. special Sunday.

Grant Bob has been very severe lately on newspapers and journalists.  “I can’t think why the Press Bureau won’t let German newspapers through to the public!  One would think –

1) That a number of people could read them

2)     “    “      “       “    “       would   “   “  ”

Personally he thought about 1 in 10,000 could, and about 1 in 100,000 would, read them!!! – Also he said the other day that newspapers were bad for the mind, because they were written by third-class minds!  “We know them”, he said, “2/3 of the London journalists come from this university, we know all about them and the contents of their minds.”

What does Daddie think of the covenant of the League of Nations? 3  I have made a précis of the first draft, for future reference.  It is very interesting to compare it with the Holy Alliance of 1815.

I am reading Mrs Browning’s letters – on the advice of G. Bobs – also the Browning love letters – they are ripping!  Fortunately they chose to visit Italy during the war of independence, so of course it is necessary to read all about them!  This week C.G.R. has been lecturing on Karl Marx and Bakunin4.  They too are an essential part of Period VIII.  Before reading K. Marx it is necessary to understand the dialectical method of Hegel, who was a disciple of Kant.  So there you are!  Why not read all the books on everything at once!  It will come to the same thing in the end!  Such is the Oxford history school!

Please give my love to Daddie and Max.

Your loving daughter,


P.S. Take care of yourselves.  I have just effectually quashed a cold, so feel rather proud of myself.

1HAL Fisher – Minister of Education.

2S.C.M. The Student Christian Movement.

3The League of Nations came out of the horror at the slaughter in the Great War.  The idea was to prevent any future wars starting, but the USA would not join in order to preserve its isolationist policy, Germany was excluded and so was Russia.  France and Great Britain joined but were exhausted and impoverished by the war. There were some small successes but it was a political failure.  It did however start a number of projects, including the attempt to end diseases such as leprosy, and these projects were taken up and developed by the United Nations.

4Bakunin, 1814 – 76,is remembered as a major figure in the history of anarchism and an opponent of Marxism, especially of Marx’s idea of dictatorship of the proletariat. He continues to be an influence on modern-day anarchists.

The next letter will be posted on 2 March 2016.


20 February 1919


My dear Mother,

Thank you so much for your note with the stockings and the pies, which came this morning.  I do not think that there are sufficient reasons for me to spend a pound on coming home, though I would like to see you all, and should have enjoyed the 22nd.  I was only half serious when I suggested it.

The Dance is to be a book dance, everyone is to represent the title of a book, play or poem.  I am thinking of going as “Succession”.  I should dress like Queen Victoria in that picture of her receiving the news that she has “succeeded” to the throne.  The only objection is that it will be rather hot attire for dancing, and if I can think of one involving lighter attire, I shall adopt it.

Hutch has had flu, but only for a day, and hopes to be about again soon.  She writes me a very earnest request to take notes of all lectures, because, quoth she, “there is no one here whose writing I can read”!

I hope Eastbourne will do Daddie good.  Forget whether I said I had heard again from Phyllis – Mr Callaghan is much better.  Our W.E.A. study circle is a great success.  We had a hot argument yesterday about equal wages for equal work.  One sweet youth, blushing all over, seemed to think that people should be paid equal rates what ever they did.  The little man from Lancashire was just as sensible as ever.  Today I have a card from Mr King, a perfectly awful specimen who is W.E.A. Sec. to the University, inviting me to bring one or two of S.H.H. members to tea with him, under the chaperonage of Miss Paxton, a Somerville English don.

Could you send me my other pair of combinations?  I do not want to take my heavy pair into use, as I like them to play hockey in.  Could you also send me my pair of compasses.  I think Max borrowed them before I came up this term.

Please give my dearest love to Daddie and Max.

Your loving daughter,


1Margot’s writing is very legible indeed.

Next letter will be posted on 23 February 2016.

16 February 1919

St Hilda’s Hall,



                My dear Mother,

Many thanks for your parcel and letter.  I am very relieved to hear that Daddie is quite well again, and is off to Eastbourne.  I am sure it will do him good.  Thank you also for the note – very welcome – for Finance Week has nearly done for me, plus the D’Oyly Carte1.  They have been here this week.  Bronwen and I went to see “Trial by Jury” and “the Pirates” on Friday evening, with Doris Coleman2 as chaperone.  We stood for the Balcony – otherwise the front part of the gallery, and had an excellent view of both stage and house.  I rejoiced when the B. said Doris Coleman would do for a chaperone – it was much jollier than having a don.  The Company was in splendid form, owing to the appreciativeness of a real undergrad audience.  I have never seen them play so well.  Lytton got an ovation for every  word.  But the Pirate King was not a patch on the one we saw at Hammersmith – there was nothing at all lurid about him.  He was a drawing-room pirate compared with long-legged “Eric”.

I liked the picture of the Isis in the “Daily Sketch”.  Of course they would call the college barges “houseboats”!  We had to give up all boating but rowing because of the frost.  The Upper Char. was frozen right over.  Last Tuesday we went out in the sculler – with the Levett – and had great fun ice-breaking.  We could only go a few yards up, and two or three hundred yards down stream, for beyond we were stopped by the ice, and nowhere was there room for the oars on both sides, so we used them rather like paddles or punt-poles and propelled ourselves along thus.  We felt qualified for Arctic exploration by the time we had got back to the boat-house.

The frost held for about a week here.  The University Skating Club flooded Long Meadow, and let it freeze, and while it held all the world went skating.  I could not get there until the end of the week.  I spent about an hour one afternoon falling about on Marjorie’s skates.  Then just as I had arranged with Doris Coleman to borrow her skates during the afternoon, as she could not ever use them till after four, of course the thaw came!  She had a gorgeous time that week.  She and her colleagues and their friends, some of them male, used to have moonlight supper parties on the ice!

Thank you for sending on Aunt Ethel’s letter.  I wrote to her myself again at the beginning of this term, about the ring, and said I would prefer rubies, so she ought to get some of our letters.  Thanks also for the p.c. from school.  They seem to be going to have a gay time on the 22nd 3. I suppose you would not like to have me home next weekend.  I believe the B. would let me go!  Doris wrote me on Friday, imploring me to come home for the occasion.  However there is a C.U. dance here that night, and H. A. L. Fisher is coming to speak to us in the afternoon.

Yesterday we went to our first W.E.A Study Circle.  We are studying the Report of the Ministry of Munitions on industrial fatigue.  The circle was led by a very nice little man fra’ Lancashire – who evidently knew munition factories inside out.  He could tell you all about every type of work therein;  we had some fun about the Lancashire education authorities.  I remembered Auntie Lucy’s opinion of them.  I think that study circle is going to be rather fun.  I think the little man’s name was Hoell or Coel, I can‘t remember which.  Anyway it rhymed with Noel.

I am sorry to hear about Keith.  Poor boy, he is having a bad time.  The D’Oyly Carte tenor was exactly like him, transatlantic accent and all, but without the twinkle.  Phyllis tells me that Billy and Tom are both at home, in jobs.  Billy more beautiful than ever.  I suppose you have not  heard from Reggie.  I have heard from Ethel – four pages!  Talk about “20 love-sick maidens”!

I have recovered the scissors from Babe.  The shawl is not here, as I thought.  Padwick and I had the B. to cocoa on Tuesday.  She was awfully jolly.  Love and kisses to Daddie and Max.

Your loving daughter, Margot.

1D’Oyly Carte is the opera company that performs the comic operas by Gilbert and Sullivan.

2Doris Coleman is a friend from schooldays and is teaching in Oxford.

322nd February was Streatham Hill High School’s birthday.

The next letter will be posted on 20 February 2016

9 February 1919

                                                                S. Hilda’s Hall,



                My dear Mother,

Thank you very much indeed for your letter, the enclosed note, and the parcel, and also for your card this morning.  The ginger-breads were delicious;  you note they are already in the past tense!  Please thank Max for his letter – and will answer it soon if I have not time to-day.  The 10/- was very welcome, although I am not out of money at present.  Still I foresee bankruptcy before the 22nd is past, for Finance week begins next Saturday, and people have already begun offering to clean your bike (9d and 1/-), sell you an extra fire (1/-), wash your china (3d), make your bed on Sundays (2d), and so forth.  We aim at raising £10 this year, which works out at about 5/- per head!  The B. usually comes down very handsomely with about £2.

I was very anxious to hear how Daddie is getting on.  I have not felt at all easy about him.  Do you think it was a touch of flue?  Do take care of him and yourself and the boy, for there seems to be a general expectation of a fresh outbreak this spring.  Still I should think Daddie was well out of the Tube strike!  Why is Miss Fininglay coming to see you?  I thought she had departed for E. Africa, or is it one of the others?

Today and yesterday have been brilliantly fine, though frosty.  The meadows are frozen and everyone who knows how is skating.  If the frost holds Gerry and I have promised ourselves we will borrow two pairs of skates, and betake ourselves to an obscure piece of ice, and  ……  see what happens.  Meadow skating is ideal for beginners, as there is nowhere more than a foot of water – mostly the ice is just a thin sheet over the ground itself.  The river has gone down, so we expect the return of the punts and canoes tomorrow.  Rowing is a unique experience just now.  Yesterday we rowed in brilliant sunshine in a boat covered with rime, and with ice on the water here and there.  I am to row in the gig, which is the final height of glory.  It also means that I am the ninth person for the eight.  If anyone falls out, I shall substitute.  Anyway it means the Eight for a dead cert next year.

Yesterday afternoon Joan Curzon and I went to see Martin Harvey in the “Burgomaster of Stilemonde”.  It is by Maeterlinck, you know, and is written about the German occupation of Belgium in 1914.  It is fine play, and Martin Harvey as the charming old Burgomaster, wrapped up in his fruit and his flowers, was perfectly delicious.  Rutland Barrington was also in the caste, playing the part of an old gardiner [sic].  His voice is very husky, but his figure is as fine as ever, even through the bulky trousers and  wispy sabots of the Belgian peasant.

Wasn’t he the “I stole the prince and brought him here” man?  He looked as if he could dance still, if he tried.

I am sending home several pounds of clothes for the wash.  Will you please send them all back sometime but there is no hurry for any but the stockings.  I shall enclose two of Joyce’s handkerchiefs which she lent me when my nose began to bleed last night.  If I send them to the laundry, they will either be remarked in my name, or else be put to her account, neither of which I want to happen.

G. Bob is lecturing very interestingly this term.  He has recommended us to read Vittoria for the Union of Italy, and also Mrs Browning’s letters and diary.  Also Swinburne’s “Songs before Sunrise”.  Some literature!  Dr Carlyle is very nice.  Isabel and I exchange impressions of him.

I forget whether I told you I had been elected W.E.A. rep.  It is a job entailing much correspondence, some of it with undergrads!  This is my fifth letter today!

Please give my best love to Daddie and Max.  I have a study circle in my room tonight, so must stop writing now and make preparations.  Take care of yourself,

Your loving daughter,


1 “I stole the prince and brought him here” – a quote from Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Gondoliers’.  Rutland Barrington had been a noted member of the D’Oyly Carte Company.

Next letter to be posted on 16 February.

2 February 1919

S. Hilda’s Hall



                My dear Mother,

Thank you very much indeed for your letter and parcel on Saturday, and for your post card this morning, which I was very relieved to see.  I felt rather anxious about Daddie after Auntie Lucy’s letter until your card came.  I can see that Auntie Lucy would enjoy coddling Daddie.  I am glad that Lizzie’s successor is so reliable and satisfactory in every way.

Have you had snow in London?  We wake up every morning to find the roofs and streets powdered with fine snow, but it never amounts to anything.  It just makes the pavements slippery, so that it is much safer to cycle than to walk anywhere.  Our punts and canoes look like remaining at Salter’s ad infinitum.  People were skating in the meadows today.

More changes are afoot here.  The Levett will depart from the Hall in lodgings in a few days time because she cannot sleep here.  She is going down for all next term, and will go abroad to recover her health, which is very frail, at present.  She is in such a bad state of nerves that there are times when she really doesn’t know what she is doing.  How we shall get on without her I can’t imagine, for the Hall leans on her for more than it is aware of.

I met Miss Coate yesterday, and she says she met Miss Thompson in the vac. in London, wrapped up in the Record Office.  Phyllis wrote to me this week saying that her father had had an attack of lung trouble, but is now better.  They are at home again, and Mr Callaghan hopes to be back at school on Monday.  Phyllis’ hospital work is fast diminishing, and she is bravely trying to make the best of it, but I know she will miss the occupation and excitement of it.  She sent me her photo in V.A.D. 1 uniform.

I have been elected W.E.A. representative.  We had one of the Secretaries to speak to us a New College Hall on Wednesday.  He was quite amusing.  As far as I can see, the W.E.A. 2 spends its time being photographed.

Please give my love to Daddie and Max, and also to Teddy, Betty and Keith.  I hope he is feeling better now.  Please tell me if you hear from Reggie.  The Rhodes boy is not in the Gazette list of undergrads so he has evidently not come up yet.

Your loving daughter,


1V.A.D. – Voluntary Aid Detachment consisted mainly of women and girls trained in basic first aid to work in Britain but after 3 years’ experience and aged over 23 could be sent to the war zone.

2W.E.A. -Workers Education Association which still exists.

The next letter will be posted on 9 February 2016.