9 March 1919

 St Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford

9.3.19

                My dear Mother,

Thank you very much for your letter and the cake, and the enclosed note.  The cake was much appreciated by Gerry, Isabel and I, who had on it a cocoa which lasted into the “wee sma’ hours” this morning.  They had just returned from seeing “The Title” at Somerville or rather St Mary Hall1, and I went in to hear all about it.  They were delighted with the play, and said that it was extremely well done.  I didn’t go because I decided I didn’t want to see women students instead of Aubry Smith and Eva Moore – and Martin Lewis.

I could not get your parcel posted after all till yesterday.  Thursday was early closing and on Friday it poured and poured.  However I hope it will arrive on Monday in time for the wash.  I shall not want any of the things back again except the stockings.

Yes, I shall be coming down tomorrow week – Monday 17th – by a morning train.  I have just sent Dr Williams’ Library a list of books to ask how many they have, so as not to bring any down unnecessarily.  What I shall do for my foreign period, I can’t think.  I expect I shall have to tackle the British Museum, for nearly all the books I want are in French.  I can’t have Miss Coate, I understand from Miss Levett, so she has written to a Mr Cruttwell who is coming up next term and who has “original ideas”, which sounds promising, if not very reliable!

My friend Mr Cohen improves on acquaintance.  Do you know that little man had £200 a year in schols!  These men!  If Max turns up his nose at Arts he will be sacrificing an awful lot.  He could easily pay his way here.  Mr Cohen is at Wadham, Reggie’s quondam home.  By the way, I am so glad Reggie is as near as Bedford Hill I shall look forward to seeing him this vac., and wish I could come home to tea today.

The river is in a most provoking humour.  It refuses to go down.  I haven’t yet been in a punt, and don’t see much possibility of it this term.  It does nothing but rain and rain!  However we still row, and this week Best will have the Eight in his mind.  This week also are Torpids and the B. is applying to the Council for tickets for one of the college barges – or “houseboats”, as the Daily Sketch prefers to call them!

My cold is almost gone, save for a peculiar headache that recurs now and then.  It was that and the vile weather that made me stay in bed last Wednesday.  My cold was only in my head.  I had not the least sign of a cough.  I am now doing the headache with china2.  I think the weather and “Artesse” 3 are responsible for most of it.  Those anthracite stoves are wicked to work with, and I have deserted the Rad of late for our own library, which recent regulations have made quite tenable.

I hope Daddie is really better after his gallivanting on the South Coast.  I expect it meant a little more rest for you, also, to have only the kid to look after.  Poor old Ted.  I am glad he is getting well. I always thought Wilburn looked a little delicate.

My best love to Daddie and Max.  I am looking forward to getting home to you both, and the boys.  I am a little tired of exclusively feminine society, though I must say it hasn’t been quite unalleviated this term!

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

1St Mary Hall, part of Oriel College but for a short time it housed Somerville Students.

2China is a homeopathic remedy also known as “Cinchona officinalis” or “China officinalis “.

3Artesse – A solid fuel stove of the period that burned anthracite.

The next letter will be posted on 27 April 2016

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5 March 1919

St. Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

5.3.19

                My dear Mother,

Thank you ever so much for your parcel, which arrived this morning.  I am very glad to get the combs.  The shortbread and rolls are delicious, as was your last cake.  I have not yet been able to send off a parcel to you, as I have had a cold these last two days, and haven’t been out.  I will send it off tomorrow if I possibly can.

I am sorry that my week end letter was cut short so abruptly, but you cannot catch the Sunday post after the study circle, so I decided to continue during the week.  So far this has been a very eventful week.  We have heard who our new principal is to be – Miss Winifred Moberly.  She was at L.M.H. and took a 2nd in Honour Mods., but had to go down for family reasons before she could take Greats.  She is one of a family famous in Oxford.  A Miss Moberly was the first principal of St Hugh’s – another is general secretary of the S.C.M. – there is also a Canon Moberly.  Our Miss Moberly has been organising women’s hospital work in Russia, or Serbia, I forget which, so she has seen a bit of real life.  I think we are really rather lucky to have got an Oxford woman with some practical experience.  Of course she won’t be like the B. – but then who could be?

The Levett is of course making arrangements for next term.  She will come back in the sixth week.  We are to have a Miss Colebaker, who has only been down about a year, but who has been deputing for Miss Ady at St. Hugh’s this term, as deputy history tutor!  Miss Keith, our proper classics don, is to come back next term, while Miss Griffiths, who has been deputising for her, is to become a student reading for Greats, she having only got as far as Honour Mods before.  We are all highly amused at this, and are eager to “pop.” to her!

I am going on with my foreign next term – with whom Heaven only knows.  Miss Coate if possible.  English similarly on the knees of the gods.  There are now only second-rate people left to go to!  It really is very sad.  I think next term is going to be horrid!  I do hate all these changes!  It’s disgusting that there are only obscure clergymen left for us to coach with!  Still many of the men are in the same boat.  Mr Cohen has Stampa for everything, poor beggar!  I have decided to take International Relations for my special – the Levett quite approves!  It fits in very well with my foreign period, the part of my work in which I am most interested.

People are all making momentous decisions just now.  Quite half my year is going to have a Fourth Year – all the nicest people, too – Gerry, Joyce, Marjorie, and possibly Isabel and Bronwen.

I was going to try my hand at Mr Shaw’s1 orchestra tonight, but my cold and the vile weather have kept me in.  From last Wednesday to Sunday we had beautiful fine Spring weather.  I went two long byke rides into the country during the spell.  You can get quite swallowed up in the hills in a ride of under two hours.  On Sunday morning Gerry and I found some primroses in bud.  I mean to go primrosing2 before the end of term if the weather is fine enough.

Could you please send my Rousseau’s “Contrat Social” next time you send.  I think you will find it on my washstand – in the same edition as the Saint Simon3 you sent me.  Please give my dearest love to Daddie and Max.  I am so glad you are all well, and that Daddie is getting so much travelling on the South Coast.

Your loving daughter

Margot.

1Mr Shaw might be Geoffrey, or more likely his brother, Martin Shaw, but I can find no reference has been found so far to either of them working with Oxford students, though they could always have commuted from London.

2Primrosing was a regular feature of Margot’s life.  Her nieces remember clearly when she would drive her mother, her nieces and their mother out into the country to pick primroses and picnic.  An empty cake tin would be lined with moss and the flowers put in this damp nest to travel home.  Nowadays it’s an ecological sin to pick wild flowers and we enjoy them in situ.

3Margot’s copy of  Rousseau’s “Contrat Social”, and her Saint Simon ‘Mémoires’ with ‘M. Collinson’ bracketed with ‘G Lilly’ as owners, ‘S. Hilda’s Hall, 1918‘ are on her niece’s bookshelf now.

The next letter will be posted on 9 March 2016.

2 March 1919

                St Hilda’s Hall,

Oxford.

2.3.19

                My dear Mother,

Thank you very much for the cake and stockings, and for your letter and the enclosed note.  The cake is delicious.  Many thanks also for the papers by this morning’s post, and the cuttings in the parcel.  I like the pictures of Princess Pat’s wedding1.  Could I have the combs as soon as possible?  I am sending the others home.

Mr King’s tea-party was great fun.  To begin with, Charlie King is a notorious person.  Every body knows him, and if you mention his name a smile goes round the company!  Even the B. smiled when I asked permission to go!  He is deaf, and has a way of trotting a footstool round and sitting underneath your nose in order to hear what you are saying.  He looks rather like an aborigine, being all over hair, and having a horrid habit of fidgeting.  But his notoriety is due to the fact that he is such a nuisance in public meetings.  Being deaf, he never knows when anyone is speaking or what they are saying, and he always gets up and says the wrong thing at the wrong moment!  He became such a pest at W.E.A. meetings that at length they put him on the committee to find an outlet for his energies.  Even there he is apt to appeal for subscriptions in the middle of a vote of thanks!

Well this bright youth has rooms in Long Wall, and there we went, five men, two women, a chaperone, and Mr King.  Mr Cohen, the little Lancashire man, was there, and he and I had a very interesting conversation.  He is such a sensible little man.  Bright, too!  He came up in 1914 with a Classics scholarship, and won a Classics prize.  He has been down during the war, and has now come up to read History.  I liked that tea-party.  After five weeks of nothing but women, to talk to four men at once was refreshing, and no easy job either, for they all talked at once!

The Levett actually said that my essay last week was “interesting”!  It is certainly the first time she has said such a thing about an essay of mine!  Perhaps it was the quotation from Tennyson at the top which intrigued her!  It was on Becket, and I really had enjoyed reading for it and writing it, although I thought the result was bad!  I am sure Grant Bobs would have been sniffy!

I am afraid I must stop now as the Study Circle has arrived – Love to Daddie and Max.

Your loving Daughter

Margot.

1Princess Pat, 1886 – 1974, was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, who gave up her title and style on marriage to a commoner, Alexander Ramsay.

Next letter will be posted on 5 March 2016.