Formative Years

London & Oxford

London & Oxford Cont'd


Before the War

New Zealanders

The War Years

The War Years Cont'd

Heading Home


The Wordsworths & Others

Towards an Autobiography

Autobiographies & Verse


James & Others

Modern Years

The Final Years



London & Oxford

Brasch was expected to follow his father into law or go into the family business of Hallensteins. The stepping stone to these destinations was Oxford. Aged eighteen, he entered St John's College at Michaelmas term, October 1927, and enrolled in Modern History. By the time he left New Zealand, he was reading everything. Indeed, 'I had had my fill of romantic and popular novels and was ready for better ones; I was also ready to move on from Swinburne and Masefield.' One book he carried to England was Oscar Wilde's Salome, with Aubrey Beardsley's famous illustrations. It was purchased in Dunedin.

Oscar Wilde, Salome. London: John Lane, the Bodley Head ; New York: J. Lane Co., 1912. Brasch PR5820.S2 1912

On arriving in London, Brasch enjoyed visiting the bookshops, particularly Harold Monro's Poetry Bookshop near the British Museum. From Monro he purchased works by Richard Aldington, Ezra Pound, Flaubert, Christopher Marlowe, Shelley, Lawrence, Yeats, and F. S. Flint. In late September 1927, he bought this copy of Katherine Mansfield's Journal and read it in two days. Not only did it 'set the mood for the whole first term' but it made him realize 'that writers work alone and must expect to live much alone.'

Journal of Katherine Mansfield. Edited by J. Middleton Murry. London: Constable, 1927. Brasch PR9640.M35 Z5 A345

Brasch had a number of mentors at Oxford. The first was his cousin Esmond de Beer, the Evelyn and Locke scholar. The second was Colin Roberts, who introduced Brasch to the works of Plato. Brasch admitted to having 'more than a nodding acquaintance' with the philosopher, reading many times the Dialogues, etc. As thoughts came to mind, where best to make notes? The jacket flap of Brasch's Fortune Press edition of Plato's Symposium contains his notes headed '3 senses of love in English.'

Plato's Symposium or Supper. London: The Fortune Press, [1925]. Brasch B385.A5 BL35

Brasch was not a collector of rare old books and deluxe editions. He preferred serviceable books ideal for slipping into a coat pocket. As a consequence, his library is full of the Dent's 'Everyman' series, the Temple Classics, and Penguin paperbacks. When Brasch was at Waitaki, one of his uncles (Dr Thomas Thompson) offered him a complete set of the Temple Shakespeare if he made it into the first fifteen rugby team. Brasch was not sports-minded. He obtained his own set without conditions in Oxford in March 1929.

William Shakespeare, The Tempest. London: Dent; New York: Dutton 1925. Brasch PR2833.A1 1925;

____, Hamlet. London: Dent; New York: Dutton 1925. Brasch PR2807.A1 1895