Letters

29 April 1916

From/To: Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

Ap. 29. [29 April 1916] I've just got your letter of March 23 and Father's of March 28. I fear his of March 23 went down in the Sussex - and also, I suspect, the clothes you sent me! Better luck next time. I am going to try and get an Indian tailor to sew me together some cotton shirts and skirts. With a temperature of 96¯ (which it was yesterday) they are essential. I don't mind it, but at the same time it is like a perpetual Turkish bath, there's no denying it.

I am so very sorry about Sir W. Ramsay. If Father sees him again will he please give him messages of sympathy and esteem from me - to him and to her. I liked them both so very much. I was also much obliged to Father for his very interesting statistics about the falling mark, and for the article on the Mesop. campaign in the Economist. I fear the latter is nothing short of the truth, but the blames needs a good deal of distribution. I don't hold a brief for the Govt. of India, but it is only fair to remember that K. [Kitchener] drained India white of troops and of all military requirements, including hospitals and doctors, at the beginning of the war, that the campaign was forced on them from England, and that when it developed into a very serious matter - far too big a matter for India to handle if she had had command of all her resources - neither troops, nor artillery, nor hospital units nor flying corps, nor anything were sent back in time to be of use. And what was perhaps still more serious was that all their best generals had gone to France or Gallipoli [Gelibolu] and many of them never to return. That accounts for more than I need comment on.

Politically, too, we rushed into the business with our usual disregard for a comprehensive political scheme. We treated Mesop. as if it were an isolated unit, instead of which it is part of Arabia, its politics indissolubly connected with the great and far reaching Arab question, which presents indeed, different facets as you regard it from different aspects, and is yet always and always one and the same indivisible block. The coordinating of Arabian politics and the creation of an Arabian policy should have been done at home - it could only have been done successfully at home. There was no one to do it, no one who had ever thought of it, and it was left to our people in Egypt to thrash out, in the face of strenuous opposition from India and London, some sort of wide scheme, which will, I am persuaded, ultimately form the basis of our relations with the Arabs. And up to this moment, the battle against the ignorance and indifference of the people at home is waging - and is not yet won. The Milton sonnet is so often in my mind - there's no one to lead. Swollen with wind and the rank mists we draw -

Well that's enough of politics. But when people talk of our muddling through it throws me into a passion. Muddle through! why yes, so we do - wading through blood and tears that need never have been shed. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

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