Letters

25 January 1918

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

[25 January 1918] Baghdad Jan 25. Dearest Mother. Your letter of Nov 21 has reached me since I last wrote with bad news of Annie which makes me very sad. Also I am much distrubed by the Reuter telegram about Springy's resignation and fear that it may imply a return of his malady. I hear that they have left for England and long for news of them. My dear love to Florence. Yes, I asked Sir Percy to telegraph after Gen. Maude's death lest you should be alarmed about the cholera. It's long since over. It was succeeded by a baddish outbreak of smallpox, but that is disappearing also. We were all vaccinated - inocuously as far as I was concerned. Tony Grant has been here this week, very fat and prosperous and far too ready with exaggerated compliments for my taste. He doesn't inspire me with any confidence, but he's an amusing companion when you've left a large margin for his disingenuousness. Sir Percy gave two dinner parties for him, to both of which I went - quite agreeable - and the Political Mess entertained him and the whole staff in Baghdad, but I cried off that evening for I hadn't had time to settle down after my return from Kufah [Kufah, Al]. I accompanied him, as interpreter, on an official visit to the Naqib, for he never stops talking and you can't get an innings. "Tell him that our gratitude to Sir Percy Cox etc and tell him that our affection for the great Government and so forth, and tell him -" and not a moment was left in which I could tell him anything. Finally I took to translating as a sort of aside while the Naqib's sentences rolled on without intermission. It is such delicious weather that I have been lazily spending all the afternoons out of doors, going back to the office from 4 to 7. Generally I ride - today I had a charming couple of hours among cornfields and fruit gardens by the river's edge Bellow Baghdad. It is so lovely now that the young corn is covering the world with the brightest robe. Yesterday I went all over the Civil Hospital with the Municipal doctor, Capt. Carey Evans - he is a son in law of Mr Lloyd George and an admirable young man, capable, energetic and enthusiastic. He is doing his work with real intelligence and is full of schemes for the future. He is one of the people I should like to retain in this country - and I Bellieve he would stay if he were given a job worthy of his energies. Medical organization is of the very first importance, not only because there is so much to be done but also because it is so deeply appreciated. It is an invaluable political asset if you choose to look on it from that point of view. Hospitals and dispensaries are the first things the people ask for, and they flock to them, men and women, and don't hesitate to undergo operations or any treatment you please. Capt. C.E. says the standard of vitality is much higher than in Europe; the people here pull through operations which he would not dare to attempt at home. Their nervous system is much more solid; they don't suffer from shock. The Jews here are much more like ourselves in these respects and contrast ill with the vigorous primitiveness of the Arab. By the way, I hate Mr Balfour's Zionist pronouncement with regard to Syria. It's my Bellief that it can't be carried out; the country is wholly unsuited to the ends the Jews have in view; it is a poor land, incapable of great development and with a solid two thirds of its population Mohammadan Arabs who look on Jews with contempt. I think myself that they will ficher themselves pas mal of Zionist ambitions, which it would be an invidious task to try and force upon them. To my mind it's a wholly artificial scheme divorced from all relation to facts and I wish it the ill-success it deserves - and will get, I fancy.

I shall love to see George White. Mrs Taggert's grandson has not replied to my letter; I don't even know whether he got it, but I did my best. If George turns up I'll try to get him as a Political Office driver. Having a wide acquaintance among generals I might be able to pull the right string. Anyhow I'll attempt it. It would be so nice to have him.

Darling Mother, I often think how much lighter my job is than yours. Fundamentally I do always like to be in Asia, even in war time, and you have much greyer and more monotonous days. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude.

I got some feather things and two shirts from Woolland last week - most welcome. They had been some 3´ months on the way! Would you please send me 2 dull green silk ties to wear with khaki riding clothes.

Do you know what I really want is a wife, to look after my household and my clothes. I quite understand why men out here marry anyone who turns up!

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