5 September 1918

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

[5 September 1918] Baghdad Sep 5 Darling Mother. My letters have come back from Persia and lo an behole [sic] there were 5 from you, May 14, 17, 22, 30 and June 13, and 2 from Father, May 27 and June 12. So that was a fine haul. Now first my very best congratulations to both of you on your honours. I am delighted. But I would to Heaven I knew how to address you on your envelope? Is is Dame Florence Bell DCIE or KCIE or what? Please let me know this at a very early date as I wish to put all your titles correctly on your letters. As for Father, the C.B. is a nice thing always and I'm very glad about it. That, however, I consider that you both deserve to be made Dukes goes without saying. Why yes of course I wrote all the Arab of Mesopotamia. I've loved the reviews which speak of the practical men who were the anonymous authors etc. It's fun being practical men isn't it. Oh, I do so agree with you as to the great luck of having something to do during the war - no matter if it's much too much to do, the defect you both suffer from. It would be far greater suffering to stand outside it all. Father sends me the most delightful accounts of the Geog. Soc. meeting and dinner. How glad I am that it was he not I - firstly because he did it much better than I should have done it, thereby keeping up the credit of the family, and secondly because he liked it much better. I really should have been ashamed to receive that medal; it's far too great an honour. He sent me also lots of letters which amused me. And a really beautiful letter from Philippa, poor darling. Isn't it wonderful how people rise to meet great sorrow. Poor Philippa.

I've had an uneventful week, but a busy one. Lots of people coming in to see me, and then lots of strings to pick up, and a report to write covering the whole time of my absence - fortunately not many things had happened - and then the Persian Intelligence book which is fairly under way. I've been making a Persian tribal map today and wishing I knew as much about Persian tribes as I do about Arab. However it's a beginning. I don't know how much you are told about Persian affairs, nor how much I may tell. You will be told, at any rate, of the fall of Baku and perhaps you may wonder how it is that we should have attempted to carry on a campaign 500 miles from railhead. I should like to say that no one in this country, military or civil, has contemplated the attempt with other feelings than those of anxiety and dismay, feelings which have been clearly expressed to the authorities at home. If disaster on a small scale is before us, I hope the blame will rest on those who gave the orders. I'm glad I went and saw for myself and if I haven't written in detail what I think about it, it's because I don't suppose I may. Sir Percy goes to Tehran [(Teheran)] in 3 day's time, taking Lady Cox with him - and the parrot, to give the touch of preposterousness which seems to be never lacking in Persia. Yes, it's opera bouffe overlaying what may well be tragedy - the whole thing, I mean, not his going. Unselfishly I'm glad he is going.

I've got accustomed to the heat again and it won't last very long. The first thing it did was to give me a cold in the head, which seems absurd. A combination of germs and electric fans I suppose. However it has gone as quickly as it came. I've scarcely seen any Europeans yet except my own colleagues. The C. in C. is back and came to see me yesterday, and General Stuart Wortley, who has also been in Persia, came to tea today. Sir A. Cobbe is back too but I haven't seen him yet.

My garden is rather dusty and burnt up. The roses are just beginning an attempt at autumn blooming but it's still too hot for them. By the way I collected the seed of a most wonderful thistle in Persia, one I've never seen before. I shall put it into a little box and send it to you. Will you please give it to Hanagan and tell him it won't mind cold because it's accustomed to 4 months' snow where it grows on the hilltops, but it would like as much sun as it can get, and very sharp drainage. It's a sub-alpine. If it's really new we'll send it to Kew though I don't think, on reflection, that I want a thistle called after me.

I understand there's been no English mail here for 5 weeks, nor does anyone know when there will be another, but after hearing Sir Percy's account of the Mediterranean I only wonder we ever get letters at all. Goodbye dearest. Your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

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