Letters

10 January 1919

From/To: Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

[10 January 1919] Baghdad Jan 10 Dearest Father. The censor, in the throes of death, broke into an abnormal excitement and opened your letter of Nov 8 and Mother's two letters of Nov 5 and 13. I suppose he felt he must open some of my letters before he had done with me. He wasn't rewarded for there was nothing to censor, but he delayed my letters and I got them only this week. They were exciting letters written at that extraordinarily dramatic moment. I haven't written about Germany much because everything one says seems to be so short of the mark. But now that one is beginning to get over the amazement one looks round on a world not yet really at peace. Germany herself and still more Russia still give one cause for anxiety. The world won't settle quickly into its old state of ordered tranquillity. We have been having rather a difficult time here also - I'll tell you about it some day. The East is inclined to lose its head over the promise of settling for itself what is to become of it. It can't settle for itself really - we out here know that very well - because it might hit on something that certainly wouldn't imply stable government and that we can't allow in the interests of universal peace. But it is not going to be an easy job to hold the balance straight when it is disturbed by the gusts of hot air emitted from home in the shape of international declarations. The vast majority here haven't any views at all; most of the thinking people want our administration, guided by Sir Percy, but there's a small if vociferous group which thinks they could get on quite well alone and certainly have much more fun individually without us. They would have immense fun for a bit, I don't doubt it, but it would be a very short bit, abruptly ending in universal anarchy and bloodshed. What will happen in Syria I haven't the least idea - they tell us nothing, which I think very wrong. I must go there for a week or two on my way home. I'm thinking of leaving in the last week of Feb., something like that.

Meantime I'm hard at work at the big book of Iraq Personalities, a gigantic task. I think I shall get it into shape by the end of the month. Further, I'm seeing a great many people and incidentally a good many of the women. We have got a lady doctor - not at all the right sort, I think, but better than nothing. I've taken her to see some of my friends and arranged a series of lectures for her in the house of a Pasha's wife whom I know very well. The first is next Monday and I'm curious to see what the lecturer will make of it. She can't speak a word of Arabic and works through an interpreter which is a hopeless job. Still I suppose she can show them how to make poultices. The ladies seem to be very keen about the classes.

The last day or two I've had a feverish cold - it's curious how everything turns to fever and knocks you out; but it has been nothing and I shouldn't have given it a thought but for the fever.

How very sad about Jack Bell - I'm so sorry for the poor little wife. Mother's account of her uniform and her stripes and things fills me with admiration.

Oh and I've said nothing about far the most important matter - Elsa's boy. I'm more delighted than words can say. He's the most important boy possible - if Maurice won't marry. The thought of him fills me with satisfaction. I wonder what his name is. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

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