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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell written for Charles Doughty-Wylie

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 entry, paper

23.885942, 45.079162

Feb 16. [16 February 1914] I am suffering from a severe fit of depression today - will it be any good if I put it into words, or shall I be more depressed than ever afterwards? It springs, the depression, from a profound doubt as to whether the adventure is after all worth the candle. Not because of the danger - I don't mind that; but I am beginning to wonder what profit I shall get out of it all. A compass traverse over country which was more or less known, a few names added to the map - names of stony mountains and barren plains and of a couple of deep desert wells (for we have been watering at another today) - and probably that is all. I don't know what tete the Rashid people will make to me when I arrive, and even if they were inspired by the best will in the world, I doubt whether they could do more than give me a free passage to Baghdad, for their power is not so great nowadays as it once was. And the road to Baghdad has been travelled many times before. It is nothing, the journey to Nejd [Najd], so far as any real advantage goes, or any real addition to knowledge, but I am beginning to see pretty clearly that it is all that I can do. There are two ways of profitable travel in Arabia. One is the Arabia Deserta way, to live with the people and to live like them for months and years. You can learn something thereby, as he did; though you may not be able to tell it again as he could. It's clear I can't take that way; the fact of being a woman bars me from it. And the other is Leachman's way - to ride swiftly through the country with your compass in your hand, for the map's sake and for nothing else. And there is some profit in that too I might be able to do that over a limited space of time, but I am not sure. Anyway it is not what I am doing now. The net result is that I think I should be more usefully employed in more civilized countries where I know what to look for and how to record it. Here, if there is anything to record the probability is that you can't find it or reach it, because a hostile tribe bars your way, or the road is waterless, or something of that kind, and that which has chanced to lie upon my path for the last 10 days is not worth mentioning - two wells, as I said before, and really I can think of nothing else. So you see the cause of my depression. I fear when I come to the end I shall not look back and say: That was worth doing; but more likely when I look back I shall say: It was waste of time. It's done now, and there is no remedy, but I think I was a fool to come into these wastes when I have not, and cannot have, a free hand to work at the things I care for. And this reflection is discouraging. It comes too late, like most of our wisest reflections. That's my thought tonight, and I fear it is perilously near the truth.\n\nI almost wish that something would happen - something exciting, a raid, or a battle! And yet that's not my job either. What do ineffective archaeologists want with battles? They would only serve to pass the time and leave as little profit as before. \n\nThere is such a long way between me and letters, or between me and anything and I don't feel at all like the daughter of kings, which I am supposed here to be. It's a bore being a women when you are in Arabia.

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