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Letter from Charles Doughty-Wylie to Gertrude Bell

Letter from Charles Doughty-Wylie to Gertrude Bell written over two days from the 17th to the 18th of October, 1914.

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Reference code
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Wylie, Charles Hotham Montagu Doughty-
Person(s) mentioned
Deedes, Wyndham
Wylie, Lilian [Judith] Doughty-
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper

8.9806034, 38.7577605

17 October.
British Legation,
Adis Ababa.
My dear Gertrude.

Right up in the corner I begin for space to talk to you – but my dear I can’t talk – not on paper – not viva voce either – only what wouldn’t I give to have you sitting opposite in this all-alone house, & just be happy – Your letter came, bless you – a long letter full of 100 things, all keen & vivid – you, my lecturer to England – it is a great work you are doing – a good work to draw people from their own husks – to split the chrysalis of man.

I don’t mind being alone – I never did – it was always joy to me to get loose – away from men & things – but just tonight (I have been working all day – writing – registering – cyphering – archiving – haymaking, devil take it, for I have to find over 200 men – cursing) just tonight I want you – I want to talk to you – I won’t write a love letter – its just you for me for human life mate of my heart – Not that human life matters – it doesn’t, no-one more than you and I know that – it matters not at all really – except in the smiling content with which we put it off half-affectionately.

Well then what have I to say? just that I miss you – Solitude my best beloved smiles at me indulgently. She knows that to her I must turn by habit & by nature, for hers I am. She does not grudge that strange longing & she will comfort me for are you not also a votary and of my company? To solitude we vowed a garden –
Let us talk of the war – no. I think not for long ago as you read this it is history behind you – Antwerp fallen – I think Ostend will be attacked – They must attack or retire the Germans – and all is well – Let them attack, but let us put into that Ostend Ypres line every man we have – let them fail – But what do I know of it? Just nothing at all.

Wingate wrote to me yesterday. “It is hard to sit still while one’s peers make history”. Is it that? I don’t know – or is it the everlasting littleness & selfishness of man? Why should not one sit still? Is it harder than to die? Then sit still & say nothing, even if it were – And it isn’t, it may not be – for we have never died, and only dimly wonder what it is like – the divine adventure.

Every man’s [?] have we bound about his neck – What comes, that we do – And after all what we do is nothing – it is only what we think,

I see by K of K’s speech that territorial garrisons are sent to Malta Gibraltar - & is it Egypt? I wonder has your brother gone to one of these places – for your sake my dear I hope he has – not for his – so, he will not stand half frozen in some wet trench waiting for the pickelhaube - & for the end of shells –
I know there is only one end - & perhaps from lack of knowledge & imagination I have never doubted it – victory must come from economic reasons, if from no other – their only chance was the first blow – but I don’t believe in a very speedy victory – nor in very crushing terms of peace – it’s a system we fight & rather fate by one hands fights a system – not a people – they will rise and be great again –
Turkey – I understand Deedes’ view – never to serve such a government as that – But he doesn’t serve a government – only the “arkadash” (how do you spell it) on many a stony road – But he won’t go on – He’ll go into Parliament & serve other people dearer to us than any Turk – Still there are many to serve them - & few for the others – but what is written he & you & I also will do – I can’t think for the rest what will happen as to the capitulations – It seems to me that Turkey takes down a solid wall – How then will a hundred excellent reasons why many should interfere directly. After all it gives us Italy & Egypt – God is great – and there is the financial lever as you say.

The French Govt have wired that my wife had better go to Bordeaux for orders - & so I wired to her at Port Said – There the consul is one Chaffee – (or Chafy, I have forgotten) who was my scribe when they broke my arm at Adana, he’ll find her en passant –

Its Saturday night – you’ll be lecturing – I heard you speak once at the Geographical, and I remember well your clear voice & elocution – you’ll be speaking for the manyeth time of what you well know to say – It’s a great power – I envy you – I never made a speech except for 1¼ minutes (over in China), till I went to Albania & talked bad French to sweating patriots – I got no ease at it either for all my labour.

Its very late – I have stopped writing to hunt thieves with a gun, for the place is full of them - & the house is empty – but of course there were none, only rats or something – and if I could only feel sleepy I’d go to bed – I wanted to tell you, (and I ought to tell the F. O. only they are too busy to care) of certain African Pan Islamic movements – which originated from Constant via the Yemen to here and from here to the Sudan & the world behind. They are vague & only stirring – but where does the money come from? We could raise Arabia as you said – but we might raise a good deal more than we wanted – The chief here is the Turkish Consul of Harar a Constantinople acquaintance introduced by Husni Bey – he has been praying in the Harar mosques for German arms - & talking of jihad – but I think I told you of this - & the Habesh still swell a little – they are not sure even now that the hour is not yet – And it all seems dim – I want to be in France –

I told you of the Prince & his 500 bulls – they have never come - & will not I expect – Maleysh –

My dear – do you still love me? Do you ever think, late at night after hard days, tired with the lectures, half flushed with honest pride, half miserable by reaction, & remembering friends fighting – do you ever think of other things? want other things?

Why do I ask you? It is not well to ask such things – yet I think of them – in a drawer in this room are your letters – some of them – some are in London at my bankers – sometimes I read them & admire and love – Tonight I will, but I’ll write no more to you –


Last night is last night.

I wanted to say how much I admire of the energy & success of your father & his county association. If they were all like him! I hear from home that out of our small & straggling parish 27 have enlisted – no I think my brother & I are counted in the 37 – but its not bad –

Now I’ve got to finish my post – lunch with the French –


It was very dear of you to write to Tyrell for me.

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