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Letter from Charles Doughty-Wylie to Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Wylie, Charles Hotham Montagu Doughty-
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1 letter plus envelope, paper

8.9806034, 38.7577605

15 November.
British Legation,
Adis Ababa.
My dear Gertrude.

As usual a million things to thank you for – among them that pamphlet – the Ralsian one – most deeply interesting – and one of your letters –

What shall I tell you? Its on me to say 100 things of you & me – or nothing – and I don’t know which it will be – its late – I’ve written to everybody – copied the war telegrams – the splendid repulse of the 3rd & 4th brigades of Prussian guards – so that the little Adis Ababa may read tomorrow morning – yes its all done – and now there is you & me – alone.

My dear you said you liked to hear – anything rather than nothing – yes I know – tonight I should not want to talk – I should make love to you – Would you like it, welcome it – or would 100 hedges rise & bristle & divide? These they might be but we would tear them down for they would be small – what is a hedge that it should divide us – No, its not hedges, but its that dreadful pitiless distance – its death itself – in dreams in fancy it is not – you are in my arms alight afire – like me – and happy – but tonight I do not want dreams & fancies – man & woman created he them.

What nonsense – it is like the devils of Lescovik – burnt with that poor little town – devils of the mountain & the blood – exorciso te – untimely spirit – go back to blue mornings – deep forest and far ways – to content and happy moments – wakeful nights – passion of chameleon colours, queer insistent strange like a chameleon with his tail around a flower stem, which is the life of man.

What do you know of these things? yet remedies are by sympathy – and afterwards we would talk or sleep & be happy - & wake to war & the world and life and death unquestioning –

And then for a long time I wrote no more – sat thinking – it will never be Gertrude – when this flood sweeps over me and sinks a little, through it I come half drowned to airy levels - & think that it will be never – never – and care – and then and then vow and gasp & swimming say that even if it were never, what of it? are we to care? are we to be less for that? Something we’ll guard & keep – greater than that – no not perhaps greater – but longer lasting – of the airy level and quiet stars. Something where there can be no [?] of the mark – no farthing of life & health & this delightful world – in the airy levels are no fiery edges of contact that we should devise them – but yet they are long & great & filled with light.

The passion of the blood, the will to live – they are like a child’s rage – like other storms they pass – for you & me they would be dreams & nightingales & the very heart of carelessness – but even so they’d pass - & leave us walkers in the world as of old – We should have a memory, a bond, a talking in our veins & bodies – but you would be you & I myself – it is a bond I know & recognise –

But then – suppose – as a lover, a man you didn’t like me – me the forked human nature of appetites & claims – suppose you didn’t – away would go the rainbow & the dream – perhaps to be rebuilt to shine again down over the horizon – in some house of half regrets.

And of those things – of sex - & man to woman, we make too much – at least I think so sometimes – a little time ago I couldn’t think, but now as I said I have swum up & through – we make too much – one wants the things so sweet so perfect so complete, so just the note of joy for you & me – that if [sic] doesn’t some what then? does one ever reach the rainbow’s foot? First one must love beyond all caring, and be loved also, and then the gods must smile - & Venus cover us –

But how rare in every man’s life in any woman’s life – women are more simple & direct than men – or so I think – perhaps they reach the rainbow more often & more easily – or perhaps they want it less – the first time should I not be nearly afraid to be your lover? so much a think of the mind is the insistent passion of the body. Of love it is the subordinate the servant, the voice, the [?], what you will, but never love itself. It can be utterly divorced and different, a natural function, a pleasant pastime – but not love – yes a rather grim and even ugly chameleon of clinging feet.

And yet I of the earth earthly – Women sometimes give themselves to men for the men’s pleasure & the pleasure of giving – or for lesser reasons, that it isn’t to be avoided, or without it that there are no children – good I suppose – but so poor & pitiable a thing! I’d hate a woman to be like that with me – I’d want her to feel to the last sigh the same rage & stir that carried me away – She should miss nothing that I would give her that could teach her – her birthright and mine –

Exorciso te – let us get back to the airy levels.


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