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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother Florence Bell, written between the 29th to the 30th of May, 1907.

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Reference code
Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Ramsay, W.M.
Strzygowski, Josef
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper

37.439586, 33.164415

Madensheher May 29 Dearest Mother. I got a long letter from you today dated May 19, enclosing some photographs from Hugo (for which I am deeply obliged) and describing the plans for Elsa's wedding. I fear I have definitely given up all hope of coming back for it. I am in for this business and I must carry it through. It makes me laugh to think I cd ever have had the idea of leaving things to R [Ramsay]. The whole family have taken my proposal that I shd run the show at the foot of the letter - to the extent that they have borrowed my washing basin (fortunately I have another) and rely upon me to supply them with envelopes! R. bless him! is perfectly helpless in such matters as concern the arrangement of a camp and she is completely useless in everything but one thing, which is that she is essential to his comfort. I cd not dream of asking them to do anything for me, not in my wildest moments. Further I do all the drudgery of the work - as I was from the beginning perfectly prepared to do. I get up at 5 and breakfast before they have appeared and go off before 6 to wherever we are digging, and stay there till 12 superintending and measuring as we uncover and planning. Then I come back to the tents for an hour, for the men have an hour off in the middle of the day and after lunch I go back to the diggings and stay there till 5 or later. R. generally appears on the scene about 7 or 8 in the morning and about 3 in the afternoon. Then he has inscriptions to find and read and the map to make and he can't physically do more. She's no good at all; she doesn't even know what to look for. Of course we shan't be digging so hard for very long I expect, but whatever we are doing I shall have all the measuring and planning to do and I'm at it some 12 hours a day on and off. Nor can it be otherwise for that's the part that I have undertaken. Of course it's great great fun, but it's also very hard work you understand. And there is no one to do it but me. Therefore I can't leave and that's an end. I must go into the Karajadagh [Karaca Dag] before I come home for half the value of the work here will consist in comparing the buildings there with what I have studied here. And I must also see a great church above Akserai [Aksaray] which is reported to be standing up to the dome and will throw much light on the buildings here. Meantime we are not half through with the Kara D [Kara Dag].
Yesterday morning there was a Kurdish revolt. The 4 Kurds struck for higher wages, and Hassan, my Belloved Hassan, stirred up the villagers to ask for more than I was giving them. Now what I give them is very liberal. Fattuh put down the reBellion. He refused every demand. The Kurds all left, but in an hour or two two of them came back very penand and asked to be taken on again on any terms I chose, and the villagers all came in having observed that their places were at once filled by 20 men from another village. The result was that today I had 43 men at work, which was just as well as we had embarked on a big job, clearing out another ruined church. Yesterday I had a very long day. I seized the opportunity of having to my hand a trained mapmaker, in the shape of one of the American archaeologists, and carried him off to help me plan the Byzantine fort. It's 3 hours ride from here and we were 6 hours working at it as hard as we could go, but we got it all finished before we left. We had an hour off in the middle of the day for lunch and that was all the rest we took. It's a great relief to my mind to have got it done. The Americans left this morning - that's also rather a relief to my mind, for though they were very nice it's a large item to entertain 3 hungry men in addition to the party one has provided for, and their soldier, who quartered himself upon me too. They had brought nothing with them, literally nothing, and I had to let them sleep in my dining tent and to provide them with food to carry them to Konia [Konya (Iconium)]. However we are glad to have had them for besides the bit of work Mr Wrench did for me yesterday they have been very useful in bringing new eyes, and trained eyes, to look at the whole site. They have made several valuable suggestions and struck out theories which may or may not be true but which give us lines along which to work. R and I both feel that this has been of great use to us. One of the great difficulties of the Commissariat here is the water. I told you there was none. I have to send 2 hours up the hill for it daily and I find I can't supply the needs of the whole camp with one donkey load a day and the poor donkey can't go more than once. So Fattuh is going to Karaman [(Laranda)] tomorrow to buy another donkey and more water tins, and then I hope we shall be in plenty. It's getting pretty hot and lots of water is the first necessity. Housekeeping in the wilderness takes a great deal of thinking about! But I must say the difficulties are considerably alleviated when all your guests are as amenable as mine are.

Friday May 30. [30 May 1907] We've had a very long day clearing out a round church which is a difficult architectural problem and oh! horrible to measure. I'm tired now and I shan't write any more. The good Ramsays have just been begging me to let them share the expenses, but I've persuaded them to leave things as they are. I don't want their time here to cost them a penny. It's an inestimable privilege and advantage to have Sir W. to work with and indeed I could not have ventured upon anything at all without him. The expenses are not being more than I expected and I think I can do the whole thing within the sum I intended to pay. Ever your affectionate daughter Gertrude

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