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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

In which Bell gives an overview of her recent activities, including time spent with Billy Lascelles, a trip to the Spanish Exhibition and games with her sister, Molly, and brother, Hugo. She includes a request for the second volume of Pattison's essays, having nearly finished the first, and enquires after the progress of her Mother's play.
Reference code
Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Lascelles, William [Billy]
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper

51.5072178, -0.1275862

July 5. 95 Sloane Street. My dearest Mother. The person in history whom I most resemble is, I think, Mother Hubbard's dog; you sent me a delightful coffin, so to speak, this morning, and by the time it arrived, I was laughing. I was very glad to get your letter, however, it was helpful and nice as your letters always are. The fact is that for such a miserable person as I am I have been very much amused the last two days! The first pleasant thing that happened was that Billy appeared suddenly on Wednesday evening and announced that he was going to dine here. Dinner was very late for Auntie Bessie and Miss Thomson were out seeing the Shah and didn't come in till half past eight. Afterwards Miss Thomson played patiences with Grandmamma and Billy and I sat in the garden and had a long talk, so long that he only left himself a quarter of an hour to catch his train - I expect he missed it. He wanted to take me with him to Paddington and send me back in a hansom; don't be afraid! I didn't go - what would have happened if I had, it was ten o'clock!
Yesterday morning I went to the French Literature class at Caroline's house. There was there a Mrs Wellesley; I wonder who she is, an amusing person anyhow; Caroline's sister who seems rather nice; a girl who is engaged to a great friend of hers (Caroline's) pretty and rather shy, Miss Luttyens by name; and a very beautiful Miss Welby a cousin of Caroline's, quite one of the loveliest people I have ever seen. I came back here to lunch and afterwards very lazily went to sleep in the garden, pretending to myself that I was reading. Then I walked to Essex Gardens and had tea with Carrie with whom I was rather glad to have a quiet talk.

I came back here and dressed and went to Green St for a seven o'clock dinner - we were going to the Spanish Exhibition after it. There were there Miss Luttyens and her young man, a Captain Something; Miss Welby and a cousin of hers, a Captain Foster and myself. The cousin was a rather nice young man, very enthusiastic and very quick[?] who kept propounding to me all through dinner extraordinary philanthropical schemes and then being very surprised to hear that they had been tried six centuries ago and found inadequate! Captain Foster I liked extremely - first I will tell you the great drawback about him, he is Edith Cuthal's brother! That's serious, isn't it, but on the other hand he is very intelligent and amusing to talk to. I thought him a stick at dinner, however, and said nothing to him. We drove in hansoms to the Exhibition, the cousin took me there and Captain Foster brought me home; I hope that doesn't shock you; I discussed religious beliefs all the way there and very metaphysical conceptions of truth all the way back - that sounds rather steep doesn't it! - and I really didn't feel very like Violet Hunt.

There is nothing to see at that Exhibition, nothing at all, but there were delicious lighted gardens to sit in and it was a lovely warm night. Besides I love talking to people, when they really will talk sensibly and about things which one wants to discuss. I am rather inclined to think, however, that it is a dangerous amusement, for one's so ready to make oneself believe that the things one says and the theories one makes, are really guiding principles of one's life, when as a matter of fact, they are not at all. One suddenly finds that one has formulated some view from which is is very difficult to back out not because of one's interlocutor, but because the mere fact of putting it into words, engraves it upon one's mind. Then one is reduced to the disagreeable necessity of trying, even involuntarily, to make the facts of one's real life fit into it, thereby involving oneself in a mist of half truths and half falsehoods which cling about one's mind, do what one will to shake them off. Do you ever feel that?

It's so hot this morning. I went into the garden to be cool, but presently to see the babies who announced that they were barons and that they intended to rob me. I was rather surprised at their taking this view of the functions of the aristocracy till I found that they had just been learning the reign of Stephen. Molly informed me, in the pride of newly acquired knowledge, that there were at least 11,000 castles in his time! So we all played at jumping over a string, not a very cooling occupation, till fortunately Miss Thomson came and called them in. Did we tell you how Molly puzzled and shocked her dreadfully the other day by asking her suddenly what was the French for "this horse has the staggers!"

Will you send me the second volume of Pattison's essays, if you are not reading it. I have nearly finished the first and will post it to you. I think some of them most interesting especially those which deal with 17th century scholars.

I am very glad you have finally decided to come back here while Papa is at Eton and I only wish I was going to be here too. I wonder how the play is getting on, you remember I haven't read any of the third act yet. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

I enclose a letter from Auntie Florence, don't bother to keep it, I don't want it.

IIIF Manifest