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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

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Reference code
Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Cumberbatch, Henry Alfred
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper

33.8937913, 35.5017767

Consulate Beyrout [Beyrouth (Beirut)]. Sunday 23rd Dearest Mother. I arrived duly on the 21st and sent you a telegram. Fattuh met me on the ship with a kavass from the Consulate with whose help we got all our luggage through the custom house without having a single box opened. So I need not have hidden the cartridges in my boots! The Cumberbatches had asked me to stay and they made me very welcome. It was nice getting off the ship into this comfortable house and to these kind people. I sent Fattuh back to Aleppo [Halab] that night to fetch some of our camping things which he had not brought with him - not knowing exactly where we were going and he joins me in Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)] on Tuesday. I am staying here till then, partly because it is so restful and partly because I like to hear what is happening in Syria and there are a good many people here who can tell me. Mr Cumberbatch himself is always very sound and his views are worth having. Yesterday it was lovely weather and the Lebanon looked too wonderful. I went off early to the Jesuits, close at hand, where I was received with open arms by the Fathers who manage the printing press and run the quarterly of the école orientale. My chief friend there is Father Rouzevalle who was as helpful as usual and gave me letters to the Fathers of the S.J. in Damascus, one of whom will be able to give me some useful hints I think. After he had gone an old Syrian, Father Sheikho who runs the printing press came and talked for a long time of miraculous conversions which were all confirmed by a very old French father who was sitting by, and then of their anxiety lest the French should gain a mastery over Syria, in which case they would turn out the S.J. as they have in Algeria. This anxiety is universal on the part of the Catholics (of which France is the official protector in this country.) It's rather funny that they should all fear the nearer approach of their ally and countrymen, but the nearer the fellow countrymen come the more apparent is the atheism of their government - and the more alarming.
Then I went on to the American college where I found the Blisses quite as enthusiastically welcoming as the Jesuits - a strangely different atmosphere however! I am going to lunch at the College today to see the daughter's fiancé and to talk about Syria with Dr Bliss. He says the emigration to America is incredibly large and that it is due quite as much to the tyranny of the priests as to the bad government of the Turks. No one has felt the war much here and no one has cared. It was too far off to rouse any interest, and the extra war taxes have fallen mostly on the rich landowners, who could well afford to pay, and have not been felt much by the rank and file and the poor.

In the afternoon I went for a long drive with Mr Cumberbatch, ending at the golf course where Mrs C. had gone with the children. There were a lot of other people there and we all sat in the sun and watched the afternoon light changing on Lebanon and had tea. It was very pleasant and so very beautiful.

I feel rather slack still but I expect that the days' rest and then the change to the high keen air of Damascus will set me right.

I write to you, but my letter is for both of my dear parents. My love to you both, darling people. Fattuh begged me to give you many salaams. Ever your affectionate daughter Gertrude

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