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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
Cox, Percy
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad May 11 Dearest Mother. This week's post is dribbling in - I haven't yet got a letter from you, but a very welcome one from Moll (dated March 18!) and announcing the sending of my summer clothes. The patterns are charming - it's to be opes [sic] they'll wash. But Lord how glad I shall be to have them! My present appearance is that of a hobbledehoy in straitened circumstances who has outgrown her wardrobe - only it's my gowns which have diminished (from much washing) not I who have increased. The event of the week has been the arrival of Mr Storrs from Egypt. He's here for a fortnight. He brings a perfect hurricane of fresh air from outside and I'm jiggered if we shan't send him back on the wings of a similar storm which will blow open their eastern-facing doors and windows. An admirable plan it is having such interchanges. Personally I delight in him. I've taken him round to all my religious dignitaries and learned men who delight in him and his Arabic also - the comfort it is to go about in the company of a Father of Tongues! We flanéed away a whole afternoon in the bazaars, I drowning my scruples at taking a half holiday in the midst of mountains of work. And it was mighty fun, Mr Storrs set the whole bazaar rocking with laughter over his jests and jibes and established my reputation forever as a provider of good company. Unfortunately I'm too busy to go about with him much, but such interludes are very reviving and the result is I've upped and outlined a reasonable scheme for the Government of this country - pas dégouté! which I really think maybe useful as something to bite upon. There's nothing like a spice of audacity. But the truth is that the High and Mighty at home are ignorant of the most obvious things and every now and then it's well to reel off a string of platitudes. I've found before now, to my amazement that what should rightly be an immense yawn of boredom at one's obviousness is really a gape semi enlightened amazement. This observation need not however be repeated! The really delightful thing is when they write back and give you in the deepest confidence the news that after long consultation they have resolved on the following scheme - and behold it's what you wrote months ago. That has happened too. I'm getting to be rather a dab at Arab politics - but it doesn't make them seem the easier. We've shouldered a gigantic task, but I can't see what alternative there was. This is how I pass my days: I'm out riding before 6, sometimes through the gardens by the river bank, sometimes round the old line of the city wall, a gallop in the desert and home through the bazaars. Occasionally I inspect an ancient monument on the way back - I did so this morning. A bath and breakfast and so to the office before 9. I'm there till after 7. I have a cup of coffee and a bowl of sour curds at 12.30 and tea with Sir Percy at 4 - it's the only time I peaceably see him. People drop in all day. Occasionally one has a clear hour or two - generally there's a lull between 12 and 2 and one tries to straighten out all the information one has acquired. But the end of the day finds one with two or three unfinished things and no hope of getting at them the day after. They are piling and piling up - I can't think when I shall be able to clear them off. That's the only bother - there's always just a little too much to do. I come back to dinner in my garden at 8 and I generally go to bed at 9.30 at which time I begin to fall asleep. It's gloriously cool still but that must certainly end in a day or two.
Mr Storrs and I went to see some Armenians today who showed us magnificent carpets - not for sale, thank Heaven! for I could not have resisted one of them. It was an education to look at it. There's something I must ask you for. I've lost my last but one brooch, so pretty it was though it only cost a pound - an old French one I bought in Boulogne and have worn ever since. I want two brooches - they need not be a pair. Rather large, not dear, but not ordinary. Big rough turquoises or emeralds, I like - something that's a good colour. Father with his exquisite taste might choose them for me. And Mother your task will be to pay for them out of my cheque book - will you? I've only one little diamond brooch left. Your affectionate daughter Gertrude

I must tell you I love Baghdad, and the people are so out going - partly propitiatory no doubt, but they are glad to have us.

IIIF Manifest