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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
Wilson, Woodrow
Marling, Charles Murray
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper
Iraq ┬╗ Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

Oct 3 Darling Mother. I was glad to get a letter from you (dated Aug 6) instead of bulletins from other people. I hope you have now had your time in London and that you are feeling quite like a real person, which was more than you could be said to be doing when you wrote on Aug 6. Our existence has been uneventful this week. I told you we packed the Marlings and the Grand Duke off to Najaf [Najaf, An] and Karbala - they had, by the way, a very successful tour but in horribly hot weather. While they were away I had their children to tea in my office one afternoon. I hope the guests enjoyed the party as much as the host enjoyed it, and I think they did. I invited two dachshund puppies to tea also, and afterwards we went out hunting the office peacock and finally ran him to earth, so to speak, on the roof. Great rejoicing. The Marlings stayed one night on their return before leaving for Basrah [Basrah, Al (Basra)]. I dined with the Chief - with whom they were staying. He wore, bless him, his most No Quarter expression, by reason of his not loving his guests, but he was very polite and cheered up after dinner over a long talk about Central Arabia. Next day they all went away and we were not sorry to see their backs. I personally like the Marlings, but they are not human, you know; and the poor Grand Duke suffers from the drawbacks of being a Grand Duke - and enjoys none of the contingent advantages, nor do I expect that he ever will enjoy them again. They really can't have the Romanofs back whatever happens - don't you agree?
Isn't it delightful that George and Blanche are going to Bombay! I've a half thought that I might fly over and see them at Xmas, but I don't suppose I shall. Anyway I shall stay with them when I'm on my way home next spring. The Willingdons won't have an easy time at Madras - fancy succeeding the Pentlands! But I expect they will be equal to the job.

We are daily awaiting the news that Turkey is suing for peace. I don't see how the Turks can carry on. The Syrian campaign has been nothing short of a miracle - at last the Almighty seems to have abandoned what Lady MacMahon called his disappointingly neutral attitude. If Turkey makes peace we shall, I hope, be free of the incubus of the Persian campaign and we shall have a good time here this winter with lots of profitable things to do. Oh but I hope there won't be a sudden collapse in Germany. I want us to have time properly to invade Germany and larn [sic] them to be Germans. There would be no lesson like that - and they need it. The great standby is President Wilson who appears to be determined to - have his run for his money, more power to him.

I don't think, talking of Americans, that I've told you about an old couple called Williams Jackson who have debouch├ęs here as the trimmings of an American commission sent out on Persian relief work. He's a learned Professor who wrote the Life of Zoroaster and other works (all of which I have by good fortune read) and she's a nice old thing, in appearance like a white and red sandwich. The lowest (and largest) part of the sandwich is her small very stout body clothed in a tightfitting - very tightfitting - white cotton gown. The middle part is her bright scarlet face, due, no doubt to the rays of the sun as well as to the tight fitting-ness of the gown, and the top part is her snow white hair. I've made bosom friends with both of them, especially with the Professor. They brim over with universal kindness and American sentimentality - a quality quite as truly American as hard-headedness. This week the Professor gave a lecture - we all dined with the Chief and went to it. It was badder than bad, but quite amazingly funny. For in the middle the old innocent burst into quotations from erotic Persian poetry, in doggerel English, with unprintable comments by himself, delivered wholly without any suspicion on his part of what they sounded like and with hands perpetually raised as if in benediction - that being his favourite attitude when lecturing. The military audience rocked with amusement and I thought the Chief, by whom I was sitting, would never stop laughing. I had difficulty in stopping, myself; it was so unexpected, which is the essence of humour isn't it. But oh dear, shall we ever quite understand Americans? They are such a strange mixture.

I seem to have stopped writing those clever letters I used to write (vide Father's correspondents) and I now write nothing but tosh, as per sample. Never mind; I'll think of something serious to say next time.

I may mention in passing that my Persian Intelligence book has gone to press. It is A Work.

But since I haven't succeeded in being serious in this letter I'll tell you a silly tale about the religious head of the Devil Worshippers who is at present here as our guest, having fled from the Turks in fear of his life. He wrote me a petition that he might be allowed to supply himself with certain articles at the military canteen, more particularly with beer and whiskey "for" said he with great candour "I am accustomed to drinking."

Devil Worshippers are nearly as surprising as Americans. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

I bet you I'm as thin as you are! anyhow I'm perfectly indecent - nothing but skeleton. How is your skeleton?

IIIF Manifest