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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
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad March 1 Dearest Mother. Yesterday your letter of Jan 9 reached me, telling me of Annie's death. What friendship, what a host delightful associations and devoted help and sympathy goes with her! I cannot picture life at Rounton without her - she was so much a part of it all. You will miss her terribly, more than any of us, though how much I grieve for her you know well. That is the only letter I've had from you, but the mail is not all in. Father's splendid long letters of Dec 26 and Jan. 2 have come. I don't know what nonsense the newspapers have talked about the Mesop. winter; in reality it has been quite delightful. There was one snap of cold which happened to catch our troops in the Hamrin [Hamrin, Jabal] hills, but I loved the morning or two of frost. It is still heavenly. We had a day or two of wind and rain this week after which the world burst with loveliness. I rode directly after the rain through the gardens S. of the town and found them a vision of apricot and peach blossom and brilliant green cornfields. Everything grows together, fruit tree and palm and corn, with a marvellous luxuriance. If only it weren't going presently - and very soon - to be so infernally hot. I'm still riding in the afternoons, but this month will see the end of it I fear. I have been very busy this week contributing some chapters to the review of the administration here during 1917. It makes a most remarkable story, the truly remarkable part being the way the people have accepted it. The immense energy with which agricultural development has been pushed forward has been of incalculable political value, but for all that it's astonishing how good the tribes have been as a whole when one considers the endless trouble they gave the Turks who tackled them the wrong way. There is nothing easier to manage than tribes if you'll take advantage of tribal organization and make it the basis of administrative organization, and our people with their natural inclination to deal with men on their merits, at once establish familiar relations with shaikh and headman and charge them with their right share of work and reponsibility. And the men so treated respond wonderfully well - but then they are men, they've got stuff in them and that's all that is necessary. They wind themselves more and more round my affections, even the rogues, of whom there are many. It's only here and in Syria that one can get any satisfaction out of events. The European news is terribly bad and I see no prospect of an end. The strain on you at home is more than I like to think of. Don't you wonder often when you wake in the morning how you are to carry on through the day? I wonder often enough how you bear it.
We are anxious about Persia where things are going ill. Sir C. Marking is not, I should say, at all the kind of person to cope with grave emergencies. I wish we had someone strong and decisive in his place but I fear that matters have gone too far now for mending and that we shall very shortly have a comprehensive collapse in N. Persia. It won't do us much harm here; we have too solid a foothold, but it won't do any good and there are other places besides Mesopotamia to consider.

Yesterday afternoon I went to see one of our new primary schools where the headmaster is a friend of mine. There wasn't a very large attendance - I believe there are more children in the morning - but the place was clean and cheerful and the little boys delightful. I went round the 3 classes and asked them questions. In the smallest class we held a kind of general intelligence examination and I began by asking who was king of England. One student of history (aged about 7) replied unhesitatingly Kai Chosroe and another with a better grasp of modern politics, amended with Lloyd George. (I don't know whether Father will be able to bear that story!)

I want to go down Euphrates again before the heat comes to complete the first rough sketch of tribal politics and geography. It's always dreadfully difficult to shake oneself clear of the office, especially now Sir Percy is away but I may be able to manage it. The roses in my garden will be out in a week or two and I'm eating my own lettuces, but I'm sorry to say the cabbages have burst into luxuriant yellow flower before they ever became cabbages, so to speak. I'm so sorry to hear about Frank Gibson; you say nothing of Hanaghan so I hope he's well. I have written to him twice but I fear my letters have not reached him. My love to him. And to you all dear family. Your very affectionate Gertrude

I haven't said half, not the beginning of what I feel about Annie - how can one say it?

IIIF Manifest