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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
Wortley, Edward Stuart
Cox, Percy
Chirol, Valentine
Wilson, A.T.
Marling, Charles Murray
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad Aug 30 Darling Mother. I got back here on the 28th and half an hour afterwards Sir Percy arrived, bringing me your letter of Ap 28. It's the last news I have had of you, for my letters have been sent to Kermanshah [Bakhtaran] to meet me and as I didn't go there on my way back I haven't got them. But I've telegraped for them and no doubt they will be here in a day or two. However your letter is enough, for it's a very wonderful and beautiful letter, one which I shall keep always and read often. It wasn't, as you know, without doubts and disappointment that I came to the conclusion that it would be better to give up the idea of coming home this year and if Father had telegraphed that he wanted me to attempt it, I should have come at once - or tried to come. But there was the uncertainty as to whether they would let me, women not being allowed to travel on the Mediterranean, and then also in my mind, as there was in yours, the feeling that it would have been so terribly hard to part with my family again at the end of a month. Sir Percy brought me also a comforting letter from Domnul in which he says that this winter we must see a great change in facilities of travel, so that in a few months I hope I may be able to come home without the great difficulties that there were this year. And the news from France during the last winter seems to justify this hope. But your letter has made me want very much to be with you. I can't tell you, I can't find words to tell you, how much I admire the splendid fortitude with which you have met the long 4 years of war. It makes me feel proud and ashamed - proud that there should be people like you and ashamed that you should have had so much heavier a task than I. I can only comfort myself by thinking that I didn't choose, did I? I just went where I was told to go and tried to make the best of the job. If Sir Percy had been here this winter I think they could have done quite well without me, but the moment I got back Capt. Wilson told me the staggering news that he had been appointed to Tehran [(Teheran)] to succeed Sir Charles Marling. That's not what it's called but that's what it really is, and I am divided between satisfaction and relief that there should at last be someone who can take the Persian question in hand, which Sir Charles couldn't for various reasons, and sorrow at losing Sir Percy. But his absence makes me feel again that it wouldn't have been right for me to have been away this winter and I know Sir Percy himself would say that. But it is a disappointment isn't it! I was looking forward so much to having him here after all these months. However - Capt. Wilson and I are excellent colleagues and the best of friends and I know I can do a good deal to help him by seeing people and being ready to sit and talk as much as they want. And that's what I must do - it will probably be my main job. But first I'm going to compile an Intelligence book on Persia, for which I've collected materials while I have been away, and I rather think I can make a passable bit of work. It's the sort of thing I love doing. I'm not going to tell you now about my 3 weeks' ride through Kurdistan for I've kept an elaborate diary which is now being typewritten for G.H.Q. I shall cut out the things which are merely political - I shouldn't be allowed to send them - and you shall have all the rest which will tell you exactly what I did and what it was like. I've rather lost my heart to Kurdistan, country and people. My Persian was enough to carry me through most interesting conversations - Persian is extraordinarily easy, you know, and I learnt more in that 3 weeks of riding through the country than I could have learnt in months of motoring. But it was hard work - unspeakably bad tracks and very hot in the middle of the day. There were many moments of deadly weariness which are not mentioned in my diary but remain in my memory. Still I have come back extremely fit. We are now at what I think is almost the worst moment of Baghdad, the stuffy autumn heat, temp. 104 and absolutely still and airless. But it won't be more than about a fortnight before it begins to cool down. And then we shall have the Marlings here for a few days, which will be amusing, and in Oct. I shall go away to Hit [(Is)] for a week to dig, and by that time the heavenly winter will have begun. I dined with the C.G.S. (Gen Gillman) last night, but most of my Generals are away and the Commander in Chief still on leave and Generals Stuart Wortley and Lubbock in Persia, but they will all be back next week. Gen. Cobbe is back, but I haven't seen him yet. The two months in Persia have made me much more efficient - that's rather satisfactory. I have got roughly the hang of things there and can judge much better how they affect us here. Quite apart from the enjoyableness, it has been well worth doing. Thank you so much much for the blue gown which Sir Percy brought. You can't think what a comfort it is to have something new - I'm so dreadfully draggled. I hope you'll manage to send me out the winter things I asked for. It's a shocking affair to be so ragged. Did I by chance ask you for 8 pairs of grey thread stockings and if I didn't will you please have them posted to me. I know I didn't ask for a smart hat, but it's too late now and I must do as I am without. It's a real problem how to keep presentably tidy when one is in Baghdad and I'm afraid it's one which I shall not solve very satisfactorily this winter. Dearest Mother, I must go to bed. I've had such a two days reading all the things that have happened since I was away, seeing people and getting straight generally. I shall begin to feel more like a reasonable person next week. I think a great deal of you and Father and Maurice and am ever your devoted daughter Gertrude

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