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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
Balfour, Frank
Wilson, A.T.
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad Jan. 25. Dearest Mother. I'm answering your letter of Dec 17 and I hope this finds you better than it leaves me, for I have been suffering all the week from a violent cold in the head. Also you will just have had time to recover from the exhausting pleasures of Xmas, the preparations for which you describe.
The event of the week has been Father's telegram saying he is coming. Oh dear! how very glad I shall be to see him. I'm going to turn Marie out and lodge him in my house - it will be nice!

I had an interesting day on Monday. First of all we had the formal opening of the Girls' School - our first. I had invited the important native ladies and to my pleasure the Mohammadans turned up better than I expected. Miss Kelly, the Directress of Education, had made the school look very nice. Only 4 of our Englishwomen came, which was disgraceful; however A.T. Wilson  has given them a sharp rap over the knuckles for it. When they are asked to an official function they must come, and be as pleasant as they can. They can play golf other days. They had had official invitations from Miss Kelly. I made a long speech in Arabic explaining the arrangements of the school and the way the children would be educated. The Muhammadan Ladies took their share in it, chiming in with assent and approval. It was most exhilarating. Then Mrs Howell declared the school open after which we showed them round and then gave them tea. A most successful performance. That evening I had two Young Arabs to dinner and a very interesting officer in the police service, Captain Morgan, to meet them. They came at 7 and stayed till 10.30, talking as hard as they could go, about education and the reform of religious endowments and all sorts of things. We laughed at them and encouraged them and sympathized with them. We were all on the most cordial terms when they left. I'm going to repeat the entertainment weekly, with different couples of my young men, the Arab young men I mean. I feel certain it's a good plan.

Next day I had such a devastating cold that I stayed in my house. Mrs Leslie, the wife of the acting C. in C. came to tea, a most attractive woman. Then I had a tea party for my favourite monk, Père Anastase. Though he is a Lebanese he is exactly like a monk in Chaucer. Frank and Mrs Howell came to meet him - he talks admirable French, I must tell you. And yesterday I went to call on the Papal Delegate, a Dutchman namens Smets. Not very nice, I thought. After the call Père Anastase took me to see a native Christian, a very rich widow full of good works. I had often heard her name but never met her. She turned out to be an old darling and she had some lovely old Indian black wood furniture in her house. Today being Sunday, and a howling wind, and I very hoarse, I stayed at home and grappled with the very difficult Kurdish chapter of my report till 5 when I went to tea with Mrs Leslie. The wind has dropped now and I'm afraid there's going to be no rain. We have practically none this winter; it's most serious. The birds are famished because there is nothing growing. It's not that I watch the sparrows falling to the ground - I wish I could, confound them. My interest in the matter is that they devour the seedlings in my garden and strip my carnations to the bone.

Now goodbye - I must get on with the Kurdish chapter. Your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

I have been carefully keeping the enclosed letter for you. I hope you will enjoy it.

IIIF Manifest