Request a high resolution copy

Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

There is currently no summary available for this item.
Reference code
Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Balfour, Frank
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

Feb. 1. Baghdad Dearest Mother. An amazingly quick mail has brought me Father's letter of Dec 31 and I also have yours of Dec 23. I have been having rather an uphill week with a chronic cold that won't go. The result is that I feel too slack to amuse myself and I do nothing but work, not a good plan as I feel so very tired at the end of the day. Today, being Sunday, the Hambros asked me to go and picnic with them at Ctesiphon and I went, feeling that a long day in a cold north wind would either do me good or bring me to a sudden end - I didn't much mind which. I think on the whole it's produced the former result. Mrs Hambro is agreeably unlike most whifes [sic] and we had a very pleasant day. I was home by tea time and afterwards Frank dropped in and we gossiped about our businesses, with pleasure and profit, till dinner. The reason why I've been so busy is that people are beginning to come down the Aleppo [Halab] road with news of Syria and Turkey and I, having now rather a satisfactory network of informants, hear of the arrival of most of them and send for them. What with getting their information and writing it out my mornings have been pretty full. It's a distressing story which they bring. We share the blame, with France and America for what is happening - I think there has seldom been such a series of hopeless tangles as the West has made about the East since the armistice. Meantime our administration in Mesopotamia is, contrary to all justice, reaping a profit, for everyone who comes down sits in the coffee shops and says to the Baghdadis, "You don't know how well off you are! - if you had seen what we've been seeing!" The French seem to be asking for trouble in Syria and sooner or later they'll get it, but the worst of it is I'm afraid it will be the Syrians who will pay in the long run.
I have had two more little Arab dinner parties, both very friendly and successful. Sometimes we talk politics and sometimes we just talk about the country but anyhow we talk, exchange views and learn from one another. And it gives us the sense of being all part of the same game which is the main thing.

I have had to drop my India Office report - after writing two chapters on relations with the Kurds, a most thorny and difficult subject - for the annual reports are now coming in and I must read and digest them before I can complete my own chapters on administration. These will run to two or three chapters, after which a chapter on social and political conditions of which I've written half, and then a general revision of the whole will bring me to the end of the task. It has been a big job; I can't yet judge whether I have covered the ground satisfactorily.

On the whole Frank and I were agreeing this evening that we feel happier about the whole position here. We feel we are getting into closer touch, that antagonism is melting and cooperation growing. I hope we are right - it's a thing I don't think one can be mistaken about. He and I and the Howells and one or two others dined at an immense Arab dinner party last week given by Fakhri Jamil in honour of the birth of a small cousin, the posthumous son of my poor friend Abdul Rahman Jamil. The Jamil really have too many domestic occurrances - you remember my visit of condolence paid to the widow and sisters when I first arrived? After dinner I went round to the women's quarter to see the new baby, 3 days old and the mother up and walking about - how they survive I can't think; I only hope she won't die on us next. I must tell you I am honorary head of the Jamil family - that's how the Jamil profess to regard me. You may take it as an honour because they are by far the greatest swells here. Goodbye dearest Mother and family. I'm your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

Will you read the enclosed and send it to Lord N. [Northcliffe?] I don't know his address.

IIIF Manifest