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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

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Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Cecil, Robert
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

March 7. Dearest Mother. Your letters of Feb. 3 and Jan 28: it's wonderful to think that by this time Hugo is back. I hope it will console you for Father's absence. I really do think it will do him all the good in the world to be away for a long spell and the account he and you give of his doings confirms that view.
I've just written a very long letter to Lord Robert giving an exhaustive criticism of the dealings of the Conference with Western Asia. I trust he'll some day be Prime Minister, or at least Minister for Foreign Affairs and reverse everything that's been done. For from first to last it's radically bad and there can't be any stability in existing arrangements. However, I won't enlarge on that theme.

We've had torrents of rain this week, 36 continuous hours and the world a sea of mud. But for the last 2 days the air has been heavenly, soft and warm like an English May, only with a hotter sun. Even today one could scarcely move for mud - it's a Sunday, so I went off at noon with the Hambros in a launch up river and we found a delicious place in the sun where it was dry and lunched in the barley fields under palm trees. After which I made friends with the peasant proprietors and we had a long talk about the dealings of govts. from the point of view of the cultivator. They were darling people and when I went away they gave me 5 carrots and a fish, just caught. They wouldn't accept payment but were amenable to a "present for the little sons." Then we went to Kadhimain [(Al Kazimiyah)] which was just opposite our luncheon place. It's one of the Shi'ah holy cities. I called on the mayor who is the richest merchant in the town and a great friend. We had coffee in his delightful house and then walked about the town with him, looked at the shrine through the gateways (one mayn't go in to a Shi'ah mosque) and shopped in the bazaars. Mrs Hambro bought some little shoes for her children, and I the ghost of a wonderful carpet - it's so old that nothing but the spirit of it remains, but I think I might possibly have it repaired and I got it for Rs 40. It is (or has been) a really splendid thing. So we had a very nice day. And now my room is full of pots of wild mustard and green rye which we gathered in the fields and I'm reflecting on the recurring miracle of spring.

I told you about my hospital, didn't I? The Rs 3000 subscriptions are beginning to come in. The first was from the Naqib; his son brought it in state with an enchanting letter from the old man who, I think I'm right in saying, has never been known to give such a large sum in any public benefaction in the whole course of his 78 years. So I'm gratified.

I went to tea on Monday with another of the Naqib Zadah, Saiyid Daud. He has a wonderful house, the finest I've seen here. You go out of a tiny narrow street into a big court with beautiful rooms on the upper floor, ceilings of vaulted Persian stucco and looking glass work 100 years old; and then into another still bigger court full of orange trees and olives, 40 ft high and lovely rooms and balconies, and best of all a stork's nest in the corner. One of the storks had arrived that day and they were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the other. Saiyid Daud has also a very nice wife, a lovely daughter and an idiot son - as well as other children. We spent a most agreeable hour.

The Goschens are gone. I'm afraid as Father doesn't stay in Bombay on his way here he won't see them. He would have liked them. My household is in a tremendous jig at the prospect of his arrival. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

IIIF Manifest