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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

In which Bell writes from London giving an update on her stay with the Russells, recounting a conversation she has had with Lord and Lady Russell about Mary Humphrey Ward, who has been seeking support to open a unitarian settlement house in London. She also describes a trip to Brooks's gentlemen's club with Lord Arthur, where they were read extracts from the betting book.
Reference code
Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Green, Alice Stopford
Russell, Arthur
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper

51.5072178, -0.1275862

Sunday. 2 Audley Square. They know all about it! Yesterday evening at the end of dinner Lady Arthur began tentatively - had I heard about Mrs Ward's venture? at which I jumped and said that we had longed to talk to her about it. I gathered they did not know how Auntie Maisie had almost been made treasurer, so I said nothing. Then Lord Arthur produced his whole correspondence with Mrs Ward on the subject and read it to us - first a little note enclosing a circular in which the whole scheme is set forth; then his answer, very wise and moderate, saying that he had no doubt about the course he should pursue and declining firmly to have any part in the founding of a new sect; then a little note from Mrs Ward, very indignant, "Are words nothing" said she for he had expressed a wish that she might find the Church broad enough to bring her whole party into it; while he was reading there came a third letter from Mrs Ward, very long, explaining her views fully, saying she had no desire to found a new sect and that when services were organised at the new Hall they would be conducted by a Unitarian minister. We wonder if der Bobismus, as Lord A. calls it, will differ at all from Unitarianism and if it won't, why does she make all this clamour? The circular is signed by Lord Carlisle, Stopford Brooke, Mrs Ward and some Unitarian ministers. Lady Arthur is very indignant with her and thinks the whole thing will fall to pieces when a little irony is thrown upon it. She says "I think I must save your Aunt Maisie's soul" but I don't think she will. She is going to send to Mrs Ward anonymously a quotation from O. Feuillet's Montjoie, something to this effect: J'ai essayé de tout. J'ai voulu inventer une religion nouvelle dont j'étais le Grand Prêtre. J'ai acheté un joli petit temple dans le Boulevard, des vêtements magnifiques.... ca n'a pas pris! I don't remember it exactly but that is the gist of it. Of course this is very secret. I am allowed to tell you because I said you were very discreet people. Mrs. Ward's letters were very nice, but there was such an extraordinary confidence about them. She wrote as if she were perfectly sure that as soon as her church was fairly understood, nobody of any ability could fail to join it at once. I think all this will interest you, but I wish you were here to talk about it to this Lady, her views and yours will chime exactly. Isn't it ludicrous after all! Now to less exciting things. Yesterday afternoon I went to a dress rehearsal at Miss Cubitt's which was rather droll. They are in such a state of excitement over it - you might imagine that no one had ever given a party before. They expect their guests to arrive at the very second they are asked for if not a little earlier, and they are convinced that every soul will come and will probably bring friends, so they are rather agonised about space. The stage is charming. At 6 I went on a wild goose chase to see Mrs Green, who was in bed with a headache, so I came home again. It was a horrid wet sticky day, very cold and very disagreeable to be out in. We were alone in the evening and talked mostly about all the things I have told you. This morning we went to the Chapel Royal where we met Miss Stanley. On our way home Lord Arthur took us all in to Brooks' to see how nice it had been made. Have you ever been there? The big rooms are quite unchanged since Fox's time. They have unearthed the gaming tables at which he played and put them in the smoking room; we saw too the betting book from which extracts were read to us - it was so improper that even Lady Arthur was not allowed to read it herself - bets they spell it betts that Mr Fox would not be called to the bar during the next ten years, that four or five people would have married and died before he had paid off his debts; that he himself would not be worth £1000 when he died - that at least was won for the members still subscribe £1 a year to pay off his debts. It begins in 1771 and goes down to the present day. I am going to lunch at Dover[?] St. coming back here with Auntie Maisie for their afternoon; I half thought of paying a visit to Mrs Green but Lady A. has bound me over to come back, so I can put it off with a clear conscience. Weren't the children's essays good! Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude.

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