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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

In which Bell writes from the train between Lyon and Geneva, providing an account of her trip to Algiers. She briefly discusses the conquest of the Moors, noting that this aspect of the East is new to her.
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Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
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1 letter, paper

The boat Sunday 23 Dearest Mother. I am so sorry my writing made you ache; here's a nice round hand for you which you can read without glasses! We are having the most exquisite crossing, quite quite smooth and fine, and as we have cabins to ourselves we agree that the sea is not more disagreeable than it need be. I have rather liked this quiet day. I have written letters and sent the children's syllabuses to Miss Ward to be printed, and slept not a little. There are on board two English people of the most pronounced English type. He has travelled half the world over and is the most perfect specimen of globe trotter I have ever come across. I like the good stupid man: he enjoys what he can understand but then he can understand so very little. Petersburg [Sankt-Peterburg (St Petersburg, Leningrad)] is to him the place where they serve you three sorts of game for dinner, India the country of iced champagne; his one idea is to be able to say of a town or a sea or a continent "I have been there" no matter whether he has seen nothing of it. As for the wife, why she comes abroad I can't imagine for she has the meanest opinion of foreigners and their ways and their cooking. She dismisses the whole French cuisine at one blow:- they give you no potatoes "Now at home we always have potatoes and at least 3 vegetables with our meat!" She does her best to live exactly as if she were at home, but with ill success since everything is so unfortunately organised; she sat through the 6 o'clock dinner yesterday with an air of indignant protest and insisted on having coffee and bread and butter at the 2nd déjeuner to the great discomfiture of the waiters. I wonder she does not stay in England where she would have her accustomed shell all round her without any trouble. I had not talked to her for ten minutes yesterday before she was telling me how I should pack and what clothes I ought to wear on a journey; when I come home I'm going to have chemises made, with long shirts and frills at the end so that I need only wear two petticoats besides! That's what she wears. She does amuse me so! she described her experiences in Russia (which were of the most commonplace order) and after telling me how large paragraphs of the newspapers were blacked out by the government she commented "I think it seems a little like interfering with the liberty of the subject doesn't it?" The husband discusses the French nation alluding to them always as "they." "Some of them are quite intelligent" he says "and do you know I have met some very well educated!" He has given us lots of tips - you won't believe what a clever plan he has discovered of seeing all the points of interest in a town - he makes a list of them arranging them in geographical order!
We had a lovely day at Les Baux on Friday; Papa has probably told you about it. It's the most extraordinary little place built on the top of a limestone crag, many of the houses cut into the solid rock and two thirds of them ruined and deserted. Such charming houses too, beautifully carved, with great elaborate chimney pieces and decorated windows and doors. And the castle, which must have been a real thieving castle, was most curious of all, with immense halls and chapels and tombs cut out of the rock, and dark passages opening onto space now in the face of the cliff high above your head. A very inconvenient place to live in said our guide, for it's on the tip top of a very steep hill - when it doesn't rain for a few days they have no water and are obliged to fetch it from the valley - they have been without water now for months.

We arrive at Algiers [Alger] in two hours. Goodbye. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude.

{Will you give the enclosed to Lizzie,} (I can't tell you how I congratulate you on having at last succeeded in giving Hunt an 'int!)

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