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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
Hogarth, D.G.
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper

37.9838096, 23.7275388

Friday. Dearest Mother. I really must write you a long letter, for I have not written since a scrap in the train last Sunday. We are prospering exceedingly. Uncle Tom is a most amenable and agreeable fellow traveller - but how he ever gets along when he travels by himself, passes my imagination. He is absolutely ignorant and incapable about ways and means, added to which he has the untravelled Englishman's incapacity for making himself understood in any language but his own. Now I wd back Papa to get all he wanted, in Greek, if necessary! However it doesn't matter, as Papa is the best traveller in the world and arranges everything. The great point is that Uncle Tom falls in delightedly with all arrangements and enjoys everything hugely. We had a most agreeable journey. The hours at Corfu [Kerkira] were charming. We had a long drive through a particularly fertile, smiling country and spent a delicious time in the ruins of a little old Doric temple, looking over the bluest of seas. The grass was full of anemones and a hedge of irises near the sea were almost insurportably [sic] sweet smelling. It was nice. Uncle Tom was very indignant at all the guide book allusions to Ullysses [sic], who is supposed to have had his interview with Nausicaa in Corfu, and snorted with anger when we passed villas called Nausicaa cottage and so forth! We had a charming afternoon on our boat, hot and delicious. We were running down between the Greek coast and islands, lovely to look at. On board we discovered a young Baron (not a junger Herr Baron, but of Leeds, Maurice knows him) a nice, rather serious and pompous young man. He and I played patiences after dinner. We woke in the morning at Patras [Patrai] and, finding that the steamer was gone, we decided, rather to my relief, to come on to Athens by train. So we had a few hours in Patras, which we spent in seeing a very interesting Roman theatre and eating a particularly acceptable lunch, and then we started off again, most comfortably in a carriage to ourselves. The journey along the Gulf of Corinth [Korinthiakos, Kolpos] was very beautiful; we had a great thrill when we saw Parnassus [Parnassos] sticking up his head far away, but it was dark by the time we reached Athens, so that our first sight of the Acropolis was reserved for next day. Our hotel is most comfy and it is very pleasant to be settled for a few days. We spent our first morning on the Acropolis, as was only right. Uncle Tom was tremendously excited. It's rather hampering, I think, to be a good classical scholar. His form of finding out what things are is to state what he thinks them to be, then to defend himself against the guide book statements and finally to submit with a good grace and the proviso that they probably don't know! Which is very likely true. We walked up Lycabettus in the afternoon, calling on Mrs Hogarth on our way, and after tea we went to the street of tombs where we saw the wonderful Greek funeral monuments standing in rows. In fact, we felt we might have been Pausanias walking through Athens. The Hogarths came to dinner and Mr Bell, a most affable young man, came in afterwards. Yesterday was Independence Day, so we fled the holiday making town and went to Eleusis, driving along the Sacred Way. We lunched on the marble steps of the Temple of the Mysteries, but, except the steps and the foundations, nothing remains so we drove home and got in to tea. There was a glorious sunset and we walked up onto the hill opposite the Acropolis and saw the Parthenon turn gold and Hymettus purple behind it. Mr Bell and Mr Baron came to dinner; we had quite a pleasant evening. Today we again spent the morning on the Acropolis, Mr Bell being our guide, and in the afternoon we went back and found Hamilton Aidé walking about as small as life, with a tiny authorlet the same size to keep him company. We dined at the Legation. Lady Egerton is a very nice little woman, a Russian; Sir Edwin extremely friendly, but with a funny brusque manner. A IIIrd secretary, Mr Spicer, sat on the other side of me, rather nice. Mr Corbett, the 2nd secretary was also there, Mr Aidé and his companion Mr Heard, a Greek man of letters to whom I talked of the great future of his nation (he hoped he might meet me again, at the end!) and some other dim people. It was not wildly amusing, still I was sufficiently entertained. It's always entertaining seeing ow [sic] they do. They have asked us to dine on Sunday. Uncle Tom went off with Mr Bell to a performance of the Electra. So you see it's all great fun. Papa has bought him a grey felt hat, in which he looks a dream of beauty, and some yellow leather gaiters to ride in the Peloponnesus [Peloponnisos]. He will look smart, bless him! It's not warm here. The sun is very hot, but the wind very cold. We are told, of course, that it's quite exceptional. Ever your affectionate daughter Gertrude.

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