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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Florence Bell

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Gertrude Bell
Lady Florence Bell
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1 letter plus envelope

S.S. Congo. Monday - off Cape Matapan [Akra Tainaron]. Dearest Mother. Well, we've been having a stormy time. Father saw me off at Naples [Napoli] - I felt most dreadfully sad at saying goodbye to my dear family, but I consoled myself by reading Ulysses which is a most beautiful poem and I don't care what the Strongs say! Don't you think it's very good? I'm almost afraid I may be too much carried away by it, but certainly as English verse it seems to me to touch the highest levels. We eat at little tables of 4, my 4 being myself, the Captain, a cheerful squinting little mÇridional, a Commandant who has just been appointed to the French stationnaire at C'ple [Istanbul (Constantinople)] which he is going out to join, and a commissaire of the navy who is going to join his ship at Crete [Kriti] - all quite nice people. There are besides on board - this will interest Father - a Whitaker husband and wife - he is a brother of the Palermo Whitakers and is a cheery soul, she is rather a nice woman but she looks very ill. I haven't seen much of her as she did not appear yesterday. They know who I am, for he had lunched with Uncle John at Mustapha Rais! This is my claim on society! they live near Doncaster and are very intimate with the Charlesworths. I drank tea with the Captain in his cabin, being so much favoured, and went to bed soon after dinner. We ran into rough weather as we went down the coast - tell Hugo and Father that we passed quite near Capri and I saw all the Paestum bay and Vietri [Vietri sul Mare] clearly, but we were a little further out in the Bay of Santa Eufemia [Golfo di S. Eufemia] - the name suggests nothing to us all but tough chickens! We had a very rough night through which I slept soundly and a strong head wind with a heavy sea all Sunday. I came in to every meal but I was little sick notwithstanding. Very few passengers and none of my sex appeared at all. I wasn't sorry when it was bedtime either. The consequence of the storm is that we are very late. We are due at the Piraeus [Piraievs] at 10 AM but we certainly shall not get in till 8 PM and it's doubtful if we get pratique tonight - which is sickening for the Whitakers who are going to Athens [Athinai], but I don't mind much for I like going down this coast by daylight and I shall have time tomorrow morning to go up to Athens I hope. It's still gray [sic] and windy but we are under the lea of the coast and the ship is quite steady. It's a most comfortable ship and I have a big cabin to myself. Now we are just rounding Matapan, quite close in. Father, the big mountain we - and Telemachus! - passed over behind Sparta [Sparti], I forget its name Taygetos [Taiyetos Oros]! is deep in snow. It all looks very lovely. Father and I had rather a funny pair of letters, his from Grandpapa, mine from Ambrose. A. says: Your Grandfather received me friendlily: no reference was made to past events and all went well. Sir L. has suddenly developed an interest in every petty detail which is rather trying. After 8 months' delay, he has made up his mind to have the drains done in the manner I recommended at first, in June, and which he utterly refused to adopt at the time. That is the way the money goes and I am accused of mismanaging everything!" He calls my two aunts Regan and Goneril! but tells me not to mention the fact! Don't you love "Set the sails, oh set the sails!" and that exquisite speech of Penelope's as she comes out, about the sound of oars beneath the moon? It seems to me to have the ring of real great blank verse - I'm misquoting from memory. Lots of the lines stick in one's mind, like "sward of parsley and of violet." It's awfully good. 9.P.M. We are anchored outside not being able to get into port tonight. I shall fly up to Athens early tomorrow and spend a few hours there. I'm longing to see the Hermes they found in the sea which is I hope at the Museum. I've spent most of the day with the Whitakers, who love me I may say! They are coming to see us in London. More tales Ö la prochain numÇro! Ever your affectionate daughter Gertrude
There's a full moon over Sunium [Kato Sounion] and all the lights of Athens shining.

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