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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Florence Bell

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Gertrude Bell
Lady Florence Bell
Creation Date
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1 letter, plus envelope

May 3. The train between Weimar and Eisenach. Dearest Mother. I think you will be a little surprised at my decision but on the whole you will agree with me that it is a sensible one. Maurice is at a dreadfully loose end and very much bored with everything and it will be a comfort to have me for a fortnight. Besides, I think perhaps I may be able to start him off with fresh amusements and things to do. I shall be amused too. The Batschen are quite charming, dear little old maids very delightful and very amusing to talk to - most friendly and nice about having me. Papa has become madly devoted to them and will tell you all about them. The Frau Admiral also is a most attractive woman, pretty and sweet with a gentle manner that is bewitching. She has a nice little brisk daughter of 18, the real type of a German girl, very pink and white and very enthusiastic. They lunched with the Frl Batsch yesterday. It was a comic entertainment; it began at 2 and we eat till 3 when we came into the drawing room and had coffee and cake. Frl Batsch said to the Frau Admiral and me "wouldn't we sit in the sofa place?" to which she answered with an apologetic smile "Ach nein! wir sind ja neumodisch!" I did feel we were going it! A wild sense of exhilarating emancipation coursed through my veins! Frl Sophie (the second Batsch) came sightseeing with us in the morning. We saw very interesting houses of celebrities. I think they do that kind of thing so well in Germany; it's all so respectful and pretty and one likes seeing the simple homely rooms just as the great man left them with all the letters and memorials of him collected together on the tables and his works piled up on the bookshelves. We saw the Liszt house which wd have interested you immensely. We climbed up a narrow crooked staircase where Listz used to trip and swear when he was drunk (which he generally was) and came into a little appartement of 3 rooms, a big one with two pianos, and the sofa where he used to sleep after lunch and his writing table with some music spread out on it; a bed room, very simply furnished and a room in which he used to dine turned now into a sort of museum with portraits and busts of him and presents from kings, dukes and enthusiastic countrymen. Such presents these last gave him! dusty crowns of paper laurel leaves, cushions embroidered with the names of all his works, table cloths decorated with cross stich [sic] scenes from Saint Elizabeth - all of which said his housekeeper (who showed us over) made him much VergnÃ…gen! It was so odd to hear this quite common woman talking of Rubenstein and BÃ…low and Wagner and these great people as one talks of Jones and Smith. "Ach ja" she said speaking of Rubenstein "der spielte auch[?] sehr gut - aber nicht so gut wie Liszt!" The little house must have been so full of music ("Sie musizierten immerfort" she said), and was now so silent. We went then into the Park which was haunted with Goethe at every corner. Scattered about were the classical buildings which he thought so fine and so like Italy, engraved on the rocks many of the Belloved hexameters and at one corner on a little slope overlooking a smooth stretch of grass set with flowering fruit trees, his garden house with little bare simple rooms and his charming garden which one felt to know so well. We went to his town house where his library and bedroom are left just as they were when he lived there - very simple tiny rooms but the library rather nice and looking like a place to work in. I wondered whether he had walked up and down between the writing table and the bookshelves and repeated sentences to himself till they fell into the lovely shape one knows. This house too had a charming garden; the box hedges had been allowed to grow quite tall in it and planted in rows were masses of crown imperials in full flower.
We went to the theatre in the evening and saw rather an amusing German comedy, a skit on the manners of small German towns, with pokes at Ibsen. Ibsen is very well known here - in fact he is almost out of date.

I am sending home by Papa my parasol which I bought 3 weeks ago at Woollands and which is quite worn out. Will you take it there and tell them it's a disgrace and insist upon their recovering it gratis if possible. I prefer shot silk - something like the present one, not any browner, but it may be creamier or golder. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude.

I think you ought to be very well satisfied with the notices of A's W. On the whole they are very complimentary and say a good many of the things one meant them to say. Of course there was sure to be some indignation.

IIIF Manifest