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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

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Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Andrae, Walter
Grey, Edward
Creation Date
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1 letter, paper

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad March 18. My dearest Belloved Father. I got a long and delightful letter from you here written in the train on your way to Paris and yesterday a telegram in answer to mine, also from Paris, so I suppose you were on your way home again and I hope the Roman time has been nice. (What a waste, by the bye, after we had taken all that trouble about the Philippis that they should not have been there!) As for your news, I think the Yorkshire Club episode almost passes belief. It is a most discreditable business and I can't help feeling rather angry although I think that it's their friends whose business it is to be angry, more than yours. It's such a mean piece of silly spite. However there it is, and we shall not take long to get over it. The garden wall, on the other hand, is a wonderful affair. You are making a fine job of it aren't you! We'll plant the fruit trees this autumn and we ought to have fruit enough to satisfy the most ambitious when it's all done. Also what fine nursery borders I hope to wring out of Hanagan, bless him. I'm delighted to hear about the Brownriggs' baby. I must write to her. What you tell me about the miners and the rly men is all very interesting; I do hope things will go smoothly. We have just got the news of Briand's fall, for which I am very sorry. Will you please tell George White that I have been feeling a great deal for him. I do hope his troubles have turned the right way and that Gertrude is recovering. Thank you for Willie's note. Poor, poor Sir Edward! I wrote to him too. I am very much grieved upon my own account about George Grey. I have been here 6 days and it has been perfectly delightful, for the Lorimers are so kind and nice. I leave tomorrow for Khanikin [Khanaqin] (look towards the Persian frontier) whence I mean if possible to slip over into Persia for a day or two and see the ruins of Kasr i Shirin [Qasr-e-Shirin] (Sassanian). Thence by Kerkuk [Kirkuk] to Kal'at Shergat [Sharqat] to see Andrae. We have had rather an exciting time here since I came. As I was travelling I had heard on every hand praises of the Vali who was sent here a year ago with plenipotentiary powers to bring to order the 3 vilayets of Basrah [Basrah, Al, (Basra)], Baghdad and Mosul [Mawsil, Al]. He certainly seemed to have fulfilled his mission, the roads were safe and the desert was quiet, everyone trembled at the name of Nazim Pasha. I had letters for him which I presented with certain requests (things I wanted permission to see) which he granted at once. I called on him, found a grizzled old man with rather a striking face, bold and firm, who was most civil to me. We held the sort of conversation you hold with high Turkish officials who know a little French. It's like eating sand. The Vali had one stock phrase with which he replied to all my observations: "C'est très curieux" said he. He then invited me to dinner, yesterday, and I accepted. Meantime I had begun to realize the reverse of the medal. Sami Pasha (you remember him in Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)]) had given me letters to his relations here. They came to see me and I paid them long visits; they are charming people with a high reputation in Baghdad. They told me that Nazim was more than the town could stand. He had committed unspeakable iniquities, which they recited (and Mr Lorimer confirmed) he had pulled down thousands of houses in order to widen the streets and noone could get compensation (this too Mr Lorimer knew well, for he is engaged in pressing the rights of English subjects for compensation when their roofs fall about their ears under the hands of the Vali's workmen) bref, they would rather have the devil to rule in Baghdad. The agitation had reached its height just as I arrived. Immense meetings were being held, engineered it is believed by Nazim Pasha, to protest against his being withdrawn, telegrams despatched to C'ple [Istanbul (Constantinople)] to beg that he might remain here forever. He has bitter enemies in C'ple; the Committee are against him and so is the almighty General, Mahmud Shevket. We thought that he would not enjoy a very long term of office, but Mr L. and I both expected that he would be let down gently after a month or two. Yesterday afternoon I was writing letters when in came my friend Hajji Na'muk Bey (you remember he is kaimmakam at Hilleh [Hillah, Al] and he gave me back my rifle. He is up here for a few days and I have seen a good deal of him. He loves me more than a sister, he says, because I am a man - if you understand this confused statement. He also adores the Pasha.) Hajji Na'muk Beg came in and unbuckled his clanking sword. He is a soldier. I greeted him warmly. "Have you news from the Pasha?" he said. "Yes," said I "I am dining with him tonight." "He is dismissed" he said "I was with him when the telegram came from C'ple an hour ago." Well, in a way I can't help feeling sorry. Personally of course I have every reason to be. Nazim kept the province in order and that made my journey easier. Still the man who has taken over seems to be a man of sense, Yusef Pasha. He has shown it by arresting, in the twinkling of an eye, several of Nazim's instruments - they were an evil lot I gather, and a row has thus been prevented. Mr Lorimer says that in spite of Nazim's reputation he has never discerned the faintest glimmer of intelligence in him and that he has behaved here like a wild beast. Good, please God! I shall go and take a touching farewell of the old Pasha this morning, and one may feel the tragedy of his fall even if it was deserved. Moreover I am very sorry for my poor friend Hajji Namuk who had tears in his eyes yesterday and had to be consoled for nearly an hour. "The Osmanli is no good" he said (he is a Baghdadi by birth) "I shall leave the service and come to you English; I shall go to India or to Egypt where these things don't happen." My mind ran back to Curzon but I said nothing. And a little sorry for myself, because you see a favourite is always sorry when his particular party falls into disgrace! But it has been interesting to be in the very midddle of all this and (this is for the private ear of my family) Mr Lorimer says that he has never met anyone who is in the confidence of the natives in the way I am, and Mr Lorimer, I should wish you to understand, is an exceptionally able man! The Lorimers gave a French dinner party partly in my honour, and tonight we have a German dinner party. We have been very gay. Also I have seen Baghdad as I did not see it before, thanks to a delightful French architect, Godard, whom Nazim had called in to carry out his municipal improvements and who therefore knew every stone of the town and spent his time showing them to me. He is a colleague of Viollet. Poor Godard will disappear, I fear, with the Pasha and it is much to be regretted, for he was doing excellent work. It's all very silly and wasteful. The immense undertakings which Nazim had begun will now remain unfinished and all the money spent on them has been squandered in vain - or rather all the debts which have accumulated on their account, for one of the troubles was that the exchequer was from the first quite empty. Hajji Na'muk is quite right in principle: no good comes out of methods of this kind, and I strongly suspect that Nazim was sent here by his enemies with a long rope that he might hang himself. The scheme has succeeded but it has cost the town of Baghdad dear, and the empire dear too, for it increases the sense of instability and vacillation which is the curse of Turkey. And it is just on the cards that the Arabs, against whom Nazim has recently sent out 2 great expeditions, which will probably now be withdrawn, may take heart of grace and rise in revolt. But I hope this won't happen. It all depends on what sort of a man Yusef Pasha shows himself to be. My old friend the Nakib (who received me with open arms) will breathe again. He hated and feared Nazim. I am going to pay him, the Nakib, a visit this morning by appointment, and it will be interesting to hear what he says "très curieux" as poor old Nazim would say. Now you must have heard enough of Turkish politics and I will devote a few lines to the Lorimers. She is a charming woman and he is a man after my own heart, firm and wise and tactful and as bold as a lion. We are great swells here under his leadership. Sir W. Willcocks is still here, dear old madman. I spent an enchanting afternoon with him looking over the survey plans which have revolutionized the geography of lower Mesopotamia. He has suffered at the hands of Nazim who has put every possible impediment in his way. However the Hindiyyeh Dam [Hindiyah Barrage] is set going, so it is not all for nothing. Fattuh salutes you, it is delicious weather and I am exceedingly well. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude.
We all think here that the solution of the Baghdad rly question is at hand and that we shall be given the last section to conclude, please God.

IIIF Manifest