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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
Wilson, A.T.
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1 letter, paper

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad Sunday 9th May Darling Father. With what different feeling I write to you now that you've been here! All the news seems to be of the utmost moment now you know all about it. The first and chief is Frank's engagement to Phyllis Goschen. I'm very glad about it. I like her - and should like her better doubtless if I could catch a glimpse of her face through the paint - He has been in such a state of suspense for the last 6 weeks - I tactfully didn't tell you about it - and now he is so radiant, darling creature. I expect they will be married in the autumn, perhaps at Bombay.
I wrote to you on Thursday - I do hope you got my letter through Mrs Wills. Capt. A.L. Smith came to dine (nice man) and sang a sort of paean about you. Only to look at you, he affirmed was enough to convince him of your superlative qualities, which were more than confirmed by everything you said. I nearly embraced him. We had a long and satisfactory talk about the education of Arabs. I'm not quite happy about what we're doing; nor is he. It's all very well to say we mustn't start secondary schools till we have really first rate material, both in teachers and pupils, but we can't wait for that. We must get a move on and be content with second best, for the people here are so immensely keen to be provided with higher education and if we hold back they will think we are doing it on purpose to keep them back. You have to look at it from the point of politics as well as of education. A.T. [Wilson] agrees and suggests scholarships to England which I deprecate. I would far rather spend all the money we've got in improving local conditions. I feel sure you'll think that's right.

Mustafa Pasha paid me a long visit on Friday. A.T. had sent him a rude letter telling him to mind his own business - Mustafa having put in a plea for someone or other. The reply was quite unnecessarily rude and Mustafa came in to apologize through me, poor old thing. "Tell him fulan inkasar khatirhu" he said "so and so's spirit is broken." (I translate in case your Arabic lets you down!) His wife came to tea yesterday. She is very keen not to go back to Khaniqin [Khanaqin] till after Ramadhan and I expect she will get her way - she usually does, by the simple process of saying she's entirely at the orders of the Pasha! Wise woman - she knows her part.

On Friday I went to tea with the ladies of the Jamil family to see my small "son", the little boy who was born after the death of his father, my friend 'Abdul Rahman. He's a quite beautiful baby - it's surprising for he was born a miserable little weakling. By the way you remember you said you would send me out a little silver bowl to give him. About £5. I've done them a good turn for I've persuaded the excellent ex-General to give them back a little house of theirs on the river which was occupied by the military. They are going to move into it before Ramadhan "to smell the fresh air". They live in a big stuffy house in the town. So that's very satisfactory.

You remember the Drurys, the bankers we met at the Tods', on their way to Persia? they are still here staying at the office. She wasn't after all well enough to start, but they are going tomorrow. I meet them at lunch - I lunch, you know, ordinarily in our mess - and their presence is a comfort because office lunches are rather oppressive. A.T. presides and is often cross as a bear so that the only thing is to leave him alone and not talk to him. He doesn't like that either, but what can one do?

Rishan is in terrible disgrace. First he jumped onto the party table and broke all the crockery on it, including my dear little Persian jam pot. He was looking for something to eat of course. Next he thought fit to roll in a beautiful bed of nasturtiums and destroyed half of them. He was terribly beaten - by me - and goes about with an extremely penitent air. Inkasar khatirhu in fact.

Before all these unfortunate occurrences we were riding in the desert and the dogs had a magnificent stork hunt. Everyone was pleased; the dogs were wild with excitement and the old stork flapped along just over their heads and laughed aloud.

I went today to lunch with the Cunliffe Owens at Ba'qubah, motoring out with the Stevens family. We punctured twice and got into Ba'qubah on the rim of a wheel, having no second tube. There was none there either so we had to come back by train and the train, need I say, was an hour and a half late. So we got home at 8. Nevertheless it was a very enjoyable day. I was going to dine with the Channing Pearce's but I sent round a note saying it was too late to change and come. So I've dined peacefully here.

Mrs Cunliffe Owen is a silly woman isn't she. He, on the other hand, is very nice.

I hope Mother will think you looking well. My dogs send their love. And I'm your very affectionate daughter Gertrude.

It's much warmer and I'm sleeping on the roof.

Private and Confidential. We have had an excellent memorandum from the W.O. forwarded to us for information. The W.O. points out the extreme folly of the Turkish peace provisions. As it rightly says who is going to establish the Armenians in the Turkish territory which is to be allotted to them? C'ple [Istanbul (Constantinople)] is quite powerless to carry out any decrees, if even it accepts the terms, a very large if. Also by what means is it proposed to set up autonomous Kurdish states? The W.O. urges, quite rightly, that it's essential to put nothing into the peace terms which isn't likely to be accepted as none of us are prepared to provide money and troops to enforce what is unacceptable. It's on this, I expect, that a fresh request has been sent to America asking the U.S.A. to be responsible for Armenia. But of course they'll refuse - I almost think I should refuse myself.

Meantime our Nestorians are going back to their country which is all in Kurdish hands and far from anywhere we can help them. 6000 left last week. I look upon it with the gravest apprehension. I think the men ought to have been sent first to prepare the way and I fear there will be some awful disaster. If there is, we can't acquit our own conscience.

The risks are enhanced by the fact that (as the W.O. points out) exasherbation [sic] of Moslem feeling in Anatolia by the peace terms may lead to a general massacre of Xians. I should like to observe that we could have done anything we liked with C'ple because we can get at it but we can't do anything in Central Asia Minor. Neglecting the ejection of the Turk from C'ple which was the right thing to do, we turn all our attention to the impossible. Just watch it.

IIIF Manifest