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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

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Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Cox, Percy
Wilson, A.T.
Lawrence, T.E.
Hussein, Feisal bin al-
Philby, Harry St John
Churchill, Winston
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad Jan. 19 Darling Father. Last airmail brought me, as I expected, two batches of letters from you and Mother, Dec 14 and 28. You can't think how glad I was to get them. Also the two Times letters - no, I don't get my papers by airmail and I shall be most grateful if you will cut out and send me anything of importance. As a matter of fact Sir Percy and Haddad Pasha both got the whole series of 3 from private correspondents. They are written by a man called Moore who was Times Correspondent in Tehran [(Teheran)], but his information, as you rightly guessed, was from Mr Philby who when he was in Tehran last August spent most of his time with the Moores. Not only did he give him information from official sources which as an official he had no right to impart (of course distorted by his own outlook) but he represented Iraq affairs as being in a most parlous position. We know this from other sources, for after Mr P. had got to Tehran, Sir Percy received private letters from his friends there commiserating with him on the terrible state of affairs in Iraq and wishing his God speed in his painful task. When I remember the generosity with which Sir Percy treated Mr Philby, how he contrived to send him on sick leave to Persia (Mr P. being perfectly well and hearty) in order to give him the opportunity of picking up if possible a congenial job, and how he helped him to get his present job, with 'Abdullah, I confess I feel desperately angry. It is however some consolation to think how very ill the letters will suit Mr Philby now, for he has espoused the cause of 'Abdullah with as whole-hearted an enthusiasm as that with which he espoused the cause of Talib. Talib was a rogue and 'Abdullah is a rotter, a "complete rotter" Mr Lawrence confides to me (this between ourselves). Mr Philby is mal tombé, but anything rather than admit himself wrong in the matter of Faisal who is worth all the rest of the Arab world put together. With Sir Percy's approval I have written a letter to the Editor of the Times (copy enclosed) which I have sent to Mr Shuckburgh and asked official permission to publish, and at Sir Percy's request I have also drawn up materials for the refutation of Mr Moore's allegations if Mr Churchill is questioned in the house. For your private information the principal reason for the delay in publishing the electoral law was that Talib blocked it. He frequently told me that he thought the time unsuitable for the holding of general elections - he did not add, but I knew, that it was because he was aware that he would be overwhelmingly rejected. In the matter of the election of Sidi Faisal we were prefectly justified in offering advice. The country begged and prayed us to do so, and why are British officials here at all except to give advice? Our hands were tied, by Sir Percy's orders, till after Mr Churchill's speech in June, upon which we could say openly that we considered Faisal the best candidate. Who do you think first urged his candidature? A.T. Wilson  in Aug. 1920! You can't by any stretch of imagination conceive him as a pan-Arab, but he saw, as we all saw, that no local man was possible.
There! enough of that; though I'm pretty full of it, naturally.

I told you what a bad cold I had? well, finally I had to succumb and spend a week in the house, which I probably ought to have done earlier. That's cured it. It was a tedious process but I was feeling ill enough to be thankful to do nothing and quantities of people, Arab and English came and held my hand. Also by great good fortune, I had just got into my new sitting room with a fireplace - think of it! - so that I was, and am, very comfortable. Coal, I may mention costs about £12 a ton and wood works out rather dearer! However now I'm well I shan't use much.

And that leads me to the subject of your being so badly off - I'm desperately sorry, darling, that you should have all these worries. Perhaps it would be better, horrid as it is, to make a clean cut and shut up Rounton for a bit. The worst of it is that it will be so very uncomfortable for you not to have your big rooms to work in, and for Mother too. I do hate the thought of it for you both. Maurice is such a philosopher that he takes everything calmly, even separation from his stables and his kennels - I'm ashamed to think that I shouldn't be as wise as he.

And now about our plans. Sir Percy would like me to go away as late as I conveniently can - there's the annual report to get out and I probably shan't have all the materials for it before the end of March or beginning of April. My scheme is to motor from Mosul [Mawsil, Al] to Aleppo [Halab] - the road is now open - and as far as heat is concerned I could do that quite comfortably in May. But Sir Percy agrees to let me fall in with your plans, only suggesting that if you could make it a week or so later, it would suit him better. I'm very sorry to go away for it will probably be just about the time when the National Assembly meets, and with Mr Garbett away Sir Percy is short-handed, but apart from my wish to see you, I don't think it would be wise to spend a third consecutive summer here. By the way, Mr Garbett - He will probably come to see you in London. I don't know what his plans are and I don't think he knows himself but he wouldn't like them to be forestalled by any assumption that he isn't coming back, so you'll take it for granted that he is, won't you. He may be, for ought I know. He has been a most delightful colleague to me and I think very highly of his work and miss his cleverness how he's gone. He is one of the most skilful draftsmen I've ever known - with the exception of Sir Percy - and often gets over a difficulty simply by making it appear as if it weren't there. And behold it isn't, and everyone is in agreement again.

The King has a slight attack of appendicitis - we were much perturbed this morning but I had a letter from Haddad Pasha in the afternoon to say that he is going on wonderfully well and they don't think an operation will be necessary. I sent up a little offering of Roman hyacinths growing in a china bowl - very pretty, and no one here has them but me - and Haddad in return wrote me a long letter full of affectionate messages from Faisal, saying that he was much better. Haddad is a dear old thing, rather an old windbag, but completely devoted to the King. He was one of the people who came to see me when I was ill, but so did Sir Percy and the C. in C. (with whom I'm now warm friends!) and most of the Arab ministers! Oh and the Davidsons whom I do like so much, both of them.

On the whole things are going vey smoothly, except on the N.E. frontier where the Turks are being most tiresome. We have recently had two little attacks from the Kurds, engineered by the Kamalists and unfortunately both have taken their toll of British Levy officers. The last was near Halabja - I can scarcely believe it when I think how gaily I rode through the Aoraman [Owraman, Kuh-e] mountains in Nov. It was delivered by a rogue of a Kurd from over the Persian frontier and it cost us the Levy Commandant, Capt. Fitzgibbon who was one of a merry dinner party at Kirkuk when I passed through on my way back from Sulaimani [Sulaymaniyah, As]. I can scarcely bear to think of him, so full of eager life and intelligence and now lying in a remote grave at Halabja. Sed miles, sed pro patria.

You will understand how ardently we wish for peace with Turkey; such cruel waste of life is too bitter.

Dearest I come back to your letters - I was so much grieved to hear of Sir Arthur's trouble with his eyes. Will you give him my affectionate regards and wishes for his recovery. I love all your family gossip and the way you outwitted the sparrows and all - clever Father! to down a sparrow is really next best to downing a fly. I've wholly failed with the sparrows in my garden - they continue to gobble up the seeds as quickly as I plant them. I was much interested by the accounts of the meeting with the ironstone miners - they are fine people, aren't they. On the other hand, what do you think of Mrs Asquith's contributions to history in the Times? doesn't one blush to think that the race that can produce the ironstone miners, and, if I may so, us, should also put forth such a triumph of neurotic idiocy! That such meretricious twaddle should be published by one of our leading newspapers - and read! one gives way to a momentary despair. I hope you ........ me of a subscription to Princess Mary's wedding present though except in your interest it leaves me cold.

As for Mother I'm as usual lost in amazement at the amount she gets through without turning a hair. The Cat and the Fiddle book I thought a masterpiece - she would have been pleased to see me giggling over it. Fortunately just as I had decided that I was ill there came an excellent batch of books including Vera and Mr Waddington of Wyck - how clever both of them in their way!

Well, I've worked innumerable hours today and I really must go to bed. Ever your devoted daughter Gertrude.

I've written to Hugo at Jerusalem [(El Quds esh Sherif, Yerushalayim)], c/o Ronald Storrs.

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