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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

Letter spanning several days in which Bell provdes an update on her recent activities, briefly discussing the recent Imperial Conference in London whilst also commenting on Sir Henry Dobbs' latest visit to Mosul. Bell also provides an update on the recent Constituent Assembly elections in Iraq and remarks upon the conduct of King Feisal, which provoked a short-lived crisis within the Cabinet.
Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Cornwallis, Ken
Naji, Haji
Dobbs, Henry
Hussein, Feisal bin al-
Eskell, Sassoon
Woolley, Leonard
Bourdillon, Bernard Henry
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

Oct 30 Darling Father. This is in answer to your letter of Oct 16 and Mother's of the same date. Yes, I knew you would be in a taking about Colonial preference. It seems that Mr Baldwin is going to turn out to be a bad man really. I liked, however, the utterances of Mr Smuts[?] and I hope the new commission will develop into something genuine. But the French conditions don't sound promising. I can't find out whether Pauline went to Prince Max - did she? Henry Newbolt must have been very exhilerating [sic] - I'm glad it was such a success. By the way the Naqib, the last time I saw him, expressed the hope that you had observed in what superior Arabic his letter was written. Few, he said, could have produced one like it. I replied that I had called your attention to the fact. I've just come in from a visit to Haji Naji whom I found entertaining the Accountant General and the leading Jew of Baghdad, a relation of Sasun. We had a very agreeable talk, till it began to rain and I rode away. It didn't rain much but there was a glorious stormy sunset and the tallest rainbow I've ever seen. It went on long after the sun was Bellow the horizon, lifting itself higher and higher above the earth till it nearly touched the zenith. Light rains now are very beneficent. The weather has become delightful, a temperature rarely above 89 and cold dawns.
Sir Henry appears to be having a great time in Mosul [Mawsil, Al]. He has stood up like a man and told them that treaties are not in our eyes scraps of paper and that they need not fear the results of the frontier negotiations. It will do a world of good. Also the King found that some of his favourite nationalists were corresponding with the Turks, as we always told him they were, and he has dropped on them. They are gradually discovering that the anti-British are also invariably pro-Turk and it has opened their eyes not a little.

Oct 31. [31 October 1923] Mr Woolley has arrived and came to dine with me on Sunday night to meet Ken Cornwallis and Mr Keeling the Turkish Petroleum Co man. Mr W. and Mr K. had both been prisoners at Kastamuni [Kastamonu]; Mr K. had made a most adventurous escape and Mr W. described how those that remained were subjected to the harshest treatment in consequence. I like Mr Keeling; I hope he'll make a success of his negotiations but Mosul [Mawsil, Al] oil is a very problematical quantity and even if the 'Iraq govt comes to terms with the Co. it will be at least 4 years before they find out whether the northern oil fields are worth working.
Last Friday I went to the wedding of Saiyid Husain Afnan at 9 a.m. and there's another wedding to which I'm bidden next Friday but I'm thankful to say I can't go (I've been to so many weddings lately) because we have a public meeting of which Professor Clay is going to inaugurate an American school of archaeology. He has no money until several people die who have life interests in the sum that is ultimately to come to the school, and he's quite vague about everything, however that's his business not mine. He gave a lecture on Babylonian archaeology on Monday, under my auspices. We had an enormous audience including lots of Baghdadis. How much even the English people understood I don't know. He's the most muddly old thing and incidentally never finishes a sentence. I was of opinion that you had to know a considerable amount yourself to be aware of what he was driving at. But there's a very genuine interest here in the ancient history of the country and people always flock to lectures. He has brought several people with him, old Clay has - a Mr Judah Magnes who, as you'll gather is a Jew. An interesting man; he has come in the hope of finding Hebrew MSS. And a Mr and Mrs Ewart - I haven't done more than say how d'you do to them yet. Talking of Jews, I don't gather that Rutenberg has got his money, do you know how things stand?

Nigel Davidson and I dined with Ken last night - the fourth was the Mayor, Sabih Beg. We discussed the fortunes of the Constituent Assembly and played Bridge. Today there turned up the Mutasarrif of Arbil [(Hawler)] - you remember him? Ahmad Eff., a capital man. Thanks to his exertions primary elections have gone capitally in Baghdad and he promises us excellent deputies. The Mayor of Kirkuk is also here, a great friend of mine, you don't know him. He and his brothers have run the Kirkuk elections. They're Turks by birth which makes their cooperation all the more significant. Yes, it's all very good. Except that today H.M. has provoked a Cabinet crisis, as his habit is from time to time, and all the Ministers are on the brink of resigning. Whether it will be patched up or not I don't yet know, but these antics do the King a great deal of harm by destroying the confidence of those who serve him. It's on the whole as good a Cabinet as he could get and his grievances against it are mainly unreasonable. He is dining with me tonight - I'm afraid he will be rather ruffled for I suspect that Ken Cornwallis who is also one of the guests, is at present having a heart to heart talk with him! The Bourdillons and Nigel are also coming.

I dined with Sir John Salmond last week to meet Sir Edward Ellington who has been transferred from Egypt to India. You remember how shy Sir Edward is? well, I assure you he was quite outgoing. I liked the party for Sir John is so nice and I talked to him all the evening after dinner.

My household is in a great jig about the King's coming to dinner and Marie has quickly made a complete new set of lovely shades for the electric lights!

Nov. 1. [1 November 1923] It was a most successful dinner party last night. The Cabinet crisis had blown over, everybody had withdrawn everything they had said, in the handsomest manner and the King was beaming. He had a really enjoyable day - a crisis of the first magnitude and then a dinner with me! We played chemin de fer after - I regret to say H.M. didn't win, but he didn't lose much.
Sir Henry has arrived this morning from Mosul [Mawsil, Al] but I've just come into the office and I haven't seen him yet. Also it has begun to rain - it has been showery for the last two days. It's nice and early for rain; all the desert tribes will go out to pasture and keep quiet.

1 distressing affair is that I find I've almost no claret glasses left. Would Mother please order me a dozen and a half at Harrods, nice plain ones, and tell them to be sent by parcels post. I can't get anything here but horrible engraved things.

I'm very glad about Owen - will you send him the enclosed. And also how nice about Milicent - but I agree that Horace must be rather bewildered. He will be a good kind of father to have I think. Your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

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