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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

Letter in which Bell provides an update on her recent activities, noting that she has attended the formal inauguration of the American School of Archaeology. She notes that Ja'far Pasha has departed for Mosul and provides a brief update on political administrative matters. She ends by discussing an R.A.F. ball she has attended.
Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Cornwallis, Ken
Dobbs, Henry
Askari, Ja'far al-
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper

33.315241, 44.3660671

Nov 7. Baghdad Belloved Father. This by overland mail. I hope the P.O. will soon make up its slow mind to use it also. We've done all we can from our end.
I seem to have been socially very busy. On Friday morning we had the formal inauguration of the American School of Archaeology. It's rather a silly business as yet, for it remains at that stage. There's no concrete school as yet because there's no money and no Director and no nothing. But I made the acquaintance of a charming man, Dr Ewart, head of the American School in Mexico. He and his wife came to see me in the evening and asked very eagerly about our politics, and listened very sympathetically. They've gone to Ur and they're dining with me on Sunday.

I went with Sir Henry to see polo finals in the afternoon; quite pleasant. It was cold enough to sit in a fur coat. We had an agreeable tea with the Air Marshal. There's a man I don't like called Bastow, a colonel. He claims acquaintance with you and Maurice and on that ground forces his acquaintance on me. Forbye he's very ugly.

I had a dinner party in the evening - the Ditchburns (you stayed with him at Nasiriyah [Nasiriyah, An], they're now at Ramadi [Ramadi, Ar]) Mr Sturgis of our office and Group Captain Longmore of A.H.Q. It was dullish, I regret to say.

On Saturday there were races, but I let myself off and went out riding and on Sunday, the weather being heavenly, I got onto a pony at 10 o'clock and rode off to Fahhamah, 10 miles above Baghdad to see an old friend of mine, a garden owner, Faiq Eff. He greeted me with open arms and insisted on giving me lunch; very good it was, a ragôut, sour curds and burghul, a sort of cracked wheat. While it was being prepared we walked in his date gardens and he told me of his recent journey to Syria to see a boy of his who was at the American College at Beyrout [Beyrouth (Beirut)] and has now gone to England to study. I've written to Professor Denison Ross about him. Isn't it wonderful of these old things to find the money to send their sons so far to be educated.

I had the whole Sata' family to dinner to meet H.E. - Sata' Beg and his wife and his niece and her fiancé Saiyid Husain Afnan. There was a slight hitch for H.E. didn't turn up so at 8.30 I telephoned and found that his ADC had forgotten to remind him and he had been out 12 hours shooting and was just sitting down to dinner! The Sata's were sitting in expectancy so there was nothing for it but to drag H.E. away from his group to mine. He came meekly without turning a hair, full of apologies, and was as pleasant as possible the whole evening. Really he is a dear.

Finally on Monday I had the Mutasarrif of Arbil [(Hawler)] and the Mayor of Kirkuk with their respective Inspectors, Capt Lyon and Capt Miller, to lunch and Sabih Beg to meet them. It was a wild success. They had just heard that the Minister of Justice had tactfully ruled that Mayors are not Govt servants, being paid by their municipalities. And this permitted both Majid Beg of Kirkuk and Sabih Beg to stand without giving up their appointments - and salaries. So Majid Beg - who's a Turk, scarcely speaking Arabic - announced that he was coming as deputy to support the treaty (he has run the elections at Kirkuk so there's no doubt as to his being returned!) while Sabih Beg gracefully accepted a request from the people of Arbil which the Mutasarrif had brought down with him, profusely signed. And they're all coming to dine with me the moment the Constituent Assembly opens! Ken Cornwallis came to dinner and we discussed these agreeable prospects.

Ja'far has gone to Mosul [Mawsil, Al] - I enclose his farewell message, dear old thing. Also your stamps. This is the whole issue.

Sabih Beg brought his wife and daughter to tea on Tuesday. Their one disappointment on arrival at Baghdad is not to find you here. You made the deepest impression on them. I dined last night with the Bourdillons to play Bridge - unsuccessfully.

And now, confound it, I've got to go to an R.A.F. ball. I accepted meaning not to appear and then I was caught by an invitation from the Air Marshal to sup with him. So I threw myself on Sir Henry's mercy and asked if I might come to his dinner party which is at least more cheerful than going by oneself. Damn balls.

Did I tell you that Rishan has been missing for nearly a fortnight? He turned up today, very thin and very explanatory[?]. But he doesn't say where he has been.

Nov 8. [8 November 1923] It wasn't so bad, the ball. I had a very amusing dinner with Sir Henry sitting next the Air Marshal. When I arrived at the ball I had to form a phalanx of devotees to protect myself from Col. Bastow, however that was done without difficulty. Supper was early - I sat by Col. Prescott, the head policeman, whom I like very much. And then I came away with Sir Henry and Bernard, both of whom were suffering from various sorts of chills and didn't want to stay.
Now I must do some work - here are the files coming in. Your very affectionate daughter Gertrude.

The enclosed for Mr Denington

IIIF Manifest