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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

Letter in which Bell discusses British politics and the dissolution of government as well as the current Cabinet crisis in Iraq relating to King Feisal and the potential resignation of government ministers. Bell also provides an update on her recent activities, including her attendance at various R.A.F. sports engagements as well as a farewell luncheon held for Sabih Beg. She notes that she has also met with E.L. Hewett, founder of the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, and his wife.
Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Cornwallis, Ken
Dobbs, Henry
Wilson, A.T.
Hashimi, Yasin al-
Suwaydi, Naji al-
Eskell, Sassoon
Wilson, J.M.
Hussein, Feisal bin al-
Bourdillon, Bernard Henry
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad Nov. 14. Belloved Father. The airmail has stuck somewhere and isn't in yet so I've no letters from home to answer. On the other hand the news of the dissolution has come and fills us with despondency. Was there ever anything so silly as to start all that weary controversy over again! I suppose you'll now be standing side by side with Winston and Lloyd George - both horrid people to go tiger shooting with. Yet what to do? My own belief is that if Baldwin and Co got in again the moment they tried to do anything radically protective they would find that it was impossible and I do so much distrust and dislike the other lot that I think I would vote against them. I suppose you would scorn to do so, however, and as I shan't be there we can't pair. I suppose there's a possibility that in the general confusion Labour may get in. You wouldn't be much better off, would you, with levies on capital and so forth. It's the devil, really it is. I'm afraid it will give us a shake here too. The more so as it coincides with a cabinet crisis of our own. The King has finally decided to take steps to make the Ministers resign. I think - we all think - that he is mistaken in changing horses in midstream, but it must be admitted that there are faults on both sides. The Ministers are undoubtedly disobliging. They suspect him of wanting to interfere - which he does - and they stupidly put themselves in the wrong by refusing to give him information which he is fully entitled to ask for. The net result is friction and want of confidence on both sides but Lord! I shall be glad when we have a constitution and he can't upset cabinets when he's tired of them. They've worked loyally for the policy, stood up like men to the mujtahids, and the 'Iraqi, with his ready imagination, will take their fall as an indication that another line is to be pursued. I love and trust the P.M., Muhsin Beg - the one consolation is that if he is not in office he will certainly be President of the Constituent Assembly. H.M. thinks he can get Sasun to join the new Cabinet - I don't think he can and what's more I don't do a hand's turn to help him. I can always persuade Sasun you know. Well I won't. In fact I'm feeling rather cross. Sir Henry has a ridiculous story of the Maharajah of Kashmire [Jammu and Kashmir] who when Lady Hardinge came there insisted on paying her a special call all to herself; and all he had to say when he got there was: "When at sea do you womit [sic]?" Having ascertained that she did - or didn't - he went away. Sir Henry says it doesn't matter now whether we womit or not; no one will pay the slightest attention to us. Well there! I'll stop womitting. The R.A.F. had a sport's week. I went on Friday with Sir Henry to see the polo finals and on Saturday I similarly went to see the last day of the sports. Zaid was there on Friday and H.M. and all the Ministers and notables on Saturday. H.E., H.M., the Ministers and the Air Marshal all sat together on a dais. It was a trifle stiff at first, matters being, as you will easily understand, strained between H.M. and his Cabinet, but I talked with eager gaiety to all and they behaved very well and dropped into easy conversation; Sir Henry pulled a good oar and the whole thing was very well done by the R.A.F. so we all rather enjoyed it. It was too long, as sports always are, but in the dusk after the King had gone there was a tatoo [sic], bagpipes, pipes and drums and bugles - very splendid and swagger, with the last post to end it. Ah, what associations the last post has now. I've stood so often at the grave of friends killed in action here and listened to it. I dined with Nigel Davidson on Friday to say goodbye to the Gillans who have gone back to India. Sir Henry and the Bourdillons were the party. I'm mildly sorry the Gillans have gone. He has been a colleague since the occupation of Baghdad and he was a great help to me in the office in the difficult year of 1920 when he did much to smooth down A.T. [Wilson] with his pleasant tongue. Sabih Beg (soon, I expect, to become a minister) gave a farewell luncheon to him on Monday. I attended as an official - all ministers and advisers and heads of departments were there. A luncheon of 10 courses doesn't fall in with my habits, but Sabih Beg was an excellent host. It ended with the presentation by him of a cigarette case accompanied by a tiny and capital speech. On Sunday I had Ken to dinner to meet Dr and Mrs Hewett [see also Ewart]. He's head of the American School in Mexico and told us most interesting things about American archaeology and anthropology. I expect you know - I didn't - that while they have all the ancient beasts they haven't ancient man. He didn't develop there and America was peopled from Asia via the Behring Straits [Bering Straits] at quite a comparatively late period. The Hewetts have now gone to Mosul [Mawsil, Al]. They're charming people, both of them. When they come back I'm going to take her to see an Arab family. She has never been in the East before and is deeply interested in everything. On Monday I rode out to see the Arab army polo. The King was there and I sat in his motor and tried to persuade him not to overturn the Cabinet - in vain. And yesterday Ri'fat Beg Chadirji, Rauf's father (Rauf had lunched with me on Sunday) asked if he might bring his girl to tea. She's a darling creature, about 17 and very pretty and eager. Her mother is in permanent mourning for another brother and never leaves the house so poor Sabihah has a dullish time. I'm very fond of her and I was pleased that old Rif'at should have suggested bringing her. He is fearfully of the old school and a useless old thing, but he has always been good friends with me. And I love his family. And last night I dined with Mr Keeling, the Turkish Petroleum Co. man, and met the 3 ministers with whom he is conducting negotiations, Sasun, Yasin and Naji. J.M. Wilson took me. It was quite pleasant; we played Bridge and I won a few rupees. And now here's Ken come to tell me about Cabinet making. Nov. 15. [15 November 1923] I find your letters of Oct 31 in the office this morning. Thank you both a thousand times for your kind shoppings and writings. In reply to Mother, I'm afraid the brocades will be too expensive but I long for the arrival of the patterns. As to the skin, I prefer your A skin, so that's all right; the veil is lovely and the design ditto. And here's the answer to Murtzer's question. At last I remember to enclose your stamps! Your very loving daughter Gertrude. Such glorious weather we're having unlike you. Your big envelopes aren't good. Mother's letter was all torn open.

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