Request a high resolution copy

Letter from Gertrude Bell to her parents, Sir Hugh and Dame Florence Bell

There is currently no summary available for this item.
Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian and Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Cox, Percy
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

[26 May 1917] Baghdad May 26 Darling Parents - do you mind my writing in indelible pencil? it's so comfortable when one is lounging on one's sofa. The post brought me a charming and cheerful letter from Mother this week - I think Ap 8 but I've left it in the office - and also what do you think? 2 muslin gowns! I hope they're swallows so to speak announcing all my summer clothes. But I regret to say that one of them which according to Moll's patterns was intended for me to wear in the evening was no more an evening gown than it was a fur coat and won't do at all for that purpose. It's rather a blow for I had a vision of some nice trailing muslin gowns with floating sleeves, and far from it. However - I shall just have not to dine out when it gets hot. It really hasn't reached that yet. We're almost through May and the breeze has never slackened. It's wonderful. Of course you would think it warm in England - it's 90 to 100, but that is nothing here. I've been rather a poor thing what with this troublesome cough which won't go away, but hearing that my good Col. Willcox (Consulting Physician to the Force) had arrived, I sent for him and he gave me several bottles and comes to see me daily. He has stopped my riding for the moment, confound it, but already I'm much better. He is a treasure. The I.G.C. is up for a few days - a great joy. We go out motoring or on the river every evening which just suits me since I mayn't ride. His sound common sense has been very upholding for we have been going through rather difficult times, my Chief and I - hand in hand I need not say. Sir P., much cheered on by Mr Storrs, has I think found a solution. Mr Storrs leaves next week going down with the I.G.C. I shall miss him very much, but I'm more grateful for his visit than words can say. He has done us an infinite amount of good. One becomes so provincial seeing no one from outside. He is going to slip back across Arabia - very sporting of him, but I don't envy him the trip at this time of year. It will be devilish hot. The great event in our circles is the arrival of Fahad Beg, paramount shaikh of the Anazah, an almighty swell and old friend of mine - I stayed with him in the desert 3 years ago on my way back to Damascus [Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)]. I hope that with his help we shall get a move on among the tribes. Anyhow it's a great coup getting him to burn his boats and come in to us. We had the most tenderly affectionate meeting I assure you. Now I'll tell you a sweet story. There came in a couple of old shaikhs mighty ragged and very sorry for themselves. For their tribe happens to be just in the border land and first they had been harried by the Turks and then by us and finally, making the best of a bad business, they had sought refuge with us, and we, after our truly idiotic manner had clapped half their followers into gaol and they couldn't find them. So they came to me and I said I would ask Sir Percy what could be done. At that they almost wept with gratitude and declared that they would forthwith send me a beautiful mare. But I said no, it was a kind thought, but I couldn't take presents and therewith I went down to talk to Sir Percy. When I came back I found them with their two old heads together and as soon as they saw me they said "Khatun - if you won't take the horse we're going to send you - a gazelle!" The gazelle hasn't materialized yet and I rather hope it won't for gazelles eat everything including all your most important papers, but wasn't it nice of them to hit on such small change for mares! The great pleasure in this country is that I do love the people so much. We revel in fruit here. The excellent oranges are nearly over but the apricots have come in in masses and small sweet greengages, and now the good little melons have begun. Next we shall have grapes and figs - truly a bountiful country; I'm loving it, you know, loving my work and rejoicing in the confidence of my Chief. One morning last week when I was out riding I paid a very early call on my way home, on the son of a celebrated old warrior of a Circassian whom I knew in the old days - he was killed in the war. Daud Bey was expecting me for he had as guest another friend of mine, Mustafa Pasha the Kurdish chief of Khanaqin on the frontier, with whom I stayed in 1911. And I found too a great man of letters, native of Baghdad who is writing leaders for me which I send to the Egyptian papers, as well as two or three other acquaintances; and we sat round and sipped tea and coffee and talked of Muhammad Pasha Daghistani, my host's dead father, and of all that had happened, and I went away (after visiting Daud Bey's charming mother and sisters) feeling that I really was a part of Baghdad. You know I'm going into it terrifically fast - taking root; what do you think of it? I don't think I shall ever be able to detach myself permanently from the fortunes of this country. But I don't bother to look ahead. It's enough that my job is here now. But it's a wonderful thing to feel the affection and confidence of a whole people round you. There are so few of us, you see, that each one is absurdly salient and each is a focus for so many hopes and fears. But oh to be at the end of the war and to have a free hand!
Did I tell you that Mr Storrs and I have drawn up a memorandum for Sir Percy pointing out the importance of having distinguished architects to make a report on new requirements and on ancient monuments? We have asked for Mr Baker and for Ernest R. [Richmond] and Sir P. is much bitten. Perhaps you had better keep this to yourselves for the moment. But wouldn't it be grand if we could get them! I must go to bed, good night Belloveds. Your affectionate daughter Gertrude

Perhaps you would like to see the enclosed kind letter from my Chief - keep it.

IIIF Manifest